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Then Sophia said to Mack, "Choose two of your children to spend eternity in God's new heaven and new earth, but only two . . . And three of your children to spend in eternity in hell."


From The Shack by Paul Young 

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Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31


 Verse #12  

Known as “The Fifth Parable”


“Lazarus and Dives”

(“Dives” is “rich man” from Latin Vulgate)

19Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury.20At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22“Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23and he went to the place of the dead.There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

24“The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

25“But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

27“Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29“But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

30“The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”





Points to consider . . . 




  1. This parable is one of the most controversial passages in the bible. It is so debatable that there is disagreement about whether it is a parable or an actual historical account. Most agree that it is a parable.

  2. Due to the variety of views and the diverse economy of ideas that surround this passage, it would be inadvisable to establish a theological construct on this single story, much less out of context with the previous four parables and who Jesus is addressing. Nevertheless, many consider this story to be the most defining citation for a belief in hell.

  3. The name "Lazarus" seems to be allegorical. Lazarus means "God is my help". The beggar was not helped by people in his lifetime, but in the end, God helped him and gave him comfort. So it seems more likely that Jesus included a name for this character, not to suggest that he was a historical figure, but to enrich the symbolism of the parable. (See Ezekiel 23, another parable with names given.)

  4. These two men, Lazarus and the rich man, are two classes of people and they represent how the self-righteous (Pharisees) viewed themselves and their disregard for the rest of the world. (These Pharisees claimed exclusive access to God and His blessings. It is in this atmosphere of exclusion and distinction and judgmental attitudes that Jesus tells this story.)

  5. But Abraham replied, Son (Abraham addresses the rich man as “Son”, again likely indicating that the “rich man” is a descendant of Abraham) you remember that in your lifetime you received your good things. (the law, the prophets, and the covenant). The rich man is undoubtedly symbolic of the Jews/Pharisees. 

  6. Jews in that day commonly referred to Gentiles as dogs. In Matthew 15:26, for example, Jesus at first refuses to help a Gentile woman because “it isn’t right to throw the children’s (Jew’s) bread to the dogs (Gentiles)”. The woman responds that “even the dogs eat the leftovers from their master’s table.

  7. Some believe the salient point of the parable was about greed. That it is to warn the greedy about their need for repentance and kindness in this life. 

  8. Latter-Day Saints and the Eastern Orthodox Christians see this parable as consistent with their belief in Hades, where the righteous and unrighteous alike await the resurrection of the dead. Most traditional Christians usually interpret Lazarus as being in Heaven or Paradise and the rich man in Hades or Hell. While some see it as support for Purgatory or Limbo. 

  9. Many agree that it is the final parable in a chain of five parables given by Jesus which begins at Luke 15:3.

  10. The four parables that immediately precede this parable are: A) The lost and found sheep B) The lost and found coin  C) The lost and found “prodigal” son  D) The shrewd manager.

  11. Each of these parables address the subject of something or someone that is lost. The primary avowal of ownership and value is is the ability to be “lost.” No one can be reckoned as lost unless they are owned. Worth is declared when something or someone is deemed to be lost and sought after.

  12. Many agree that the first four stories are parables, with doubt that the final one is also a parable -  yet two of them begin exactly as the fifth with this introduction by Jesus, “There was. . .” 

  13. Martin Luther taught that the story was a parable about rich and poor in this life and the details of the afterlife not to be taken literally: Therefore we conclude that the bosom of Abraham signifies nothing else than the Word of God. (Church Postil 1522–23)

  14. These parables were addressed directly to the tax collectors and common “sinners” while the Pharisees were muttering comments and listening in. 

  15. Jesus turns His instruction toward the Pharisees because they interrupted Him between parable #4 and parable #5. Their disrespect was followed by a sharp and thorough rebuke. After scolding them for being lovers of money, He said their arrogance was an abomination. He then uncovered their violence, for they were the ones who killed the prophets, and in a short time, they would crucify Him. He reminded them that Israel had committed adultery in the past and were now divorced. And anyone who married them would also commit adultery. It is likely they knew exactly what He was talking about.

  16. In the fourth story, Jesus speaks of an unrighteous manager. Sadly, even in judgment, the Pharisees would not be as shrewd as that manager. When learning that he was about to lose his position, he sought to do favors for others who were also in debt. By taking that action, he thought the other debtors might give him a place to live out his days without becoming a beggar. However, instead of at least making an attempt to get along with the Romans, Israel rebels against them, and in 70 A.D., they would lose the possibility for an aionion (age-lasting) habitation under Roman rule. 

  17. This parable is the fifth and final one presented during this event. Some see it’s placement as #5 to be significant as grace is symbolized by the number five. The number five has many interesting correlating similarities to the placement here. (

  18. As we will see in the upcoming points to consider, this allegory is revealing something profound about the old covenant - the law - coupled with man’s efforts and the contrast with the new covenant - grace - based on our weakness and His mercy. 

  19. The Pharisees seem to be represented by the rich man in the fifth parable. In verses 14 we read, The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. We also find that they were people who “exalted themselves before men.”

  20. Other facts about the rich man include, he had five brothers, feasted sumptuously, and was dressed in purple and fine linen. All of these details pointed to these Jews, the Pharisees. Judah had five brothers from his mother, Leah. They were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Zebulun.

  21. Purple is symbolic of royalty, and it was the citizens of the southern Kingdom of Judah that returned from the Babylonian area to rebuild Jerusalem. They became known as “Jews,” which technically speaking, is short for “the people of Judah.” The Pharisees knew their heritage well, and they surely knew Jesus was speaking about them when referring to the rich man.

  22. The name Lazarus is Greek for Eliezer or Eleazar. It is likely that this is Abraham’s number one assistant. According to most interpretations, the unnamed "...slave, the elder of the household, who controlled all that was his" in Genesis 24. The man who found Rebekah for Isaac was this Eliezer. Eliezer, or Lazarus, of Damascus was Abraham’s Syrian Gentile servant set to inherit Abraham’s house if Abraham has no heir. (Genesis 15:2)

  23. It is likely that Lazarus is a figure of either the "outcasts" (or: sinners) of Israel, as the Pharisees considered them – since they were considered to be unclean, and he was covered with sores and attended by dogs (figure of the Samaritans or pagans, in the eyes of the Pharisees) – or he is a figure of the non-Jews.

  24. It is reasonable the first two parables seemed harmless, and the Pharisees probably did not understand that Jesus was speaking about them - as the elder brother in the third story. But when He told the story about the unrighteous manager, that’s when they knew He was singling them out, and that is likely the reason they interrupted with their scoffing. 

  25. Many agree that the poor man was an image of the tax collectors and sinners who were looked down on by the elite Pharisees. Because the Pharisees considered riches to be a sign of God’s blessings, it was quite natural for them to consider the poor as less important than themselves.

  26. The story has nothing to say about belief in Jesus as the Christ, or even about faith in God. The story does not say the rich man was bad or evil, or that Lazarus was good or righteous.

  27. After identifying the symbols of a story like this it’s important to remember that a parable is a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, principle, or lesson. It is not to be taken literally.

  28. With regards to the denial by Abraham to allow the rich man to tell others, Richard Bauckham writes, The means of revelation which the reader expects it to acquire as the story proceeds are denied it. The story in effect deprives itself of any claim to offer an apocalyptic glimpse of the secrets of the world beyond the grave. It cannot claim eyewitness authority as a literal description of the fate of the dead. It only has the status of a parable. It is part of a story told to make a point. The point is no more than the law and the prophets say – and that no more than the law and the prophets is required.

  29. Alfred Edersheim notes, Is this teaching a simple reversal of situations in the next life?  Does it mean that only the destitute and miserable get saved and the rich go to hell?  Of course not!  So let's consider these two figures.  We see in vs. 24 that the rich man said, "Father Abraham."  Likewise, we saw that Abraham acknowledges him as his "child" in vs. 25.  This identifies him as a Jew, and this is the figure he plays in this parable.  The rich man is a figure of the Jews (specifically, the Pharisees).

  30. NT Wright summarizes, The parable of the rich man and Lazarus is to be treated precisely as a parable, not as a literal description of the afterlife and its possibilities. It is therefore inappropriate to use it as prima facie evidence for Jesus’ own sketching of a standard post-mortem scenario.

  31. It is safe to say that this allegory is not about who is going to “heaven” or “hell.” Nor is it about “eternal” destinies. If this was the case, then we’d have to redefine hades and the supposed qualifications for heaven or hell: those who are poor go to heaven and those who are rich and greedy go to hell.

  32. To assume “Abraham’s bosom” is heaven is pure conjecture with no biblical or cultural support. While Abraham was used in a very unique and powerful way, he is a mere man born of Adam like us all.

  33. Abraham doesn’t have the authority or power to grant resurrection or even temporal revival. No where in scripture are we instructed that God has given any man this ability. It's not Abraham’s call. 

  34. If “heaven” was a place where we could see “the lost” in a place of torment, then that would be a sad and miserable place. In fact the concept of “hell” displaces any genuine joy in “heaven.” This would mean that our God is unable or unwilling to deliver any or most of His creation. Believing our Creator/Sustainer/God is neither able or willing to redeem His creatures whom He sovereignly placed within their environment and created their propensities is repugnant. 

  35. David once said in his later years that in all of his days, he had never seen the righteous forsaken, nor even his seed begging for bread (Psalms 37:25.) Why would Jesus use a man sick and full of sores begging at the gate as a representative of His followers?

  36. Abraham’s bosom: Abraham received many great promises. In his seed all families, all peoples and all nations would be blessed. Kings would also come from his loins and the King of Kings, the Messiah would come from his loins - and these promises were kept in Abraham’s bosom. Also, included in Abraham’s bosom, was knowledge learned by experience, that these promises were not the result of human effort as seen in Abraham and Sarah’s effort to fulfill their desire for a child by using Hagar and not waiting.

  37. Paul tells us in Galatians 4:21-31 important details about the allegorical aspects of Sarah and Hagar and the covenant of the law and the covenant of grace. This parable seems to be a herald of the eminent close of the old arrangement of the law.  

  38. This series of five parables begins at Luke 15:1 with the Pharisees murmuring because Jesus was having fellowship and communion with “sinners” - a similar attitude is displayed with the older brother in the third parable and this same spirit with those who detest the idea that everyone will be redeemed.

  39. Paul, in Romans 7:6 and Galatians 2:19, makes two amazing statements that provides the breakthrough we need to understand the symbolic nature of the death of the poor man: “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.” and "For through the law I died to the law, that I might live to God.” 

  40. The death of the poor man in the parable had nothing to do with physical death. It was the Jews death to the old covenant that Jesus was speaking about. As a result of accepting grace, they were carried by the Spirit into Abraham’s bosom.

  41. The rich man’s demise was a representation of what those who desired to stay under the law would experience. Dead in misery under the weight of an agreement they could not keep. They would be in anguish. Again, this has nothing to do with physical death. 

  42. It was likely quite obvious to the Jews that this parable was painting a picture and telling them that the gateway to the kingdom is by God’s mercy, not human righteousness or efforts which they were quite proud of. 

  43. The Great Gulf Fixed: This seems to be making it clear that the two covenants, law and grace, are polar opposites.They can not be mixed. The law was conditional. Grace is entirely unconditional, otherwise it is not grace. Yet, many in Christianity today try to present grace as something that is conditional, even if it’s merely “acceptance” that triggers God's mercy - sometimes referred to as decisional regeneration

  44. It’s interesting that these five parables are together making it known to those who are open and listening that something is about to change. The age of grace is profound and different than what they knew, but the first three parables express beyond any doubt - none will be left out or forgotten. 

  45. The story of Jacob and Esau is another allegory about the two covenants. When Jacob lost the struggle, all he could do was hold on and ask for blessings. At that moment, he realized he never needed to struggle to make the promises happen; all he had to do was trust God for them; God would do the work. He entered the next phase of his life lame, being carried on God’s shoulders to Abraham’s bosom, and his name was changed to Israel, which means “God rules.” Since their story was another allegory, then, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated” becomes: “the covenant of grace have I loved, and the covenant of the law have I hated for your sakes, because one leads to abundant life, while the other leads to death.” And this has everything to do with the fifth parable.

  46. [Reminder: For us, who were never under that law covenant, we have no idea of the difficulty facing the Jews, and we should not condemn them. Our advantage is that it is easier for us to focus on the new covenant of grace, and for that, we should be very thankful.]

  47. Jim Strahan offers this observation: How would you feel if you were under a contract that you could not keep? Wouldn’t you be miserable? This is the place where Israel found itself, and Jesus came to get them out of that contract. In this parable, it is plain to see that mankind cannot get to grace, traverse the great gulf to be in grace, with human effort; they must be carried by the Spirit. 

  48. The terms torment and fire or heat mentioned in verses 23 and 24 are interesting. Torment is a term used in metallurgy. In Greek it is basanidzo which referred to the testing of metals with the touchstone, and figuratively meant to be tested or to experience a hard time.

  49. Abraham represents the place of God's acceptance, care and comfort – and Paul looks to him as a figure of God's chosen who would produce the Promise (figured in Isaac), the Messiah, who would inaugurate the new covenant, from which the old arrangement (represented by the scribes and Pharisees) was to be excluded.

  50. Here is another excellent observation by Alfred Edersheim: But in the fire of God's dealings, the once rich man becomes aware of his need of the water of life, and realizes that the outcasts have it.  He asks for mercy. But his condition and his time of judgment has placed a gulf between himself and those now being graced with God's favor (a gulf that only Christ can span). Still, we can see another change happening in him: he begins to think of others. He wants Lazarus to evangelize his brothers so that they will not have the same separation.

  51. Maybe Israel should have caught the hint when God had them place the law in a casket. Strong’s concordance informs us that the Hebrew word for Ark is a coffin. 2 Corinthians 3:6 And He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Paul makes it clear that the law ends in death. Grace brings us life. This parable is a prophecy to the demise of the Pharisees attempt to arrogantly declare their righteousness through their status as rich. It’s important for us to remember that wealth in their culture meant righteousness and worthy of blessings while being poor and sickly meant that someone was sinful or cursed by God.

  52. Peter Hiett adds this: Judah the rich man, wasn't thirsty for the Messiah and thought he could pay for all his drinks. Hades makes a person thirsty for Grace and Jesus promises that he will give to the thirsty. He destroys the chasm "Every valley shall be exalted and the mountain and hills laid low.” - - Further noting: "To the thirsty I will give from the spring of water of life without payment." (Rev. 21:6, also 22:17)

  53. In the last verse, Abraham tells the rich man (the self righteous Pharisees) if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. Jesus could possibly be referring to: 1) The “rich man”,  2) Lazarus (the brother of Mary and Martha) or 3) Himself, the Messiah. Either way, their hearts have proven to be stubborn and seeing someone experience resurrection would not convince them. [It’s interesting to remember the eight days of stubbornness declared by the disciple Thomas after the resurrection of Jesus, yet he believed once he saw the risen Christ. Like Thomas, everyone who has ever lived will see the risen Christ and greeted with love and understanding just like Thomas.]

  54. In the second parable, the lost coin is found, and the owner loses none. Mike Meeker noted there were ten coins. Could it be these represent the ten lost tribes of Israel who were taken into captivity by the Assyrians and scattered among the nations? Their lostness is only temporary, for the owner seeks them until he has them all in his possession. Deuteronomy 4:25-31 

  55. Paul tells us the same story in the eleventh chapter of Romans with a different twist. He adds more by informing us that this was God’s magnificent plan all along - to use Israel’s falling away to bring salvation to the rest of the world. Paul makes it clear: “Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles (nations), how much more will their full inclusion mean?” He then foretold a day “when all Israel shall be saved.” Afterwards, Paul reminds us that the gifts and callings of God are “irrevocable.” This is in keeping with a love that never gives up and never fails. (1 Corinthians 13)   

  56. Here’s what we might learn from these five parables. You can go your own way and our Savior will not give up until all the lost sheep are found, all the lost coins are found, and all of the lost family members return home safely. If one is looking for a summary of how the story ends for mankind; right up front Jesus ties it altogether with a three-stranded cord that is a major part of this often misunderstood parable and all are directed at the Pharisees.

  57. This is the only place where "hades" (the grave; the realm of the dead – vs. 23) is associated with fire, and it is within what many view as a parable. A study of the figure of fire, as used in Scripture, will show that it signifies God - which brings purification – but that's a study all of its own.  Mal. 3:1-6; 1 Cor. 3:9-17

  58. The rich man in the grave (recall that he was buried – vs. 22) speaks of the death of the place and position of the Jewish leadership of that time, and of their exclusion from participation in the activities of God's reign, which Jesus initiated.  This story runs parallel to the metaphor of the olive tree in Rom. 11:16-24, where Paul had been speaking of Israel, and their "casting away" in vs. 15.  It also compares to the allegory in Gal. 4.  The rich man was a figure for the old covenant that could not be included in the blessings of Abraham.

  59. There is no other place in the New Testament where Christ gives such an extensive narrative of anything, in the past tense, that is not a parable. If you know of an example to the contrary, please send us a comment. 

  60. "The Parable itself is strictly of the Pharisees and their relation to the 'publicans and sinners' whom they despised, and to whose stewardship they opposed thoughts of their own proprietorship.  With infinite wisdom and depth the Parable tells in two directions: In regard to their selfish use of the literal riches – their covetousness – and in regard to their selfish use of the figurative riches: their Pharisaic righteousness, which left poor Lazarus at their door to the dogs and to famine, not bestowing on him aught from their supposed rich festive banquets."  (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. II, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953, p 277)  

  61. John Lightfoot (1602–1675) considered the parable as a parody of the Pharisee belief concerning the Bosom of Abraham, and from the connection of Abraham saying the rich man's family would not believe even if the parable Lazarus was raised, to the priests' failure to believe in the resurrection of Christ: Any one may see, how Christ points at the infidelity of the Jews, even after that himself shall have risen again. 

  62. E. W. Bullinger in the Companion Bible cited Lightfoot's comment, and expanded it to include their lack of belief in the resurrection of the historical Lazarus (John 12:10).

  63. The idea of penal torment falls apart with this parable. The "penalty" is that a person cannot "pay." People in stress, pain and confusion are convinced that they must pay... they have not come to the end of themselves. When we come to the end of ourselves we're thirsty - and it’s grace that stares us in the face. 

  64. An additional view popularized by Johann Sepp in France in the 19th century identifies the Sadducees as the target. It’s noted the wearing of purple and fine linen, priestly dress, and the reference to "five brothers in my father's house" as an allusion to Caiaphas' father-in-law Annas, and his five sons who also served as high priests based on the historical writings of Josephus. This idea is strengthened by Abraham's statement in the parable that they would not believe even if he raised Lazarus, and then the fulfillment that when Jesus did raise Lazarus of Bethany the Sadducees not only did not believe, but attempted to have Lazarus killed again: "So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well" (John 12:10).

  65. Peter Hiett once more mentions this: Abraham has a fascinating knowledge of “consuming fire.” In Genesis 18, Abraham has an extended conversation with a God-man, begging Him not to destroy Sodom with eternal fire. Yet Ezekiel reveals God will “restore Sodom.” He annihilates her and re-creates her with eternal fire. Abraham now seems to be at peace with this fire.

  66. The bottom line: With Israel’s failure, God sent His Son to the rescue offering them a better covenant. However, the Jewish leadership wanted to hang on to the old. This is the backdrop to the parable about the poor man and the rich man.

  67. This comment by Gary Amirault and is fitting for this study: It is a highly appropriate message to Christians today, who claim exclusive access to God’s covenant and blessings, and see themselves as the mediators of these blessings to other people. The message is this: you are to love all people, and not exclude anyone or set yourselves up as better than they are. Do not keep people of other beliefs (or lack of beliefs) at “arm’s length”, afraid of getting their “impurities” on you. It is God who purifies you. Your position is to love and serve all, not to sit around the table together while the rest of the world sits outside at the gate.






Once you know that your Father is not Dr. Evil,

but instead absolute love

(and not dead love, but living love),

it changes every breath you take

and every move you make.


“…You shall love the Lord with all your heart

and with all your soul and with all your strength

and with all your mind,

and your neighbor as yourself.”

(Luke 10:27)




For Sermon on Luke 16:19-31

The Sanctuary Denver



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