Jesus told many parables during His three andhalf years of ministry. There is no telling how many; but morethan three dozen of His parables were recorded. He spoke of aman sowing good seed into a field, agrain of mustard seed, and leaven hidden in threemeasures of meal. He also spoke of a barren fig tree, aman who planted a vineyard, new wine in old wineskins, ravens,lilies, and many, many more.
A PARABLE is a short,fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religiousprinciple. Parables are never meant to be taken for the letter oftheir word. When taken literally, at face value, the entirety ofits meaning is lost.
The Greek word for parable is paraboleand means, something similar, symbolic, a fictitiousnarrative of common life conveying a moral (Strong'sExhaustive Concordance). The Hebrew word, mashal,is not unlike it, meaning, a sense of superiority inmental action; a maxim, usually of a metaphorical nature; hence asimile, or figure of speech (as an adage, poem, discourse.(Strong's).
It is interesting, of all the parablesJesus spoke, only one is commonly taught as being literal. What awonder it is, that such a thing could go unnoticed for so long,and this in the ranks of intelligent people who claim they wantthe truth. That single parable has become a pervading factor inman's theology. It is a ruse that condemns the vast majority to anever ending realm of burning torment. That ill-applied parable,of course, is the one where "a certain beggarcalled LAZARUS, who, upon dying found himself in Abraham's bosom,and a certain RICH MAN in torment."
One reason for taking this parable at facevalue, as we have been told, is due to Jesus using the word 'certain'to express His thought: a certain mannamed Lazarus, a certain richman, etc. In His discourse, it is argued, the word certaindesignates each person as being a certain 'real'individual. This is plausible; but it doesn't standtrue in the light of many other times Jesus used the same term.We will cite a few, and on each occasion see how it alwaysconveys His message in the form of a parable. Before we look atthose verses, however, let us be reminded that when speaking tothe scribes and Pharisees, as He was in Luke 15 and 16, He neverspoke except in parables. The following verses make this clear:
"And the disciples came, and said untoHim, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered andsaid unto them, Becauseit is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom ofheaven, but to them it is not given. Allthese things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; andwithout a parable spake He not unto them" (Mat13:10-11,34).
Without a parable spake He not unto them-- not even when He spoke of A CERTAINhouseholder, A CERTAIN king, orA CERTAIN man with two sons who hesent into his vineyard to work. Without a parable spake henot unto them about A CERTAIN richman and steward, A CERTAINpoor widow, or A CERTAIN creditor.In parables also, spake He concerning ACERTAIN man who fell among thieves, ACERTAIN priest who passed him by, ACERTAIN Samaritan who helped him, and ACERTAIN man who made a great supper. Andspake He likewise of A CERTAIN richman, and a CERTAIN MAN NAMED LAZARUS.
No one takes any of the CERTAININDIVIDUALS in the above PARABLESas being literal. So why, we humbly ask, would we make anexception with A CERTAIN MAN WHO WAS A BEGGAR and ACERTAIN RICH MAN IN TORMENT? The strength of theargument on that point is lacking, to say the least. There is,however, yet another argument, which could have merit if whatJesus was saying had not been a parable. It has to do with thefact that He used a personal name to designate thebeggar -- LAZARUS. It ismaintained that this establishes the parableas being literal. But does it? Let us consider some things andsee.
Lazarus is the Greekform of the the Hebrew name Eleazar,and like all Hebrew names it has a meaning, it tellssomething of the person it names. In this case it means, WhomGod aids, surrounds, protects, helps, rescues" (Strong's& Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lex. to the O.T.) This is the name,i.e., the nature, or thecharacter of Lazarus. Theparable simply states the condition of those that 'Lazarus'represented.
With a little research it is also found thatthe story of Lazarus and the rich man isthe fifth part of a five-part parable.It is the concluding point of Jesus' parableconcerning the Jews and the Gentiles. Each part ofthe parable refers to the dispersion of the Jews and thesalvation of the Gentiles. Jesus made His point byusing five different ways to tell one story.
Andrew Jukes in his book, "The Restitution ofAll Things," wrote along these samelines. His book points out how the parablebegins in Luke 15:3 and ends with 16:31. Another excellentwork, and much more comprehensive, is the book, "Abraham'sBosom" by J. Preston Eby. Eachtreatise draws our attention to the truth of the matter, enablingus to focus on these two chapters of Luke as one parable.Hopefully, we can likewise see this ribbon of unfolding truth inthis short study. [One Parable - five stories: J. Preston Eby]
After the Pharisees murmured againstJesus for receiving and eating with sinners, Hespoke to them. This sets the tone for what followed. The subjectmatter had to do with those considered the ungodlyGentiles and contrasting them with the elect ofGod, which were the Jews. The first few words of verse three set the precedence. They established what Jesus said thereafter would be one parable and not five parables. Thosekey words are: "He spake this PARABLEto them..." (Lk. 15:3).
When we follow Him through to the end, we seeeach part of the parable is about something either lostor rejected: thelost sheep and the ninety-ninesheep, the lost coin and therest of the house, the prodigal son andthe older son, the debtors andthe unjust steward, and of course, thepoor beggar and a certain richman. One is oppressed, lost, and sought after untilhe is found and saved, while the other is seemingly left to hisown destruction. Throughout the parable, each is very much thesame as the Gentiles or thenation of Israel. As we notice this parable, let usalso keep Luke 19:10 in mind, which discloses what His missionwas, and still is for that matter. It simply states that Jesuscame "...TO SEEK AND SAVE THAT WHICHWAS LOST." Thus, Luke 15:4 through16:31. Luke 15:4-7...The ninety-nine sheepwith a caring Shepherd is very typical of Israel as anation before the advent of Jesus. After He is rejected andcrucified by His flock, the Shepherd comes again at Pentecost;but this time His purpose is to find the onethat is lost -- the Gentiles. Fromthat point on, Israel had no one to guide them. All restraintswere lifted, leaving them to their own evil devices. Theircondition had been deplorable for a long time; but with theShepherd away, their spiritual and moral state of being decayedto absolute putrification. Sedition became the norm, and thirtyor so years of their constant insurrections, Rome could tolerateno more. In A.D. 70 Titus' army was set upon Jerusalem with suchfury that the city was utterly destroyed. With this heavy blowexacted, and without a shepherd, the rest of Israel was dispersedand scattered throughout the world.
Luke 15:8-10...A candle islit, and the house swept clean until the lostcoin is found. The candle, of course, is theshining light of Christ in the hand of the Church. This commencedat Pentecost. Its fire set aflame the wicks of the 120, and the search began. Thousands were delivered fromthe kingdom of darkness and placed in the Kingdom of God's dearSon. From there the torch was passed on and carried down to thisday, all the while, bringing light and igniting fires everywhereit went.
The ten coins is aneastern custom which carries great importance -- especially to abride. The coins are handed down from family to family for onepurpose. They are to be passed on to the eldest son when hemarries. He in turn gives them to his bride, and although theirmonetary worth is insignificant, their intrinsic value cannot bemeasured. They are priceless. The coins begin as a part of theengagement process. In a solemn ceremony under a kitchilika tree(an exotic and fragrant species of orange which bears fruit aslarge as grapefruit), the couple sit facing each other as theyoung man drops into her hands the ten pieces of silver. Thegirls of that part of the world are taught, "He whoplaces the ten pieces of silver in your hand is he who will loveyou." They believe that God kindles love in the heartof the girl at that very moment. This, then, is the beginning oflove. It also signifies that the governing protection with whichGod had overshadowed her is now passed to the man.
By receiving the ten pieces of silver, thebride is considered to have now been purchased, just as Christdied on a tree and purchased us, the Church. "Ye werebought for a price." The coins are a testimony of herbeing bought for a high and precious price. At the weddingceremony she will wear them hooked with little hooks into herhair. Thereafter, she must guard them with her life. And there isgood cause for this. According to their thinking, when a womanloses one of her ten pieces of silver, God withdraws favor fromthe household, and the blessings which they had formerly enjoyedis lost. If she cannot find the coin, in disgrace, she will beput out in the street, an outcast -- put out to die! No wonderthe woman desperately swept the house until the coin was found,and then called in the neighbors to rejoice with her, for she hadjust been saved from certain death. Jesus said, their rejoicingis like the rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents. (Ref. LightTrough and Eastern Window, by K.C. Pillai).
We, as it is with the Word of God, shall notreturn void. Rather than failing to find that which was lost (therest of the world), we will search until they are all secure.Brethren, they were placed in our hands when we received theearnest of our inheritance. Shall we not wear them as a crown ofglory the day we are joined in marriage to Him? Shall we let evenone slip away to never be found?
Absolutely not! With the fiery light of theLord blazing, and His piecing eyes sweeping over the earth,everything that stands in its path shall be cleansed. The huntshall continue until the job is finished. With His light in hand,we, shall never stop going about cleaning, seeking, finding, andsaving that which was lost -- the lost coin-- the Gentiles. Our call is not one ofempty-handedness. We will proceed until the whole house isthoroughly purged and all is found andreconciled to God, lest His Church is disgraced and put out inthe street, an outcast, put out to die, for losing her mostprecious inheritance -- the Gentiles!
Luke 15:11-31...The firstbornson is typical of the Jewish nation, while theprodigal son is that of the Gentile nations.The Jews are envious of the repentant son whoreturns to the Father's house. The eldest son issupposed to receive the honor of the fatted calf, the signet ringof the Father's authority, the robe of royalty, and the Father'sshoes to walk like Him, etc.; but the younger, theredeemed nations, receive all these things instead.We see the same scenario with Ishmael and Isaac,Esau and Jacob, and also Joseph andhis elder brothers. In each casethe younger receives the inheritance while the elder resentfullyloses it. Hence, the elder son and theprodigal son.
Luke 16:1-13...The unjuststeward in these verses speak of the Jews. Theywasted the Spiritual goods that God, the rich Master, had trustedto their care. They even wasted the most precious treasure Hecould have given them -- Jesus -- His own Son. This same parable,it appears, was told in Matthew about the certain richHouseholder who planted a vineyard and let it out to husbandmento care for. Each time He sent servants (the prophets) to see howthings were going, they were killed. He then sent His own Son.Thinking they could seize His inheritance, He too was killed (Mat21:33-42). Jesus concluded that particular parable with a strongproclamation: "Thereforesay I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, andgiven to a nation bringingforth the fruits thereof" (Mat 21:43).
The parable of Luke 16:1-13 continues: Uponseeing that the Master is very wroth, and will cast him out ofthe Kingdom, the steward quickly shows mercy to his Lord'sdebtors. Those debtors are thenations that the Jews had put under such afinancial burden. This is in the hope,of course, that should they lose their prestigious position ofauthority, the Gentiles might show mercy and allow them refuge(16:4). (This has happened in Europe and other parts of theworld, especially in the United States and Great Britain.) "AndI say unto you. Make to yourselves friends of the mammon ofunrighteousness, (the Gentiles of the world); that whenye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations (or,aeonian, agelasting habitations).
"If therefore ye have not beenfaithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trustthe true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that whichis another man's, who shall give you that which is your own? Noservant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one,and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despisethe other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke16:11-13)
During Jesus' parabolic discourse, I am surethe scribes and Pharisees were building up a full head of angeredsteam; for they knew full-well He had them pegged. With thesymbolism He used, even they knew what He was saying, to adegree. The Gentiles, whom they viewed as dogs, would be takingtheir sacred place of honor -- and they didn't like it. They keptquiet, however, until He touched that which they loved the most-- money, i.e., mammon. This pierced to the core of their stonyhearts. With such a pain-riveting word, they could keep theirsilence no longer. In open contempt the covetous Phariseesderided Him. (Deride in this verse means a rude,outright sneer.)
Jesus did not entertain their obscene gestures,but hit them instead in the midst of another tender spot. Hespoke briefly, but very pointedly, about how theyself-righteously justified themselves in the sight of men, andwent about putting away their wives and husbands. He then pickedup where He left off and concluded His parable of the Jews andGentiles.
Luke 16:19-26...The richman clothed in purple and fine linen istypical of the kings and priests of God -- Israel;while Lazarus (whom God aids)represents the Gentiles. Wecan't help from remembering Jesus referring to dogs oncebefore. It was with the Canaanite woman who besought Him to castout the devils from her daughter. In essence, He told her that theGentiles were dogs, and His meat was not for the dogs. Shethen reminded Him, "...THE DOGS (not unlike those that licked the wounds of Lazarus) eatthe crumbs that fall from the master's table" (Mat15:27).
As for the ones concerning Lazarus: "Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores" (Lk. 16:21). The Greek word translated "moreover"is alla which more accurately means other. Thayer's Lexicon gives this definition ofr "alla." It is a neuter of the adjective "allos," meaning "other things." Strong's Exhaustive Concordance also gives this same definition of alla. In Lk. 16:21 alla is in the nominative case, indicating that it is a word that names the subject, and that it belongs to the noun or pronoun that it names. Therefore, the dogs, as the subject, are named or modified by the word other (the other dogs). The word other is an article in this case and is an adjective and, like all adjectives in the Greek, it is declined and agrees in gender, number, and case with the word it modifies. In other words, if the noun is in the nominative, plural, and neuter case, so will the adjective be also. And this is what we have with"OTHER" and "DOGS". Both words are declined in these three declensions, indicating that "OTHER"definitely belongs to "DOGS" and is its modifier.
What is the word saying then? Primarily, for all who cannot follow the grammatical intricacies stated above, it is saying that LAZARUS IS JUST AS MUCH A DOG AS THE ONES LICKING HIS SORES! We are aware that dogs will on occasion lick the sores of humans and other animals but most often they are found licking the sores of their own kind -- other dogs! Neither Lazarus nor the dogs are, of course, literal dogs, but they serve as figures of the gentile nations surrounding Judah, and without the abundant blessings of God they soothe one another the best way they can, except when they are fighting -- as dogs often do. Lazarus was a dog, a Gentile in this parable. He was both a beggar and a dog, a beggar in his own eyes, but in the eyes of the rich man, he was a dog.
In torment, the rich man cries out to hisfather Abraham. Notice that he does not cry to God,not to Yahweh, not to Jehovah, and certainlynot to Jesus; but he cries out to Abraham -- thefather of Israel. He begs for Lazarusto be sent with a drop of water to soothe his tongue. He yearnsto have his 2,000 years of scorching pain eased; the pain ofscorn and hatred he has suffered under God's hand of judgment. Heis told, however, that the gulf is fixed, that neither side cango to the other. This in no way suggests an 'eternal'condition to never be changed. It simply states that those who 'would'cannot cross over on their own. It takes more than humandesire for Israel to be relieved from centuries of torment.The Gentiles must be broughtin before the Jews as a whole can be released fromjudgment. Israel was rich in God, and fared sumptuously,but they squandered their wealth, killed the King's Son, and nowthey must wait until the proper season. Paul wrote so clearlyconcerning this:
"For I would not, brethren, that yeshould be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise inyour own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, untilthe fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And soall Israel shall be saved: as it is written,There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn awayungodliness from Jacob" (Rom. 11:25-26, 27-36).
Luke 16:27-31...Lastly, therich man begged Lazarus to be sentto his brothers to warn them. He was told that they have Mosesand the prophets; "Let them hear them." But indesperation he argued, "Nay, father Abraham: but if onewent unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said untohim. If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neitherwill they be persuaded, though One rose from the dead."And of course, they didn't repent. For One rosefrom the dead -- JESUS -- and they didnot repent, even to this day.
They, therefore, remain in torment. Thegulf has been fixed, and this is forboth the Gentiles and for Israel; butit is not forever. To the natural mind it would be thesensible thing to do, to hurry the process, to stop the suffering-- but it won't be. Until the appointed time Israel cannot spanthe wide chasm, and neither can the Gentiles inChrist cross that fixed gulf and save them.Regardless of how many missionaries are sent to the 'holyland', it will not happen before the time. The Jewsare held in unbreakable chains of darkness, and this is by God'sdecree -- and man cannot circumvent or change it. They willremain locked in darkness until the Sons of God sound the trumpetof freedom, and they hear for the first time the Good News toreturn unto the Lord. Individuals may cross over as theLord bids, which is a rarity, but not the nation. For "...Jesusbeheld them, and said unto them, With menthis is impossible"; but praise God,He did not stop there. He then said, "WITHGOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE"(Mat. 19:26). God certainly "...turns man todestruction; and says, RETURN, YE CHILDREN OFMEN" (Psa. 90:3). Indeed, it isimpossible for either the rich man or Lazarus to cross that fixedgulf; but the day will shortly dawn when God will make itpossible. Get ready, O ye Sons of God, for your hour to sound theWord of liberty to those across the gulf draws nigh!
Without controversy, Jesus came to be theSavior of all (Jn. 4:42, 12:47, I Jn. 4:14, among 97 otherverses. Scripture list available upon request). And as theLiving Word, He shall not return to His Father void, but willaccomplish and prosper in that which He was sent to do (Isa.55:11). Nevertheless, many, we are sure, will still contend thatthe doctrine of everlasting damnation is God's futileplan for the majority of His creation. Some will even continueusing the above parable in attempts toprove their point. I hope they don't, but from what we have seenin the past, they probably will. We are not being antagonistic,yet we know how difficult it is to change age-old mind-sets,regardless of their absurdities. Chains of tradition are noteasily broken.
The influence of 1,700 year-old dogmas cloudpeople's thinking. Vindictiveness also hinders the truth frombeing known. It spills from the cold heart of pharisaicalreligion like poison from an apothecary's vial. This cruel spiritpromotes men's unforgiving hatred as it maintains erroneousbeliefs about God. The loathsome monster of self-righteousness,of course, stands well in the forefront of them all. But,brethren, it must not be with us. Let us break such godless yokesas we embrace the wonderful truths of our mighty King. Let usjoin with the myriads of saints in the awesome work ofreconciling all unto God. Our call is set before us, this we know-- for we hear the sound of distant trumpets, and they aredrawing closer by the day. Gird up your loins, dear Sons, andprepare yourselves to walk your destined call. The lostis waiting.
The Real Meaning of Lazarus and the Rich Man Abraham's Bosom
by the late
Dr. Ernest L. Martin, founder of A.S.K.
J. Preston Eby, Kingdom Bible Studies
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