“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
In today’s passage we see Jesus tell a story about a rich man and a poor man, whose name is Lazarus. In this story Jesus compares and contrasts the way these two men lived and how the way they lived affected how they spent eternity after they died.
The rich man’s life was consumed in self-centered living. He made the wrong choice and suffered for it eternally. Lazarus lived all his life in poverty, but his heart was right with God, and Lazarus’ name means “God is my help” and he never gives up his faith in God. He died and was immediately taken to paradise.
Paradise and “Abraham’s side” refer to the place of spiritual rest and delight where those who die in a right relationship with God enter his presence and await the resurrection and the fulfillment of God’s plan. The word translated as “hell,” “hades” in Greek, refers to the place where the wicked dead go to await final judgement. Although hades involves the type of torment described in other passages that refer to hell, it should not be confused with the Greek “gehenna.” “Gehenna” is the term that actually refers to hell as the place of eternal torment and punishment, originally prepared for the devil and his demonic followers, but also reserved for the ungodly. The location and proximity of paradise and hades as described in this passage are unclear; it simply points to a permanent separation. Some view Jesus’ description here of the location (not the condition) of “Abraham’s Side” and “hades” in a less literal way. The main point is that the destinies of both men were irreversible at death.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
Joshua 11-12, Luke 17:11-37, Psalm 84:1-12 and Proverbs 13:5-6