After Death - Appendix 2

Comments on Luke 16: 19-31

This account is something that could only have been given by one who knew what was on the other side of death. He could draw aside the curtain, so to speak, and give us a glimpse of the conditions in which the dead exist. The one we speak of is, of course, the Lord Jesus who himself had had existence before the world was and was conversant with what went on in Heaven and in Hades. He knew what went on in Heaven because he said that there is joy in heaven before of the angels of God for one repenting sinner (Luke 15:7&10). He also knew that the angels of little children did continually behold the face of his Father (Matthew 18:10). Christ could also tell us that the angels didn't know certain things (Mark 13:32). How could he be so sure of their ignorance if he was not conversant with what his Father had and had not revealed ? We, however, ought to be careful what we say about conditions after death for we have had no personal experience of them.

There are a number of points regarding the passage which are worth noting:-

1. The passage is not a parable. There is nothing about "a certain man" as there is in the two previous stories. Further in this passage we have named persons: Abraham and Lazarus. The identity of the rich man is not disclosed. Perhaps this is a mercy that such an one should not be named. He is spoken of by extra Biblical sources as Dives, but Scripture is silent.

2. The passage cannot really be said to be typical. The rich man was an extreme case. He had lived in luxury here. He had luxurious clothes and sumptuous food, the latter, not sometimes but
every day ! Lazarus on the other hand had lived in misery. He had lack of food and sores. The dogs came and licked the latter, probably not as an act of kindness but because they liked the taste of what came from the sores. The poor man did not apparently have a burial though the rich man did.

3. On the other side of death conditions were reversed. Lazarus was in the bosom of Abraham, probably the place which a godly Jew would have coveted most. Old Testament Israelites are said to sleep with their fathers. Abraham was their ultimate father. The rich man on the other hand was far away and in torments.

4. The rich man spoke to Abraham with a view to getting Lazarus to do him a service. What had he done for Lazarus in his lifetime. He had not given him anything. Lazarus, if he got anything it was, according to the record, what reached him by force of gravity: crumbs that
fell from the rich man's table ! The rich man didn't deign to ask a favour directly of Lazarus. He did not apologise for his treatment of Lazarus. There was no repentance with him, that is, there was no moral change in him. Lazarus was his neighbour to whom he had never shown any kindness. He clearly knew him for he speaks of him by name. Lazarus had lain at his gateway so he must have passed him when he went in and out of his house.

5. No doubt the rich man looked upon the condition of Lazarus as God's judgement on him for his sins and on that account he left him alone. However, even if that was the case, as it is sometimes today with those who get diseases such as aids, it was not the rich man's place to judge him. God is the judge, not man. Abraham said nothing to the rich man about his treatment of Lazarus. He did not make a moral judgement, but simply drew attention to the reversal of fortunes of the rich man and Lazarus and also the impossibility of Lazarus doing what the rich man asked because of the chasm that existed between them.

6. It is to be noted that Abraham spoke very graciously to the rich man calling him 'Child'. Scripture says: "Shew honour to all" (1 Peter 2:17) and Abraham did just that.

7. What Abraham said to the rich man agrees with what Christ said of the Pharisees: "They have their reward" (that is, in this life) (Matthew 6:5). Abraham said: "Thou hast fully received thy good things in thy lifetime".

8. The fact that the man to whom Abraham spoke had been rich in his lifetime, should not be taken as meaning that God condemns all persons who are rich (See 1 Timothy 6:6-19). Abraham himself had been blessed in everything in his lifetime (Genesis 24:1), but he was not in the place of torments. Consider also the case of David who died "full of days, riches and honour" (1 Chronicles 29:28) The rich man had made self his object and had not been beneficent to others, at least, not to Lazarus. If he had not even considered for the needs of Lazarus who had been his neighbour, he had almost certainly not considered for the needs of others. Lazarus had not been a person afar off. The question may be asked: "Was the rich man's wealth from God or was it ill-gotten gains ? We are not told.