The rich man and lazarus


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Can a man live beyond the dead? Some Christians seem to believe so. Let's see what the bible says

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The rich man and lazarus

  1. 1. Copyright © 2004 byLu Ann CrewsAll rights reserved.Printed in the USA.Published by:Amazing Facts, Inc.P.O. Box 1058Roseville, CA 95678-8058800-538-7275Layout by Greg Solie - Altamont GraphicsCover design by Haley Trimmer
  2. 2. THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS uch argument has taken placeM over whether the words of Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 were intendedto be understood literally or as a parable.Some Christians feel that in this story, Jesuswas offering His hearers a glimpse of whatexistence in the afterlife is like. Others, cit-ing numerous passages of Scripture thatseem to contradict the portrayal of heavenand hell contained in this passage, feel thatJesus was teaching an altogether differentkind of lesson. Unfortunately, manymodern religious teachers have isolated thestory from its original context and used itas a device for scaring people. Religious“conversions” resulting from a fear of hellas it is depicted in this passage have indeedoccurred, but are based on a foundationsorely in need of the strength that comesonly from a genuine appreciation of God’scharacter and a proper understanding ofScripture.
  3. 3. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 3 To begin this study, we’ll take a closerlook at just what a parable really is, andthen examine the setting in which Jesustold this story. Perhaps then we will betterunderstand what lessons there are for us inthe story of the rich man and Lazarus. The Random House College Dictionarydescribes a parable as “a short, allegoricalstory designed to convey a truth or morallesson.” Cruden’s Complete Concordance fur-ther expands this concept, saying that para-bles in the Bible were used “more generallythan elsewhere.” We know that the Biblewriters used situations both imaginary—asin the trees asking the bramble to be kingover them (Judges 9:8-15)—and realistic inparables. Whatever form the parable took,it was only a vehicle for the moral lessonbeing taught. Jesus recognized the value of parablesin teaching the people. He desired to stim-ulate their deepest thought and con-templation, and He knew that if He spoketoo literally, certain of His hearers would
  4. 4. 4 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Squickly forget His words. Not only that,but others, for whom certain of His para-bles contained stern rebuke, would be soangered by straight speaking that theywould attempt to silence Him by violence.Wise as a serpent but harmless as a dove,Jesus recalled the words of Isaiah 6:9 andtold His disciples, “Unto you it is given toknow the mysteries of the kingdom ofGod: but to others in parables; that seeingthey might not see, and hearing theymight not understand.” Luke 8:10.Cruden’s Concordance explains: “OurSaviour in the gospels often speaks to thepeople in parables. He made use of themto veil the truth from those who were notwilling to see it. Those who really desiredto know would not rest till they had foundout the meaning.” It is appropriate here to ask to whomJesus was speaking in Luke 16:19-31. Whichcategory of people was He dealing with?The last verse before Jesus’ voice begins inthis passage tells us. Verse 14 says, “And the
  5. 5. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 5Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard allthese things: and they derided him.” Jesuswas speaking to the Pharisees, a class ofmen who were notorious all through theGospels for their refusal to deal honestlywith Him and the truths He taught. We can be sure that of all the peopleJesus taught, none were handled moreguardedly than the wily Pharisees. Theydealt in deception and subterfuge, but Jesusdealt with them wisely and truthfully. Thesafest way for Him to do this was by para-ble and allegory. Evidence that they did notunderstand many of His teachings can befound in Jesus’ prayer in Luke 10:21, “Ithank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven andearth, that thou hast hid these things fromthe wise and prudent, and hath revealedthem unto babes.” Mark 4:33, 34 clearlyshows that Jesus’ lessons were almostinvariably couched in parables: “And withmany such parables spake he the word untothem: as they were able to hear it. But with-out a parable spake he not unto them; and
  6. 6. 6 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Swhen they were alone, he expounded allthings to his disciples.” Now we are ready to examine the storyof the rich man and Lazarus itself, and tryto ascertain the real message Jesus was seek-ing to convey through it. “There was a certain rich man, whichwas clothed in purple and fine linen, andfared sumptuously every day: And therewas a certain beggar named Lazarus,which was laid at his gate, full of sores,And desiring to be fed with the crumbswhich fell from the rich man’s table: more-over the dogs came and licked his sores.”Luke 16:19-21. Who was the symbolic rich man? TheJews had been blessed above measure by aknowledge of God and his plan of salvationfor all mankind. They had received “theadoption, and the glory, and the covenants,and the giving of the law, and the service ofGod, and the promises.” Romans 9:4. Onlya Jew would pray to “Father Abraham,” aswe find the rich man doing later in the
  7. 7. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 7story. The Jewish nation was clearly repre-sented by this character. By contrast, Lazarus symbolized allthose people in spiritual poverty—theGentiles—with whom the Israelites were toshare their heritage. The words of Isaiahwere well known to the Jews. “I will alsogive thee for a light to the Gentiles, thatthou mayest be my salvation unto the endof the earth.” Isaiah 49:6. Unfortunately, the Jews had not sharedtheir spiritual wealth with the Gentiles at all.Instead, they considered them as “dogs” thatwould have to be satisfied with the spiritualcrumbs falling from their masters’ tables.The metaphor was known. Jesus had used itbefore in testing the faith of the Canaanitewoman. “It is not meet to take the children’sbread, and to cast it to dogs.” She respondedaccordingly: “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat ofthe crumbs which fall from their masters’tables.” Matthew 15:26, 27. The rich Jews had hoarded the truth,and in so doing, they had corrupted
  8. 8. 8 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Sthemselves. Only moments before relatingthis parable, Jesus had rebuked thePharisees for their spiritual conceit. “Ye arethey which justify yourselves before men;but God knoweth your hearts: for thatwhich is highly esteemed among menis abomination in the sight of God.”Luke 16:15. What was to be the result ofthis terrible conceit? “And it came to pass, that the beggardied, and was carried by the angels intoAbraham’s bosom: the rich man also died,and was buried; And in hell he lift up hiseyes, being in torments, and seeth Abrahamafar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And hecried and said, Father Abraham, havemercy on me, and send Lazarus, that hemay dip the tip of his finger in water, andcool my tongue; for I am tormented in thisflame. But Abraham said, Son, rememberthat thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy goodthings, and likewise Lazarus evil things: butnow he is comforted, and thou art tor-mented. And beside all this, between us and
  9. 9. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 9you there is a great gulf fixed: so that theywhich would pass from hence to you can-not; neither can they pass to us, that wouldcome from thence.” Luke 16:22-26. The Jews had enjoyed “the good life”while on earth but had done nothing tobless or enrich their neighbors. No furtherreward was due. “Woe unto you that arerich! for ye have received your consolation.Woe unto you that are full! for ye shallhunger.” Luke 6:24, 25. Conversely, the poor in spirit, sym-bolized by Lazarus, would inherit the king-dom of heaven. The Gentiles who hungeredand thirsted after righteousness would befilled. The “dogs” and sinners, so despisedby the self-righteous Pharisees, would enterheaven before they would. “Verily I say untoyou, That the publicans and the harlots gointo the kingdom of God before you.”Matthew 21:31. The parable concludes with the richman begging for his brethren to be warnedagainst sharing his fate. Asking Abraham to
  10. 10. 10 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Ssend Lazarus on this mission, he alleges “ifone went unto them from the dead, theywill repent.” Luke 16:30. Abraham replies,“If they hear not Moses and the prophets,neither will they be persuaded, though onerose from the dead.” Verse 31. Jesus thus rebuked the Pharisees fortheir disregard of the Scriptures, foreseeingthat even a supernatural event would notchange the hearts of those who persistentlyrejected the teachings of “Moses and theprophets.” The miracle of raising the real-life Lazarus from the dead soon afterwardconfirmed the accuracy of Jesus’ conclu-sion. One did rise from the dead, yet thebrothers of the “rich man” did not repent.In fact, the Pharisees even plotted to killLazarus after his resurrection. His very lifewas a reminder to them of their ownhypocrisy. Today many Christians believe that thestory of the rich man and Lazarus is a his-torical account of two individuals’ literalexperiences in the afterlife. Based on this
  11. 11. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 11belief, some people teach that those whoare consigned to the fiery torments of hellwill never stop burning throughout all eter-nity. As with the parable of the trees and thebramble (Judges 9:8-15), however, seriousproblems arise with a literal interpretationof the story elements. Can we believe that all the saints areeven now gathered in Abraham’s bosom? Ifthey are, in whose bosom does Abrahamrest? And if there is really a great gulf fixedbetween heaven and hell, how could therich man possibly have been heard byAbraham? Perhaps more disturbing, howcould the saints enjoy the comforts of heav-en while enduring the cries of the wickedbeing tormented? Another dilemma that arises with a lit-eral interpretation of this story could becalled “the mystery of the empty graves.” Ifthis is taken literally, apparently neither ofthe two leading characters spent very longin the grave—both being whisked awayrather quickly to their respective places of
  12. 12. 12 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Sreward. Their bodies obviously came along,for we find the rich man lifting up his eyes,and desiring to have his tongue cooled by adrop of water from the finger of Lazaruswho was resting, as we have seen, inAbraham’s bosom. Enough graves have beenexhumed in recent years to know that thebodies of the deceased are carried neitherto heaven or hell after burial. They finallyturn to dust and await the resurrection. From these few examples, we begin tosee that in this parable, Jesus was not try-ing to explain the physical realities of theafterlife. Instead, He was referring to theunfaithfulness of the Jews regarding theirassigned responsibility. As stewards of thespecial message of truth, they utterly failedto share it with the Gentiles, who wereeager to hear it. In fact, the entire chapterof Luke 16 is devoted to the subject ofstewardship. Beginning in verse one, Christ gaveanother parable about stewardship ofmoney or property. “There was a certain
  13. 13. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 13rich man, which had a steward; and thesame was accused unto him that he hadwasted his goods.” After dealing with theprinciple of being entrusted with materialgoods, Jesus opened up the issue of beingentrusted with the truth. By the parable ofanother rich man, He graphically illus-trated how they had proven just as unfaith-ful with spiritual riches as the steward hadbeen unfaithful with physical wealth. To attempt to stretch the parable of therich man and Lazarus to cover the doctrineof hellfire is to miss the point Jesus intend-ed to convey. The Bible speaks with unmis-takable clarity on the subject of hell inmany other places. Nowhere do theScriptures teach that the wicked will con-tinue to suffer in the fires of hell throughthe ceaseless ages of eternity. Rather, theywill be utterly destroyed. Jesus never wouldhave compromised the integrity of theHoly Scriptures by teaching a doctrine con-trary to its own overwhelming testimonyon the subject.
  14. 14. 14 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S The truth about hell may be ascer-tained by examining even a few of themany Bible texts that speak directly on thesubject. Before examining these, however,we must remember that “the wages of sinis death; but the gift of God is eternal life.”Romans 6:23. There are only two alterna-tives for every soul. Those who acceptJesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice willlive forever; those who do not accept Jesuswill die. If the wicked suffered withoutend, eternal life—however painful—would be theirs. But we know that eternallife is available only to those who acceptJesus. Consider these clear texts of Scripturethat speak of the reward of the wicked: “Butthe wicked shall perish, and the enemies ofthe Lord shall be as the fat of lambs: theyshall consume; into smoke shall theyconsume away.” Psalm 37:20. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shallburn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, andall that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and
  15. 15. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 15the day that cometh shall burn them up,saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leavethem neither root nor branch.” Malachi 4:1. “And ye shall tread down the wicked;for they shall be ashes under the soles ofyour feet in the day that I shall do this, saiththe Lord of hosts.” Malachi 4:3. “And fear not them which kill the body,but are not able to kill the soul: but ratherfear him which is able to destroy both souland body in hell.” Matthew 10:28. “But the day of the Lord will come as athief in the night; in the which the heavensshall pass away with a great noise, and theelements shall melt with fervent heat, theearth also and the works that are thereinshall be burned up.” 2 Peter 3:10. “But the fearful, and unbelieving, andthe abominable, and murderers, andwhoremongers, and sorcerers, and idola-ters, and all liars, shall have their part in thelake which burneth with fire and brim-stone: which is the second death.”Revelation 21:8.
  16. 16. 16 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S Many other texts could be cited, butthese clearly illustrate that the ultimate fateof the wicked is death. Notice that theScriptures choose the strongest possiblewords to describe the complete annihila-tion of the wicked. In no way should theseclear words be misunderstood by one whohonestly desires to know truth. There is afire reserved for the wicked, but a fire sohot it will utterly destroy all who areengulfed by it. When the fire has done itswork, it will go out. Eternally burning fireis not taught anywhere in the Bible—noteven in the story of the rich man andLazarus. (Some people have wonderedwhat the expression “for ever” means in theusage of Revelation 20:10. Other similarpassages demonstrate this merely to meanas long as a person lives. See Exodus 21:6;1 Samuel 1:22; Jonah 2:6, etc. Also, theexpression “eternal fire” may be under-stood in terms of consequences rather thanduration, as in the example of Sodom andGomorrha in Jude 7).
  17. 17. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 17 It would be tragic to miss the actualpoint of the parable by removing it fromthe setting in which Jesus gave it. Let’saccept the lesson He was trying to teachand apply it to our own lives. Are we doingall we can to spread the message of salva-tion to others? Do we have a genuine lovefor those around us, and have we invitedthem to share our spiritual inheritance? Ifwe hoard our riches, like the Jews of old,we will become self-righteous and corrupt.In contrast, by active, loving service, ourrelationship with Christ as well as withothers will become stronger and moremeaningful. Let us not make scary stories the basisof our Christian experience. Instead, let usunderstand that “God so loved the world,that he gave his only begotten Son, thatwhosoever believeth in him should notperish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16.
  18. 18. 18 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S SOME DIFFICULT TEXTS EXPLAINED 1 Samuel 28:14: “And he said unto her,What form is he of? And she said, An oldman cometh up; and he is covered with amantle. And Saul perceived that it wasSamuel, and he stooped with his face to theground, and bowed himself.” This spiritualistic séance has been citedas evidence for life after death. However,here are points to the contrary: 1. Wizards had been sentenced to death and banned from the land (verse 3; Leviticus 20:27). 2. God had left Saul and would not communi- cate with him (verse 15). 3. Samuel was supposedly “brought up.” Other expressions: “ascending out of the earth,” “Cometh up,” and “Bring … up.” Is this where the righteous dead are—down in the earth? Not according to those who believe in the immortal soul.
  19. 19. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 194. Samuel is described as “an old man covered with a mantle.” Is this the way immortal souls appear? And where did the soul get the body? They’re supposed to be disembodied. Was there a resurrection? Did God obey the beck and call of the witch, and raise up Samuel? If not, can Satan raise the dead?5. The apparition of Samuel told Saul, “Tomorrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.” Saul committed suicide on the battle- field the next day. Where did Samuel dwell, if the wicked Saul was to go to the same place?6. The record never says that Saul saw Samuel. He received his information as second hand from the witch, and only concluded it was Samuel from her description. The truth is that the devil deceived the dissolute old woman, and she deceived Saul. It was noth- ing more than a devil-generated séance.7. The enormity of Saul’s sin is revealed in these words,“So Saul died for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired not of the Lord: therefore he slew him.” 1 Chronicles 10:13, 14.
  20. 20. 20 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S Matthew 10:28: “And fear not themwhich kill the body, but are not able to killthe soul: but rather fear him which is ableto destroy both soul and body in hell.” Jesus clearly teaches in this text that thesoul is not naturally immortal. It can andwill be destroyed in hell. But what does Hemean about killing the body, but not thesoul? Is it possible for the soul to exist apartfrom the body? Some say it is, but the Bibleindicates otherwise. The Hebrew word “psuche” has beentranslated “soul” in this text, but in fortyother texts it has been translated “life.” Forexample, Jesus said, “Whosoever will losehis life [psuche] for my sake shall find it.”Matthew 16:25. Obviously, “psuche” couldnot mean soul in this instance, or peoplecould be said to lose their soul for Christ’ssake. It is properly translated “life.” But what of Matthew 10:28? Put in theword “life” instead of “soul” and the textmakes perfect sense in its consistency withthe rest of the Bible. The contrast is
  21. 21. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 21between one who can take the physical life,and He who can take away eternal life. Hereis proof in the words of Jesus: “And I sayunto you my friends, Be not afraid of themthat kill the body, and after that have nomore that they can do. But I will forewarnyou whom ye shall fear: Fear him, whichafter he hath killed hath power to cast intohell.” Luke 12:4, 5. In other words, the word “soul” heremeans not only life, but also eternal life.Notice that Luke says everything just likeMatthew except that he does not say “killsthe soul.” Instead, he says, “cast into hell.”They mean the same thing. Men can onlykill the body and take away the physical life.God will cast into hell and take away eter-nal life. Not only will their bodies bedestroyed in that fire, but also their liveswill be snuffed out for all eternity. Matthew 25:46: “And these shall goaway into everlasting punishment: but therighteous into life eternal.”
  22. 22. 22 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S It is well to notice that Jesus did not saythat the wicked would suffer “everlastingpunishing.” He said “everlasting punish-ment.” What is the punishment for sin? Thepunishment is destruction, and it is of eter-nal duration (2 Thessalonians 1:9). In otherwords, it is a destruction which never ends,because there will be no resurrection fromthat destruction. Paul says, “the wages of sin is death.”Romans 6:23. John describes that death as“the second death” in Revelation 21:8. Thatdeath or destruction will be eternal. Mark 9:43, 44: “And if thy hand offendthee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enterinto life maimed, than having two hands togo into hell, into the fire that never shall bequenched: Where their worm dieth not,and the fire is not quenched.” In this verse, the word “hell” is trans-lated from the Greek word “Gehenna,”which is another name for the Valley ofHinnom just outside the walls of Jerusalem.
  23. 23. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 23There the refuse and bodies of animalswere cast into an ever-smoldering fire to beconsumed. Maggots that fed on the deadbodies were constantly destroying whatmight escape the flames. Gehenna symbol-ized a place of total destruction. Jesus taught in this verse that the fire ofhell could not be quenched or put out byanyone. Isaiah said, “They shall not deliverthemselves from the power of the flame.”Isaiah 47:14. Yet, he hastened to say in thesame verse, “There shall not be a coal towarm at, nor a fire to sit before it.” So theunquenchable fire will go out after it has fin-ished its work. Jerusalem burned withunquenchable fire (Jeremiah 17:27) yet it wastotally destroyed (2 Chronicles 36:19-21). The flames and worms of Gehenna rep-resented the total annihilation and oblit-eration of sin and sinners. With the fires ofGehenna burning before their eyes, Jesuscould not have spoken a more graphicword to the Pharisees to describe the finaltotal destruction of sinners.
  24. 24. 24 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S Those who cite this text to supporttheir doctrine of the natural immortality ofthe soul are thrown into a real dilemma.Why? Because the fire and worms are work-ing, not upon disembodied souls, butbodies! In Matthew 5:30 Christ said, the“whole body” would be cast into hell. In Isaiah 66:24, the same Gehenna pic-ture of hell is presented with the un-quenchable flame and the destroyingworms. But in this case, the word“carcasses” is used, revealing the fact thatthe fire consumes dead bodies, not disem-bodied souls. Luke 23:43: “And Jesus said unto him,Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou bewith me in paradise.” Some have assumed from this verse thatsouls go to their reward immediately afterdeath, contrary to scores of other Bible texts.But notice two things wrong with thisassumption. First, even though Jesus told thethief, “Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt
  25. 25. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 25thou be with me in paradise,” three days laterHe told Mary that He had not yet ascendedto His Father. Here is the evidence that HisFather was in Paradise: Revelation 2:7 saysthe tree of life “is in the midst of the paradiseof God,” and Revelation 22:1, 2 describes thetree of life by the side of the river of lifewhich flows, in turn, from the throne ofGod. So there is no question about Paradisebeing where the Father’s throne is located.The question is: How could Jesus tell thethief that he would be with Him in Paradisethat day, when He did not go there untilthree days later? In the second place, Jesus and the thiefdid not even die on the same day. Whenthe soldiers came just before sunset to takethe bodies off the cross, Jesus was alreadydead (John 19:32-34). The thieves werevery much alive, and their legs were brokento hasten death and to prevent them fromescaping. They undoubtedly lived on pastsunset into the hours of the Sabbath andpossibly longer. So how could Jesus assure
  26. 26. 26 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Sthe thief of being with Him in Paradisethat day when they did not both die on“that day”? The apparent contradictions clear upwhen we consider that the punctuation ofLuke 23:43 was added by uninspired menwhen our English Bible was translated.They placed a comma before the word“today,” when in reality it should have beenplaced after “today.” Then the verse wouldcorrectly read, “Verily I say unto theetoday, thou shalt be with me in paradise.”In other words, Jesus was saying, “I giveyou the assurance today, when it seems Ican save no man; today when my own dis-ciples have forsaken me and I’m dying as acriminal dies—yet I assure you of salvationright now.” Please notice that the thief did not askto be taken to Paradise then. He asked,“Lord, remember me when thou comest intothy kingdom.” That’s exactly when he will beremembered and taken into that Kingdom.
  27. 27. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 27 2 Corinthians 5:6, 8: “Therefore we arealways confident, knowing that, whilst weare at home in the body, we are absent fromthe Lord: … We are confident, I say, andwilling rather to be absent from the body,and to be present with the Lord.” In verses 1-8, Paul is contrasting thepresent mortal state with the future im-mortal life in heaven. Notice the expres-sions he uses for the two conditions: MORTAL IMMORTAL earthly house building of God this tabernacle house not made with hands mortality our house from heaven in the body absent from the bodyabsent from the Lord present with the Lord He also speaks of being clothed with“our house which is from heaven,” (verse 2)and again, he longs “that mortality mightbe swallowed up of life.” Verse 4. But theke y to the entire discourse lies inthe description of a third condition.After desiring to be clothed upon with
  28. 28. 28 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Simmortality, Paul states that “being clothedwe shall not be found naked.” Verse 3. Put-ting it yet another way, he said, “not for thatwe would be unclothed.” Verse 4. Clearly, the naked or unclothed statewas neither mortality nor immortality, butdeath and the grave. Paul realized that onedid not pass instantly from being clothedwith this tabernacle into being clothed withour house from heaven. Death and thegrave came in between, and he referred to itas being unclothed and naked. In another text, Paul spelled out exactlywhen that change from mortality wouldtake place. In 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53 hewrote, “The trumpet shall sound and thismortal must put on immortality.” That willbe when Jesus comes. 1 Peter 3:18-20: “For Christ also hathonce suffered for sins, the just for theunjust, that he might bring us to God,being put to death in the flesh, but quick-ened by the Spirit: By which also he went
  29. 29. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 29and preached unto the spirits in prison;Which sometime were disobedient, whenonce the longsuffering of God waited in thedays of Noah, while the ark was a prepar-ing, wherein few, that is, eight souls weresaved by water.” There has been considerable misun-derstanding of these verses of Scripture. Ithas been preached that Christ actuallydescended into the lower regions of theearth and preached to lost souls that wereimprisoned in some purgatory or limbo. This is very far from what the text actu-ally says. Let’s look at it closely now and getthe real message of these verses. It says thatChrist suffered once for sin that He mightbring us to God by being put to death in theflesh. But He was quickened by the Spirit bywhich also He went and preached. First of all, notice how Christ preachedto those spirits in prison. He did it by theSpirit, and that word is capitalized in yourBible. It actually refers to the Holy Spirit. Sowhatever Christ did in preaching during
  30. 30. 30 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU Sthis period of time, He did it through or bythe Holy Spirit. With that in view, let’s ask this: Whenwas the preaching done? The answer isplainly given in verse 20, “When once thelongsuffering of God waited in the days ofNoah, while the ark was a preparing.” So, thepreaching was actually done while the arkwas being built—during the preaching ofNoah to that antediluvian world. Now, onemore question: To whom was the preachingdone? The text says here “to the spirits inprison.” Throughout the Bible, we find thisterminology used in describing those whoare bound in the prison house of sin. Davidprayed, “Bring my soul out of prison.”Psalm 142:7. Paul spoke of his experience inthese words: “bringing me into captivity tothe law of sin.” Romans 7:23. What Peter is telling us here is simplythat Christ through the Holy Spirit waspresent while Noah preached; Christ wasthere through the Holy Spirit to speak con-viction to their hearts and appeal to them
  31. 31. THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S 31to come into the ark. There is absolutelynothing here that indicates that Jesusdeparted from the body during the time Hewas dead to go to any subterranean place tominister to wicked spirits. The three ques-tions are clearly answered in the text itself,that He preached by the Holy Spirit, He didit while the ark was being prepared, and Hedid it to the spirits in prison or to thoseindividuals whose sinful lives were boundin the prison house of sin. Revelation 14:10, 11: “The same shalldrink of the wine of the wrath of God,which is poured out without mixture intothe cup of his indignation; and he shall betormented with fire and brimstone in thepresence of the holy angels, and in thepresence of the Lamb: And the smoke oftheir torment ascendeth up for ever andever: and they have no rest day nor night,who worship the beast and his image, andwhosoever receiveth the mark of hisname.”
  32. 32. 32 THE RICH MAN AND L A Z A RU S The words “for ever” do not necessarilymean “without end.” In fact, the Bible usesthe term 56 times (“for ever” can be foundin your biblical concordance under “ever”)in connection with the things that havealready ended. In Exodus 21:1-6 theHebrew servant was to serve his master “forever,” but it was obviously only as long as helived. Hannah took her son Samuel toGod’s house to abide “for ever,” but sheplainly limited that time to “as long as heliveth.” 1 Samuel 1:22, 28. The term is very clearly defined inPsalm 48:14, “For this God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide evenunto death.” The desolation of Edom wasto continue “for ever and ever.” Isaiah34:10. Christ is called “a priest for ever”(Hebrews 5:6), yet after sin is blotted outChrist’s work as a priest will end. The Biblestates, “The wicked … shall be destroyedfor ever.” Psalm 92:7.
  33. 33. Library of Sermons 1. Armageddon 2. Can a Saved Man Choose to Be Lost? 3. Does God’s Grace Blot Out the Law? 4. Hidden Eyes and Closed Ears 5. How Evolution Flunked the Science Test 6. Is It Easier to Be Saved or to Be Lost? 7. Man’s Flicker or God’s Flame 8. Satan in Chains 9. Satan’s Confusing Counterfeits10. Spirits From Other Worlds11. Thieves in the Church12. Why God Said Remember13. Why the Old Covenant Failed14. The High Cost of the Cross15. Hell-Fire16. Is It Possible to Live Without Sinning?17. Blood Behind the Veil18. Spirits of the Dead19. The Brook Dried Up20. Death in the Kitchen21. The Search for the True Church22. Is It a Sin to Be Tempted?23. Is Sunday Really Sacred?24. Heaven ... Is It for Real?25. Rendezvous in Space26. Christ’s Human Nature27. Point of No Return28. The Rich Man and Lazarus For more great resources, visit us at
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