Luke 16:19-31: God vs. stuff, round 2: Rich man vs. Lazar vs. Moshe and Prophets vs. wealth

The overall theme of Luke 16 is how we are to use material wealth. Is Luke 16:19–31, known as “the rich man and Lazarus,” a travelogue of hell or a parable related to wealth?

JeffThe overall theme of Luke 16 is how we are to use material wealth. What do we value? Prestige, power, wealth? Money is a spiritual thing, it’s intangible. Gold has value only when people decide it has value. It doesn’t have intrinsic value like food. 

We are to use the resources given to us wisely, in a way that moves the Kingdom of Heaven forward because it’s just going to burn up someday anyway. We can count on God’s word, His kingdom will not fail. When this message is proclaimed through John or the other prophets, people want to join His kingdom. 

When we read parables whether they are from Yeshua or anyone else, it’s the punchline that is important, not the story leading up to it. This is the key to understanding Luke 16:19–31, known as “the Rich Man and Lazarus.” 

Is this is a travelogue of hell or a parable related to wealth? That has been debated for a very long time.

Codex D, a manuscript of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts dating to the 400s A.D., a scribe inserted the phrase “and He said another parable.” There seems to have been some confusion about whether it was a parable or historical account. 

The passage has a “punchline” consistent with other parables:

“But he (father Abraham) said to him (Lazar), ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 19:31)

The dichotomy is “Moses and the Prophets” vs. the “one (who) rise(s) from the dead.” To many Jews, even in the first century, the resurrection is a fable, that account carries no weight to them, but Moses and the Prophets does carry weight with them. 

This discourse begins in Luke 16 as Yeshua speaking with a group of Pharisees “who loved money” and these parables are about explaining and teaching the proper use and purpose of money. We see in the Torah that Abraham was very wealthy and used it to establish God’s kingdom. He established a beachhead in the land when he bought the Cave of Machpelah (Genesis 23).

The rich man in this parable was living in splendor and ignoring the poor man at the gate who simply longed for the crumbs from the rich man’s table. Leaving the edges of your crops for others to glean was the equivalent of leaving crumbs from your table for others who need them. 

The name Lazarus is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name אלעזר Eleazar, which means “God helps.”

When the poor man in the parable died, he was carried to “Abraham’s bosom.” The imagery in this parable comes from certain rabbinical writings. The idea of “limbo” or purgatory did not originate with Catholics. The word paradise was a Persian term co-opted into later Hebrew (פרדס pardes) and Greek. Hades was either a place of torment or a place of waiting. It was a very nebulous concept. 

The Bosom of Abraham was a euphemism of an area of Sheol where the righteous dwelled and was considered “paradise.” 

We also see the Greek-from-Hebrew term γέεννα gehenna (G1067) as a description of the afterlife in which there’s either fire, ice or darkness, depending on what part of the Talmud, Mishna or other rabbinic writings you are reading. Some thought was a temporary place before paradise. Some thought it was a permanent dwelling for the unrighteous dead. People didn’t know. 

The Hebrew word שְׁאוֹל she’ol (H7585) shows up a lot throughout the Hebrew scriptures as a description of the underworld. It was considered a place between paradise and Gehenna. The scriptures describe it as a place of “sleep” or a place to lay down. It starts showing up in 1st Kings, 2nd Kings and Chronicles. It starts with King David’s death as “David slept with his father’s” and on with Solomon, Rehoboam and other kings “went to sleep with their fathers.” The father of fathers would be Abraham. 

Peter’s message on Shavu’ot in the Temple after Yeshua’s ascension recounted Israel’s history and in Acts 2:22-35 explained what it means that David went to “sleep with the fathers.” David did not go to a pleasant, ethereal place of bliss. Peter said David was waiting for the resurrection.

Yeshua said in Matthew 9 and Mark 5 that the dead girl was “sleeping.” Death is not a problem with the Creator. He can wake them up when He wants to do so. 

John 11 talks about Lazarus, Yeshua’s friend, who was resurrected after he had died of an illness. Lazarus’ death was also a “sleep” and Yeshua had the power of Creator to bring him back. 

Both Isaiah and Revelation say that death and Hades will be thrown into the “lake of fire.” How can Gehenna be thrown into Gehenna? Whatever Gehenna is, it does not last forever. 

Those who have died are resting. They are not forgotten by God. 

If this parable is not an accurate description of the afterlife, why did Yeshua use this kind of parable? Well, why did Yeshua tell a parable about an embezzler in a positive light (Luke 16:1-15)? Why did Yeshua tell a parable using God as an unrighteous judge? The point of the parable is the punchline, not the story.

The point of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is God vs. stuff. God wants to teach us how to use what He gives us and how to use it properly. The stuff we have is temporary, the life we have is temporary but we are to use these things for eternal values.

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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