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The Rich Man (Dives in Latin) and Lazarus

Introduction

The nature of man is a controversial issue -- some say man is made fundamentally of two parts, spirit and body others say tripartite, body, soul and spirit. Regardless - most say that at death mankind continues. That is there is a conscious intermediate state. This belief is most often established by quoting Luke 16:19-31 which comes from the mouth of the Lord. What is lacking however is a contextual discussion of the passage and a more careful look at what the genre of speech and rhetoric the  Lord was using (parable, sarcasm, parody, fable, irony etc) and to whom He was directing the story. We will better understand the nature of man by understanding this passage contextually and noting carefully how man was created in the beginning.

Luke 16:19-31

19 ¶  There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20  And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21  And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
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;
23  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
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.
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.
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.
27  Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The Run Up

We should look at the lead up to the passage -- lets go back to chapter 14. In verse 1 we read:

1 ¶  And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
2  And, behold, there was a certain man before him which had the dropsy.
3  And Jesus answering spake unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day?
4  And they held their peace. And he took him, and healed him, and let him go;
5  And answered them, saying, Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the sabbath day?
6  And they could not answer him again to these things.

The Lord entered the house of a chief of the Pharisees and confronts a particular doctrine held by the sect - namely their strict and impossible to uphold doctrine of the sabbath. The result was "And they could not answer him again to these things". Clearly the approach the Lord used was to expose the hypcrosy of the Pharisaical teaching -- and He did so "in their face", with an obvious miracle of healing and a "good work" which any rational person would agree  must be right to perform - yes even on the sabbath!

Verses 7-11 The Lord puts forth a parable concerning "those which were bidden"  where the teaching was that a place of humility should be taken by those bidden to a wedding and if a higher station of seating was to be taken it should come only after the inviter offered it. The Lord ends with  "For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Clearly the Pharissee would find this difficult.

Verses 12-14 when you make a dinner invite the poor, the maimed, the lame the blind -- why? because they cannot recompence you: 

KJV  Luke 14:14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
TBT  Luke 14:14 καὶ μακάριος ἔσῃ, ὅτι οὐκ ἔχουσιν ἀνταποδοῦναί σοι· ἀνταποδοθήσεται γάρ σοι ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει τῶν δικαίων.

The pharisees did things for selfish reasons -- the Lord is directing them to spiritual activity and recompence that is based on fulfilment of God's wishes. 

Luke 16:19-31

KJV  Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
TBT  Luke 16:19 Ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος, καὶ ἐνεδιδύσκετο πορφύραν καὶ βύσσον, εὐφραινόμενος καθ᾽ ἡμέραν λαμπρῶς.

There was a certain rich man -- whether a specific person or not he is used as an exemplar -- could be the high priest who according to Josephus had 5 brothers or could be Judah who had five brothers from Leah -- the point is that this person had all the dignity and station in life expected of the Pharisee and those of that class.

KJV  Luke 16:20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
TBT  Luke 16:20 πτωχὸς δέ τις ἦν ὀνόματι Λάζαρος, ὃς ἐβέβλητο πρὸς τὸν πυλῶνα αὐτοῦ ἡλκωμένος

A certain beggar -- quite opposite in circumstances -- "Lazarus" a common name in those days and has an uncertain meaning  ("whom God helps" or "without help") -- this was his lot -- the description thus far says nothing of the morality of these two persons. One rich and one poor, one joyfully living and the other full of sores and hungry. Lazarus was laid at the rich man's gate -- indicating his total dependence on others. The Pharisees would identify with the rich man -- after he was "obviously" living well because he had God's favor -- like them. The poor man was in that predicament because God was not well pleased with him -- or so they would think.

KJV  Luke 16:21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
TBT  Luke 16:21 καὶ ἐπιθυμῶν χορτασθῆναι ἀπὸ τῶν ψιχίων τῶν πιπτόντων ἀπὸ τῆς τραπέζης τοῦ πλουσίου· ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ κύνες ἐρχόμενοι ἀπέλειχον τὰ ἕλκη αὐτοῦ.

Just like a gentile looking for crumbs from their masters' table -- except here their is but one master. The dogs would be his physicians licking his sores. There is not one word here that would make the rich man evil or faithless in his life nor Lazarus good and prayerful or Job like in his station and circumstances.

KJV  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;
TBT  Luke 16:22 ἐγένετο δὲ ἀποθανεῖν τὸν πτωχόν, καὶ ἀπενεχθῆναι αὐτὸν ὑπὸ τῶν ἀγγέλων εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Ἀβραάμ· ἀπέθανε δὲ καὶ ὁ πλούσιος, καὶ ἐτάφη.

 Death occurs!! What appears now is very different to the testamony of the old testament about death -- here we see angels carrying Lazarus to "τὸν κόλπον τοῦ Ἀβραάμ" -- the bosom of Abraham. The place where Abraham has influence -- his domain and responsibility. Two things to note:

  • Angels -- where is this ever mentioned in the OT? How is it that angels are carrying anyone? According to the scriptures at death we are "dead" and know nothing.
  • Abraham's bosom -- Abraham was well and truly dead at this time -- how is he consciouss at all? 

This story is extra biblical and comes from the belief of the Jews which were taken from the pagans and adapted to their own religeous traditions. We have the writings of Josephus to help in understanding this:

The Bosom of Abraham is mentioned in the account of Josephus and a system of angels one of whom has the charge over souls. Is this the teaching of Jesus? Or is this the doctrine of the Pharisees who not only took from the pagans but amended and interpreted it further to help their own cause.   How then can we understand the Lord's words in this story of the rich man and Lazarus?  A good indication of what the Lord is doing here can be found by understanding the run up to this chapter starting about chapter 14.

However to focus our attention on fewer issues and complete my conclusion here let us look at the verses more immediate and relevant to the context -- Luke 16:1-18:

Interlude

The Lord spoke unto His disciples V1 but V14 -- the Pharisees heard all these things -- they were present. Here the Lord introduces the story of the unjust steward -- there is NO doubt that he was unjust -- for the story declares him as such -- a steward who acts unjustly -- the Master informs him at the beginning of the story that he has heard of how the steward had wasted his goods -- the master wants to hear an account of the steward's activities -- the steward thinks about this -- his lord (the master) will take away his stewardship and he is not one who will do manual labor and he will not beg for this would be a shame - so he comes up with a plan to set up his own dependents among those who owe the lord money -- he will tell them to pay less than what they owe -- this is done so that they owe him a favor:

KJV  Luke 16:4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
TBT  Luke 16:4 ἔγνων τί ποιήσω, ἵνα, ὅταν μετασταθῶ τῆς οἰκονομίας, δέξωνταί με εἰς τοὺς οἴκους αὐτῶν.

Extortion would be a very close ally to the unjust steward if the debtors wanted to forget about the transaction. Now at verse 8 we have an interesting statement put in the mouth of the master

KJV  Luke 16:8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
TBT  Luke 16:8 καὶ ἐπῄνεσεν ὁ κύριος τὸν οἰκονόμον τῆς ἀδικίας ὅτι φρονίμως ἐποίησεν· ὅτι οἱ υἱοὶ τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου φρονιμώτεροι ὑπὲρ τοὺς υἱοὺς τοῦ φωτὸς εἰς τὴν γενεὰν ἑαυτῶν εἰσί.

How is it that the lord (the master) would commend the unjust steward? What master would commend a steward for effectively stealing from him? How is this wise? Is this not also implying that the master is morally corrupt also?  Here we see a genre of rhetoric which the Lord is using to expose the Pharisees -- the Lord is using irony and parody on those who abuse their place of leadership. The wisdom of looking after oneself was at the expense of righteousness -- for the children of this world (age) were in their generation wiser (comparative) than the children of light -- if you take this as is -- the master is saying that the unjust steward and those like him act more wisely than the children of light -- this is the Irony! Through this story the Pharisees are exposed as  acting like unjust stewards and by implication children of this world pretending to be wiser (φρονιμώτεροι) than children of Light.

The next verse must be seen as a part of the parody or there is an absolute contradiction occuring in this passage:

KJV  Luke 16:9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.1
TBT  Luke 16:9 κἀγὼ ὑμῖν λέγω, Ποιήσατε ἑαυτοῖς φίλους ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ τῆς ἀδικίας, ἵνα, ὅταν ἐκλίπητε, δέξωνται ὑμᾶς εἰς τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς.

The Lord Jesus "And I say unto you" then Ironically says to take the example of the unjust steward and perform it -- this has to be Irony -- why? Because this would undo all that the Lord stood for and look what He says later Vs 10-13 these verses completely undermine the statements made previously and allow us to see the unjust steward as he truly is "UNJUST"!. 

KJV  Luke 16:10 He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. 11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?1 12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Luk 16:10 KJV)

The Lord is using parody and Irony to teach -- and expose. Those present would understand and would be very well aware of the class structure that the Pharisees took advantage of. The irony is "pregnant"

... that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations "δέξωνται ὑμᾶς εἰς τὰς αἰωνίους σκηνάς" -- they will receive you unto everlasting tents! -- interesting that tthe Lord would prepare a place which would be in the Temple which would have foundations -- a teaching that the book of Hebrews majors on. The mamon of this world can give some things but they are but tents to the perminance and glory which truth gives.

KJV  Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
TBT  Luke 16:13 οὐδεὶς οἰκέτης δύναται δυσὶ κυρίοις δουλεύειν· ἢ γὰρ τὸν ἕνα μισήσει, καὶ τὸν ἕτερον ἀγαπήσει· ἢ ἑνὸς ἀνθέξεται, καὶ τοῦ ἑτέρου καταφρονήσει. οὐ δύνασθε Θεῷ δουλεύειν καὶ μαμωνᾷ.

This is direct teaching from the Lord that would contradict the Pharisaical teaching and action.

End of Interlude

Now lets get back to Luke 16:23

KJV  Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
TBT  Luke 16:23 καὶ ἐν τῷ ᾅδῃ ἐπάρας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ, ὑπάρχων ἐν βασάνοις, ὁρᾷ τὸν Ἀβραὰμ ἀπὸ μακρόθεν, καὶ Λάζαρον ἐν τοῖς κόλποις αὐτοῦ.

Now we have the continuation of the parody -- where the Lord uses the Pharisees' teaching of Hell (Hades) . This teaching contradicts that which is given by the Holy Spirit in such places as  Psalm 16 and Acts 2:25-36. The rich man now is in torments -- the poor man in joy. What a turn around -- the Pharisees would normally align themselves with the rich man -- the Lord is now turning their own self serving and fundamentally pagan interpretation of the intermediate state against them. The roles are reversed -- so Jesus, using Irony and answering the pharisees according to their folly, points out that the station and wealth that a person occupies is no proof of favor with God. We should not assume that Jesus must directly correct every false notion that the Pharisees held -- if a man be ignorant -- let him be ignorant. It may well be that the Lord is not interested in correcting their doctrine but rather expose their hypocrisy before all.

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.

Notice that the rich man has:

  • Eyes (sees both Abraham and Lazarus)
  • A tongue
  • Torment

Where did this body come from? There is no account of resurrection and further the appeal is made to a Abraham who was already dead Gen 25:8. What teaching do you get from this? The poor are saved and the rich lost? Wasn't Abraham rich?

KJV  Genesis 13:2 And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.
LXT  Genesis 13:2 Αβραμ δὲ ἦν πλούσιος σφόδρα κτήνεσιν καὶ ἀργυρίῳ καὶ χρυσίῳ

What is he doing in that section of Hades with the poor man?

What an amazing assemblage of mixed metaphors. Here we are faced once again with the unjust steward -- the difference is that there is no correction of the false notion of Hades -- why? I think the answer as I have said previously is that the Lord is simply not interested in looking for repentance from this group. Correction from within their erroneous doctrine is all that they deserve and all they got in this regard.

Surely this is not a passage of scripture from the doctrine of God but rather Pharisaical NONSENSE used by the Lord to smack down those who were oppresses of the poor and perverters of the word of God. 

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.
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.

Now comes the doctrine which is apart from faith -- if you receive good things in this life -- chances are you will receive bad things in the after life. Comfort for those who receive evil in this life and torments for those who received good things. Wow! Again -- this is not the place Paul went to get the doctrine of salvation by grace. The great gulf fixed would normally have been a resource for the Pharisees to draw on for their separation from the needy during their life -- now the gulf is harming them.

27  Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28  For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29  Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30  And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31  And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The Lord speaks prophetically here and shows how these Pharisees will not accept the testimony of the risen Lord since they would not believe the testimony of Moses and the prophets.

Conclusion

Hades is gravedom. We will all go there unless interrupted by the appearing of our Lord and saviour. Luke 16 is not the place you need to go to for understanding about the intermediate state. 1 Cor. 15 would be better. Moses and the prophets do not authenticate the pagan notions of Hades but rather the conditional immotality of mankind. Without the resurrection through the finsihed and complete work of Christ we all would  perish (John 3:16; 1 Cor 15:53,54; 1 Tim 6:16; 2 Tim 1:10).