The Rich Man and Lazarus
Lesson 18

After Jesus told the parable of the rich man, as recorded in the first part of Luke 16, we are told that the Pharisees, who were covetous, began to deride Him. We know from many New Testament statements that the Pharisees were a proud and haughty-spirited class, and that they looked down on those whose misfortunes left them in a destitute or poor condition. They believed that success and wealth in this life were a sure indication of God’s favor while those who were less fortunate were under heaven’s curse. To counteract this belief and to show that it is in this life that we decide our eternal destiny, Jesus told another parable. In this parable, Jesus drew a contrast between the rich who have not made God their dependence and the poor who have done so.

1. How does God view that which is honored and highly regarded by men?

Luke 16:15
Luke 16:15

In the parable, a rich man who lived extravagantly and at his gate a certain sick beggar by the name of Lazarus, lay daily hoping to be fed with the leftover scraps from the rich man’s table. (See Luke 16:19–21.) In the passage of time, both men died.

2. Where is it said that the beggar went?

Luke 16:22
Luke 16:22

3. And having died, where did the rich man find himself?

Luke 16:22-23
Luke 16:22-23

Note: The rich man, in his life, had lived a life of selfish indifference. He was not in open rebellion against God, nor did he treat the beggar with violence, nor for that matter, require that he go away. If the poor beggar could derive some satisfaction in being there and find sufficient nourishment from the crumbs that fell from his table, he was willing to allow him to remain.

Lazarus, however, was in great need of help, being without friends, home, money, or food. Yet the rich man was willing to allow him to remain in this condition while he himself lacked for nothing.

There are those who believe that Jesus was here teaching the correct understanding of life after death. But as is quickly apparent, there is a real compatibility issue between some aspects of this parable and Christian doctrine. However, in telling this parable, Jesus was meeting the people on their own ground. There were many in the group listening to Jesus who believed in the conscious state between death and the resurrection. Josephus, the Jewish historian, in his Discourse to the Greeks Concerning Hades, gives us some insight into their belief.

Speaking of the place where the righteous go at death he indicates that in this place, the righteous are “not constrained by necessity, but ever enjoying the prospect of the good things they see, and rejoice in the expectation of those new enjoyments which will be peculiar to every one of them, and esteeming those things beyond what we have here . . . while they wait for that rest and eternal new life in heaven, which is to succeed this region. This place we call The Bosom of Abraham.”

By contrast, the wicked were dragged to a place in close proximity to the fires of hell where they are able to hear its fires and are constantly subject to its hot vapors while they contemplate the future time when they will actually be cast into the fire. It was believed that as part of the punishment they were able to see the happy estate of the righteous, though between them there was a great abyss such that even though some among the righteous should be moved out of pity to help them, they were unable to pass over.

So as not to miss the real point of the parable, let us look other texts in the Bible dealing with the subject of death.

4. How did Jesus refer to death?

John 11:11–14; Luke 8:52
John 11:11–14; Luke 8:52

5. What becomes of a person’s thoughts at death?

Psalm 146:3-4
Psalm 146:3-4

6. Do the dead know anything at all?

Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10
Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10

7. Where do the dead sleep?

Daniel 12:2
Daniel 12:2

8. How long do they sleep there?

Job 14:12
Job 14:12

9. When do the heavens as we know them cease to exist?

2 Peter 3:10–12
2 Peter 3:10–12

10. When does Paul tell us the resurrection of the dead takes place?

1 Thessalonians 4:16
1 Thessalonians 4:16

11. Where did Jesus say the dead will be at the time of the resurrection?

John 5:28-29
John 5:28-29

12. Is it possible for the dead to praise the Lord?

Psalm 115:17
Psalm 115:17

Note: As we have already seen, the Bible everywhere presents the dead as a sleep. This is consistent with the idea that there is no remembrance of God in death. In a sound sleep one is wholly lost to consciousness; time goes by unnoticed; the functions of the mind are suspended for the time being.

13. Why cannot the dead praise the Lord ?

Psalm 6:5
Psalm 6:5

14. What must take place before the dead can offer praise to the Lord?

Isaiah 26:19
Isaiah 26:19

15. Are the righteous now in heaven?

Acts 2:34
Acts 2:34

Note: If those whom Jesus resurrected from the dead were actually enjoying the bliss of a heavenly existence, calling them to life was robbing them of the joys of heaven that rightly belonged to them.

16. When does Paul tell us the righteous dead receive the gift of life?

1 Corinthians 15:22-23
1 Corinthians 15:22-23

17. Who only has immortality (never dies)?

1 Timothy 6:15-16
1 Timothy 6:15-16

18. Is it possible for us to receive immortality?

1 Corinthians 15:52-53
1 Corinthians 15:52-53

19. How do we receive this life?

Romans 6:23
Romans 6:23

20. To whom is this gift of life given?

Matthew 19:17
Matthew 19:17

Note: Because of disobedience it became man’s portion to die. How unreasonable to believe that all that was lost may be regained while still living in disobedience to God’s Commandments.

21. On what basis do we receive this gift of life?

1 John 3:4–6
1 John 3:4–6

Note: Jesus came that He might overcome Satan and, by His Spirit living in us, give us that same power to overcome. See Hebrews 2:14-15. For us to continue to live out of harmony with His expressed will—His law—reveals that we really have no living connection with Him, the Source of all life.

During His last days on earth, Jesus told His disciples: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2-3. If, as many suppose, Christians go to be with Christ at death, why would we have Christ telling His disciples that He would return to receive them unto Himself? Would they not have, in fact, been with Him since death? If, after all, it was only their bodies they were coming to receive, why would they want to come back after bodies left behind here? Could not the Creator supply them with a far better one? (As a matter of fact, Paul does teach that the resurrected righteous receive a different body, a spiritual one rather than a fleshly one. (See 1 Corinthians 15:42–44; Philippians 3:20-21.)

Lesson Home◄Previous LessonNext Lesson►

Print Lesson in Adobe Acrobat