There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. (Luke 16:19-23)
My favorite fast-food restaurant is Captain D’s. Feral cats roam the parking lot as I order. They love fish, too, and wouldn’t hang there if some tasty morsels didn’t reach their mouths. This story doesn’t say whether or not the rich man fed Lazarus, but if the rich man didn’t feed him and allow him to sit by his gate, I don’t think Lazarus would’ve stayed there.
Many legalistic Christians say this parable is about a selfish rich man who goes to hell and a poor man who goes to heaven. They say this parable proves when we die, we’ll go to either heaven or hell. The problem is this parable doesn’t say the rich man is evil or doesn’t believe in Jesus nor does it say the poor man is a believer. One must make assumptions based on wealth to categorize these men. As mentioned, it is likely the rich man fed the poor man.
In an article at http://www.jeremyandchristine.com/articles/lazarus.html Jeremy Moritz states his article is a shortened version of one written by L Ray Smith. Purple clothing in that era signified royalty because it was so expensive only royalty could afford it. Priests wore fine linen, and Jesus is our ultimate High priest. Both these men believe that the rich man is Judah. It makes sense. Judah was rich, and his family line birthed royalty, both King David, and Jesus. As we’ll learn day after tomorrow the rich man also had five brothers. Judah’s father, Jacob, fathered the twelve tribes of Israel but had two wives, sisters Leah and Rachael. Leah was Judah’s mother, and he had five brothers: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Zebulun. Ray Smith believes the poor man, Lazarus, was Eliezer, the Gentile who would have received Abraham’s inheritance had God not blessed Abraham and Sarah at an old age with a son. The Greek name, Lazarus, is Elezar or Eliezer in Hebrew. Since Eliezer was a servant and didn’t receive Abraham’s inheritance, he was poor. although cared for and loved by Abraham. Since Abraham was like a father to Eliezer, it makes sense the angels took him to be with Abraham.
This parable tells us the rich man (Judah) was in Hades, which seems to be the realm or place of the departed dead (before Jesus’ death). Ephesians 4:10-12 and 1 Peter 3:18-22 elude that Jesus descended into Hades, preached the gospel, and took spirits to heaven. Theological scholar Kenneth West explains 1 Peter 3:18-22. “It is clear that our Lord as the man Christ Jesus went to a place of the departed dead called in the Old Testament ‘Sheol’ and in the New Testament, ‘hell,’ the word ‘hell’ being the translation of the Greek word, ‘Hades.’
Is Lazarus in heaven with Abraham as most commentators say? Jesus indicates that is impossible. Jesus says, “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven – the Son of Man.” (John 3:13) Until Jesus resurrected into heaven, Lazarus and Abraham couldn’t have been there. Since the rich man (Judah) could see Abraham and Lazarus maybe they were in Hades also if it truly was the realm of the dead. But the parable doesn’t say for sure.
Father God, guide me through the Bible and help me understand its meaning. Help me look for those outside my front door needing help. It’s easy to take cans to the food bank but perhaps the hungry need more. I don’t know what to do, please show me. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.