“The Rich Man and Lazarus” may be the parable that’s not a parable. Oh, it’s one of the Lord’s stories. It has great symbolism and a rich lesson, but it may have been a true story – not just a parable. If it’s a parable, then it’s the only time that Jesus gave a character in one of His parables a personal name. Why does He call the poor guy Lazarus? Maybe Jesus knew a beggar named Lazarus. We can’t be sure. If you ask me, I would say that it is absolutely, undeniably, positively either a parable or a true story! Definitely! You agree?
Either way, “The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus” reveals astounding truth!
Notice the two lives. Like night and day! The rich man dressed like a king in hand tailored, fine linen... He and his many guests enjoyed filet-minion and imported lobster ... no ramen noodles or macaroni and cheese for this guy! He was ridiculously rich!
That’s one life. The other was Lazarus. Dressed in rags. Crippled. Covered with oozing sores. A beggar. Harassed by dogs. He could smell the surf and turf from the gutter, just outside the rich guy’s locked gates. He dreamed of going to sleep at night with something in his hungry belly... anything!
One man rich. One man poor.
Both men died.
Lazarus was escorted by magnificent angels into the opulent throne room of Almighty God. There he was seated in the front row, right beside the father of the faithful, the one-and-only Abraham. I wonder if David, Elijah, and Daniel were right there too.
The other man, the rich man, was buried. It might’ve been a memorable cemetery send-off, twenty-one guns and all, but at the end of that day, they left his lifeless body in a hole-in-the-ground. And his soul... his soul wasn’t ushered into glory, it was driven to Hades, the place of never-ending death ... eternal torment.
There in that dark and dreadful place, the man who had once feasted in luxury, “lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame’ ” (Luke 16:23-24, ESV).
Abraham responded to the rich man’s cry. “You jerk... you deserve it!” (Ok. Maybe not... I made that up.)
He said, “Remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” (Luke 16:25-26, ESV).
Two lives. Two deaths. Two eternal, unending, everlasting destinies.
The Sinless Son of God came to save sinners ... like the rich man, and like the beggar... and like me and you! The rich man didn’t go to hell because he was rich. The poor man didn’t go to heaven because he was poor. The poor man trusted in God’s grace. The rich man rejected it!
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:16-18, ESV).
Jesus came to save us from eternal death, everlasting torment and torture, unceasing regret and shame. Hell is real! Real! Forever!
And on a happier note, Jesus came to invite the redeemed to His home ... to our eternal home. He will lavish His great love upon His children! There, in Glory, we will live in luxury and extravagance... forever.
I wonder... maybe ... one sunny day in the sweet-by-and-by, on the golden streets of glory, or maybe on the banks of the River of Life, I’ll run into the richest of men ... a man named Lazarus.