“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 And [a]besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham *said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’” [Lk16:19-31NASB}
The preoccupation of the Christian Church has historically focussed on what happens to the soul/spirit after death. So it may surprise many that there is effectively only one relatively miniscule passage of Scripture in the New Testament that directly refers to an individual’s experience of the afterlife: the story of the rich man and Lazarus. And that is in a pre-Christian context, hence the reference to compartments in Hades rather than heaven and hell as some translations wrongly translate ᾅδῃ . Yet what will be more perplexing to many is the actual content of the story or illustration Jesus provides. For the one stated criterion distinguishing the two men in question was that one had enjoyed a life of ease and comfort whilst the other had been poor and wretched. It can be deduced from verses 27-31 that the rich man was suffering partly because of the way he had utilized his wealth; failing to show care and compassion to the likes of Lazarus. Yet no reason is provided as to why Lazarus should be comforted after his death other than that he had experienced a life of poverty and sickness. What is more, Abraham intimates in the final verse that “Moses and the Prophets”, i.e. our Old Testament provides all the information required for the rich man’s brothers to avoid a similar fate.
Within the confines of a single post I will have to leave some of these imponderables hanging in the air. The matter pertains in part to redistributive justice (earlier post) and the necessity of suffering (or salting) that Lazarus had experienced in life whilst the rich man had not. The latter may shock the reader but it is line with other teaching of Jesus particularly as recorded by Luke, the Apostle James (“weep and howl you rich people”… ch5v1) and Paul, particularly in terms of the need for those who are to reign with Christ to have suffered with Him in the meantime (2Tim2:12). And why should they suffer? – because even their Captain was perfected through suffering (Heb2:10). All is spelt out and presented in a cohesive package in “The Little Book of Providence”, a free PDF of which is available HERE
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Related post: Saved through fire & a related post on Lazarus