The rich man and Lazarus, Final
Oct 01, 2014
Luke 16:26 says,
26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, in order that those who wish to come over from here to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.
There was already a great chasm between the good and evil figs of Judah, insofar as the two Schools were concerned. The appearance of Jesus only widened this division, as people had to decide whether He was the Messiah-King or not. At first, there were many who came to believe in Jesus, as the early chapters of the book of Acts indicates. However, the backlash soon began, as Saul took the lead in persecuting the Church. Most of the Christians fled from the land to the safer areas of the empire (Acts 8:1).
Thus was fulfilled the prophecies of the good figs, who were sent away into the lands of their captors (Jeremiah 24:5-7). Meanwhile, the evil figs remained entrenched in the old land to fulfill prophecies of destruction that applied to them (Jeremiah 24:8-10). As time passed, a great gulf appeared between Judaism and Christianity. Though individuals could always cross over, the two groups remained permanently divided.
Both groups ended up in exile, first the Church and later the Jews, but the first was for their good, while the latter group was “tormented.”
Luke 16:27, 28 continues,
27 And he said, “Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment.
This helps to identify the rich man in torment, for we read in Genesis 30:20,
20 Then Leah said, “God has endowed me with a good gift; now my husband will dwell with me, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.
So we see that Judah had five brothers, all born of Leah. Further, the Idumeans, who had united with Judah under Judaism in 126 B.C., were from the children of Esau-Edom. We read in Genesis 36:4, 5 that his three wives bore him five sons. Both of these branches of Judaism confirm their identification as the rich man in the parable.
Luke 16:29 continues,
29 But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.”
This statement shows that the rich man was not meant to represent unbelievers from other nations, most of whom had no knowledge of Moses and the Prophets. It is not a simple story of believers and unbelievers going to heaven or hell after they die. It is a parable that builds upon the previous ones and is meant to convey prophecy of Israel and Judah—specifically, the evil figs.
In Luke 16:30 the rich man again appeals to Abraham,
30 But he said, “No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!”
This is the climax of the parable, revealing the fact that Jesus would be raised from the dead. The Holy Spirit would thus confirm His anointing as the Messiah, and surely then, the people would repent. But Abraham responds in Luke 16:31,
31 But he said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”
This is, in fact, what happened. The chief priests knew that Jesus had foretold of His resurrection, and so they sealed the tomb and posted a guard to prevent anyone from removing His body (Matthew 27:65, 66). Such a guard could not prevent or hinder His resurrection, of course. Matthew 28:11-15 says,
11 Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day.
The chief priests heard the truth from the very soldiers that had been hired to guard the tomb. Did they then believe on Him who had been raised from the dead? No, they bribed the guards to say that the disciples had stolen His body while they were asleep. Everyone knew, of course, that those guards would have been executed for dereliction of duty. For them to claim to be asleep, then, was one of the most improbable stories ever told, for anyone could have asked them how it was that they had not yet been arrested.
The testimony of Moses is seen in his commissioning of Joshua (Yeshua) to lead Israel into the Kingdom. In Deuteronomy 31:14, God tells Moses to “call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” Even as Joshua was commissioned to lead Israel after the second covenant had been given (Deuteronomy 29:1), so also was Yeshua-Jesus commissioned to lead us after the New Covenant was established and ratified at the cross.
In John 5:45-47 Jesus said to those who had refused to believe the witness of John, the witness of the Spirit, and the witness of Jesus’ works,
45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?
If any other nation had seen Christ rise from the dead, all the people would have believed in Him without hesitation. But the evil figs of Judah were unique in their blindness, because they had feasted on the word of God daily but had rejected its revelation. Any time a person rejects genuine revelation, he blinds himself in that area of life, and it is difficult to return to the truth. The other nations, which had never read Moses or the Prophets, were ignorant, but not blind.
Further, it is apparent from Jesus’ words that the Jewish problem was NOT that they had read Moses, but that they did not believe his writings. They, of course, completely disagreed with Jesus’ analysis of the problem. They believed their understanding of Moses, not realizing that their understanding was based on heart idolatry. The idols of their heart told them that non-Jews were dogs, that Romans were dogs, and that they had a right to do all in their power to fight the Romans in order to gain independence.
They believed that the Messiah would be the one who would overthrow the Romans by the use of miracles. Jesus, however, did not meet their messianic hopes, because He understood the laws of tribulation given through Moses, and He submitted to Rome even as Jeremiah had instructed the Judahites in his day to submit to Babylon.
Summary of the Parables
The five parables in a row build upon each other to give us a clearer understanding of the Kingdom. In them we see two main characters representing Israel and Judah and their distinct destinies prophesied in the law and the prophets.
The lost sheep and the lost coin focused fully upon the lost House of Israel, which had been dispersed more than 700 years earlier by the Assyrians. The parables show how they would be found in the end.
The third parable was of the prodigal son and the older brother, again representing Israel and Judah. The prodigal son repents and returns to his father, while the older brother grumbles and refuses to enter into the celebration. The grumbling son answers to the scribes and Pharisees who had grumbled about sinners and tax-collectors (prodigals) repenting and coming into fellowship with Jesus (Luke 15:1, 2).
While the third parable introduces us to the Judah son, the fourth focuses almost entirely upon him, telling us that he was about to be dismissed for misusing the master’s goods. Both the prodigal and the unjust steward squander the father’s inheritance (Luke 15:13; 16:1), but unlike the prodigal son, the unjust steward does not repent. Instead, the steward increases his theft in order to find housing after his dismissal. He reduces the debts that others owe his master, not out of compassion but with the understanding that those debtors will then owe him the difference. In making such “friends,” he hopes to obligate them to house him indefinitely when he is dismissed.
The final parable sums up the destinies of both Israel and Judah. Lazarus is Israel, situated outside the gate with very little to eat (of the word). The rich man is Judah—the chief priests in particular—who feast daily on the word and become rich on account of it. Both nations die. One goes to Abraham’s bosom, while the other is buried in the grave (hades).
The final conversation is between the rich man and Abraham, where we learn that the rich man has five brothers. This identifies him with Judah and also with the sons of Esau. His brothers “have Moses and the prophets” (Luke 16:29), yet they refuse to believe His prophecies of Christ, even though they knew that He was raised from the dead.
In the progression of revelation, the House of Israel leaves the House and goes into the far country, but the famine of hearing the word finally causes him to repent. And so, he is destined for Abraham’s bosom—fulfilling the call of Abraham to be a blessing to all families of the earth.
The House of Judah, on the other hand, was never exiled (permanently), but remained in the old land to the time of Christ. Like the older brother, they were always with the Father never lacked for the word of God. But they squandered God’s provision and were dismissed from their position as steward of God’s household (or vineyard). One must read the parable of the vineyard in Matthew 21:33-45 to obtain further details about the divine judgment in this case.
The rich man in the fourth parable is God Himself, and the steward enriches himself by misusing the wealth of his master (God). Hence, the rich man in the final parable is no longer God but the House of Judah (evil figs). Judah later was destroyed and “buried” in hades, where the Jews were imprisoned and remained consumed by grief.
The solution to their dilemma was to believe Moses and the Prophets, to repent and accept the Messiah who (they knew) had been raised from the dead. Unfortunately, the fact that they had already refused to believe Moses and the Prophets—Jeremiah in particular—blinded them to the point where they could not believe. Hence, the great chasm stood between Abraham and the rich man, and it was impossible for the evil fig figs of Judah to fulfill the Abrahamic calling.
The next chapter in Luke thus focuses upon repentance as the solution to the problem.
This is the final part of a mini-series titled "The Rich Man and Lazarus." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part of the eighty-sixth part of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.