One of the most sobering passages in the Bible is contained in Luke 16:19-31. Many claim it is a parable but is it? By naming Lazarus personally, Jesus does not seem to be giving a parable. If it is a parable, it still has the same meaning. Jesus always took a well-known truth to teach any of His lessons. He never discussed impossibilities in His parables but rather possibilities.
There are many great truths taught here and several false doctrines refuted. The doctrine of universal salvation is shown to be wrong. The fact that one was saved and one was lost clearly shows that not all people will he saved. (Matt. 7:13, 14, 21-23.) The false theory of materialism is exposed. The rich man’s ability to remember, cry, talk, lift up his eyes, thirst and be tormented plainly teaches he existed consciously after this physical death. (2 Cor. 12: 1-3 ff; 1 Cor 2:11; Matt. 10:28; Eccl. 12:7.) The Bible teaches that man has a spirit as well as a body.
Those who teach that the lost will have a second chance to be saved are clearly in conflict with Jesus. If there would be a second chance for the rich man, could Abraham have been so cruel as to not even mention it? Such hope would have been much more comforting than the mere drop of water requested for the parched tongue. Why have the warnings of the judgment to come if all will have a chance to repent in the here after?
The kindred Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is fully destroyed by the “great gulf fixed.” The silence of the Scriptures concerning Purgatory should be enough for the thinking person to know it is a vain doctrine of men. Notice that the great gulf cannot be crossed either way, except by vision. This warns that man’s destiny is “fixed” and all the money and praying that all the earth could offer will not change it.
Many people are like the Jews. (1 Cor 1:22.) They want a “sign” or a “direct operation” of God’s Spirit to move them or the ones they are trying to convert. The fact that God would not perform a miracle by sending Lazarus from the dead to warn the rich man’s five brothers shows that He will not perform a miracle in any sense to convert unbelievers of that day or today. The brothers lived while Moses’ law was still in force and could hear it. (Verse 29.) Abraham reveals a truth that all need to learn. If people will not believe God’s word, they will not believe God’s miracles. We do not need miracles to convert people today. The gospel is the Lord’s power to save men and they must hear it. (Rom. 1:16 ff; 10:13-17; Jam. 1: 18, 21; 1 Pet. 1:22-23.)
There are many people who thoughtlessly say, “If my loved ones are lost, I want to be with them” or “If I go to hell, I’ll have plenty of company.” The rich man’s company in hell did not relieve any of his terrible pain. He certainly did not want any of his loved ones to come to “this place of torment.” My loved ones who are in hell do not want me to come there.
There are several things in hell that are needed in the church. The rich man cried. Tears are not shed often enough by Christians for the cause of Christ. The lost man saw a great need to teach the lost on earth. He was very humble and prayed fervently. This man teaches how foolish it is to trust in riches and the comforts of this life and how awful it is to be lost forever. The church needs to learn these lessons this side of hell. No doubt the rich man would give all he ever possessed and much more to have the chance to be faithful to God and walk on earth as we do today. He would no doubt make a fine preacher. If we do not live close to God, one day in hell we will wish we had. This should cause us to forgive those who sin against us, go to our brethren and correct any wrongs which we have committed, and do all things that we can and should before death. Could it be possible that some in hell have a greater desire to see the lost on earth saved than some preachers or Christians alive here on earth?
The picture in this passage is not all sad. Lazarus was faithful and was “carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom” to rest in joy until Christ comes. The fact that the five brothers could hear Moses shows that all may be saved. Jesus died for all and all should be saved. There is no good reason why any must be lost. God should not be blamed for the punishment of the lost nor should those who warn them.
Jesus teaches us many great lessons here that should never be forgotten and should be taught to all men as His warning from hell. Many other individuals in hell could have been discussed and permitted to teach us but the Lord knew that one is enough to cause the sincere to think properly. A book could not hold all of the messages that those in torment would love to declare. We have this one account which still begs to send its message from hell to your ears. Who has ears to hear, let them hear and obey the gospel, and continue in the doctrine of Christ and his apostles (Matt 11:15 ff; Mk 16:16; Jn 8:31; 2 Jn 9). Hell is too hot, too painful, and last too long to do otherwise!