The Words That Make Up the Bible
Frequently Asked Questions
What About the Rich Man and Lazarus?
What is the meaning of the story of the rich man and Lazarus told by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31? Was Jesus relating a factual story, or was He telling a parable to make a point?
In telling this story Jesus continues the lesson taught in the parable of the dishonest business manager related in the first part of this same chapter (Luke 16:1-5).
No one would suggest that by telling the parable of the crooked manager Jesus was recommending that dishonesty was a way of life to be followed. His point was that we have this life in which to make the best of opportunities offered us by God.
The story was one well-known in Jesus' day. In it the rich man assumes that his salvation was based on his being a descendant of Abraham. He represented the common notion among the elite of the nation that his wealth was a sign of God's blessing, and the poverty and lowly condition of the beggar represented God's curse.
It is the Jewish version of an Egyptian fable. The circumstances of "Abraham's bosom" and "hades" are described by Jewish historian Josephus in his "Discourse to Greeks" concerning Hades. "Hades," he says, "is a subterraneous region where the light of this world does not shine. . . .this region is allowed as a place of custody for souls, in which angels are appointed as guardians to them, who distribute to them temporary punishments, agreeable to every one's behavior and manners." Of course, the Bible says nothing about this fictional place, but Jesus told the story to illustrate a point.
The story: A beggar named Lazarus eats crumbs outside the door of a rich man. Eventually both Lazarus and the rich man die, where their respective conditions are reversed. Lazarus reclines on the "Abraham's bosom" while the rich man is tormented in hell.
When the rich man appeals to Abraham to send Lazarus with a drop of water to relieve his agonies, Abraham reminds him that he hadn't helped Lazarus when he could have. The rich man then asks that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers, so that they will be saved from what he is suffering . Abraham answers that they have the writings of Moses and the prophets. If they don't pay attention to Moses and the prophets, neither would they listen to one risen from the dead.
This would literally happen in just a few months, for Jesus Himself would rise from the dead and would be rejected by the influential rulers of the nation.
Written by Bob Edwards, Malibu, CA. Biblebay Copyright © 2008. Click here for content usage information.