There is a common idea in the world that man at death enters immediately into his eternal destiny. We want to study this in light of divine truth. Also we shall show that there is no such thing as spirits of the departed returning to warn others, and that there are no direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men.
Why should this impressive record of facts be called a parable? What is there in the narrative to indicate that it is a parable? If the history of the Rich man and Lazarus be a parable, what does it teach? When one calls it a parable, he speaks not as the oracles of God.
Here, there was a certain rich man, and there was a certain beggar. One clothed in purple and fine linen, and the other was laid at his gate full of sores. The first fared sumptuously, while the second desired crumbs from his table. The first was surrounded by the worldly great, while the second had only dogs as his companions. How truth to life! Shall we call a concrete example a parable?
Hereafter, the beggar died. The Rich man died and was buried. The Beggar was carried to Abraham’s bosom. The Rich was tormented and the Beggar was comforted.
One Who Knows
God does not look on the outer man. He looks within at the heart of man. The fact that one is rich or poor does determine his eternal destiny. God sees beneath fine linen, as well as rags. How what a contrast! The Rich man cries for Lazarus to dip his finger in water and touch his tongue. He is tormented.
Character determines destiny. How dangerous to trust riches. It is just as fatal to think that poverty is a passport to heaven.
Where are They?
They are in Hades, the intermediate state of souls. They are in the spirit land where all the departed are and will remain until the resurrection. They have eyes, and can see. They have tongues, and can talk. There they have spiritual bodies.
It was hades where the Saviour went while His body was in the tomb. “He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell (hades), neither his flesh did see corruption” (Acts 2:31), and went the thief on the cross, “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
The two men were comforted and tormented. How could Lazarus and the Rich Man both be in the same place, one tormented and the one comforted? Let us remember that it is what we are, not where we are that determines our happiness or misery. Misery and happiness come from within. Two men came in a beautiful garden, and one was happy and the other was miserable. Paul and Silas could sing praise to God in prison.
Memory lives. Abraham told the Rich Man, “Son, remember” (Luke 16:25), on earth you received good things, and Lazarus received the bad. Remember the mouths you did not feed, remember the naked whom you did not clothe, remember the orphans and widows you ignored? In our days, souls will be lost because we did not carry the Gospel to them. All were remember. No wonder that he was tormented. Oh, cruel memory! How different the memory of these: “I was hungry and ye fed me, naked and ye clothed…” Such memories will bring comfort in the spirit land.
Abraham told the Rich Man that, “…beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence” (Luke 16:26). Not a gulf measured by feet, yards, or miles, but a moral separation. It was too late to cross the gulf. The die was cast, and the balance was made out. It is a delusion to think of another chance after death.
The Rich Man decided to become a “missionary.” He realized that his brethren were not following God. “For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment” (Luke 16:28). Here, misery does not love company. Abraham’s reply: “They have Moses and the prophets” (Luke 16:29). They were living under the Law of Moses. Let them heed it. God will not change for the whims of men, rich or poor.
Finally, the Rich Man pleaded for a direct spiritual operation. The answer: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). How appropriate by the words of Hebrews 2:2-3:
For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him.
The Gospel is God’s only power to save man. Once rejected, God has no power to call men to Him (Rom 1:16).