“Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and his soul went to the place of the dead. There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.
The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’
But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish.And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’
Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’
But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’
The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.'”
Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even if someone rises from the dead.'”Luke 16:22-31
There were a number of questions sent, when I asked my readers for the questions that stirred in your mind, when you read the Lazarus and the rich man story. What is interesting, is that they expose some of the thoughts that we have about the afterlife; the sayings and the beliefs that we hold, related to the heaven and hell and the after-life.
- Is the after-death life layered in some way?
- Will the holiest person be seated at the top of it?
- Are there levels of heaven?
- Is the point of this parable that things will be turned around for us in the after-life? So the poor will be rich and the rich will be poor?
- Will there be a test to get into heaven?
- Will there be questions to answer before you can enter?
- What’s the “waiting place”? Is that what this is in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man?
- Will we have another chance after we die?
- Is there a waiting room in heaven?
- What is purgatory? Does it exist?
- What about our riches this side of death and our riches in the after-life? Is there any correlation?
- Is the meaning of this as some think: if you have a hard life now, don’t worry it will all turn out well for you in heaven?
- If life has been unfair to you and you have got “the rough end of the stick”, then don’t worry, be happy. Soon you will get the smooth end of the stick.”
Just wait until heaven and all the wrongs will be reversed. The sense of this thinking seems to suggest that those who were bad in life and made it hard for others by their attitude and behaviour, will “get their day”. Justice will come. All things come to he who waits. Our culture has these sayings indicating that wrongs will be righted.
Jesus comment in the story, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish.”
The idea that those who had money in life must be paupers in the afterlife seems abhorrent. Many don’t like to accept the idea of punishment at all in the afterlife. So great lengths are taken to explain this story away, to allegorize it, or find other ways to get around the idea of punishment in the afterlife. “Pearly gate” stories or jokes abound which pick up on the stereo types we have of heaven and how to get there, or the fate of certain sorts of people, professions or racial groups, and predict the end state of such people. Here are some of my favourite examples:
Recently a teacher, a garbage collector, and a lawyer wound up together at the Pearly Gates. The archangel Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question. Peter addressed the teacher and asked, “What was the name of the ship that crashed into the iceberg?” The teacher answered quickly, “The Titanic.” Peter let him through the gate. St. Peter turned to the garbage man and, figuring Heaven didn’t *really* need all the odors that this guy would bring with him, decided to make the question a little harder: “How many people died on the ship?” Fortunately for him, the garbage man had just seen the movie. “1,228,” he answered. “That’s right! You may enter.” Peter turned to the lawyer. “Name them.”
A man died and went to heaven. He was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter who led him down the golden streets. They passed mansions after beautiful mansions, until they came to the end of the street where they stopped in front of a shack. The man asked St. Peter why he got a hut when there were so many mansions he could live in. St. Peter replied, “I did the best with the money you sent us.”
A guy named Joe died and found himself standing in front of the pearly gates.
Peter: “Joe, if you can answer one question, I’ll let you into heaven.” Joe: “sounds easy enough.”
Peter: “What is God’s personal name?” Joe: “Oh, that’s easy: Andy!”
Peter: “Andy?” Joe: “Yeah, it’s in that hymn ‘Andy walks with me, Andy talks with me.’”
Is our entry into heaven or our status there, based on some secret knowledge of God that we must know?
Some of the underlying assumptions or beliefs in our culture are often expressed in jokes. That doesn’t make them real or true and certainly not the reality of Scripture.
- What do you think this ‘Parable’ is teaching?
- What is Jesus point?
- What are the principles or warnings that come through for us to pick up on?
- What was Jesus doing in saying what He did?
- What is the point of this “parable”?
- What’s this “parable” about?
- Is this really descriptive of what heaven is like?
You take the time to sift through the Lazarus story to determine what you think God is telling you about the criteria for the afterlife. I warn you there is much debate about this passage because there are some surprising elements included which don’t really match the rest of Scripture. It confuses some, leaves others wondering what is going on here and then of course gives the weird and wacky a platform to launch their way out thoughts.
I will discuss some of the stereo-typical thinking and ideas we have in the context of this parable in the next Gem then go on to look at the second half of the parable.
Despite sentimental testimonies, what people really need today is a Grown-Up vision of Heaven.Rick Warren
If worship bores you, you are not ready for heaven.A.W. Tozer
Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.Vince Havner
God’s dream isn’t just to get you into heaven, but heaven into you.Max Lucado
Earth’s crammed with heaven… But only he who sees, takes off his shoes.Elizabeth Barrett Browning