Let us continue to look into the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Then he said, I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house: 28 For I have five brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
In the previous message, we defined this rich man as the believer who has understood the gospel of Christ legalistically. However, he has not yet reached the point where he realizes that he has legalistic faith.
So he does not truly repent to follow Jesus to the cross. Quite naturally, in the absence of true repentance, he would not wish to follow Jesus, but would do other good works of his own to complement his disobedience. He is the man who has not yet come to his true senses.
We will see here his spiritual position between the law and grace and the craftiness of his old self to escape the cross. We should not be deceived by our old selves who play like this.
The Rich Man’s Spiritual Position
The rich man in Hades feels sorry for his five brothers in his father’s house. The rich man entreats his brothers’ salvation. We are touched by his great tender heart to care about his brothers, even as he is himself in hell. But such a pretentious heart is only useful to deceive carnal believers and the people of this world.
Who are the five brothers, anyway? “Five” is symbolic of the law. The brothers of the rich man symbolize those believers under the law having same blood with him. Their father also signifies an instructor of the law known from having birthed legalistic sons. Their father represents legalistic preachers in church nowadays.
Differently from his brothers, however, the rich man stays in Hades while his brothers are living in the house. What does this mean? It relates to the matter of their recognition. The five brothers are also in Hades like the rich man but they have no idea of where they are. They, in their recognition, will not go into the Hades until they realize they are in the wrong in faith when they understand the gospel.
For example, in Scripture, the sinners are likened to the lepers. The lepers cannot feel pain even if their limbs are damaged. This is like the five brothers of the rich man. And if a leper feels pain and torment, his sense has come around, and he will want to see the doctor and live. This is the case of the believers who will be saved by Jesus.
However, the rich man does not fall into this case. He feels torment, obviously, but it is not painful enough to follow the doctor—Jesus. Therefore, he tries to withstand such torment without leaning on the Savior, Jesus.
In this way, the five brothers are described as staying in a different place from that of the rich man. Refer to the following illustration for the spiritual locations of each of them.
The rich man is in Hades, by realizing that his life as the believer was in great trouble, laboring and being heavy laden. This is because the gospel has revealed to him that He came forth to the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29).
Even though he understood the true way to resurrection, he did not wish to follow Jesus to the cross. He understood what he should do, but his body did not want to move. This means he can somehow yet manage the torment. When he suffers further torment, he might give up and cry out to God, and truly repent to follow Jesus. I hope this true repentance would occur in his lifetime.
Compassion of the Rich Man
The rich man did not want his brothers in the house to come to the place of torment. He wished that his brothers would not have a faith like his; it actually meant that he wanted their salvation. He looks like a good man with a warm heart who is caring about his brothers, really, even in his torment. But he is not.
Why? He is in the place of torment. He is the man who really needs salvation. He should have prayed and followed Jesus to the cross first, and then he would have known what salvation is.
However, he does not want that salvation, but says he is apprehensive for his brothers’ salvation. The salvation that he does not want to have, but wants to give to the brothers: What kind of salvation is this? If he thinks that the salvation is so desperate to give his brothers is one he should have obtained first for himself, then what he says will make sense. He is a pure hypocrite.
The five brothers require salvation, not the useless humane com-passion of the man in Hades. In fact, out of ignorance, he is going to ruin his brothers in terms of salvation. God loves the five brothers more than the rich man does. God takes care of them and already has allowed them to hear Moses and prophets as the best condition for their salvation, as Abraham said.
However, the rich man wanted to break this best condition by sending them one risen from the dead. If that was better, God should already have done so. The rich man in Hades is demon-possessed and cannot see and cannot know the heart of Jesus and God, who are working for salvation.
Under this circumstance, no matter what good he does, it will hinder the salvation plan of God. He who is in Hades cannot help his brothers at all in terms of salvation. He is supposed to seek his salvation first to really help his brothers. That is what God wants. Likewise, we should be saved first, above all things, in order to be able to help save others.
Do you know why the rich man mentioned his brothers? For him, the torment was yet endurable. Therefore, he tried ease to show off that he was a man of good heart who cared about his brothers. He was a big hypocrite. He tried to get the good repute of men, not of God, even while he was in such torment.
We know some people who said they were very much impressed by the words of this book, and came to our church. However, they could not follow the Word to the cross, so in the middle of the process, they left our church. Yet, they told us that this message was the truth that all should hear and follow. Except for the cross, humans could have been born again a million times–whenever we wanted.
Subtle Complaints of the Rich Man
Let us consider verses 29-31.
Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus, raised from death, to his brothers. It may mean that if someone rose from the dead to give witness of the heaven and hell he saw, people will believe and listen to him.
In fact, we sometimes hear someone talking about the experiences they have on a visit to the heaven: They tell us that they met the Lord there and report on the houses of the church members; the materials and sizes. They relay in real time that if a man pleases the Lord, his house will be enlarged in proportion and will be decorated with precious stones. Hearing this, many Christians repent and confirm their hope and faith about the heaven.
As said above, the witnesses of heaven and hell have great power and influence. We also think if God shows His power with miracles, unbelievers will believe. So we do not see any flaw in the request of the rich man to send Lazarus to them.
Yes, definitely it will help, but only temporarily. It will not be the final solution to cause them to repent. For instance, the Jews who had seen the resurrection of the Lazarus of Bethany in John, far from believing in him, they planned to kill him (John 12:10). The repentance depends on the man himself, not on the good circumstances.
Nevertheless, in this story, Abraham speaks with the spiritual meaning of “one risen from the dead.” That is, he considers “one risen from the dead” as “one whose old self is destroyed on the cross by following Jesus, and is resurrected like Lazarus.” This is clear because he mentions “Moses and prophets,” versus “one risen from the dead.” Moses and the prophets signify the law; and “one risen from dead’” signifies the gospel. Abraham reveals the relationship between the law and gospel.
What the rich man is saying is, “My brothers have been taught by the law. However, they will react differently and repent if they are taught by the gospel, the one who rose from the dead.” This is the subtle way of the rich man expressing his complaints to God that he and his brothers were not given the gospel in the first place, so they could not repent properly.
Moreover, it seems that he has the wish to repent. Not at all. He has no intention of repenting at all. If he really wanted to humble himself and repent in front of God, he would have done so anytime, anywhere, regardless of whether he was facing Moses and prophets or the one risen from the dead. He does not really want to repent, so asks for the better circumstances which will never be sufficient in his eyes. And he is saying he wants repentance, but will die without repentance.
See here; even he is being tormented, he never repents and is hypocritical, pretending to care about his brothers and to wait for repentance. This is the works of his crafty old self, his adversary. If he loses to his adversary, he will die in sin.
Unfortunately, our thinking will not be much different from what the rich man thinks. When we meet and understand the gospel at last, we will regret our thinking, saying, “If only I had known the gospel earlier…” or “If Jesus had taught me directly, I would have already repented and been born again, and again.”
We had better stop saying things like that; instead, just repent now. Jesus comes to the man who repented after spending sufficient time under Moses and the prophets. If Jesus comes early to a man who is still under the process of the law, that man will despise Him. The gospel is not always good in man’s eyes, compared to the law.
The law and the gospel each have their own role in your salvation. Think about Jesus on earth. He came when the Jews had long been under the law. So God uses the current legalistic preachers in churches as they are, but for us, if we spent a goodly amount of time there, we must come out of it to receive the true resurrection.
If you desire to be the one who rose from the dead, you should fear God, love Him and obey Him with all your heart in your present condition. If you are real in your desire, God will send you one risen from the dead outright, and in your lifetime he will usher you into the kingdom where Lazarus dwells.
We have seen the substance of the compassion and the complaints of the rich man. These are the works of the crafty old self. The old self does so in order to escape the cross where he is supposed to be destroyed. For the old self, it would be natural to think of all kinds of deceptions in order to survive, but if he survives, you die instead. Wake up so as not to be deceived by your old self. Repent and follow Jesus to the cross.
Our faith initially begins with the faith of the five brothers and the rich man. And it is finally fulfilled in the faith of Lazarus. Lazarus signifies the man who is made free from the devil and has perfect communication with God. We need to have the faith of Lazarus, any way, in our lifetime. Let us be wise to our old selves and be Lazarus!
Comes from “Fresh Eyes to Read the Bible III – Good, Evil and Resurrection”