An ongoing series of Exposition and "bite size" Related Themes

Luke 16:19-31, “Lazarus and the Rich Man” (Part 1)

April 17, 2019

This is a follow-up, essentially, to my last blog concerning the parable of the Unrighteous Steward. The parable of Lazarus “ALOZR” and the Rich Man, (and yes, it is a parable… and prophecy), has been so mistreated and speculated upon that, like with the Unrighteous Steward, I was hesitant to consult any outside source. After enacting my normal process of defining all pertinent Greek words, cross-referencing them and comparing phrasiology… and then prayer… and more prayer, and re-reading, and thinking (meditation), I now consider this blog entry as needed therapy.

This will serve as part one, as the parable/prophecy in question really needs the treatment of examination of the immediate verses and chapters before it. Then, its my hope, we will be able to properly contextualize “ALOZR and the Rich Man”, and understand the further reaching implications of it as well. Here it is, in full, from the World English Bible.

Luke 16:19-31

19 “Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day.

20 A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was taken to his gate, full of sores,

21 and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 The beggar died, and he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried.

23 In Hades, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom.

24 He cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’

25 “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in the same way, bad things. But here he is now comforted, and you are in anguish.

26 Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that no one may cross over from there to us.’

27 “He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house;

28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’

30 “He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.’”

The first thing I won’t do is pretend that I understand all the nuances about this. I do know this: besides following “the Unrighteous Steward” (vs 1-13), it follows some dialogue between Jesus “YEUShO” and the Pharisees. This must also be cited:

Luke 16:14-18

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him.

15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of God’s Kingdom is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall.

18 Everyone who divorces his wife, and marries another, commits adultery. He who marries one who is divorced from a husband commits adultery.

Then, he’s right to the parable of ALOZR and the Rich Man. Interesting segue, don’t you think? If you, like myself, are one of the less than fortunate that was taught this parable as some teaching on heaven and hell, or that the law and the prophets ended at John, then you are going into this with as much baggage as myself….. but there is hope! There is the Spirit of Truth: the Spirit of the Master, YEUShO: the Spirit of YEUE, and by His Spirit, we’ll get far more figured out than the great, lofty intellectuals filling our Bible software’s “commentary” sections.

Lets us keep, right at the front of our minds, that all of this is continual, flowing dialogue: the same situation, ideas, and people we’ve been seeing for a few chapters. Verses 14-18 aren’t out of the blue, nor are 19-31. The only other option is that YEUShO is just throwing down random ideas… just mixing things up… you know… confusion. I doubt that immensely. There is a key idea from the parable of the Unrighteous Steward: remember that the Master is speaking to his disciples, but purposely in the hearing of the Pharisees. In other words, he turns away from them to tell a parable directly concerning them, while they are right there. He says, “I tell you, make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when you fail, they may receive you into the eternal tents.” (v 9, WEB). The Pharisee is he to whom that was aimed at as it was the Pharisee who had the means. He was saying their system is going to fail, and that they would be smart, like the Steward, to start treating the poor, infirmed, and “common sinners” with more goodness, charity, and dignity than they had up until then. He has told the Pharisees their kingdom would be taken from them. He has prophesied the end of their Stewardship. What he was saying was not a new concept to them. He follows that with the choice statements afterward, (vs 10-13), and, of course, even though he is “speaking to his disciples” it is the Pharisees who immediately scoff at what he’s said.

There is the Master’s apt come-back in 15, then the first bit that has been used to push anti-nomianism (lawlessness). “The law and the prophets were until John. From that time the Good News of God’s Kingdom is preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.” Do you think the Pharisees started teaching their bad doctrines on marriage since John started preaching the Great Message of the Kingdom or from before, during, and at present? Right. Follow that with, yes… the law and prophets were until John… now hold that thought and… verse 17, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one tiny stroke of a pen in the law to fall.”. Now he says that right after he says that John came preaching the great message of the Kingdom, and everyone wants to force their way in. Who wants to force their way in? The Pharisees. They want their system and YEUE’ Kingdom, but you can’t have both. They want to push their way into the Kingdom and keep their lofty status and lawless doctrines. Sound like anyone you may know today? I thought so.

YEUShO is, in no way, saying the law and prophets are done away with, NOR WILL BE! He has stated over and again that they will last. I give you Matt 5:17-20:

17 “Don’t think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill.

18 For most certainly, I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not even one smallest letter or one tiny pen stroke shall in any way pass away from the law, until all things are accomplished.

19 Whoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

At this point, I implore you to read and reflect. Do not let Pauline misinterpretations ring away in your ears, but read the Master’s words: “until heaven and earth pass away”, “whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven”, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees”. The Master is restating what he has taught and re-taught. But an item that never gets enough attention from any “pastors” and/or “teachers” that really captivated me is “the Kingdom”. Let’s concentrate a moment, or two, on the Kingdom. βασιλεία, pron- (bass-el-ay-ah), “Kingdom”, is to be found one hundred sixty-two times from Matthew to Revelation. I’d call it important. In contrast, the word χάρις, pron- (char-iss), translated “grace” is to be found one hundred fourty-seven times from Luke to Revelation. Nope… it’s not in Matthew or Mark… “Kingdom” is… plenty. What’s this Kingdom all about?

Is it the message about believing Jeeziss and going to Hevin? Well, consider this: a search of “kingdom” in the Scriptures or so-called “Old Testament” produces MLUKE (H4410)- twenty-four entries, MLKUT (H4438)- ninety-one entries, MMLKE (H4467)- one hundred seventeen entries, MMLKUT (H4468)- nine entries, and the ARMY (aramaic, not army like “armed forces”) has MLKU- (H4437) at fifty-seven entries, and there isn’t a whole lot of material claimed to be written originally in ARMY, so that’s a high concentration.

All those OBRY words were forms of the word Kingdom. MLK being “king”. MLKE being “queen”. And those variations are and/or have to do with the realm: Kingdom. Between them all, that’s two hundred ninety-eight appearances of “Kingdom” words, and there are other word forms relating to this reality that I won’t go into just now, but comparing the amount of times it shows up in the OT and the NT, shows that in a far smaller space of books, Kingdom is represented at about 55% the rate it is in the OT with the OT’s far greater amount of books, material, and pages… and that is as it currently stands at 39 books, (with Esther and Songs, and w/o any Apocrypha… not that I’m currently advocating Apocrypha). The point is, the Kingdom is a central theme to the message of YEUShO and his Apostles, so we better get a grip on it.

Interestingly, if one enters “kingdom” in a BLB (Blue Letter Bible) search, besides the earlier OBRY, AMRY, and Koine words I’ve cited, they also group εὐαγγέλιον, pron- (yoo-ag-el-ee-on) “gospel”. Now, hold the phone… “Gospel” is a big one. Don’t you hear that word out of every preacher’s mouth at some point? I know you do. As have I. And what does it mean? Its, to me, an abstract like “grace” or “love” or “faith”. I know the dictionary definitions of these words, sure… and I can spit that “church chat” game, when I need to throw down some NT abstracts, in conversation, to assure the other church folk that I’m “on the team”. Am I being too melodramatic concerning my problems with NT/OT word-i-ology: “lexicography”? If so, only to prove a point. And the Point? What’s the “Kingdom” and “Gospel” we’re looking at throughout the message of the NT?

“Kingdom”, as it relates to Israel, shows up in Exo 19:5-6, and is quite direct: “5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”. Balaam prophesies of Israel’s King and Kingdom in Num 24:7: “Water shall flow from his buckets. His seed shall be in many waters. His king shall be higher than Agag. His kingdom shall be exalted.” and again in 24:17, “A star will come out of Jacob. A scepter will rise out of Israel”. Gen 49:10, Jacob’s eschatelogical prophecy to Judah reads, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs. To him will the obedience of the peoples be.”. And in 1 Ch 17:14, Nathan speaks the word of YEUE to David, “but I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom forever. His throne will be established forever.”. In Matt 2:2, “μαγοι”- MGUY- (OBRY), come to the land of Judea (geographical locale named after Patriarchal Tribe), looking for the King of Judah (the man and Patriarchal Tribe): “Where is he who is born King of the Jews the Sons of Judah? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him”. And in all these passages remember YEUE doesn’t change and He performs all His promises.

This Kingdom, and this very King, was long-awaited by many in their own various ways. Many of the Sons of Judah awaited their promised Davidic King to deliver them and establish his Kingdom… it’s that one without end, of David’s seed, from earlier. He certainly was the one foretold who would deliver Israel. I’m sure from farmer to Pharisee, everyone wanted a piece of that Kingdom. His εὐαγγέλιον, “Gospel”, was indeed “the great message”. The Pharisees wanted this Kingdom, but they had themselves in mind for continuing to hold high office in the Kingdom. That wasn’t how YEUShO saw it: this presents a conflict.

Luke 16:15-18 (paraphrase): Your works are an abomination and you do not understand the Kingdom. The law and prophets have been in effect up to the preaching of the Kingdom by John and you wish to press your way into it, and bring your abominable ideas and acts, but the law and prophets still stand, and will until the end, and you cannot coexist with them, as you dishonor them. (Then repetition of their loose doctrine on divorce and remarriage… which the Master hated as His redemptive act is inextricably linked to the laws of marriage/divorce/remarriage as pertaining to Israel’s redemption.)

We will need to keep in the front of our minds that the Kingdom was near to come, as John, Jesus, and the disciples preached, and there was about to be a very big change in the order of things.

This brief, seemingly less significant dialogue between these men and YEUShO is, along with the parable of the Unrighteous Steward, a necessary prefix to ALOZR and the Rich Man, which we will delve into immediately with part two. The “Gospel” and “Kingdom” certainly are themes we will cover more in NT related, (and OT), blog entries. I am confident that you and I will both learn a great deal from this full examination. See you in part two!