The Rich Man and Lazarus
Those of you reading your Bible through read Lk.16:19-31 this past week. This is reason I encourage you to read your Bible through every year, because some of these familiar passages will mean more to you each time you read them. These verses sure spoke to me again in a more meaningful way than I suppose they ever had. In this morning’s message I gave an overview of these verses, but only dealt with vv.22,23. Remember the illustration--the glove represents our body. The only thing the rich man and Lazarus had common in life was their possession of mortal bodies. But what a change happened at the moment of death. There is a contrast between them, which I want you to see.
Our stewardship emphasis this month is the ‘Stewardship of Grace,’ with our theme verse being 1 Pet 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minis-ter the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. I am glad some of you were ‘good stewards’ of His grace this week, and let me assure you that your labor is not in vain. Some may feel inadequate in telling others of the saving grace of the Lord and that is the reason you are given the brochure to use, explaining the plan of salvation. Those who feel inadequate most of the time are the ones who are most effective, for they tend to pray more for their effectiveness. Remember it is nothing that we can do that will reach the lost, but it is the Holy Spirit using the Word and answering prayers as we pray. The next verse after our theme verse says, v.11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. The greatest asset you have as stewards in our church outreach is availability, to serve the Lord in the ability which God giveth. If you will do that, you will be the means of keeping people out of hell, as they repent [turn] from sin to God. Everyone of us knows some people who are following the path of the rich man in our text and if there is any Scripture that ought to stir our hearts, it is the verses I am preaching from tonight.
An overview of these verses show three contrasts between the rich man and Lazarus: before death (vv.19-21), at death (v.22), and after death (vv.23-31). This is what I will deal in this evening’s message.
I. Before death.
The contrast between the two men in life on earth was that one was rich and the other was in poverty. The rich man is not named, and about the only thing we know about the poor beggar is his name. As I said this morning, some try to say this is a parable, but if it is, it is the only one where a name is given to the subjects of the parable. Even if it is a parable, as Jehovah Witnesses say, it still does not take away the meaning of what Jesus was telling about what happens when people die. The name ‘Lazarus’ is the Old Testament Hebrew ‘Eleazer,’ put into the New Testament Greek, which means ‘God is my help.’ Names in the Bible always have meaning and it sure does here, for the poor man was not self sufficient; he recognized that by grace, God was his help. Lazarus was a beggar in time, but the rich man is the beggar in eternity.
I heard a preacher years ago who preached and believed that this rich man is the one Jesus spoke of when he was younger--the rich young ruler who asked Jesus in Luke 18:18 Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He claimed he had kept the commandments, but Jesus said unto him, ‘Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.’ Whether it was the same person or not, I don’t know, but if it was, he let his worldly riches keep him from becoming a disciple of Christ. The preacher also thought that perhaps this rich man is the same one Jesus told about after he said Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth in Luke 12:15. Then He gave the parable of the rich fool--Luke 12:16-21 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Lazarus sure didn’t have any treasures laid up for himself here on earth, but he was rich toward God for he had been ‘laying up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal,’ Mat 6:20.
Contrasts are seen in the external circumstances of the rich man and Lazarus. One was rich--there was a certain rich man; the other was poor--there was a certain beggar. One was eloquently ‘clothed in purple and fine linen’; the other was shabbily dressed. One was fed ‘sumptuously every day’; the other was ‘fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table’. One was in good health—he fared, which means ‘well and good’; the other was ‘full of sores’, [he was covered with sores that ulcerated]. ‘The dogs came and licked his sores’, show-ing more kindness than the rich man. One was homeless, while the rich man no doubt lived in a beautiful house with a fence around his property. Why do I say that? Because ‘Lazarus was laid at his gate’. One was a Jew giving no thought for the poor afflicted Jew who needed help. How do we know they were both Jews? The rich man prayed, ‘Father Abraham,’ and he replied, Son, remember.’ The Jews considered their descendance from Abraham a great honor. The poor man’s name Lazarus indicates that he was also a Jew. However, he was more than of just national descent. By grace he was also his spiritual seed, just as we as believers are, as it tells us in Gal 3:29, And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
The inward conditions of the rich man and Lazarus are also a contrast. One gloried in wealth; the other was content with grace in his poor afflicted condi-tion. One was a seeker of earthly treasures ‘upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal,’ and as I’ve already said, Lazarus was laying up heavenly treasures. One was selfish and ungodly; the other was a self-sacrificing believer. We have these prosperity preachers in our day who preach that if you send them money and make them rich, God will give you ten-fold. We are warned of them in 1 Tim 6:5 Perverse disput-ings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. We learn from the providence of God that worldly prosperity does not prove one’s acceptance with God, and poverty does not prove His abandonment. The rich man possessed great riches but had nothing, because he did not have grace. On the other hand, the poor man was the rich man because he was ‘as having nothing, and yet possess-ing all things, 2 Cor 6:10. Lazarus was poor in worldly possessions but rich because he possessed grace. The rich man was poor in his riches, and the poor man was rich in his poverty. There is a Gospel song entitled, ‘I’m a Poor Rich Man.’ I like the words to the song, ‘A Child of the King.,’ [page 34].
II. There was a contrast not only in their life but their death as well.
I did deal with this some in this morning’s message. I said, there was only one thing they had in common while here on earth and that was their possession of mortal bodies, but this changed at the moment of death! And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, Luke 16:22,23. As I said this morning, no doubt they had a big funeral service for the rich man, with influential people attending and a lot of paid mourners. There is no record of his funeral nor of a funeral for Lazarus, but as the custom was, I am sure there was a memorial service for him. Did you see the memorial service for the senator from Minnesota who was killed in the plane crash? It was everything but a memorial--it was a political rally! Thats another issue. The point is, if this were the rich young ruler, the foolish rich farmer, or if he was neither of those—he was a rich man and people with money do have an influence on others, though the influence may be wrong. I just wonder what they did with Lazarus’ body. There is no douobt about it, over all these years it has turned bvack to dust. Wherever it is at, when he comes back with Jesus at the rapture, it will be found and it will be changed. At death, the rich man realized the payday of sin, and Lazarus realized the payday of grace! The death of the rich man may have been a heart attack because of his sumptuous lifestyle, and the death of Lazarus may be because of malnutrition. The thing about it, death is the instant between life and one’s eternal existence.
III. The contrast of the rich man and Lazarus after death is clearly given in vv.23-31.
Most people would like to ignore, or hope after death to find that hell is only a myth. But the contrasts of the saved and unsaved is as much a reality as the contrast is while they are still living, as the saved live for God and the unsaved live for self. While they were living the rich man could have changed his character, by the grace of God, but now after death he was told by Abraham, ‘between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence’. As I said this morning, one’s character becomes fixed at death. The character of a person must be changed by grace—Christ in you, the hope of glory, before death, or it will never be changed! Each one takes his past life with him when he dies. The poor man had suffered while on earth with ulcerated sores, while the rich man had enjoyed the comfort of his earthly riches and fared ‘sumptuously every day.’ But after death this changed-- v.25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. I will not re-preach the message I preached earlier about all 5 senses—touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste—being realized in hell, but I do want to say some things about the faculty of memory in hell. As I said in this morning’s message, the rich man in hell knew what was going on in 3 realms, his own—being tormented; Lazarus being comforted in Abraham’s bosom; and the realm of his 5 brothers and others he knew who were coming to where he was—‘lest they also come into this place of torment’.
Son, remember. Memory is the mind’s power of preserving and knowing its own past history. Nothing is ever irrevocably forgotten. One needs only to be subjected to some scene where some particular event took place, and the details of that event, though forgotten for years, will be brought up from his storehouse of memory. My cousin and I were talking about events that hap-pened a long time ago, and through memory I got a mind’s eye view. The memory, I believe will be one of the worst torments of hell, though the fire will bring great physical pain. Everything put into the memory bank of your mind’s computer will be recalled when eternity subjects you to your life’s history. Memory in eternity will embrace all the past life at once. Memory in life is not constant, but it will be in eternity. This will increase the misery of the unrighteous, and in contrast the righteous will rejoice and praise God throughout all eternity for deliverance from the nature of sin and the sins of nature. Which side are you on, the rich man’s or Lazarus? You must decide!