The basic argument about this passage is whether the story is a real situation or a parable.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and 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 am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from there.
Some believers understand this story as a real physical description of the scene. They say that Jesus mentions the specific name of Lazarus; this is evidence that it is a real story. They interpret it as proof that the middle state Hades exists after death.
Others propose that He only cited the Egyptian myth, and thus it is a parable which does not exactly represent the situation that happens after death. They say that if people at Abraham’s bosom can see the torment of people in hell (Hades in Greek), seeing their suffering is itself torment. How can such a cruel place be the kingdom of heaven?” The truth is that the current story is a parable that reveals the spiritual world, as other words in Scripture do.
What does this story truly signify then? This story appears in the final part of Luke 16. Luke 16 begins with the story of an unjust steward under the law who learns of the gospel, but considers the gospel as only another law to obey; subsequently, the steward tries to outsmart the gospel through his actions. In each transaction, he attempts to show his own righteousness, but he neglects to follow the living God, who leads him in everyday life. The unjust steward is not praiseworthy, of course.
Luke 16 further describes the characteristics of those who have faith under the law. They, the Pharisees, are destined to be proud of what they do in front of men and God. However, God does not ap-prove of what they do, because He knows they act to impress men, but neglect to hear the living God. So Jesus says to them, “You do those works because you want to be highly esteemed among men, and that attitude is an abomination in the sight of God.”
In this context, the parable of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, also demonstrates those who believe under the law instead of believing in grace. The rich man, therefore, represents those who place their faith in the law as the Pharisees do; the beggar, Lazarus, represents those who place their faith in grace. Let me explain the parable verse by verse.
Who Is the Rich Man? And Who is Lazarus?
We will consider verses 19-21 below:
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
A Rich Man
Here, the rich man does not necessarily indicate a man who earns a lot of money. Instead, the rich man is he who eagerly keeps the law by loving, helping others, praying and fasting, and so forth. These good works are stockpiled in his memory as valuable treasures.
Why are they treasures? It is because when he has them, he will feel satisfied on his own and people will praise and honor him. He can teach others or scold with confidence by saying, “Do as I did,” or “Why don’t you love others?” And he naturally despises and judges others who fall short of what he does.
For him, what he has done are precious possessions and treasures which lead others to respect him and allow him to justifiably rebuke others and choke them. That is, he can exercise lordship over others based on such possessions/treasures.
Understanding this, he will gladly accumulate the treasure of good deeds by keeping the law diligently. He will even voluntarily go into poverty and forsake material possessions, because he knows he will earn the respect of others in return. Indeed, he will receive more than he gives. Why not do this? He who possesses the treasure of self-righteousness is the rich man, according to the Scripture.
Here is another rich man in Matthew 19.
[Matthew 19:16-22, paraphrase mine]
A young man came to Jesus and said What good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? and Jesus said If you will enter into life, keep the commandments such as, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The young man said to Jesus, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. When the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions .
The young man had great physical possessions. However, the word “possessions” has duplicate meaning; that is, one is natural and the other spiritual. Jesus was using, as always, possessions as spiritual meaning, which is the self-righteousness of the young man. As we can know from the dialogue he had great possessions of self-righteousness that came from keeping the laws of God. He had great possessions/treasures like “non-doings” of murder, adultery, stealing, and bearing false witness, and also “doings” of honoring father and mother and loving neighbor as himself.
Jesus asked to sell those possessions for him to become the poor (in spirit). He can only sell such possessions by following Jesus to the cross. And if resurrected, he will be in heaven as his treasure and really can follow Jesus by living his life as a true disciple/apostle.
I just briefly explained above text. You can find in detail explanation in Fresh Eyes to Read the Bible II. As we can see in the Scripture, the rich and his possessions are not simply meant to say natural richness or physical possessions, but all spiritual. So the rich in the Scriptures signifies to those who have a lot of self-righteousness as their possessions.
A lot of believers think it is hard to understand why the outward acts of loving others, helping the poor, fasting and praying are not approved by God. God does not approve them because all their good deeds are hypocrisies that conceal inward violence and deceit in their hearts.
Just think, if we are sin-possessed, what “good” can we produce, except the “good” of sin? So, most of all, we have to follow Jesus to the cross to cleanse our inside first, which is sin-forgiveness process, then we will do good of God. Read the following verses from Matthew.
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. 26You blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
All our good works are not complete if we do them without the sin-forgiveness of Jesus on the cross. And in that case, all our good works will serve as our precious possessions to exalt ourselves before men and God and to judge others who do not do such works. We are the rich in this case.
We all, the believers, will think that we are freed from sin; that is, our sins are forgiven already. If we have this kind of false sin-forgiveness, we will justify our works for Jesus saying “We work for Jesus in church not to receive sin-forgiveness, but to show our grati-tude for being forgiven already. Good.
However, that is not the way the born-again express themselves. Because the saying of “to show our gratitude for being forgiven” shows explicitly that our old selves are “trading” with Jesus/God on give and take basis; that is, we take sin-forgiveness from Jesus and in return we work for Him. This is typical legalistic thoughts.
Furthermore, sin-forgiveness is done only through Jesus, and Jesus is “a man.” If we have not met this Jesus and are taken to the cross yet, we still remain in sin. And in this case, we must be gathering great possessions to be rich.
Another character appears in contrast to the rich man: he is Lazarus, a beggar. He is poor in spirit, imploring God for mercy and grace. The name “Lazarus” means “God helps.” Lazarus represents those who are used up by the life of the rich man above, and have truly repented to follow Jesus, by forsaking all and denying himself, to the cross where the disciples met Jesus the first time. This concept will be described hereafter as “following Jesus to the cross.”
In contrast to the rich man who is busy stockpiling his self-righteousness, Lazarus concentrates all his heart on the Jesus he has met; the living Jesus who asks him to focus on following Him. And he will follow only Jesus at this stage. Lazarus represents the man who met “a man Jesus” in his life.
We should ponder on the differences between the rich man and Lazarus. Both of them are believers; the rich man believes for his own aim, that is, to live well in this world and go to heaven afterwards, but this kind of faith is not approved by God. Lazarus believes and obeys what Jesus says to him at the present time even if obeying Him would bring hunger, poverty, humiliation and even death. We should know that the rich man is not a believer in Jesus in a real sense, but Lazarus is.
When Lazarus follows Jesus, Lazarus’ thinking and actions will be very different from those of the rich man. He does not lean on the multitude anymore, but leans on only Jesus, seeking His grace. Men such as Lazarus will not be welcomed by traditional believers in his society and will become outcasts sooner or later. Lazarus is such a man. How about you? Have members of the traditional churches ac-cused you of being different because you follow Jesus? If yes, your path may lead to Abraham’s bosom.
What Situation Signifies
Lazarus ate the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. He was full of sores and even the dogs came and licked his sores.
What do the crumbs symbolize? Both the bread and the crumbs signify the Word, but here bread, or food, that the rich man takes is the law, and the crumbs that Lazarus takes represents the gospel.
The rich men eat their fill with good food: They read the Word through good Bible study materials and efficient training programs, studying abroad at famous theological schools, seminars and work-shops with renowned scholars invited. And they have a lot of excellent opportunities to receive the Word, the food, appearing to fare sumptuously.
Although they feast well, they have no eye to see the life hidden in the Word, so they only read the Scripture on the legalistic level; that is, they take it only as literal. The Scripture will reveal, if we read it correctly with spiritual meaning, that we are sinners, and thus we will seek the grace of God to be saved from the sin. However, rich men do not have eyes to read the Scripture spiritually, so they fail, or refuse, to see the sinful status of their spirits.
Even though they fail to catch the hidden weightier meanings, they study and research very hard to understand the words of the Scriptures, which are the vessel to hold the spiritual meaning. The spiritual man benefits much from such studies of the rich men.
For example, we are thankful for the brilliant works of the Bible dictionaries, various translations and exegeses of Scripture, archaeological studies about the Bible period, and all kinds of research and studies related to the Scripture. We cannot perform such tremendous works by ourselves, but benefit from those works. This is what the scene of Lazarus taking the crumbs falling from the rich man’s table signifies.
In practice, the today’s Scripture could be passed down to us since the Pharisees and the scribes of the Jews desperately transcribed the text with all their elaborate efforts, religiously, from generation to generation. Thanks to their efforts, today we can have and read the words of God in our Christian faith.
However, we, the Christians, think that they are under the law and we are in grace, thinking that they only took the literal meaning of the Scripture, but we can know and read deeper. That is, we think we live by faith, but they live by deeds. In this sense, the Jews are the rich men; we are Lazarus, taking the crumbs falling from the Jews’ table.
Nevertheless, you will understand by now that your reading, in principle, is not so much different from that of the Jews. Therefore, if you do not catch the weightier meaning of the Bible from now on, you will remain as the rich man you have been.
Anyway, this is the meaning of Lazarus who manages to live on the crumbs falling from the rich man’s table. It seems that he is a miserable man, but he is the most blessed man in God.
Sores and Dogs
Lazarus has sores. This means that he who follows the real Jesus will be attacked by those who are under the law and will suffer pains: They may be condemned and persecuted as an unlawful sect. Let us look at the cases of the disciples, who, while following Jesus, were frequently under attack and accused by the Pharisees and the scribes because the disciples were different from them, doing unlawful activities which were prohibited according to their interpretation of the Scriptures.
For example, when Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath, His disciples were hungry and picked some heads of grain and ate them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:1-2). And when some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat” (Matthew 15:1-2).
And when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not” (Mark 2:18)? and so on.
All these accusations and condemnations are the thorns which prick Lazarus and cause sores, through which he is tormented in his heart.
“Dogs come and lick Lazarus’ sores.” The dogs are not the type of pet dogs on the leash. The dogs in this scene indicate those who do not know the gospel as Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” The rich man is of this kind of dog.
“Licking” is the metaphor for the acts of comfort to relieve the pains. This scene means some of them, the dogs, may take temporary pity emotionally on Lazarus who is persecuted, and give some words of consolation. However, as they have no understanding of the gospel or of Lazarus at all, they cannot share his suffering or console his pain. Only Jesus will be his comfort and consolation.
Two Kinds of Resurrection
There are two kinds of resurrection in the Scripture. Read
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
Both the rich man and Lazarus died and were resurrected, of which the spiritual meaning will now be described. We all come to this world as the dead, the sinners. We are asleep in the grave. And we cannot even hear God or know if He exists.
Under this circumstance, we may go to church and believe in Jesus in our own way. It has got to be our own way, because we have no communication with God. Therefore, we pursue our own benefit and self-righteousness by believing in Jesus. The rich man appearing in this parable represents those who believe in Jesus in such a way.
When we believe in Jesus as a rich man, when we are fully used up in such faith, we will have chance to truly repent and meet “a man Jesus” to follow Him to the cross. At this time we start to have true faith of Jesus. The faith that we had as a rich man is the shadow of the true faith to come which is revealed by Lazarus.
We always tend to misunderstand the shadow faith as the true one. So I am explaining repetitively the differences between the two for you to aim and receive the true faith of Lazarus. Let us discuss the resurrection of Lazarus, which is the true faith.
In Lazarus’ case, he also was staying in the grave as a sinner. But he was fully desolate in his faith, unlike the rich man, and had truly repented. He met Jesus and had communication with God through Jesus. He followed Jesus and, as a result, his old self died on the cross, which is expressed in the text as: Lazarus died.
When his old self had died with Jesus, he was resurrected in Abraham’s bosom in unity with Him. Where Abraham is, there is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11-12). Like Lazarus, some believers around us whose old selves have died by the Word on the cross, are resurrected, and live in the king-dom of heaven with new life here. They truly are the born again men around us who have the Word in them. Try to find them, as they will do what Jesus will do to you.
Rich Man’s Resurrection
The rich man also died and was raised. This is not natural death and resurrection. Like Lazarus, his death is a metaphor of death of the old self and resurrection to the new self. But all these are false assumptions.
Then, on what occasion did his old self die and was resurrected? He died when, he thought, he was saved and born again, because such expressions respectively mean “died and rose again”; the resurrection. Most probably that time would be the initial stage when he came to church and confessed with his mouth that Jesus was his Savior.
As he thinks that he is already saved and resurrected, what he will probably do is work hard for better rewards after death. There is nothing much else he can do. Therefore, he gets to stockpile self-righteousness so he can be a rich man.
Here, however, he realizes that his resurrection has a problem, because he is resurrected into hell (Hades), feeling tormented. This means that he is not born again and saved correctly. What went wrong? The problem of the rich man is this: He went through the process of resurrection, which includes the experience of the cross, not in reality, but in his imagination only. That is, he did not follow Jesus to the cross in reality. And He received a false resurrection.
The rich man realized that he was in a Hades of torment. What this means is that he learned of the gospel and he knew that he was in the wrong when he believed in Jesus. However, he had not yet reached the point of true repentance at which he could follow Jesus to the cross, forsaking all.
This parable reveals the mindset of the rich man. As he does not become desperate enough to follow Jesus to the cross in life, he tries to do other good things of his own to complement his disobedience. He has not yet come to his senses. Such characteristics will be made manifest as we go on.
Resurrection of the Just and Unjust
It is our general thinking that only the righteous Christians will be resurrected in the kingdom of heaven. But in fact, the unjust will also be resurrected like the rich man here. However, they will be still in Hades even after the resurrection.
Then, you may say that the rich man is not resurrected. That is right. But since he insists that he is resurrected; i.e., saved and born again, the Scripture says that he is resurrected, but into Hades. This is the resurrection of the unjust. Read the following passages.
And shall come forth; they that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.
And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Do not regard “doing good,” stated in John above, as keeping the Lord’s day holy, helping the poor, not committing adultery, or not stealing, as they have hidden weightier meanings. “Doing good” means following Jesus to the cross to crucify our old self. We who have fulfilled this course of action will come forth to the resurrection of life. This is “good doing” because we are following Jesus, the origin of good.
On the contrary, “doing evil” means, being led by our old self we believe in Jesus, not that we are lead by Jesus. In this case, we might do many various good works people might respect, but they are evil to the eyes of God. Even though we think we are doing good, we are doing evil. The rich man did this “evil work,” and consequently came forth to the resurrection of damnation.
Which resurrection do you long for? The resurrection of the just and unjust will happen to us during our lifetimes. However, at the time of our natural death, our state at that instance will be final, be it eligible to the resurrection of the just or of the unjust.
So long as we breathe we are given a chance to repent and follow Jesus to the cross to have the resurrection of the just. God is waiting for us to repent, and this is the long-suffering period of God, according to His mercy.
Romans 9:22 reads, “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?”
Heaven Here, Hades Here
Consider the following verse 24
And he cried and 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 am tormented in this flame.
We have found from the parable that death and resurrection do not mean the events that will happen after we are dead, but signify the spiritual things that happen while we are alive. Therefore, we can find in this world both Abraham’s bosom where Lazarus has entered and Hades where the rich man is. That is, all these scenes describe the unseen spiritual world of ours; we who are living in this material world in the bodies. So they can see and meet each other if they want to.
Abraham’s bosom, the kingdom of God, has come into the heart of Lazarus. The kingdom of God will be in us. Jesus says in Luke 17:20b-21, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” And Hades has come into the heart of the rich man. Accordingly, both types of the believers live together in this world and can see each other as the rich man and Lazarus do in the parable.
State of Mind?
Not to digress too much, when I say that the kingdom of God and Hades is here, some people might wonder if I am referring to “state of mind stuff” that is taught and sought by Buddhist monks or other seekers. We must not forget that they try to achieve a peaceful state of mind through their own efforts, like mind control, meditation, fasting, yoga, self-pressing on, healing music, and so on. I guarantee that they will not achieve heaven through these efforts. It is only a kind of legalistic struggle to get out of sin, which will end in vain.
However, entering the kingdom of God is the result of Jesus casting out the devil from us, and having the Holy Spirit in us instead. This is the kingdom. And we may call the kingdom “the state of the spirit” to differentiate from “the state of mind,” which is the concern of the mind controllers.
In this lifetime, if you are in the kingdom of God, you will be there eternally even if you die physically; and if you are in Hades now and die physically, you will be there eternally. Therefore, if you are keen to go to heaven in the afterlife, enter the kingdom of God in your lifetime, and you will be in heaven eternally even after your death. This is the only way you can guarantee that you go to heaven in the afterlife.
Joy and Torment
They who are in the kingdom of God in this world live in love, joy, and peace because of unity with God. Paul describes this king-dom as follows:
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
Those who are in Hades are tormented in flame. The flame signifies the desires of this world. The heart that burns to satisfy the desire, or that burns because of failing to satisfy, is expressed as flame.
Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
The flame of Hades comes to those who have the faith of the rich man, who is not born again. The flame does not mean the hot bright burning gas we can see. They who are in Hades do not realize that they are in it. They guess that is a certain other place to which people will go to when they are dead, and swear that they would never go there. Those who are in Hades can never go there, because they are already there.
Dip the Tip of Finger in Water
What the rich man in Hades can do is only admire the peace of Lazarus who dwells in the kingdom of God. When the rich man told Abraham to have mercy on him and send Lazarus to cool his tongue, it signifies that he entreats Abraham for a crumb of the peace of Lazarus. But it is not possible.
Good Things of Rich Man, Evil Things of Lazarus
Consider verse 25.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.
Upon first reading, it seems that the rich man is in torment in Hades because he only pursued his own wealth and did not help others. And Lazarus is comforted because he suffered from diseases and led a miserable life as a beggar. However, the Scripture is written to tell us of salvation of our spirits, not fairy tales or stories. If we read the Scripture in that way, Jesus also will say to us, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures” (Matthew 22:29), as He said to the Sadducees who read literally.
Then, spiritually, what wrong did the rich man do that made him to go to Hades, and what good did Lazarus do that made him to go into Abraham’s bosom?
Good Things the Rich Man Received
“Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things,” says Abraham. Abraham calls the rich man a “son” (teknon in Greek), and the rich man calls Abraham “father.” It shows that the rich man believes in God, believes in Jesus. Especially, the rich man represents a Christian who has exerted his utmost for God and has stored a lot of self-righteousness, considering the fact that he is rich.
From what Abraham says to the rich man, we can find the reason why he is tormented in Hades. Abraham does not give many reasons, but one reason is that he received his good things in his lifetime. Here, his lifetime represents the period during which he believed in Jesus. What kind of good thing did he receive? Did he used to play golf on Sunday instead of attend services? Or did he go to a dance club and drink in secret? No, not that kind.
His “good things” meant that he believed in Jesus according to his own righteousness, without following the living Jesus. This is the good thing that he received in his lifetime. Such faith leads him into Hades, because it is the faith made by his old self which should, above all things, have been destroyed on the cross.
Evil Things Lazarus Received
Lazarus received evil things in his lifetime. The evil things he received represent the trials he underwent, following Jesus and denying himself, until his old self was destroyed on the cross. The things that happened during this period were evil to the eyes of his old self, his adversary, but good things to his new self.
We must meet Jesus and follow Him to the cross, not follow the trail of the rich man. You can then believe as the living Jesus leads you, not as your old self leads. This is to believe in Him not as you please but as He pleases. And it means receiving evil things, which actually is following Jesus to the cross, in your lifetime.
If you do not take evil things, you will be finally like the rich man. And when you are in torment and cry out to the Lord, He will say to you, “Son, you stopped your ears about what I had told you and believed in your own way, didn’t you? You chose your good things then, so you are tormented now.”
We cannot go to heaven unless we die. Likewise, in order to go to the sinless world we have to die united with Jesus on the cross. No cross, no resurrection.
Tormented and Comforted
The rich man avoided the process in which his old self would be destroyed, and to complement such evasion, he worked very hard, performing self-righteous acts. However, he only succeeded in deceiving himself. And he is tormented in Hades now.
On the contrary, Lazarus is comforted. It is quite natural that he is comforted in the kingdom of God. However, also, he is comforted in the following sense. Lazarus followed Jesus to the cross, was resurrected and received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter. Read the following passage from the Gospel of John.
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me:
The term “Comforter” is translated from parakletos in Greek, which has the same essence of a word as parakaleo (to comfort). By receiving the Holy Spirit Lazarus is comforted in the kingdom, which is the real comfort.
A Great Gulf
Read verse 26.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from there.
The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue with water, but Abraham rejects his request for the following two reasons.
First, the rich man received his good things during his lifetime. He reaped what he sowed: He sowed tares and he reaped the same. Under this situation, he cannot reap even a single grain of wheat. It is like the light that has no darkness in it at all; reversely, the darkness cannot have a single point of light.
By nature, Lazarus’ peace cannot be shared with the rich man at all. Even if the rich man is brought to Abraham’s bosom at this mo-ment, he cannot stand it due to the severe torment he feels in his person, not in the environment. In fact, that is why he chooses to stay in Hades now.
To explain further this issue, think about the older son in the parable of the Lost Son in Luke 15. When the younger son returned home, the father celebrated his return. At seeing this, the older son was very angry based on his self-righteousness works saying to his father, “See, these many years do I serve you, neither transgressed I at any time your commandment: and yet you never gave me a kid…” (Luke 15:29).
It is torment for the older son to go in the house, so he remained outside even though his father came out and entreated him. The father’s house signifies Abraham’s bosom; outside of the house is Hades and the older son is the rich man. This is how the heaven and hell divides.
As such, the rich man cannot feel the relief of Abraham’s bosom; that his torment is in his person, not in the environment. In order for the rich man to stay with Abraham, he should have the same heart with Abraham through Jesus. In the text, Abraham is telling the truth even if he sounds as if he is cold-heart toward the rich man.
Second, there is a great gulf fixed between the rich man and Lazarus. It does not signify a geographical border between the kingdom and Hades, which are blocked from each other by sheer cliffs. But it means the gulf of thought between the carnal man and the spiritual man. In the previous section, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life,”
Jesus and Martha talk about the resurrection. Jesus talks about the resurrection of here and now, but Martha considers only the resurrection in the last days in the future. He explains it to her over and over again, but she cannot understand it, which shows the great unseen gulf between Jesus and Martha through which they cannot pass.
The rich man and Lazarus are living in the same world physically, but there is a great spiritual gulf between the two. The rich man cannot reach Lazarus even if he prays to God or begs Him. The only solution for that the rich man is to be resurrected truly through the cross. After that, he can not only cool his tongue with a drop of water but he can also swim in the rivers of living water. Until breathing our last, we still have an opportunity to make the resurrection of Lazarus ours.
Both the rich man and Lazarus represent those who call Abraham their fathers but one of them stays in Hades while the other is in the kingdom of God. Their locations are determined by what they did while believing in Jesus.
The former made every effort to do good, except one thing; that is, following Jesus to the cross. Contrarily, Lazarus did only one good thing; that is, he followed Jesus, denying himself, to the cross, which is an evil thing at the same time to the eyes of the old self of Lazarus. You will know what you should do while believing in Jesus.
According to the spiritual arrangement, we, each of us, are destined to believe as the rich man at first. And when the time comes, we will believe, if chosen, as a “Lazarus” and will receive eternal life in Abraham’s bosom. That is, we will start believe in Jesus as a Lazarus when the time comes; the time for us to truly repent to meet Jesus after spending a long time as a rich man under the law and so being used up. From this time on, if we follow Jesus to the end to the cross and are resurrected, we are a Lazarus.
We are the “chosen” by God. But even though we meet the real Jesus, if we give up during the process of following Him to the cross for any reason whatever, we are “called but not chosen” and will die as a rich man who refused to follow the gospel even in front of Abraham. Read
For many are called, but few are chosen.
You will surely hope for the faith of Lazarus. Meet and follow “a man Jesus” to the cross now, if you mean it. Then you will reap the resurrection of life in Abraham’s bosom in your lifetime. Let us meet there!
Comes from “Fresh Eyes to Read the Bible III – Good, Evil and Resurrection”