Help for Today — Hope for Tomorrow
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[Steve Myers] If you’re willing to believe the Bible, you may be a little surprised. It may be actually shocking what the Bible says because there are many passages of Scripture that actually contradict traditional religious teaching.
The mystery of what happens after you die can be disturbing. I know when I was young I was taught that the Bible parable that Jesus told, you remember that parable about the rich man and Lazarus? Wel, I was told that that proved that good people go to heaven when they die and bad people go to hell. Was that true? Well today I’d like to break down that teaching that Jesus gave in Luke 16. And you know we’ll find some shocking statements. In fact we’ll look at some interesting concepts that actually don’t really fit, they’re inaccurate. And we’ll also discover what is the vital lesson that Jesus taught. What’s the point? Because we’ll recognize what the Bible says, what Christ really taught, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
As we begin we have to first think about what is a parable anyway. What is that? Well when you consider the definition of a parable, it’s really an imaginary story. It’s designed to tell a story of like a myth or an allegory. It’s supposed to convey a truth or a moral lesson, something that’s given to help us gain spiritual understanding. In fact when you consider that, when we think about this particular parable, we also have to keep in mind a couple of fundamental rules for good biblical understanding. What are they? Well first we’ve got to look at the immediate context of this particular story. What’s the background? And then when we do that we have to step back for a moment and then consider the broader context of the entire Bible and what it has to say as well. So when we think about that, that will help us to be sure that we’ve got the proper perspective when it comes to what Jesus is trying to teach us. So let’s take a look at Luke 16 and the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
It begins like this in Luke 16:19. It says, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and he fared sumptuously every day.” It’s quite a picture, isn’t it? Then it goes on, “But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.” That’s pretty disgusting, isn’t it, when you think about it? So here’s Christ beginning the story of very opposite people, two men, one who has everything, everything you could imagine, all he needed, all he ever wanted. And the other, sick, starving, destitute beggar. This rich man, he wouldn’t even lift a finger to help. Here’s this horrible person who was so sick and hurt right there at his doorstep but the rich man would look the other way. Now it’s interesting when you consider this story. You know the story doesn’t actually begin here. We have to go back. I mean have you ever wondered why did Christ tell this story? What led up to this particular incident that He would tell about this rich man and Lazarus?
Well if we go back just a little bit to the beginning of this chapter, there’s another parable that Jesus told. And it’s about an unjust steward, a bad manager. And in Luke 16:1 it begins with the phrase, “There was a certain rich man.” Now that sounds vaguely familiar, doesn’t it? In fact, that’s just what He said a moment ago. Well what about these two stories? At who were they directed? Can we figure that out? Well if we check the context, we can look down to verse 14. And in Luke 16:14, it tells us, it says, “Now, the Pharisees…” The Pharisees, those were the religious leaders of the day. They were the Jewish rulers of the day. And it tells us here they were lovers of money. They also heard these things and they derided him. So they made fun of Christ. They mocked him. They ridiculed him. Well why would they do that? Because they knew He was talking about them. That’s who He was referring to. So, He took them to task. Christ did that. He reprimanded them, because they were selfish, because they were greedy and corrupt, and they set a horrible example.
And so when we look at the context, the context is about the responsibility to use money properly, using wealth in the right way which also includes caring for the needs of people. So what isn’t this story about? What’s not the focus? When we look at this context we recognize this isn’t about heaven and hell. This is talking about love and concern. That’s talking about what was most necessary to help and serve people and the religious leaders of the day, they needed to hear that story, they needed to learn that lesson. And so when we recognize that background we can understand a little better what comes next in the story. So let’s take a look, verse 22. In verse 22, it says, “So it was that the beggar died. The beggar died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.” Now that may sound a little strange, “Carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom.” I mean when we think about that we’ve got to be careful not to jump to conclusions.
Because if we were to do that, well is this a story about their actual experience after death? No, this is a metaphor. This is a fable. This is an allegory. This is just a parable. You know is this a story about going to heaven or hell after death? No it’s not that either. It’s an illustration. And so we can understand pretty clearly this is not about heaven or hell when we begin to compare other scriptures to the story itself. I mean that is if you’re willing to believe the Bible. If you’re willing to believe the Bible you may be a little surprised, it maybe actually shocking what the Bible says because there are many passages of Scripture that actually contradict traditional religious teachings. Here’s an example, this is just one example. When we look to the book of John, John 3:13, we find Christ telling us exactly that. Notice verse 13, He says, “No one has ascended to heaven, but He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of Man who is in heaven.” So Christ’s own words show us that he was teaching not about heaven and hell, because people aren’t in heaven.
He was teaching an altogether different lesson when it comes to this particular parable, in fact one that you have to dig into to really begin to understand. So we want to help you do that. In fact we prepared a study aid that’s called “The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus.” When you really want to understand what this parable is about, what the Bible really teaches, sometimes we need some help. And so the study guide is designed to do just that. In fact it’s interesting when you open the study guide and turn to the section that’s entitled “Was the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus a Real Story? Here’s what it says. It says the “New Bible Dictionary” is correct when it states that Jesus’ story is a parable, which made use of certain Jewish thinking and is not intended to teach anything about the state of the dead, and that’s important.
It goes on, one of the most important principles of effective Bible study is that you must derive meanings based upon the greater context of the Bible. And so the study aid will help you to do just that. What does the Bible have to say? What’s the real context? What’s the overall perspective? You need help to find that out, get our study guide. You can do that by going to our website, beyondtoday.tv. Now when you go there you can download this and read it on your iPad, your phone, your computer, or we can send a copy right to your door if you call us at the number on your screen. If you want to dig deeper or understand what the Bible has to say, get our study guide, “The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus.” Now we read in Luke 16:22 that the beggar died and was carried to Abraham’s bosom. Now today, modern times, it sounds kind of odd doesn’t it? I mean when we think of this, I mean, the obvious thing, he was taken to Abraham’s chest, that’s what it seems like.
But if we put ourselves back in the culture of the day, that pointed to something more. It pointed to a deep respect. There was a connection. There was deep friendship, a close relationship, an intimate, personal relationship. And so it was showing us that Lazarus has a vital connection to Abraham. And, of course Abraham is the father of the faithful. Lazarus was a faithful person, loyal to God, and so there was this connection between them. And of course on the other hand, the rich man, he was too worried about himself and his own possessions to have any kind of a relationship with God. And of course, then that begs the question, where was Abraham then? Now many assume well, Abraham must be in heaven. Wait a second, that’s not the case. Now, is there a scripture that can help us to understand where Abraham was supposed to be? Wel, in fact, Jesus tells us exactly when and where this parable pictures Abraham to be. In fact it’s in the same book in Luke 13:24. Here we see Christ himself explaining about His picture that He painted in that parable.
Christ said, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many I say to you will seek to enter and will not be able.” And then he goes on in verse 28. He says, “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and yourselves thrust out.” So when we put the greater context together we see Christ is talking about the kingdom of God. Abraham will be in God’s kingdom. Now many confuse things by thinking that the kingdom of God must be the same as heaven. But the Bible says no that’s not the case. It explains it pretty plainly, pretty specifically, that God’s kingdom will be established, it will be set up right here on Earth at Jesus Christ’s second coming. And of course it’s at that time that faithful believers that would include Abraham and Lazarus, they’ll be resurrected to rule with Jesus Christ. In fact when we check out the end of the Bible, it makes it very clear in Revelation 5:10. It tells us, “They have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on Earth.”
Now that might be surprising, but the Bible teaches that. It teaches that we don’t have an immortal soul that continues on in heaven or in hell when we die. In fact our dead relatives, they’re not looking down on us. And so that might sound astonishing and that might be something different than you’ve been taught. But if you take the challenge and really look to Scripture, you’ll find a whole different story than that. I mean you would think, wouldn’t the righteous be in heaven? I mean take, for example, a righteous king. How about King David? King David was a righteous man. He was said to be a man after God’s own heart. But when we notice what the book of Acts tells us, Acts 2:34 talks specifically about David. Notice what it says. It tells us, “For David did not ascend into the heavens.” So even righteous King David is still in his grave. We find the word of God, we find what Jesus taught is the fact that no one has gone to heaven except the resurrected Christ.
And of course when we take that and we connect it back to the parable, then we realize we can’t take the story literally. And that also means that being taken into Abraham’s bosom doesn’t mean Lazarus was carried off to heaven. Instead it represents the time of the resurrection. And that’s consistent, that matches with the rest of Scripture. In fact Christ taught this same concept over and over and over again. In the book of John, He tells us… Don’t be shocked by this. Don’t be surprised. He says in John 5:28, “Don’t marvel at this,” Christ says, “for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.” Christ goes on, “Those who have done good to the resurrection of life to those who have done evil to the resurrection of condemnation.” And so, that’s something you want to learn about. That sounds a little bit different. You’ll want to study this. You’ll want to get our study guide, “The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus.”
We have a whole section in our study guide that will help you understand that very fact that no one has ascended to heaven. It will help you put all the pieces together, all the scriptures that point out that very fact. So get your free copy today. We’ll mail it to you free of charge. Call us at the number on your screen or go to our website beyondtoday.tv. There you can read it, download it, and take a look yourself of what the truth of the Bible really is all about. You see when we go back then to our story, go back to that parable again, back to Luke 16:22. It also told us that the rich man died and was buried. And of course when we consider that we’ve got to think for a moment. What exactly is it like to be dead? I mean we haven’t been there yet the Bible tells us. The Bible tells us the condition of the dead. What is the state of the dead? Well one indication is given to us in Ecclesiastes 9:5. Here it tells us, “The living know they will die, but the dead know nothing.” Goes on in verse 10, “There’s no work, or device, or knowledge, or wisdom in the grave where you’re going.”
And so it’s very clear. The dead are well, it’s like they’re unconscious. They’re not aware of anything. And when someone dies, their thoughts, their feelings, their intents, their knowledge all comes to a stop. There’s absolutely no awareness, no consciousness, nothing. Nothing continues on anywhere, not in some other location like a heaven or a hell, not in other state of being. It’s just not that way. And in fact when you notice what the Bible tells us, it makes a comparison. Do you know what the Bible compares death to? Sleep. The Bible compares death to sleep. One example of that is found in the book of Daniel. Daniel 12:2 makes this point very clear. Notice what it says. It says that “many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth.” What does that sound like? It says they “sleep in the dust of the earth, and they shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” And so when we put these things together we can see the dead are figuratively in a state of sleep. They’re awaiting the resurrection.
It’s like they’re unconscious waiting in the grave and they won’t awake until the resurrection. And of course that also shows us then that there’s no immortal soul. Now when we come back to the parable and we put those things together, it’s interesting then that we see in verse 23, Luke 16:23 tells us about the rich man. It says, “And being in torments, in hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. So the rich man in the torments of hades. You might say, “Aha, I knew there was an ever-burning hellfire. There it is.” Wait a moment. That’s not a right assumption. You see and it would be confusing unless we begin to realize what about that word “hades?” What is that? Does the word “hades” mean a burning fire? No, no, it doesn’t. It literally means a burial place for the dead. Hades is talking about the grave. And so the rich man awakens from death in his grave. And how can that happen? Only through a resurrection.
So the rich man will be raised from the dead as if it were the very next moment after he died. That’s what he’ll think. And so what does he do next? Well verse 24 tells us. It says he cried and he said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue for I’m tormented in this flame.” Now remember this is a parable, it’s a fable, an allegory, a story. Because we know if the rich man were already in the burning inferno of hell wouldn’t he rather have a whole tankful of water dumped on him than just a little few drops on his tongue? Yeah I think so. But he is in mental anguish. He is in distress to the point that his mouth is dry, because he probably realizes his fate that he’ll soon be utterly burned up in the lake of fire. That’s what Scripture teaches us. And that then leads us to the central lesson, to what this parable really is all about. Let’s notice verse 25.
It says, “Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime, you received your good things and likewise Lazarus evil things. But now he’s comforted, and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you, there’s a great gulf fixed so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot nor can those from there pass to us.’”
So Christ uses a story to tell about this great gulf, this infinite distance between physical life and eternal life. And because this rich man would not repent he destroyed his relationship with God. And he realizes he’s lost the opportunity for eternal life, his fate was sealed, and he would die shortly in the lake of fire. I mean what a stark warning from our Savior Jesus Christ. And so in the story the rich man says, “I beg you, therefore, father, that you would send him, send Lazarus, to my father’s house, for I have five brothers that he may testify to them lest they also come to this place of torment.” Abraham answers and says, “They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” Abraham then replies, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded the one rise from the dead.”
Now why did Jesus include that statement? Well remember the context, remember the Pharisees, the rulers, the leaders of the day, they felt they followed Moses. They thought they were true followers of the prophets but in fact, they had rejected them. They didn’t follow Moses, and there’s no way they were going to follow Christ. And so what we find is they misused their status, they abused their wealth, they were corrupt. And so Christ makes this very strong point convicting them hoping that they might learn from it. In fact I think Christ is hoping we’ll learn from it as well because we’re reminded that this is a story, this is a parable, and we should learn.
Don’t take this thing literally, because if we take it literally, there are major problems. I mean here’s just an example. How could those who supposedly go to heaven even enjoy it? They’re supposed to be in paradise, but somehow they could listen and hear those cries of the wicked being tormented. Now that doesn’t sound like a paradise. In fact when we understand we realize we have to know the truth about the resurrection, learn about it, understand it. What does the Bible really teach when it comes to the truth? The fact is that the dead don’t know anything. They’re waiting in the grave. Those who have died are awaiting the resurrection. And so this all points to the fact that we don’t have eternal life now. It’s a gift that has to be given to us. We don’t have an immortal soul that goes to heaven or hell at death. And this parable should help us to take that to heart, take to heart the fact how we live today is what really matters most. And so to help you to understand really what matters most be sure and get our study guide, “The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus,” because when we really get down to it, it takes us right to the heart of the matter.
This is on page 19. It says, “Jesus used the story of the rich man and Lazarus as a strong verbal and visual lesson to his disciples, to us. It shows us the importance God places on kindness and being outward-focused instead of inward-focused. To be sure how we care for others is the dynamic spiritual lesson Jesus wants us to learn through this parable.” So, be sure and get your study guide. Call us at the number on your screen. Go to beyondtoday.tv and get your free copy because there’s so much to the story. It’s not just an illustration, because there’s a call to action that Jesus gives us in the story. In fact we need to ask ourselves, “What should we do? What should we do?” Well Christ tells us we need to make right choices. That’s part of what this parable is all about. Am I consumed with my own personal interest? Have I really prioritized my life? Am I distracted by all the entertainment, the pleasures, the marketing, social media, all those distractions that surround me?
You see God’s got to have first place in my life, can’t just have a place, God must be the center. And this story is a reminder of that, that God’s got to come first and then it has to show in my actions. What can I do today that I can help and serve someone else? Or am I so preoccupied with my own concerns? Is it all about me and mine? Well Christ is telling us do something about it, make a concerted effort to help and serve others. And if you haven’t this is an important point: it’s not too late to change. Don’t ignore those who need encouragement. Those who need support, don’t neglect them. Don’t dismiss those who need a helping hand because yes, there is a time of judgment ahead. But you can begin by letting God lead you to a deeper understanding through His word. So, dedicate yourself today to put your faith into action and take to heart the message of the rich man and Lazarus.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet offered on today’s program, “The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus.” Many people believe the parable of the rich man and Lazarus points to an ever-burning hell, where the wicked will be tortured alive forever while the righteous look on from heaven. What is the truth? Our free study aid—“The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus”—reveals the real meaning behind this parable. God explains what will happen after death, but it’s not what most people think. Some people take this parable literally. But other Bible verses paint a fuller picture showing that God’s judgment is far more merciful.
Learn the truth from your Bible about them is understood parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. Find out how God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked in a way that is both just and merciful. Be sure you know what your Bible says on this essential topic. When you order this free study aid, we’ll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to Beyond Today magazine. Beyond Today magazine brings you understanding of today’s world—and hope for the future! Six times a year, you’ll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy, as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, “The Truth About the Rich Man and Lazarus,” and your free, 1-year subscription to Beyond Today magazine. 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.