Podcast: The Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16
This week, Cole and Terry discuss the following passage and answer common questions and concerns.
“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores,21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side.[a] The rich man also died and was buried,23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 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.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead’” – Luke 16:19-31 (ESV)
Is This a Parable or a Real Story?
The most logical and realistic explanation is that Christ told this as a parable to make a theological point about the hardness of people’s hearts.
What About the Afterlife?
Jesus often spoke about heaven and hell. Yet nowhere else do we see people in heaven and hell seeing and talking with each other. None of the other teachings of Jesus about heaven and hell collaborate on this point. The conclusion on this question is that it is simply part of the story and not meant to be taken literally. Again, Jesus is making a theological point.
Do not underestimate the hardness of people’s hearts. Jesus concludes that even if they saw miracles and a relative rise from the dead, they would not believe. Salvation is more than observing miracles—it is a supernatural work of God upon the heart to open eyes and hearts to see God for who he is and to love his Word.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas, TX, holds a BA in Religion, and is a student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.