Here is an interesting summary of the parable a friend of mine shared.
Lazarus and the rich man
Many people use the story of Lazarus and the rich man to support their belief in hell and eternal torment…. but I don’t see it that way… so I thought I would post the way I see this story/parable and see what others think.
The parable of Lazarus and the rich man:
Some will say that this is not a parable, but that is how I see it. The parable does not start with Lazarus and the rich man; it is part of a much larger parable that starts in Luke Chapter 15:
Luke 15:3 And He spoke this parable to them, saying:
There are several stories/parables that are part of this ONE larger parable and Lazarus and the rich man is only one of these stories/parables. There is the parable of the Lost Sheep starting at Luke 15:4; there is the parable of the Prodigal Son starting at Luke 15:11; there is the parable of the Steward starting at Luke 16:1; then we come to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man at Luke 16:19; following is the parable of the mustard seed.
So what about the parable of Lazarus and the rich man?
What do we know about the rich man?
1. He was clothed in purple and fine linen
2. He has good things in his life
3. He died and was buried and he found himself in torment in ‘hell’
4. He looks up from ‘hell’ and sees Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom
5. He calls Abraham “Father”
6. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his house to save his five brothers, lest they come unto the same torment
What do we know about Lazarus?
1. He was laid at the gate, full of sore, desiring to be fed crumbs from the rich man’s table [like a dog]
2. The ‘dogs’ [his own kind] came to lick his sores
3. He has evil things in his life
4. He died and was carried into Abraham’s bosom
Now considering the rich man…
Without going into the entire history of the OT and the lineage of Abraham, I am just going to jump to the punch and tell you that the rich man in this parable is Judah, but Judah, in this parable, represents the entire Jewish Nation (Israel/God’s Chosen people).
The rich man was clothed in purple [symbolic of royalty; Judah carried the royal line of Israel (Gen 49:10)] and fine linen [symbolic of the priesthood; they were the protectors and scribes of the writings of Moses and the prophets]. He had good things in his life [being a wealthy nation, blessed by God, being His chosen people]. He called Abraham father [Judah was Abraham’s great grandson; and all Israelites considered Abraham their ‘father’] and he had five brothers. [Israel had 12 sons, one of which was Judah; however, Israel had 6 sons with wife Leah, Judah’s mother – giving Judah 5 brothers.]
So who is Lazarus? Again, I will just jump to the punch and say that it is Eliezer of Demascus, who was a faithful servant to Abraham. Before Abraham received the seed of his promise, he intended to make Eliezer his heir. Eliezer, I am sure, was aware of this but remained a faithful servant even after Abraham received his promise and it was clear that he would not inherit anything from Abraham. In this parable, Eliezer represents the Gentile Nations.
Back to the parable, now:
Lazarus [the Gentile Nations] lay at the gate, full of sores desiring to be fed by the crumbs from the table of the rich man [God’s chosen people].
The dogs come to lick his sores [comfort him, take care of their own]. Why ‘dogs’? Are the Gentiles ever referred to as ‘dogs’?
Refer to Mark:
And He arose from there and went into the borders of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered into a house and desired no one to know it. But He could not be hidden. For a woman, whose young daughter had an unclean spirit, heard of Him and came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-phoenician by race [a Gentile]. In addition, she BEGGED Him that He would cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, LET THE CHILDREN [the Jews, whom He came to] FIRST BE FILLED. For it is not right to take the children’s loaves [take the ‘bread’ from their table] and to throw it TO THE DOGS [the Gentiles, those not chosen]. And she answered and said to Him, Yes, Lord, yet THE DOGS UNDER THE TABLE eat of the children’s CRUMBS. And He said to her, For this saying go [because of her faith and desire to have any crumbs that might fall from the table], the demon has gone out of your daughter. And when she had come to her house, she found the demon had gone out, and her daughter lay on the couch.
When Lazarus died he was carried into the bosom of Abraham, but when the rich man died he was buried and found himself looking up from ‘hell’ [Hades, is the grave/unseen] in torment seeing Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham.
[This is not a literal story, it is a parable; it is not an actual account of what happened when someone dies. This is symbolic of spiritual life/death in Christ.]
Luke 16:23 And in hell [hades] he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and saw Abraham AFAR OFF, and Lazarus in his bosom [where he thought he should be].
Luke 16:24 And he cried 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 my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame [a reference to the Lake of Fire/God’s judgment].
[What is he asking for? Not even a drink of water, but just a DROP of water from the finger of Lazarus.]
Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things [the wealth and riches of God; bless of God; God’s chosen], and likewise Lazarus evil things [not chosen of God]. But now he is comforted [having been brought into Abraham’s bosom; into a close relationship with God] and you are tormented [afar off from the bosom of his father (God)].
Luke 16:26 And besides all this, there is a great chasm fixed between you and us; so that they desiring to pass from here to you CANNOT, nor can they pass over to us from there. [This is not a permanent chasm; the chasm will be bridged by Christ and these ‘broken branches’ will be grafted back in.]
Luke 16:27-28 And he said, I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
[He knows that his brothers, the Jewish nation, who are now cast off, will come into the same ‘torment’ when they see that THEY are no longer in Abraham’s bosom, where they believe they are].
Luke 16:29 Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. [They have the Words of God through Moses and the prophets, let them hear THEM and listen so that they do not come under the same condemnation.]
Luke 16:30 And he said, No, father Abraham, but if one should go to them from the dead, they would repent.
[Really, didn’t someone already go to them from the dead? To bring them to repentance? And they heard Him not?]
Luke 16:31 And he said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded, EVEN THOUGH ONE ROSE FROM THE DEAD.
ONE did rise from the dead!!
This story is not one of torment in hell for the wicked dead. It has nothing to do with the eternal fate of the dead. It is about the gospel and how it was brought to the Jews. The Jews rejected their Messiah and they were “cast off” and the Gentiles were “grafted in”. The gospel has been given to the gentiles, who now find themselves in the place of God’s chosen people, in the bosom of Abraham. So it is no longer the gentiles begging for crumbs [perhaps ‘bread’ crumbs?] from the table of the Jews; but the Jews begging for a drop of water [living water, no doubt] from the Gentiles (spiritually speaking).
It is not a story about the righteous and the wicked and heaven and hell and nary the twain shall meet.
For if their casting away is the reconciling OF THE WORLD, what is the reception except LIFE FROM THE DEAD? For if the firstfruit is holy, THE LUMP IS ALSO HOLY; and if the root is holy, ALSO THE BRANCHES.
And if some of the branches were broken off [God’s original chosen people], and you [the nations], being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and became a sharer of the root and the fatness of the olive tree with them, do not boast against the branches. But if you boast, it is not you that bears the root, but the root bears you.
More on why parables?
Christ spoke in parables to the masses and He did this for a reason. It is not given to all to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of God.
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowds in parables, and HE DID NOT SPEAK TO THEM WITHOUT A PARABLE, so that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
And when He was alone, they who were about Him, with the Twelve, asked Him concerning the parable. And He said to them, TO YOU IT IS GIVEN to know the mystery of the kingdom of God. But to those outside [those not being called/chosen], ALL these things are given in parables [why?] so that seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; LEST AT ANY TIME THEY SHOULD BE CONVERTED, and their sins should be forgiven them.
Not everyone is being called to Christ and repentance; He makes it clear that if they truly UNDERSTOOD Him, they would repent and be forgiven. SO why would He not make Himself clear so that all could understand and be healed? Because just as the Jews were EXAMPLES for us… so are we EXAMPLES for the world.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, What might this parable be? And He said, TO YOU IT IS GIVEN to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. But to others I speak in parables, SO THAT seeing they might not see and hearing they might not understand.
He clearly does not want all to see and all to hear and all to understand; NOT ALL are being called/chosen now.