Posted by: biblestudyseattle | September 10, 2013


“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a 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. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 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. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” Luke 16:19-31

What was the rich man’s sin? What was the poor man’s virtue? Neither are given. Are we then to conclude that poor people go to heaven, and rich people burn in hell? Are all the righteous to go to Abraham’s bosom? Can millions of people fit in one man’s bosom? How is it that the rich man’s tongue was on fire, but not his body?

These questions illustrate the need to be careful how we interpret Jesus’ sayings. Many people see this as a warning about hell. But it is an illustration of Israel and the Gentile nations. The rich man is Israel, and Lazarus is the Gentile nations. Jesus is rebuking the Israelites for not believing him. It is very likely that Jesus preached this not long before he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. That was the crowning miracle that set the Pharisees hell-bent on killing him. The Pharisees were religious leaders in Israel. How could religious leaders plot to murder the Messiah? Jesus is also hinting that the gospel call will be expanded to the Gentiles since not enough Jews were faithful in God’s eyes. The torment will come at the resurrection when, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:10

Isn’t weeping bitterly a torment?

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