The Rich Man and Lazarus 

We are continuing our study on the topic of Hell. Jesus spoke more of Hell than he did of heaven, in order that men would turn from that place as their destination in eternity to receiving His forgiveness for sin. He told a story about two men’s experiences in eternity. He never states that this is a parable. We will meditate on this for the next few days. Here’s the first part of the story:

 19There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.  22“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire’ (Luke 16:19-24)

The color purple in the days of Christ was not an easy commodity to obtain. This rich man was more than likely clothed in Tyrian purple[1] (or Royal purple), the Prada, Armani or top fashion design of the day. The color was extracted from the mucus of a rare sea snail.  Aristotle assigned a value to it of ten to twenty times its weight in gold. The rich man also wore fine linen. The word used in Greek for fine linen is bussos, a strong rare thread secreted by mussels.[2] Kings, such as the Egyptian King Tutankhamen, wore this very expensive cloth. This rich man lived sumptuously every day. He ate the best foods, drank the best wine, and his house was the best mansion in town. We are not overdoing it by presuming that this man was well known in the whole country as someone to be envied. He was an influential celebrity of his day.

We are told that Lazarus was laid at the rich man’s gate or porch. The Greek word translated as “laid” is ballo. Literally, it means to throw out with force. He had been flung roughly, and it seems that he was just left to lay there, life slowly ebbing from him. The gate where Lazarus was thrown was more than likely the rear servant’s entrance where the servants deposited the rubbish and the dogs congregated and licked his dying skin. It was obvious to anyone that Lazarus was very ill, being covered with ulcerated sores. It is also very likely that he was too ill to go anywhere but stay where he was thrown and beg for the scraps of food that fell from the rich man’s table.

Dogs kept licking at his sores, and it is possible that he was too weakened through sickness and hunger to fend them off. We don’t know if the rich man had him thrown out because he was asking him for help or that others in the town had thrown him there because he was a health threat to the local populace. It seems that Lazarus was in no position to help himself. He longed to eat some scraps of food, but he was competing with the dogs for the scraps. Keep in mind that most dogs were not household pets at the time.

The Condition of the Two Men in Eternity: We are not told that anything happened for Lazarus at his death. No funeral, not even a burial was held in his honor. It is likely that, if no one cared for him while he was alive, his death was no different. Scripture speaks loudly in its silence on the subject. Contrast that with the rich man. We are specifically told that he was buried. I feel sure that it was a lavish ceremony with public mourning. His body was probably given a space on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem as only the rich could afford.

The procession to his burial place would require a horde of professional mourners, hired for such an occasion as was customary at the time. Of course, the rich man couldn’t care less as soon as he died. He was quite surprised to find himself in Hell. While living at the rich man’s gate, it is likely that no one knew the name of Lazarus, but everybody knew the name of the rich man. At the other side of death’s door, though, things are turned around; everybody knows the name of Lazarus. As for the rich man, no one has any idea of who he is, i.e. his name is not known, and all of a sudden he’s a nobody. How sad it is that many who believe that death is annihilation will find themselves very conscious upon entering eternity through death’s door. Let’s talk more about this tomorrow.

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_purple

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Byssus

Is Death a State of Annihilation?

We are continuing our meditation on eternal things and specifically thinking of the topic of Hell. Some say that Hell is a place where a person who rejects God’s free pardon for sin is annihilated. The word annihilation means “to reduce to utter ruin or nonexistence; to destroy utterly.” Three times in the passage we looked at yesterday (Scroll down for Matthew 25:41-46), though, Jesus used the same Greek word to describe the bliss of His followers, i.e. the word aiōnios, which means “Eternal, perpetual. When referring to eternal life, it means the life which is God’s and, hence, not affected by the limitation of time.”[1] That does not sound like annihilation. It is the clear teaching of Jesus that someone who rejects the gospel and continues in his sin, at the end of his life, will suffer eternal punishment.

Svetlana Stalin, the daughter of Josef Stalin, leader of Russia from 1922-1953, accompanied her father at death’s door and said that she would never sit alongside an unbeliever who was dying again. She said that he went into Hell kicking and screaming. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Voltaire was said to have died crying out in torment, as was King Charles the ninth of France, David Hume, and Thomas Pain. Speaking for those who do know God, C.M. Ward said, “No Christian has ever been known to recant on his death bed.”

Why would a loving God send anyone to Hell? How bad does a person have to be to be sent to Hell? Is there a line that a person crosses?

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

The creator God has established the way for salvation. The situation is that the entire human race is in the same boat. We have all fallen short of God’s ideal for living. None of us can say we have never sinned. If you have only sinned once, then it is enough to make you a sinner. We all suffer with the same disease. Sin is what eternally separates us from God. James puts it this way, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). If there could have been another way for God to get you to heaven, apart from sending His Son to die a cruel and torturous death, don’t you think He would have taken it? He has given man the gift of free will, but His justice demands that rebellion has to be penalized. A holy God cannot allow sin to be in His presence: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” (Habakkuk 1:13). So, He honors the choices that a rebel who refuses to repent has made.

In His love for the human race, He initiated a rescue plan. The Son of God would take on human form and be a substitute to take the place of guilty man, taking the punishment upon Himself.  In that way, His justice would be satisfied, and He can reach out in love to save all who will turn their lives over to Him and walk in obedience to Him. When we repent and receive Christ, the Spirit of God gives us power to live for Christ. We also hold the answer for others, and the Holy Spirit gives us the power and boldness to speak to people about God’s rescue plan for the human race. We damage Satan’s kingdom when we speak the truth of God’s Word, and release precious people from his control. The church today is on the attack, breaking down every defense that Satan has raised against the kingdom of God. We are told that the gates of Hades (Hell) will not overcome the Church (Matthew 16:18). God has told us what happens in the end, and guess what, those that belong to Christ win!

Taken from the series Insights into Eternity found in the middle column. Click on the study The Truth About Hell. Keith Thomas

[1] Key Word Study Bible, New Lexical Study Aids, AMG Publishers, page 1580.