Luke 16:19-20 “…certain rich man…certain beggar named Lazarus…”
Interesting that he names the beggar, but not the rich man. Tradition has named him Dives, the Latin term for rich or rich man. One commentary suggested that Lazarus was a name meaning needy or poor and thus would be the contrast to the rich man.
21 “…fed with the crumbs…the dogs came and licked his sores”
Because of the way they ate then, the crumbs wouldn’t be just little specks of food, but larger pieces. So getting the crumbs or scraps would be more significant than mere crumbs, but far less than a regular meal. Commentaries had some debate over the idea of the dogs and what is meant here. Some suggest Jesus was adding to the distress of the man by saying he couldn’t stop very unclean animals from touching him. Others suggest Jesus was saying the only relief from his distress was the dogs licking his sores. Either way, we have two people at opposite ends of the societal spectrum. One was wealthy, healthy, and had all he needed. The other had no resources, even daily food, and his health was bad to boot. Neither condition was labeled as right or wrong. Issue was that the poor man was laid at the rich man’s gate, yet the rich man did nothing to alleviate his pain and suffering.
22-23 “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades…”
Due to the nature of their destinations, it’s obvious Lazarus was a follower of God while the rich man was not. Only Lazarus’s soul condition was mentioned and not the disposition of his body. Assumption is that he wasn’t buried adding to the lowliness of his standing. Abraham’s bosom was a phrase denoting the place of comfort and rest at death for those who trusted in God. Commentary suggests the idea is that of reclining at a meal. Abraham would certainly be in a place of comfort, therefore Lazarus is also as he is reclining next to Abraham. Jesus referred to the place as Paradise to the thief on the cross. The rich man wasn’t taken there, but to a place of suffering.
24 “…he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue…”
He didn’t ask for a drink of water, only a drop. Extreme suffering. I’ve been thirsty before, but I have never been so to the point that a single drop of water could be such a relief.
24 “…this flame”
Fires of Hell.
25 “…in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented”
Doesn’t mean a person gets the opposite in the afterlife. He’s showing the present life is not all there is, nor does it last forever. Also, material things of this life don’t account for anything later, only how we choose to use them. The rich man’s great resources in life could have been to his everlasting advantage had he trusted in God and used those resources to help Lazarus. Now all he had in life is gone, and he is left with the results of his unconcern. Lazarus may have been needy and tormented in life, but that is now over forever.
26 “…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed…”
This parable is where we get our information on Hades, the place of the dead. It is a place divided into two parts separated by a great gulf, like two cliffs separated by a deep and wide ravine, with no way to pass from one side to the other. One side is referred to as Hell and is a place of great torment like being in fire. The other is a place of comfort and peace known as Paradise. Before Christ’s resurrection, all who died went there. Those who trusted in God went to Paradise, those who did not to Hell. All were prisoners of Death. When Christ died, He went to Paradise and freed those prisoners. They all went to be with Him in Heaven. Now those who die in Christ are taken immediately to be with Him. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Those who die without Christ go to Hell. The dead in Hell are still there, awaiting the final judgment when they will be brought out, judged, and thrown into the Lake of Fire, the final punishment. The sad part is Christ has done all to keep anyone from going to Hell, yet some refuse to accept His gift of salvation.
NOTE: I’ve read and heard some make the case that this parable tells us nothing about Hell or the afterlife. They say this was only a parable that Jesus made up. They use it to say the Bible doesn’t teach an eternal place of punishment called Hell. The idea doesn’t hold water. All of Jesus’s parables may have been stories created by Him, but the elements of a story are true else the story is not believable. There are such things as rich men, poor men, and dogs. Jesus never created an unreal world from which to teach. He always used real-life elements and situations. I have no reservation accepting the information He used in this parable as totally factual. Certainly He may not have had a particular rich man or poor man in mind, although He may have. But the aspects of what happened to them and the existence of where they went after they died are points of fact. Other comments in scripture also point to their validity such as Jesus conquered Death, preached to the captives, set the captives free, not to mention the incident of some of the dead saints rising and walking around for a time after the resurrection. All evidence points to this parable being a good description of an aspect of afterlife reality.
28 “…lest they also come to this place of torment”
It has been said that there are no atheists in Hell. The realization of realty is immediate. This is why I would not wish Hell on my worst enemy or the worst people of history. It is a place of no hope. No recourse, no parole, no end.
31 “…If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead”
First time I read this or heard it preached, I wondered about that. But it is true. People believe what they want regardless of what they see, hear, or know of the facts. Jesus proved it with His friend Lazarus of Bethany. Even after He raised Lazarus from the dead some still would not believe in Him. In fact, they tried to kill Lazarus because some people were believing in Christ because of him. The point is, if you won’t believe the truth, the manner in which you encounter it doesn’t matter.
I hope you enjoy reading and studying His word. May it accomplish what He desires. Please feel free to comment or post questions. Thanks for reading!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.