This parable is an interesting one for provides an insight into life after death. The rich man and Lazarus gives us several other insights as well including that miracles will not change the hearts and minds of a non-believer. A non-be liver will not accept the truth as we shall see in this parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
The Differences in Lazarus and the Rich Man
In this parable we see a rich man who had all the goods of the world. He was at ease with food, money, fine clothing and wealth to spare. But he was full of pride and did not share what he could, for at his gate lay Lazarus who was poor, sick, homeless and in dire need of food. So poor was Lazarus that the parable tells us he would have gladly fed on the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Not only that but the dogs came and licked his sores.
Lazarus died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham and to be comforted from all of his afflictions on this earth. The rich man also died but unlike Lazarus he was in torment in Hades and suffered greatly.
It is here that a conversation commences as the rich man sees Abraham far off with Lazarus and we see the problems the rich man suffered as well as insights into the spiritual realm after death.
Life after Death
These are the first things we can make out from this section of scripture. The rich man saw Lazarus far off with Abraham and he recognised him. It is evident then that the spirit of a person holds the same shape as the person and is not some airy-fairy shapeless form. Furthermore the rich man sees, speaks and hears, so it is clear that the senses remain after death.
He asks Abraham for things too saying, “Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz’arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.” (Verse 24) There are several things we see here. He had a tongue, he felt the heat and anguish of the fires of Hades. But more importantly we see that he retains his pride and arrogance.
The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to cool his tongue. He continues to treat Lazarus like a servant or a lackey, as if Lazarus should do anything for him. This is pride. But Abraham says to this proud, rich man, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Laz’arus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” (Verses 25-26)
He showed the man was receiving his just reward for his failure to do what is right during his life. He had good things but did not use them to help others. He had opportunity but failed to use that opportunity for good. Lazarus on the other hand had nothing, and yet it is evident that in his humility he had faith for he was accepted by the Lord to find comfort.
Faith is not based upon miracles
So the rich man in his anguish begins to see his fate and seeks to try to ensure that his family, who presumably were like him too, would not suffer the same fate as himself. He says to Abraham, “I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” (Verses 27-28)
But Abrahams response is interesting. He says, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (Verse 29) So it is evident that the ability to be saved from Hades could be found through keeping the law. If and when a person does what is right they receive a reward.
But it is evident that the rich man knew his brothers were not keepers of the law or doing what was right, for in his arrogance he pleads for more. He says, “No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” (Verse 30) Still in his arrogance he wants Lazarus to work for him. He is saying that if his brothers were to see a miracle, that is, if Lazarus were to return from the dead, then they would believe.
But Abraham shows otherwise when he says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” (Verse 31) This is an interesting statement because Abraham says that even if Lazarus were to go back, they would not listen. He says that if they are not listening to the law then they would not listen to the miracle of someone returning from the dead.
In addition we see that this too is referring to Jesus. When Abraham said that if a person who will not list to the law would not listen to someone who rose from the dead, he is also indicating that they would not listen to Jesus who as we know arose from the dead. Those who desire to do what is right under the law will listen to Jesus for the same reasons, they want to find and do what is right. It is because they believe it is the right thing to do, and that aligns well with those who listen to the Law of Moses.
(Picture sourced from http://clipart.ochristian.com/)