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Lazarus and the rich man

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6 months ago

Today we are starting our meditation by reading Matthew 15:21-28 to flesh up what we have been considering under the subject “LAZARUS AND THE RICH MAN”. You will do well if you can go through this meditation several times over; it is my belief that your questions will be all sorted out.

Here, the woman is a woman of Canaan, a gentile. She came beseeching the Lord for a redemptive blessing. The Lord told her that the redemptive blessings rightly belong to the Jews the (house of Israel) to whom he has been sent “To the Jews pertaneth the adoption, the promises and the blessings”. Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). The woman, like all other gentiles was regarded as a dog that had no right to the covenant blessings. It is this same picture we find in Luke l6:19-21. The exalted estate of the Jewish nation is represented in the rich man, whiles the beggarly and pitiable condition of the gentiles is symbolized in Lazarus. Lazarus desired to be fed from the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. That is exactly what that woman of Canaan said in Mathew 15:17.

We are told later that it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died and was buried. The death of the beggar and the rich man is used here to symbolize a change of status. The beggar died to his status and existence as a beggar, and became a new man. Similarly, the rich man died to his status and existence as a rich man, and took on another status.

The words of the Lord in verse l6 give us insight into when this symbolic death (change of status) was introduced. We are told that “the law and the prophets were until John: since that time the Kingdom of God is preached and every man presseth into it”. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. While the Old Testament lasted (during the lifetime of both the rich man and Lazarus), the rich man received the good things of God's blessings and favour while Lazarus received the evil things of God's wrath and displeasure (verse 25). But when the Lord Jesus Christ appeared after John, it was the signal that the old covenant had come to an end and a new covenant is about to be introduced. The life of both the rich man and Lazarus ended with the appearance of Jesus Christ preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. He came to abolish the middle wall of partition between the Jews and the gentiles and to bring as many as will, into the blessings of the Kingdom. He came to cast down the Jewish nation in order to raise up the church (Romans 11:11). Thus, death in relation to Lazarus and the rich man is used in this passage to symbolize a change of status and not physical death. We died with Christ on the cross, and through death with him, we are raised into newness of life (Romans 6:1).

At, the point of death, the beggar (Lazarus), was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom; the rich man died and was buried. Later, the rich man was shown to be in hell. Thus, we are shown two contrasting pictures: Abraham's bosom and bell. Before we explain these two symbolic pictures, let us first note what was said concerning their locations. We arc shown that white in hell, the rich man could see Lazarus in Abraham's bosom and could even discuss with him! Thus, the hell, which the rich man went into, and the place called Abraham's bosom must be very closely situated!

*What Is Abraham’s Bosom?*

Abraham's bosom does not refer to a physical place or a geographical location in Jerusalem or in the visible universe. Bosom is a place of rest, comfort and blessing. For example, the Lord Jesus Christ in the days of his flesh spoke of himself as being in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18). This is because he had a special relationship with God which no other human being enjoyed. He had access to the life, power, grace and glory of God. He was God's beloved Son, in him, God was well pleased. Also, the prophet Isaiah talking about the shepherdic ministry of Christ towards his people said he shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom. Thus, Abraham's bosom describes the blessings and privileges a man comes into by being a seed of Abraham. It describes the blessings and privileges contained in Cod's promise to Abraham and his seed (Genesis 22:15-18).

Abraham's bosom belonged originally to the Jews (being the children of Abraham in the flesh). But, unfaithfulness to God and to the covenant, caused God to take away the Kingdom and the privileges, from them and give it to another (Lazarus - the church), which shall bring forth the fruit thereof (Matthew 21:43). By believing the gospel of the Kingdom, we died with Christ on the cross and are carried by the words of the gospel in the mouth of his servants (the angels) into Abraham's bosom. Galatians 3:29 say “if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise”. The spiritual and higher aspects of the promise God made to Abraham (the privileges of the Abrahamic covenant) is now being fulfilled towards the church. We who were once separated from the commonwealth of Israel, without God and without hope in this world: we who were poor and miserable, have now been reconciled to God, given hope and made rich by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:12; 2Corithians 8:9).

If Abraham’s bosom is not a geographical location as we have explained, then the hell which the rich man descended into is not a geographical location. We have already noted that the word “hell” as used here is the Greek word “haides”. It is not “Gehenna”, thus, contrary to popular belief; the rich man was not carried to the lake of fire. It does not matter whatever dream, vision, or experience any other or we have had (some experiences of men are just mere hallucinations). This scripture never said that the rich was taken to the lake of lire, neither does the scriptures teach that man, “upon death go to the lake of lire”. The word “hell” (haides, in the Greek) is used in this parable to symbolize a condition or great affliction and suffering which the Lord Jesus Christ prophesied, ahead of time, would come upon the Jews, if they continue in their rejection of him (Mathew 11:21-23, Luke 21:6-24). It is not even used to mean the grave.

Of all the nations of the earth, there has been no race that has known as much affliction and tribulation as the Jewish race. When the Jews rejected the Messiah and the message of the Kingdom, the privileges they had with God were taken away from them. Their house was left unto them desolate (Mathew 23:38). Before then, the Lord Jesus Christ had warned them of the judgement that was to coming if they continue in their hard-heartedness. He had told them that even though they were presently exalted to heaven ‘by virtue of the privileges God had given them, they would be brought down to hell (Mathew 11:21-23). But they would not hearken.

It was not too long alter the Lord's resurrection, that the nation was totally overrun by the Roman troops. The temple and what remained of the Old Testament worship was totally destroyed. The Jews fell by the edge of the sword and the remnants were taken captives into all nations of the earth; that captivity remained for almost two thousand years. Since that time, the Jews have suffered from one adversity and tribulation to the other. During the first and second world wars, for example, the race was greatly hunted. So terrible was the holocaust that the leading nations of the earth decided (under (God's influence) immediately after the war, to restore to the Jews the rights of a nation state. Thus, the Jews, as a race, have known real torments in the flames of divine judgement. And all is not yet over.

We are told that while in hell, the rich man lifted up his eyes, being in torments and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus n his bosom. Romans 11:11 say “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy”.  They as natural branches did not appreciate their privileges and the purpose for God granted them such honours.

Hence they were broken off. And the gentiles , who were formerly of a wild olive tree, were grafted in to partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree (Romans 11:17-21). It is that which the Jewish race would have been enjoying today, which they were positioned to enjoy by virtue of their ancestry that the church is now enjoying. And verse 26 of Luke 16 shows that there is a great gulf that has been fixed by the Father’s will and plan and there is no amount of jealousy can diver God’s purpose. No amount of religious fervor and appeal to the Abrahamic covenant can bridge the gulf. Blindness must remain upon Israel until the fullness of the gentiles be come in (Romans 11:25). Only then will the gulf be removed.

The gulf ensures that no man can cross any longer into the privileges of old covenant. Hitherto, gentiles who wanted the God of Israel to be their God would associate themselves with the old covenant becoming proselytes that had become meaningless. Similarly, no Jew can share in the privileges of' the new covenant while maintaining the previous status of a Jew. He must forsake e all that he has, all that were gain to him under that covenant, if he must have a part in Christ. Paul says, “if we. preach circumcision, then is Christ of no profit to us” (Galatians 5:2).

Finally, in verse 27 through 31, we are shown that no amount of evangelistic efforts towards the Jews can bring salvation to them as a nation, in this age (until the purposes of God are accomplished). Of course, evangelistic efforts from the church (Lazarus) testifying of the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead, may lead in the salvation of some individual Jews (the five brethren can be understood as symbolizing those among the Jews whom grace shall appoint to salvation in this age. Five as a symbolic number is commonly associated with grace). But, the nation as a race (the rich man) must remain in blindness and darkness (torment) until the fullness of the gentiles be come in.

In the closing part of the parable, we are shown that which brought blindness upon the Jews. They did not hear Moses and the prophets. They were unfaithful to God under the old covenant. If they had been faithful and had opened their hearts to the words of Moses and the prophets (the Old Testament writings), they would have been able to recognise Jesus as the Messiah and receive him as Lord and Saviour.

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