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The Rich Man and Lazarus
Part 5

But Abraham said, Child, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Luke 16:25.

We have every right to question why Abraham said this. Was he wasting words on such a solemn occasion? Why did he remind the rich man of something that had no relationship to his suffering? Why did he refer to something that had no bearing upon the bliss of Lazarus? The problem of why he said what he did is a major one, but it all becomes even more puzzling when we realize that these words were spoken by one who in his lifetime had been very rich (Genesis 13:2), and whose life had been filled with good things, even including personal dealings with God. Does it not seem absurd for a man whose life has been filled with good things to answer a man�s request for a few drops of water by reminding him that he had received his good things during his lifetime. If the rich man was to be reminded of the good things he had enjoyed, Abraham was the last one who should have assumed the task.

The rich man�s plea was refused on two grounds. The ground of previous good things and the ground of impossibility. Abraham points out that in addition to the fact that he had received good things, a vast chasm exists between them, "put there in order that those who desire to cross from this side to you may not be able nor any be able to cross from your side to us."

After this refusal the rich man entered a plea to Abraham that Lazarus should be sent to his father's house to testify to his five brothers lest they should come into this place of torment. Abraham answered this by telling the rich man that his five brothers had Moses and the prophets, that is, the Old Testament, and that they should hear them. The rich man objects that this is not sufficient, they require more than this; that they will believe if one return from the dead. Abraham answered that if they would not hear Moses and the prophets, they would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead. And so ends the story.

No Portrayal of God or Christ

The story of the rich man and Lazarus is a familiar story. When it is referred to, the average Christian has some knowledge of it. It would be well if each one would ask himself just how this knowledge was gained. Did it come from prolonged meditation upon this passage? Or was this knowledge gained from sermons that were heard? It is often true that we are quite ignorant things with which we are quite familiar. We are inclined to form certain conceptions which afterwards are superimposed upon that which we may be observing or reading.

The statements that have been made so far in this study will probably open the eyes of many for the first time as to the real character of the story of the rich man and Lazarus. They have long imposed their own conceptions upon it and read their own ideas into it.

They vision it as presenting a great picture of God and Christ, of the home of the redeemed and the abode of the damned, of heaven and hell, of a great sinner and a great saint, of the great sinner in torment because of a life of evil, and the great saint in heaven because of a life of righteousness.

This is the picture which many seem to have pasted on their eyeglasses, and they put these on their eyes each time they read or speak upon this portion. But this picture is not in this story. It contains no hint of God, and there is no one in it who represents God. It contains no word concerning Christ or the work of Christ. No one in the story stands for or represents Christ. There is no sinner in it and there is no great saint. There is nothing in it that sets forth redemption or salvation, and no teaching as to how a man can be justified in the sight of God. The only doctrine it contains in regard to the cause of the rich man's torment or the poor man's bliss is repugnant to every revelation of God's righteous dealings with mankind. It sets forth Abraham, himself a rich man, giving an irrelevant and meaningless answer to the rich man as he attributes his sufferings to be the result of a life of good things, of which Abraham's own life was parallel.

These are the problems and difficulties that arise from prolonged meditation upon, and penetrating study of this passage. They demand that we discover some understanding of this portion so that they no longer exist. It is imperative that we discover the true character of this story and the real purpose of Christ in telling it. When we do, all difficulties and problems will vanish and this portion will shine forth with all the glory that God has given to His Word. This is the task that is now before us.

What is the Bible?

The Bible is the Word of God. I accept without question and fully believe in its plenary and verbal inspiration. I take second place to no man when it comes to believing that the Bible is God's inspired Word. The more than forty years I have given to assiduously searching its pages permits me to speak with some authority in regard to its character. This Book is God's thoughts reduced to writing.

When thought is reduced to writing it becomes literature. Therefore, the Bible is literature-literature in its highest and best form. It must always be treated as a literary production. Those who ignore this are either ignorant, or else they desire this to be a book that can be made to say what they desire it to say. That the Bible is literature can be seen from this simple illustration.

If one should visit the largest library in the world! there would be thousands of volumes in many languages. Yet, there are only eight kinds of words in all these books. Even so it is with the Bible. Every word in it is a noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, or interjection. These words are arranged in sentences according to established rules. This is called syntax. Every sentence has a subject and a predicate. In other words, the Bible says something. In doing so it uses the means of communication that are common to man.