This article could and perhaps should have been entitled: When Christians Die, Do They Instantly “Go To Be With The Lord"? - Part 3, but that, to some degree, would be missing the point. The question of whether this passage of Holy Scripture proves or does not prove that we “go to be with The Lord" when we die is really only a side issue. The Lord Jesus Christ's intended theme and Spiritual thrust of this story has a different purpose altogether. Needless to say this theme is totally missed by the Bible ‘experts’. Moreover, this parable is so well known and much discussed it had to be used as the title of this article. Notice, too, that I have deliberately referred to this passage of Holy Scripture as a Parable.
Calling it a parable will upset many mainstream Christians because it is one of their ‘golden nugget’ sections of the New Testament used to support their mistaken ideas that they 1) instantaneously “Go to be with the Lord" when they die, and 2) go straight to heaven when they die. Unfortunately for them the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is just that - a parable, and not a factual literal description of what happens when we die. It's a Spiritual analogy as are all of The Lord Jesus Christ's parables.
Apart from what I have stated above, what other errors are taught by Bible ‘experts’ on this passage of Holy Scripture? In fact, the questions here are not so much what is this parable about but, rather, what it is not about. Some commentators ‘teach’ that it is all about Jews and Gentiles and nothing else. Others ‘teach’ that it is all about how the wealthy cannot inherit the Kingdom of God and how one has to be sick and poor in order to do so. Then there are those who say that there is nothing to suggest that either of these men are Godly men and that both are lost and unsaved - all of it misguided error and nonsense! Now, in order to proceed, we need the Holy Scriptures so I have copied them here:
Luke 16:19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And 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; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
So how do we know this story is a parable? Easy, the opening verse tells us straight away, because The Lord makes special reference to the colour of the rich man's robes - purple. Now this may seem, at first glance, all very trivial and insignificant but nothing could be further from The Truth. Purple raiment is always synonymous with God, royalty and the priesthood:
Exodus 26:1 Moreover thou shalt make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work shalt thou make them.
Numbers 4:13 And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon:
John 19:5 Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man!
Revelation 17:4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
In these four Scriptures we can see various connotations associated with purple cloth but they all have three things in common: God, Royalty and the Priesthood including the counterfeit priesthood in Revelation 17. So this rich man, dressed in fine purple linen, is supposed to be a priest or be a representative of the priesthood. This parable is another of those parables that The Lord Jesus Christ frequently used in order to attack the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders. All dressed up for the part - whited sepulchres, but all hollow and empty within - substanceless or Spiritually dead. Notice, too, this man lived it up everyday; well he was loaded with money and therefore a lover of filthy lucre, so why not, eat, drink and be merry etc.
Next we have poor Lazarus who represents all those who are desirous and hungry, nay starving, for lack of Spiritual food, for lack of even just a few crumbs of Spiritual Truth or the Word of God - Jesus Christ and His glorious message; The Good News of Grace, Salvation and The Kingdom of God. On top of that poor Lazarus’ malnourished Spiritual condition is compounded by the trials of this life - his sores. As a Spiritual babe he is even tormented and spiritually attacked by dogs or spiritual prostitutes - or those of the circumcision, as in Galatians - legalists or grace killers. In Strong's Concordance the Old Testament definition for ‘dogs’ is male prostitutes.
Have you yet noticed the picture that is developing here - no man, unless he is being drawn to The Son by The Father, can be desirous for Spiritual food so this means Lazarus represents those The Father is calling? Notice too how we have purple garments and spiritual prostitution in association - one with the other.
The next thing we must understand is that The Lord Jesus Christ, on numerous occasions said The Kingdom of God is at hand. What did He mean by that turn of phrase? Quite simply He was referring to a time in the near future or the time directly after His death and resurrection when Salvation would be made available to all those The Father would be calling and choosing through hearing the Apostles’ preaching. Now keeping this Truth in mind we now continue with the parable and next we have the death of Lazarus, here called a beggar, which means he is hungering and thirsting after righteousness - justice and justification: Matt 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Notice here too, that Lazarus is desirous to be fed the Spiritual scraps that fall from this purple clothed minister's table. Ok, so now we have Lazarus crying out for The Word of God - salvation and righteousness (justice and justification), but what happens? He dies, but what kind of death is The Lord Jesus Christ referring to here - a physical death? No, and this is where mainstream Christian ‘teachers’ in their delusional blindness go seriously wrong.
Lazarus’ death here is the watery death of baptism - the old Lazarus dies and then what happens - he is lifted up by the angels into Abraham's bosom and his name is written in the Book of Life. This means he is lifted up a new man - born again into Abraham's bosom. How does that work? Who and what does Abraham represent? Easy, faith and the faithful - he is the elder of the faithful and the man that the men dressed in purple fine linen thought they were descended from and were supposed to represent - the Spirit of The Law not the letter of The Law. Don't forget too, this message is being delivered by The Lord Jesus Christ under the Old Covenant and Abraham's Bosom is a forerunner or type of the Kingdom of God to be ruled by The Lord Jesus Christ. Please note, Lazarus’ physical death, as with all those who are Born Again, has no hold over him as his place in the Kingdom of God at The Lord Jesus Christ's return is assured.
1 Cor 15:36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: Col 2:12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith (Abraham's Bosom) of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (Brackets mine)
Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Lazarus is comforted in Abraham's bosom and in the not too distant future, after The Lord's death and resurrection those called and chosen would also be comforted. Comforted by whom, why, by The Lord Jesus Christ of course? This proves that The Lord is using Abraham's bosom here as a type for Himself and His Kingdom
In part two I will explain the meanings or representations of the tormented sufferings or ordeals of the rich man.