Translations: Chinese GB Big5

The Parable of 
The Rich Man & Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31 "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom.

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 in anguish in this flame.’

"But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in like manner, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’

He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’

"But Abraham said to him,
‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’

"He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

"He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets,
neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’" (web)


Discussion Questions

Interpretation:

Why do you suppose the brothers would not have been convinced even if Lazrus was raised from the dead?
Was there ever a "Lazarus" raised from the dead? (John 11)
What effect did it have on the skeptics? (John 12:9-11)

Application:

What part do miracles play in convincing people that God has spoken?
What kind of evangelism program would you recommend?
What do you think of basing on evangelism program on "whatever works"?
And if so how would you measure "what works"?


Comments

There are those who object to the illustration of the afterlife that Jesus presents here. There are those who propose that this is only a story and therefore is not necessarily true to life.  However, notice that all of Jesus' other stories and parables were true to life.  He doesn't use science-fiction scenarios in his stories.  He presented the after-life the way it actually was.

The afterlife was referred to as Hades and was composed of two parts. One for the unrighteous, which is often called "Hell", and the other for the righteous which may also be called "Paradise" along the lines of Jesus promise to the thief on the cross to whom he promised "Today you will be with me in Paradise" Luke 23:43

There are only these two sections and nothing in between. There is no one half-righteous and half-unrighteous. There is no one half-born of God. "He who has the son has life. He who does not have the son of God does not have life." 1John 5:12 Those who have the son are reckoned righteous, their sins having been forgiven and forgotten.

The Major Theme:
Evangelism from Hell

In this story, it is not specified as to why the rich man went to hell. It was implied that it was because he was given over to luxuries and pleasure while at the same time not loving his neighbor.  But this was not the major theme. The major theme has to do with the last verse.  It has to do with the Bible alone being sufficient to bring people to repentance and salvation. "Faith comes from hearing the message." Rom 10:17  And Jesus said, "If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" John 5:46,47

Yet many Christians have been taught that it is highly dependent upon the messenger.  It is not!  If someone doesn't listen to the Bible, it wouldn't matter even if the messenger speaking to them had been raised from the dead! "Lifestyle Evangelism" is a misnomer.  If you think you are going to convert people by not telling them what the Bible says, but rather by impressing them by what a good person you are, you will indeed make converts, few of whom will believe the Bible. Rather they'll end up being just like you - putting their faith in themselves rather than in the Word of God.

The rich man in hell wanted to start his own evangelistic program. He had his own ideas as to how it should be done which seemed logical to him.  Let's make a big show and impress people with miracles.  That's evangelism from hell. And while the Evangelical community is caught up in "lifestyle evangelism", the Charismatic community is caught up in trying to impress through alleged "signs and wonders".  But let those who are born of the Word, put their trust in the Bible. Let the Jesus who is preached be the Jesus of the Bible and not a "Jesus" that people make up in their own minds. Let the message be exalted and preached through humble messengers who put their trust in the Word of God.

But then there are those refusing to heed Jesus' message who say that "whatever works is how evangelism should be done."  They measure if it "works" based on numbers of converts.  But they fail to consider what kind of converts they produce. Yes, if the word of God is preached, there may very well be those who are converted and born of God.  But often with "numbers" being the priority, a large portion of such "converts" end up being Christians in name only, not having been born of the Spirit. And such converts end up having the same kind of mentality as the messenger - a contempt for the Word of God putting one's own opinion above the Bible and thus an over-exalted view of oneself or of the messenger. The "Jesus" of such converts often becomes not the Biblical Jesus, but the "Jesus" they make up in their own minds conforming him to their own image.

The Resurrection of Lazarus

It may be hard to believe that the raising of Lazarus wouldn't convert the skeptic to truth faith.  But in fact there was a "Lazarus", a friend of Jesus, who was raised from the dead in John 11. And this is how Jesus' enemies reacted:
"Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him." John 12:9-11
However this brings up another issue. For Jesus often used miracles to affirm his message.
The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep."John 10:24-26
But notice that he says that even though the miracles affirm his message, just as the rich man in hell had reasoned, yet it is to no avail if they had not believed the Word of God that they already heard through Moses. (John 5:46,47) So also, among those in John 12:11 mentioned above who were putting their faith in him on account of the resurrection of Lazarus, were those who had been believing Moses and the Prophets, and also those who were of a nominal faith only impressed by the miracle.

Remember that Acts is historical in nature, recording what people were called and did outwardly, not necessarily what they were inwardly.  For many, as in John 6, who followed him because of his miracles later turned away because of his words. Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill." John 6:26 "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him."John 6:66 And that's the problem if you rely on "Evangelism from hell".  If you want to keep the numbers you have to throw away the Bible. But Jesus was not interested in "what worked" in a numbers sense.  He was more concerned with quality than quantity.  Indeed, it seems that in many churches, Jesus Christ would be expelled from their evangelistic ministry team.  Things were going so well, Jesus.  We had so many crowds of people. But then you opened your mouth and spoke the Word of God and screwed up everything. Now no one comes but a bunch of Bible fanatics. Seems that things never change!


Rap

There was rich man dressed in fine linen
Living in luxury though he was sinnin
At his gate lay a beggar, Lazarus by name
Covered with sores being treated with shame
He wanted to eat crumbs from the rich man's table.
Even dogs licked his sore, for he was not able.
Then the time came when the beggar died
And angels carried him to Abraham's side.
The rich man man died also his body but a shell
For he awoke to his torment, ending up in hell
He looked up and saw Abraham far away
And Lazarus by his side. That's what he saw that day
He called "Father Abraham have pity on me
And send Lazarus to attend to my plea
For I ask just a bit of water to acquire
For my tongue burns in agony in this fire
But Abraham replied, "Remember my son
You received your good things and had plenty of fun.
While Lazarus had only asked for a crumb
While he suffered he was treated just like a bum
But now he is in comfort and you in agony
That seems rather fair, wouldn't you agree?
And besides all this a big gap has been fixed
Between here and you so we cannot be mixed."
The rich man answered, "Then I beg you
Send him to my house to tell my brothers what's true
So they won't come to this place" (He supposes)
Abraham replied, "They have the prophets and Moses
Let them listen to what is read"
"No," He replied, "Let someone come from the dead.
Then they will listen and even repent."
But he got this reply to his argument
"If they don't listen as the Bible advises
Nor will they listen even though someone rises."

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


May 10,2010