THE ETERNAL DIVIDE BETWEEN SERVING GOD AND SERVING WEALTH BRINGS COMFORTING RELIEF OR UNRELENTING TORMENT
Unrelenting torment in Hell for all of eternity is not one of the more popular sermon topics in today’s populist culture. But Jesus does not shy away from condemning the legalistic Pharisees for their love of money and their unwillingness to help in tangible, practical ways those who are suffering right before their eyes. They might enjoy privilege and luxury in this life, but in the life to come it will be a completely different story. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking that your wealth is an indication of some type of secure status in God’s kingdom. There will be a complete reversal from what men esteem when God intervenes to bring final judgment.
This story illustrates a number of points Jesus had just made previously:
– 13:30 – “some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.”
– 14:33 – “none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
– 16:9 – “make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that
when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings.”
– 16:13 – “You cannot serve God and wealth.”
– 16:15 – “that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God”
I. (:19-21) DISPARITY IN LIFE – CONTRAST BETWEEN THE RICH MAN AND THE POOR MAN – BETWEEN SERVING WEALTH AND SERVING GOD
A. (:19) Condition of the Rich Man = Privilege and Luxury
“Now there was a certain rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, gaily living in splendor every day.”
The Sin of the Rich Man: Failure to use his wealth as a good steward to assist those in need such as Lazarus who was suffering tremendously right at his gate
Deffinbaugh: And if Lazarus was painfully aware of the bounty and blessings of the rich man, but evidently not a sharer in them, so, too, the rich man had to have been aware of the pathetic plight of Lazarus. He would have had to walk past Lazarus every time he left or entered his house. This means that he would have had to have consciously chosen to ignore his need. The rich man thus used his wealth to indulge himself, but not to minister to the needy. This was a clear violation of the Old Testament standard of righteousness
Donald Miller: Possessions are given by God in trust, to be used as an expression of his concern for the needy. If one does not do this, it is clear that possessions, rather than God, are his lord.
Lenski: His being rich is nothing that could be reckoned against him, for Abraham, too, was rich and appears in this very parable.
B. (:20-21) Condition of the Poor Man – Lazarus = Deprivation and Suffering
“And a certain poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate,covered with sores,
and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table;
besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.”
The righteousness of the Poor Man: Maintained his faith in God without complaint despite his difficult physical circumstances and poor health
Anyabwile: The rich man remains anonymous, but the poor man is named, perhaps a hint at God’s particular care for the poor and oppressed.
II. (:22-23) DISPARITY IN DEATH – CONTRAST BETWEEN THE POOR MAN AND THE RICH MAN – RESULTING FROM SERVING GOD VS SERVING WEALTH
A. (:22a) Destiny of the Poor Man = Comfort in Abraham’s Bosom
“Now it came about that the poor man died
and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom;”
Only 2 destinations in the afterlife; no temporary purgatory where you can move from one state to the other
B. (:22b-23) Destiny of the Rich Man = Torment in Hades
“and the rich man also died and was buried.
And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment,
and saw Abraham far away, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
Anyabwile: The rich man remains fully conscious of his suffering and torment. Hell is not a dream or a place without feeling. The Bible does not present the afterlife as sleep or as annihilation without suffering. It’s a place of intense suffering because God has removed even that common grace that we so much enjoyed in this life even if we are not Christians. Being utterly removed from grace laves only misery and sorrow. We cannot imagine what horrible, horrible suffering is the removal of God’s love and mercy.
Geldenhuys: The rich man, like the sick beggar, also died – neither his multitude of possessions nor his influence among men could protect him against the inevitability of death. In the hereafter his condition, owing to his sinful life of selfishness and heartlessness, enjoys full blessedness with Father Abraham, he who during his life had despised and neglected the beggar at his gate endured the utmost torment.
III. (:24-26) DESTINY IS FIXED BASED ON SERVING GOD VS SERVING WEALTH
A. (:24) Desperate Cry for Personal Relief From Torment
“And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus,
that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue;
for I am in agony in this flame.’”
Lenski: He whose tongue daily tasted the finest wines and the most delectable cooling drinks now burns with ceaseless flame. Pitiless are the final judgments of God, and this is the illustration. Let men ignore them or rave against them now and say they cannot believe in such a God, the facts stand as they are depicted here.
B. (:25) Destiny is Justified
“But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.’”
Geldenhuys: Lazarus, when he was on earth, had, without uttering a single word of hate or bitterness against the rich man or against God, accepted the painful trials that had come upon him. He had not allowed suffering to drive him away from God, but had remained a true child of Abraham – a God-fearing sufferer such as Job had been. Thus he had gathered for himself treasures in heaven, and therefore it is just and right that he should now live in blessedness. His choice in life was, above all, to receive true life from God, and now he has been given that which he had chosen.
C. (:26) Divide is Final
“And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”
IV. (:27-31) DEBATE OVER THE ROOT PROBLEM OF THIS ETERNAL DIVIDE
A. (:27-28) Is the Issue More Information?
“And he said, ‘Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house—
for I have five brothers– that he may warn them,
lest they also come to this place of torment.’”
Morris: He implies that he had not been treated fairly. If he had really been given all the information he needed, he would have acted differently.
B. (:29) No – Look to the Sufficiency of the OT Scriptures
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’”
C. (:30) Is the Issue the Need for a Spectacular Sign?
“But he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead,
they will repent!’”
Donald Miller: Verse 25 must not be mechanically interpreted to mean that all the rich in this life suffer in the next and that all the poor in this life are blessed in the next. He is condemned purely because he failed to use his wealth in the service of God by concerning himself with the sufferings of his fellow men. . . The rich man’s desire that his brothers “repent” (vss. 27-30) indicates that he had discovered that he was in hell not because he was rich, but because he had failed to repent of self-lordship and place himself under the Lordship of God.
Steven Cole: Sometimes when you’re witnessing, the person will say, “If I could just see a miracle, I’d believe.” That is just a smokescreen. The Bible bears witness of many miracles, first and foremost the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. There is sufficient evidence to believe the apostolic witness of the resurrection. If a person won’t read and believe the Bible, then he has a deeper problem, namely, a moral problem.
Repentance is a Moral Issue, not an Intellectual One.
D. (:31) No – The Source of the Root Problem = Wicked Heart of Unbelief
“But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.’”
Morris: The parable concludes with Abraham’s solemn affirmation that the appearance of one risen from the dead [Lazarus in this context] will bring no conviction to those who refuse to accept Scripture. “If a man (says Jesus) cannot be humane with the Old Testament in his hand and Lazarus on his doorstep, nothing – neither a visitant from the other world nor a revelation of the horrors of Hell – will teach him otherwise.” (A. M. Hunter, Interpreting the Parables, p. 84).
Geldenhuys: These last words of the parable were undoubtedly uttered by the Savior with a view to His own resurrection. The sign for which the Jews had so often asked would be given by His resurrection, but He knew that even this would not move the worldly-minded to a saving faith in Him. And this was abundantly proved by the actual course of events.
Deffinbaugh: Man’s failure to believe is not due to any lack of evidence, but due to a closed heart, determined to disbelieve any amount of evidence. The problem, to put it differently, was not a lack of external evidence (appearances), but a willful rebellion of the heart against God. The hearts of this man and his five brothers were unbelieving. Such unbelief was not solved by a preponderance of the evidence, but only by a change in the heart. Once again, the outward appearances are not the issue, but the heart is.