Lazarus and the rich man. A chilling story of a wicked man tortured in the fire and brimstone of hell for all eternity. A warning of what awaits all those who would reject the message of Jesus and remain in their sins. For thousands of years this parable (and yes, it is a parable) has been used to prove that the wicked will burn forever in hell, while the righteous watch from blissful paradise. More than any other parable, this one has served to weaken the faith of those who would have come to know God by appalling them at the sheer atrocities which God commits; “What sort of a God”, they say, “would torture unsaved children in hell while their saved mothers watch from across a great gulf in heaven? What sort of HEAVEN is that? If that is GOD, I WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH HIM!”
But there is good news! That ISN’T God! I agree with those people – if THAT is a “loving” God, I want no part of Him! AND NEITHER SHOULD YOU! Because that doctrine is NOT a doctrine of God, and that is NOT what is going to happen to the unsaved dead, and that is most definitely NOT the meaning of this parable!
If you’re interested in learning – from the Bible alone – what REALLY is being described in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, and what REALLY awaits the dead when they awake, take a few minutes and read this article. You will see that there is hope – real, earnest, HOPE, that there may yet be a future for your loved ones who died unsaved. You will see that hell is not a place where human bodies are burned for eons without end, and yet never consumed. And you will meet – perhaps for the first time in your life – a God that actually IS love, and who would NEVER torture a Chinese baby in hell for the rest of time for the horrific crime of simply never hearing the name of Jesus, the only name by which men can be saved!
THE STATE OF THE DEAD
When the Bible speaks of the state of the dead, which it does quite often, it always comes back to two things; that the dead “know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and that the dead will be “resurrected” or brought back to life FROM the grave.
John 5:28-29 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that ARE IN THE GRAVES shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
This speaks clearly of a time when those who are NOW in the graves WILL hear his voice and come forth to a resurrection! This resurrection had not happened by time of Paul, long after the resurrection of Christ, and has not happened even yet!
2 Timothy 2:18 Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
The purpose of this article is not primarily about heaven and hell, so I must make my remarks brief; For now, I will supply you with a few quotes from other scriptures which will give you an idea of what the Bible says about the state of the dead:
In the grave, no one can give God thanks (Psalms 6:5), because there is no knowledge, working, or wisdom there (Ecclesiastes 9:10). NO MAN has ascended to heaven except Jesus Christ (John 3:13). David is both dead and buried (Acts 2:29) and HAS NOT ASCENDED TO HEAVEN (Acts 2:34). David is now “asleep” in the grave (Acts 13:36), as are the rest of the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:14-15). And all of the righteous men in the Bible – like Moses, Abraham, Noah and David – have all DIED and have NOT received the promises of eternal life! (Hebrews 11:13, 39-40)
Hell is translated in the New Testament in most places from the word “Hades”. It is a Greek word which literally means “the unseen” and corresponds to the Old Testament Hebrew word “Sheol”, which is translated as “grave” or “hell”. Hell did not always have only a religious meaning; in 1611 for example, when the King James Bible was translated, every winter people spoke of putting their potatoes in hell (their word for a root cellar or a pit, and also a grave) for the season.
The English word “hell” comes from a much older word meaning “to cover” or “to conceal”. So it is easy to see why Sheol and it’s Greek counterpart Hades, meaning “the unseen” was translated into English as Hell, “to cover/conceal”. For this reason most modern translations either avoid the issue and don’t translate it at all, simply using the word “Hades” without translating it, or else correctly translate it “the grave”, as the King James does in 1 Corinthians 15:55.
As a final proof that Hades does not refer to a place of ongoing torture for the wicked dead, Jesus Christ spent a few days in “Hades”! Christ, speaking prophetically through David in the Psalms had said, as quoted by Peter….
Acts 2:27, 31 Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell <hades>, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption…. He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell <hades>, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Notice the last part of the verse which sets the context – in Hades, Jesus’ FLESH would have seen corruption! In other words, His BODY would have begun to decay IN HELL! But if Hell is a place where SOULS ALONE go for torture, then it could not affect his body! But if Hades was translated as “grave”, then this makes perfect sense! In the grave, “the dead know not any thing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5), and the body is eaten by worms (Job 19:26) and begins to break down into dust (Genesis 3:19)!
But God had promised Jesus that He would not leave His soul “dead” “knowing nothing” in the grave, and would not allow His body to decay before His resurrection!
Many people, because they do not understand what I have said up until now about the state of the dead, desperately need this parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man to be read as literal in order to support their doctrines. They say that because it says a “certain” man, and mentions a person by name, that this is an actual historical event, and not a parable full of symbols and deeper meaning. But what does the Bible say?
Luke 12:16 And he spake a PARABLE unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
Obviously, saying “a certain rich man” (the opening line to the Parable of Lazarus) doesn’t mean it isn’t a parable, for here it is flatly stated to be a parable even though “a certain rich man” is the subject. Names are specifically used in other parables, where the Devil is named, Jesus (as the son of man) is named, two women are specifically named (Ezekiel 23:1-4) and later showed to be a parable signifying Jerusalem and Samaria, and many other examples. So clearly, naming a certain person doesn’t mean it isn’t a parable. And finally and most importantly, Jesus ONLY spoke in parables to the multitude.
Matthew 13:10-11, 13 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them IT IS NOT GIVEN. ….Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
Jesus very clearly showed His intention to ONLY speak to the masses in parables, and reserve the MEANINGS to the parables, the interpretations of them, for the twelve disciples.
Matthew 13:34 All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable SPAKE HE NOT UNTO THEM: (also Mark 4:34, Mark 12:1, etc)
Backtracking the thread of events leading up to the story of Lazarus, we find in Luke 14:25 that there were “great multitudes with him”, and then “all the publicans and sinners drew near to hear him” (Luke 15:1), for which the Pharisees and Scribes insulted him (verse 2), and then he launches into five consecutive parables, concluding with Lazarus.
So here we have it: there were “great multitudes” of “sinners and publicans” and “scribes and pharisees” listening to these five parables. The Bible states, without apology, that Jesus DID NOT SPEAK to the masses (including the Pharisees!) unless He used a parable! So IF JESUS SPOKE to those masses on that day, as we know He did, HE SPOKE IN A PARABLE!
THE PARABLE OF LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN
The Bible, particularly in parables and in prophecy, is written in symbols. The “many waters” of Revelation 17:1, the “stars” of Revelation 1:16 for example. No man is qualified to explain or interpret these symbols for himself. The Bible, and the Bible alone is able to explain and interpret it’s own symbols.
Lazarus and the Rich Man is a parable; a story filled with symbols which make no sense to the average reader, but to anyone who has the spirit of God working with them and who is willing to allow the Bible to interpret itself it will be a clear picture explaining a deep truth of God. We can see this in the other parables which are often explained for the disciples’ benefit such as Luke 8:4-15. Who cares if, how, or what happened when a man planted some seed? How could that possibly matter? And yet when God explains it it shows you a deeper understanding of who He is and what He plans to do with mankind. So also with Lazarus.
If you aren’t familiar with it, I suggest you read through the parable at least once on your own (Luke 16:19-31) before proceeding. You’ll notice several symbols in the story, such as Abraham, Lazarus, the “great gulf”, the dogs, etc. Let’s take those one by one and see how the Bible explains those symbols, starting with…
THE SYMBOL OF ABRAHAM
Abraham is the father of the faithful (Galatians 3:7). Abraham was the friend of God (James 2:23). And Christ is specifically referred to as being the literal seed of Abraham. That Abraham was His father.
Galatians 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Another thing we know about Abraham is that he was the father of Isaac. Isaac is well known to be a biblical “type” of Christ. In other words, God used events in the life of Isaac to portray prophetic events about Jesus. Isaac was almost certainly offered on passover, he was offered on Mount Moriah, where the temple was later built in Jerusalem, and he was offered by his father.
But if that is true, then the “father” who offered him, Abraham, would represent THE Father, God. And just like Abraham, God the Father offered up HIS only Son whom He loved. Compare these two scriptures:
Hebrews 11:17(KJV), 19(Phillips) By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, … He believed that God could raise his son up, even if he were dead. And he did, in a manner of speaking, receive him back from death.
1 John 4:9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
And of course God, like Abraham, received His only begotten son back from the dead. In Bible language then, Abraham equals God the Father. Now we have one character in our parable solved; now who is Lazarus? This one is much easier to find out! Because we know where Lazarus is – and only one person can be there!
Luke 16:22 And it came to pass, that the beggar [Lazarus] died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham‘s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Notice carefully what happened; Lazarus died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s bosom. Now, we know that Abraham pictures God the Father; who then does the Bible say is even now as we speak in God the Father’s bosom?
John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, WHICH IS IN the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.
The book of John was written late in the first century; long after Christ ascended to His Father – and AT THAT TIME, there was only ONE being who had lived as a man who was in heaven, in the Bosom of the Father – Jesus Christ!
Jesus cast Himself as Lazarus in this story because Lazarus means “helpless” in the Hebrew. Which was the spirit in which Jesus came to this Earth.
Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
And what of the sores, and the fact that he was a beggar, rejected and trampled by men? Did Jesus feel this way about Himself?
Isaiah 53:3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Lazarus could certainly have fit Christ according to that scripture. And can only fit Christ because only Christ went to God the Father’s bosom and resides there to this day. But we have one final clue to Lazarus’ identity: the way he GOT to his father’s bosom.
Luke 16:22 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;
Notice it says that when the rich man died, he was buried. But after Lazarus died, he was carried by the angels into the Father’s bosom! After Christ was resurrected, he met Mary and…
John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: …
She dared not touch him for then His sacrifice would have been tainted! Because He had not yet been shown in the throne room of God to have His sacrifice approved by God! And until it had been approved, HE DIDN’T HAVE ANY POWER ON HIS OWN! He was resurrected as a spirit being but He DARED NOT USE ANY POWER until His Father gave it to Him to use! But later that same day, AFTER being approved by the Father, He returned to earth and told His disciples…
Matthew 28:18 … All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Only THEN did He have all power in heaven and in earth! The reason I dwell on this point is that until then, HE COULDN’T HAVE TRAVELED TO HEAVEN, TO THE FATHER’S BOSOM, BY HIMSELF! He had to be carried there BY THE ANGELS!
THE RICH MAN
So then we have nearly identified all of the main characters in this parable. But who is the rich man? That one can be deduced quite easily by understanding why Christ spoke this parable in the first place. Backing up a few chapters you can see that He is wrapping up a series of 5 parables, all with similar motifs;
Luke 15:1-2 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.
The Pharisees were condemning Him for eating with sinners and not paying enough attention to them; so in answer, He gave the parable of the lost sheep and the parable of the lost coin and the prodigal son – the point of all of which was that he could do more of value bringing a hardcore sinner back to the fold than by polishing an outwardly semi-righteous Pharisee up a bit.
Then he proceeded to give the parable of the unjust steward which (presumably because it talked of a servant giving up massive amounts of his lord’s money and then getting praised for it by him) earned him quite a bit of ridicule and struck a chord with the covetous pharisees…
Luke 16:14-15 (Weymouth) To all this the Pharisees listened, bitterly jeering at Him; for they were lovers of money. “You are they,” He said to them, “who boast of their own goodness before men, but God sees your hearts; for that which holds a proud position among men is detestable in God’s sight.
This comment set the subject for the purpose of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man; the Pharisees, who loved to stand on streetcorners and boast of their own goodness, and loved to dress in beautiful flowing robes to be worshiped by men, needed a lesson; and so Christ told this parable. And for this parable, He cast the Sadducees, Scribes, and Pharisees in the part of the Rich Man. But though much of this would apply to any of them, He had a specific person in mind that typified their entire religion; there was one person in particular who dressed in purple and fine linen in those days; one whom everyone knew. The person performing the office of the high priest.
Exodus 28:3-5 … that they may make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office. And these are the garments which they shall make; … And they shall take gold, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen.
So you see that by using the Bible alone and allowing it to explain its own symbols, we have identified the three main characters; but by using other historical sources we can make our case even stronger. The Bible tells us that at the time of Christ’s crucifixion the High Priest was Caiaphas. We know that his father-in-law was Annas. Josephus (Antiquities, Book XX, chapter 9, section i, p.423) tells us that Annas had once been high priest and that Annas had five sons. Annas therefore would have been the “father” whose house Caiaphas lived in.
It doesn’t seem obvious to us today, but imagine I were to tell you a parable about a rich man, who dressed daily in a suit and tie, who had two daughters and was in charge of a war in Iraq? It would be immediately obvious to everyone to whom I was referring. But in 200 years (much less 2000) those clues would mean little. But if you imagine yourself in a small country roughly the size of New Jersey where the high priest was revered and all but worshiped, where the gossip of the temple was the talk of the nation, these clues could not have been missed by the crowd.
So then, if the rich man equals Caiaphas and by extension, all the religious leaders of his day, we have identified all the main characters. Now it is time to let the story unfold.
Luke 16:19-20 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
Who are these dogs? In the literal sense the act of a dog licking a sore can be helpful to it. A dogs saliva is very acidic which makes it good at fighting infection. And in the metaphorical sense in which Jesus is speaking, it has a similar meaning.
Remember that the purpose of this parable was to answer the Pharisees who were complaining that Christ spent too much time with sinners and not enough with them. But when Jesus did talk to the Pharisees they almost always ridiculed him and tried to kill Him – and eventually succeeded. And of course, the publicans were much more receptive to His teachings.
There are two Greek words in the New Testament translated as dog. Kunarion and it’s root word, Kuon. Kunarion is only used to refer to gentiles. Kuon on the other hand, which was the word used in this parable, is always used to refer to sinners. A good example of its use is…
Revelation 22:15 For without are dogs [kuon], and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. (see Matthew 7:6, Luke 16:21, Philippians 3:2 and 2 Peter 2:22 for the other uses of Kuon)
So what Jesus was saying is that Lazarus was desiring to find an interested Pharisee and they all tried to kill him, and wouldn’t give him the time of day. When even the DOGS, the sinners like the publicans and harlots came and “licked his sores.”
Luke 16:22-23 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; And in hell he lift up his eyes, …
Hell is translated from the Greek word Hades which means, as we read above, the grave. Nothing more. And so the rich man, in his grave, was dead for some time. And we know that the dead “know not any thing”, so this has to be a time when he is no longer dead. He is still in the grave however. And that means that this moment is his resurrection.
Verse 23 …being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
And so nearly every preacher on earth thunders that the rich man is in an ever burning hell being tortured for all eternity! But is that at all what that says? No! It says that the rich man died, was buried, and then FROM the grave awakened!
John 5:28-29 (Weymouth)Wonder not at this. For a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice and will come forth-they who have done what is right to the resurrection of Life, and they whose actions have been evil to the resurrection of judgement.
This rich man was representative of the Pharisees and Sadducees and of Caiaphas specifically. And we know that they had done evil (see Matthew 23, John 8). So we know then that the “rich man” will be resurrected into this resurrection of JUDGMENT! He died, was buried, lay dead for an unspecified amount of time and then lifted up his eyes and found himself in the resurrection of judgment! Or, as he himself called it “this place of torment”.
The word torment translated in those two verses came from the original Greek “Basanos”. Basanos (and it’s other form Basanizo) originally didn’t mean torture; it was the word used for a stone that was used to rub against silver and gold. The purity of the silver and gold could be determined by the color of the streak it left when rubbed. To put it differently, it was a stone used to test the quality of the precious metals. To put it yet another way, it was a stone of judgment.
Because of the similarity in concept this word was later adapted to use in the sense of torturing someone to extract the truth. But even there, the sense is still of EXTRACTING THE TRUTH! Of finding the QUALITY of the person being “Basanized”, or tormented!
And so when the rich man opened up his eyes after being dead, he found himself in a place of JUDGMENT! In a place where the quality of his life would be judged! Where a divine touchstone would be rubbed across him to see what color streak he left behind!
AND HE WAS TERRIFIED! For Caiaphas knew that HE had been the prime mover behind the plot to murder Jesus – and there He was, being comforted by God Almighty! And he now knew that HIS LIFETIME OF WORSHIP OF GOD WAS IN VAIN! That ALL of his efforts were WASTED, because his religion was based on the doctrines of MEN and not the COMMANDMENTS OF GOD! (Mark 7:7)
Luke 16:24 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.
This scripture more than any other is quoted to prove the unscriptural idea of hellfire; but that is not at all what it says! The word translated to the English word “tormented” in this and the following verse is the Greek word “odunao”. This is a completely different word than the one referred to a moment ago, which means a PLACE of judgment. This word means a feeling of EMOTIONAL distress!
This word is used 2 times outside of the parable of Lazarus in the Bible; in one, Acts 20:38, Paul is leaving Ephesus for the last time and all the church is SORROWING (odunao) that he is leaving for good! And in the other, Mary and Joseph had lost a 12-year-old Jesus and finally found Him at the temple…
Luke 2:48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee SORROWING (odunao).
Obviously Mary and Joseph were not tortured and tormented in any physical sense, nor were they in hell – but they were SORROWING! They were WORRIED! Their son was missing and they had been DISTRESSED! And when the Rich man woke up from his grave and saw Jesus whom he killed in the arms of God, and himself in the resurrection of JUDGMENT, he was both DISTRESSED, AND SORROWFUL!
And he was SORROWING and DISTRESSED in a FLAME in the resurrection of judgment, because FLAME represents God putting you through testing and judgment!
1 Corinthians 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try EVERY MAN’S WORK of what sort it is.
This scripture doesn’t say that fire will lap forever at the heels of the wicked, but that fire will TEST EVERY MAN’S WORK! When someone steals from you, that is a test of fire! When that happens God can see HOW much you trust Him! And He will know, depending on how you act, WHAT SORT OF PERSON YOU ARE! Your WORKS will be revealed by that FLAME! But while you are IN that trial, you will be DISTRESSED, won’t you? You might even be WORRIED, right? And you might SORROW after your stolen property, while you are being tormented in that flame!
Psalms 66:10 For you, O God, have put us to the test: testing us by fire like silver.
This is a parable rich in symbols – and the flame is just one more that, when properly understood, tells us a great deal about the resurrection in which the rich man finds himself! But now, moving right along, what does the rich man do next? He tries to cop a plea bargain! NOW he wants to make up with Lazarus! Now he, who fought against Jesus at every turn, who rejected his teachings when he was alive wants Lazarus to come and help him! And he is asking for that help in the form of a drop of water!
Now isn’t that strange? If you were burning alive in the flames of hell, wouldn’t you ask for a bucketful of water? Fire burns from the outside IN! If you were on fire, your TONGUE would be the last thing to notice it! But of course this is all written in symbols! And in BIBLE SYMBOLS, what does it mean to ask Jesus for water?
John 4:14 … whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. The woman saith unto him, Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not, neither come hither to draw.
This water represents the HOLY SPIRIT! This is something that Caiaphas NEVER RECEIVED! Because only those who OBEY Jesus Christ receive the holy spirit! (Acts 4:32) Receiving that spirit marks your entrance into the new covenant, into which Caiaphas never entered! But NOW – now that he died and realized his mistake, HE WANTED THAT WATER!
John 4:10 Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and WHO IT IS that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
NOW Caiaphas knew WHO JESUS WAS! He SAW him there in the throne room of God! And NOW he wanted the holy spirit – but he only asked for a drop of it! Because Jesus only gives people the EARNEST of the spirit – just a down payment, a TINY amount to begin with!
2 Corinthians 5:5 Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit.
WE, if we have repented and are in the TRUE Church of God, HAVE the earnest of that spirit! Jesus HAS dipped his finger in the holy spirit and dabbed it on our tongue – and if we are GROWING in grace and knowledge, we will be GROWING in that spirit as well!
But now Caiaphas receives a SHOCK! GOD TELLS HIM HE CAN’T HAVE IT!
Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
God tells him the very same thing that Jesus told him! That HE HAD HIS REWARD! Remember once more that this parable is prefaced by the statement “that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination with God”. This rich man sought glory from men by his attitude, his lifestyle, his dress – and so what Abraham was saying to him was exactly what Jesus told the Pharisees…
Matthew 6:2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
Luke 16:26 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 thence.
“And on top of that”, God continues, “there is another reason why He couldn’t bring you the holy spirit! EVEN if He wanted to!”
Luke 16:26 (BBE) And in addition, there is a deep division fixed between us and you, so that those who might go from here to you are not able to do so, and no one may come from you to us.
So even if He was willing, Jesus COULD NOT give the holy spirit to Caiaphas at that time! But why? What was that symbolic chasm or “division” that prevented him from going to the resurrected Caiaphas?
2 Corinthians 3:3 …written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
God intends to write with His spirit on your very heart – to inscribe His nature onto your conscience! The Old Testament Israelites only had his law written on tablets of stone – but we will have it written in our hearts BY HIS SPIRIT! BUT! There is one major thing that can interfere with this process! AND THAT IS YOU! YOU can erect a barrier that PREVENTS the holy spirit from having access to your heart! You build that barrier by RESISTING the holy spirit! By denying God access to your heart, you have effectively made your heart UNCIRCUMCISED!
Acts 7:51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
When you resist the holy spirit, you build a BARRIER against God! Your stubbornness and obstinance will make the spirit’s job of writing the nature of God on your heart so difficult that it will just leave! But Caiaphas – who was, incidentally, present in Acts 7:51– was asking for the spirit WITHOUT having his heart circumcised! He hadn’t changed – he just wanted the spirit so he could be with Jesus WITHOUT PAYING THE PRICE FOR IT! Without humbling himself and circumcising His heart!
Deuteronomy 10:16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
And what of the barrier which goes the other way? The one which prevents those who want to pass from Caiaphas’ place in the resurrection of judgment into the throne room of God – his sanctuary? Being uncircumcised in the heart prevents that as well!
Ezekiel 44:9 Thus saith the Lord GOD; No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel.
In this prophecy of the very time of this resurrection of judgment, God says that NOONE who is uncircumcised in heart can pass over that “great gulf” and enter His sanctuary – the place where Lazarus and Abraham are depicted! And even if someone in that sanctuary were willing to bring the holy spirit to someone, HE COULD NOT because that gulf, the hardness of someone’s heart, a stubborn refusal to accept God’s way, that UNCIRCUMCISED HEART BLOCKS the spirit out!
In order for this man to receive the holy spirit he would have to CIRCUMCISE his heart, and REPENT, and CHANGE, and show fruits to PROVE that he has changed, and HUMBLE himself before Moses and the prophets and THEN… but that is another article: “What will happen to the unsaved dead?”.
Luke 16:27-28 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Meanwhile, the rich man is not yet done bargaining! He accepts his own fate, but now tries to get Jesus to go back to his house and teach his family! They, whose judgment is not yet final, still have a chance to avoid coming to this resurrection of judgment; but God tells him “no” again!
Verse 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
This comes as a great shock to most of the world today, but the Jews of Christ’s day DID NOT OBEY THE LAW OF MOSES! Oh, they obeyed parts of it; they did some of the ritualistic things correctly. But they DID NOT OBEY IT!
John 7:19 Did not Moses give you the law, and yet NONE OF YOU keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?
You have the word of Jesus, Himself that says that they DID NOT KEEP IT! You see, if you haven’t humbled yourself before Moses and the prophets, and obeyed them, you cannot obey Jesus! For Jesus’ teachings are built on the FOUNDATION of the law and the prophets! He went BEYOND them, and magnified them GREATER, so that they apply to your life in a finer detail, but NEVER left their foundation!
Isaiah 42:21 The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.
God in the Old Testament prophesied that Jesus would come and MAGNIFY the law – and in Matthew 5-7 we find him doing exactly that. For example, Moses wrote on tablets of stone “thou shalt not commit adultery”. And Jesus agreed with that 100%! But He went even further than that and said
Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
He said that old law wouldn’t let you commit adultery – but I say that if you even WANT to commit adultery with her that you have in your heart already done so! So you see that now Jesus is taking the law off of those tablets of stone and placing it IN YOUR HEART!
Making it so that it no longer applies only to the things you do outwardly, BUT ALSO to those things you do inwardly – in your heart! But you CANNOT obey God in your heart, in the SPIRIT of the law, UNLESS YOU FIRST OBEY HIM OUTWARDLY! If you are committing adultery, but don’t look on a woman to lust after her, and BREAK the law that was placed on stone, but KEEP the law written in your heart, YOU ARE NOT KEEPING THE LAW AND FOLLOWING JESUS CHRIST! And so Abraham informs the rich man that his family HAS access to Moses; when they start OBEYING Moses, as none of them did according to Jesus, THEN perhaps they can receive Jesus in the form of the holy spirit!
But Caiaphas STILL argues!
Luke 16:30-31 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
And as it happened, Jesus/Lazarus did rise from the dead, and was preached by the Apostles and others, and they WEREN’T persuaded, just as God/Abraham said they wouldn’t be! God KNEW that they wouldn’t be persuaded, BECAUSE HE KNEW THAT THEY DIDN’T OBEY MOSES and the REST of the Bible! And if they didn’t obey that, and obey the law written on stone in the ten commandments, THEY COULD NOT obey the SPIRIT of the law that Jesus brought to them!
THE REAL MEANING OF THIS PARABLE
This parable is a biting condemnation of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, just as it is against the religious leaders of our day who say that the law is done away and we needn’t listen to Moses and the prophets!
This parable was meant to illustrate how Caiaphas, who was even then plotting to kill Jesus, would feel if he were to be resurrected in a few years and saw Jesus in the bosom of God the Father; to illustrate the anguish he would experience when he truly understood what he was doing. By way of a warning to him, and to the others who were there listening.
Jesus concludes this parable in the first verse of chapter 17 by saying “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!” Jesus knew that it was necessary for someone – Caiaphas, as it happened – to deliver Him to be killed, just as He knew that Judas Iscariot must betray him. And he said it was IMPOSSIBLE for these things not to be done by SOMEONE – but WOE UNTO THOSE WHO DID THEM!
And finally the most important thing of all in this parable is the words of Abraham/God the Father, who said “they have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them”. Remember, the time frame in which this parable was told was AFTER Lazarus/Christ died and went to the bosom of His Father. And His Father told Caiaphas that if a man didn’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, that they would not be persuaded even by one risen from the dead! Or in practical terms, the spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9) would not profit them if they did not FIRST HEED MOSES AND THE PROPHETS!
I am not teaching that we should go back to the rituals of Moses. Actually, I’m not teaching anything – those are plain words of God in your Bible. But what did God mean when He said that?
1 Kings 8:9 There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone, which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
Moses was the leader of the old covenant. Under this covenant, the law on the “tables of Stone” which God gave him and he delivered to Israel, were all that man needed to keep. The level of righteousness involved in keeping this covenant was adequate to receive physical blessings, and breaking it would result in physical cursings. But it did not include any promise of eternal life. Nor did it, originally, include the laws of animal sacrifices – those were added AFTERwards, as you can see in the book of Exodus, because of transgressions (Galatians 3:19).
It was this “Moses and the Prophets” covenant, where the ten commandments were written on tablets of stone, that the Pharisees were claiming to serve. Of course, as several verses show, they did not keep even that law (John 7:19, Mark 7:9, Luke 16:14, Matthew 15:9, etc). And so Jesus Christ came and showed a MAGNIFICATION – a closer scrutiny – of that law in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Where he took “thou shalt not kill” (the 6th commandment) and – far from doing away with it – made it even MORE binding, so that it wasn’t merely the OUTWARD ACT that was forbidden by the law, but the INWARD THOUGHT!
Matthew 5:21-22 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: …
This didn’t do away with the Law of Moses – the ten commandments! This made it MANY TIMES MORE BINDING ON US TODAY! It took the law OFF of those tablets of stone, and wrote it IN OUR VERY CONSCIENCES, TO GOVERN OUR MOST SECRET THOUGHTS!
Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
You can’t have just the same physical, outward righteousness that the Pharisees had! You have to go BEYOND that – not in a different direction, but FARTHER in the same direction if you expect to have any hope of entering the Kingdom of God! You must allow God to write these laws in your heart – the same laws that Moses could only write on stone!
Ezekiel 11:19 And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh:
But this must happen UPON THE FOUNDATION OF THE LAW! For, as Paul said “…I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Romans 7:7) Paul says that it is BY THE FOUNDATION OF THE TEN COMMANDMENTS that he understood the SPIRIT of the law! And as Jesus Christ, Himself said:
Matthew 5:17-18 THINK NOT THAT I AM COME TO DESTROY THE LAW, OR THE PROPHETS: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, TILL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS, ONE JOT OR ONE TITTLE SHALL IN NO WISE PASS FROM THE LAW, till all be fulfilled.
Christ did not come to destroy the law! He came to explain the law’s deeper meaning – to place the law in the hearts of every man and woman who truly wishes to obey Him! And if you refuse to keep the Law of Moses – the ten commandments that is, not the washings and sacrifices – and refuse to heed the Old Testament Prophets – YOU CANNOT LEARN THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW! For it RESTS on the FOUNDATION of Moses and the Prophets!
And as God the Father personally said, in a parable, IF YOU DO NOT HEAR MOSES AND THE PROPHETS, YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO HEAR EVEN ONE WHO ROSE FROM THE DEAD! AND THAT IS THE MEANING OF LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN!