The parable of Lazarus and
the rich man has been the foundation for many of the erroneous
beliefs about "hell" within traditional Christianity. Some have
viewed it not as a parable, but as a true story Christ told to give
details about the punishment of sinners in hell. Yet a thorough,
unbiased examination of this story will show that the generally
accepted interpretations of this passage of Scripture are
fallacious and misleading. In this article, we will go through the
parable verse by verse to determine what Christ was truly
Those who insist that this
is not a parable, but a true, literal story Christ told to describe
the condition of the lost in hell must overlook several facts to
arrive at that conclusion. First, Yeshua the Messiah never accuses
the rich man of any sin. He is simply portrayed as a wealthy man
who lived the good life. Furthermore, Lazarus is never proclaimed
to be a righteous man. He is just one who had the misfortune to be
poor and unable to care for himself. If this story is literal, then
the logical implication is that all the rich are destined to burn
in hell, while all the homeless and destitute will be saved. Does
anyone believe this to be the case?
If hell is truly as it is
pictured in this story, then the saved will be able to view the
lost who are burning there. Could anyone enjoy eternal existence if
they were able to see lost friends, family, and acquaintances being
incinerated in hell, yet never burning up? Additionally, if hell
(as it is traditionally taught) is an abyss of fire and brimstone
where sinners are tormented forever, does anyone really believe
that one drop of water would relieve the pain and anguish of
someone suffering in its flames?
These are just some of the
difficulties we encounter when we try to make the account of
Lazarus and the rich man literal, instead of realizing that it is a
parable. If it is a true story, then all of the things
Christ said must be factual. If all the points of the story are not
literal, then we must view this tale as an analogy Jesus used to
teach larger spiritual truths.
Most people think that the
Messiah spoke in parables to make the meaning clearer for the
uneducated people he was teaching. Reflecting this belief, an
appendix to the NKJV says that "Jesus' reputation as
a great teacher spread far and wide. And no wonder. He taught in
parables, simple stories, that made His lessons clear to all who
were ready to learn" ("Man for All Times," p. 1870). Yet Christ
said his purpose for speaking to the people in parables was exactly
the opposite of the explanation cited above.
MATTHEW 13:1 On the same
day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great
multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a
boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. 3 Then He
spoke many things to them in parables . . . 10 And
the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in
parables?" 11 He answered and said to them, "Because it has been
given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven,
but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to
him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever
does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13
Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do
not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you
will see and not perceive; 15 for the hearts of this people have
grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they
have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with
their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
so that I should heal them.'" (NKJV)
As this passage and the
parallel Scripture in Mark 4 clearly state, Yeshua spoke to the
people in parables to hide the spiritual meaning of what he
was saying. He only intended for his disciples to understand what
the parables truly meant. It is no wonder, then, that so many have
misunderstood what Christ was teaching with the parable of Lazarus
and the rich man.
Let's start by getting
some background information on the situation in which Christ told
this parable. Luke tells us that all the tax collectors and sinners
were coming to Christ to hear what he had to say (Luke 15:1). This
made the Pharisees and scribes jealous and they complained,
vehemently criticizing Yeshua for receiving sinners and eating with
them (Luke 15:2). They were probably envious of Christ's growing
fame, afraid that his popularity would diminish their own authority
So the Messiah first spoke
a three-part parable (the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the
prodigal son) to those gathered around him. This parable was
designed to show the tax collectors and sinners (as well as the
Pharisees) that God was concerned for them and that He would seek
out the lost and welcome them into His family when they repented
and turned back to Him.
accusing Pharisees and scribes, who Christ acknowledged as the
legitimate religious teachers of the Jews (Matt. 23:1-3), should
have been the ones telling these people of God's love for them.
They should have been the ones teaching these sinners, exhorting
them to return to God and receive His love and forgiveness.
However, because of their faith in their own righteousness and
their contempt for these tax collectors and sinners who didn't
measure up to their standards, the Pharisees and scribes excluded
them and considered them accursed (John 7:49).
primarily to his disciples but with the Pharisees (and probably the
crowd) still listening in, Christ related the parable of the unjust
steward (Luke 16:1-13). The Pharisees, who were "lovers of money"
(Luke 16:14), realized that the Messiah was alluding to them with
this parable and took offense. They scoffed at Jesus. The final
part of Christ's response to the derision of the Pharisees and
scribes was the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
We'll now examine this
parable in detail to grasp exactly what the Messiah was teaching
about the Kingdom of God.
LUKE 16:19 "There was a
certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared
sumptuously every day." (NKJV)
We begin by scrutinizing
the description Christ gives us of the rich man. First, he tells us
that this man is clothed in purple and fine linen. This type of
clothing would not have been out of the ordinary for one of
considerable wealth during this time period. However, this raiment
also has symbolic meaning. The Eerdmans Bible
Dictionary says: "The wearing of purple was associated
particularly with royalty . . ." ("Purple," p. 863).
In addition, the New Bible Dictionary tells us: "The
use of linen in OT times was prescribed for priests (Ex. 28:39).
The coat, turban and girdle must be of fine linen." ("Linen," p.
So we see that the
garments worn by this rich man were symbolic of royalty and the
priesthood. With that in mind, let's see what God told Moses just
before giving the Israelites the Law on Mount Sinai.
EXODUS 19:6 And ye shall
be to me a royal priesthood and a holy nation: these
words shalt thou speak to the children of Israel. (Brenton's
The clothing of the rich
man identifies him symbolically with the people of Israel, who God
chose to be a special people. They were called to be a witness to
the nations surrounding them, confirming the blessings available to
those who would obey God and keep His laws. Unfortunately, only
infrequently did they live up to the high calling given to them by
the Eternal. Eventually He had to send them into captivity for
their refusal to honor their part of the covenant ratified at Mount
Sinai. At the time of Christ, only the remnant of the house of
Judah which had returned from the Babylonian captivity continued to
have a covenant relationship with God. The rich man in this parable
represents the Jews of Jesus' day, exemplified by the religious
teachers, the Pharisees and scribes.
Verse 19 also tells us
that the rich man "fared sumptuously every day." Figuratively, this
represents the magnificent spriritual feast available only to the
Jews, who were the sole remaining part of God's called people
Israel. In the first century A.D., they were the only people on
earth who had the true religion. Indeed, Paul recounts the glorious
station of the house of Judah in Romans 9:3-5.
ROMANS 9:3 For I could
wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the
sake of my brethren, my kinsmen by race. 4 They are Israelites, and
to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of
the law, the worship, and the promises; 5 to them belong the
patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the
Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.
The Jews were truly rich,
feasting on God's spiritual blessings. Yet these very gifts caused
them to stumble because they prompted them to self-righteousness.
They gloried in the gifts, without glorifying the Eternal God who
gave them. Instead of being a "royal priesthood" that was a
blessing to all nations, they instead loathed and despised the
surrounding Gentile peoples. Certainly, as Paul wrote, "their table
become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for
them" (Rom. 11:9).
LUKE 16:20 "But there was
a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his
gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the
rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores."
In contrast to the rich
man, we now see Lazarus. The first thing to note is that he is
depicted as a beggar. This is an apt description of the Gentiles
who "laid at the gate" of Judah. Paul describes the predicament of
the Gentiles before they received Christ in Ephesians 2:12.
EPHESIANS 2:12 Remember
that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from
the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of
promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
This Scripture is also a
fitting representation of the position of the Gentile nations
before the Messiah's sacrifice for the world's sins. They were
certainly "excluded from the commonwealth of Israel," "strangers to
the covenants of promise," and "without hope and without God in the
world." The Gentiles were beggars, located outside Judah and
longing to be fed spiritual crumbs from the table of the divinely
Additionally, we are told
that dogs came and consoled Lazarus in his misery, licking his
sores. The Jews considered the surrounding Gentiles to be unclean
"dogs." Even Christ himself used this unflattering comparison when
he conversed with the Greek Syrophoenician woman while in the
region of Tyre (Mark 7:24-30).
Also important to the
story is the meaning of the name Lazarus. This Greek name is a form
of the Hebrew Eleazer, and it literally means "he
whom God helps." The use of this particular name is very
significant to the message of the parable, for the Gentiles would
indeed become "those whom God helped" through the sacrifice of His
LUKE 16:22 "So it was that
the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom.
The rich man also died and was buried." (NKJV)
The next events recorded
in this parable are the deaths of Lazarus and then the rich man.
Since the parable has been figurative up until this point, there is
no reason to assume it becomes literal now.
First, to prove that this
language is symbolic and not meant to be taken literally, let's
examine exactly what we are told by Christ. He says that
first, Lazarus dies and is taken to the bosom of Abraham.
Notice, there is no mention of his burial here. Then later
the rich man dies, and he is buried (in Hades, according to verse
23). So the time sequence given indicates that upon his death,
Lazarus was taken immediately to Abraham's bosom, while afterward
the rich man was buried in Hades after his death.
If this story is literal,
then we have a contradiction in the Bible. Here, Lazarus is shown
to have immediately received the promise of eternal life. Yet the
author of Hebrews clearly tells us that Abraham, as well as all the
other Old Testament saints, have not yet received the promises
given to them by God.
HEBREWS 11:13 All these
[Abraham, Noah, Abel, etc.] died in faith, without receiving the
promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a
distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles
on the earth. . . . 39 And all these [including
Abraham], having gained approval through their faith, did not
receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided
something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be
made perfect. (NASB)
The great men and women of
faith listed in Hebrews 11 have not yet been made perfect
and given eternal life. They, along with all the saints of God from
every age, are currently sleeping in their graves (Job 3:11-19;
Psa. 6:5; 115:17; Ecc. 9:5, 10; I Cor. 15:20; Isa. 57:1-2; Dan.
12:2; Acts 2:29, 34; 13:36). These saints are awaiting the first
resurrection, which will take place when Yeshua the Messiah returns
at the sounding of the seventh trumpet (Matt. 24:30-31; I Cor.
15:51-52; I The. 4:16; Rev. 11:15-18).
Clearly, there is no way
to reconcile the numerous Scriptures listed above with a literal
understanding of the story of Lazarus and the rich man. What, then,
does the death of these two men represent?
The deaths of both the
rich man (who represented the Jews) and Lazarus (who represented
the Gentile nations) are symbolic in this parable. Here, their
demise depicts an elemental change in the status and position of
the two groups.
To confirm this, let's
look at the meaning of Lazarus being "carried to Abraham's bosom."
The figurative meaning of being in one's bosom is to be in a
position of closeness, to be highly regarded. This symbolism is
indicated by the ancient practice of having guests at a feast
recline on the chest of their neighbors. The place of highest honor
would therefore belong to the one seated next to the host, calling
to mind the example of John at the Last Supper (John 13:23). Paul
explains this imagery in Galatians 3:6-9 by telling us how the
Gentiles could be in this place of highest honor.
3:6 . . . Abraham "believed God, and it was
accounted to him for righteousness." 7 Therefore know that only
those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the
Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by
faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In
you all the nations shall be blessed." 9 So then those who are of
faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
As the passage above (as
well as the fourth and ninth chapters of Romans) shows, Gentile
believers become "sons of Abraham" through faith in Christ. This
faith allows Gentiles to no longer be "strangers and foreigners,
but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of
God" (Eph. 2:19). For centuries the Jews had received the benefits
of being God's chosen people by virtue of being Abraham's physical
descendants. But after the sacrifice of Christ, this place of honor
and blessing would be given to the people represented by Lazarus.
This is the meaning of being "carried to the bosom of Abraham" in
In contrast to Lazarus,
the rich man was buried in Hades. An understanding of the
original meaning of the Greek word hades is necessary
to grasp the message of the parable. Regarding the possible
etymology of this word, the The New International Dictionary
of New Testament Theology states that hades
". . . comes from idein (to see) with the
negative prefix, a-, and so would mean the
invisible . . . In the LXX hades occurs more
than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb.
she'ol, the underworld which receives all the dead. It is
the land of darkness . . ." (vol. 2, p. 206).
hades originally meant "unseen." Later, it came to
refer to the hidden state of those buried in the earth.
Symbolically, this parable shows that a point would come when the
house of Judah would become "unseen" by God, out of favor because
of their unbelief. There would come a time when the Jews as a whole
would no longer be God's favored nation. Their hard hearts would
lead them to reject their Messiah (John 1:11).
LUKE 16:23 "And being in
torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham
afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." (NKJV)
What did Christ mean by
saying here that the rich man was in "torments in Hades"? The key
to discovering the symbolic meaning of this verse is the Greek noun
basanois, translated "torments" above.
According to Friberg's
Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament,
basanois, which is a form of the noun
basanos, means "strictly, a touchstone for
testing the genuineness of metals by rubbing against
it . . ."
The etymology of
basanos found in Kittel's Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament is very helpful in
correctly understanding this verse:
In non-biblical Gk.
[basanos] is a commercial expression, or is used in relation
to government. It then acquires the meaning of the checking of
calculations, which develops naturally out of the basic sense of
[basanos, basanizein] . . . In the
spiritual sphere it has the figur[ative] sense, which is closely
related to the original concrete meaning, of a means of
testing . . .
The word then undergoes a
change in meaning. The original sense fades into the background.
[Basanos] now comes to denote "torture" or "the rack,"
espec[ially] used with slaves . . . [Basanos]
occurs in the sense of "torment" . . .
The change in meaning is
best explained if we begin with the object of treatment. If we put
men instead of metal or a coin, the stone of testing become[s]
torture or the rack. The metal which has survived the testing stone
is subjected to harsher treatment. Man is in the same position when
severely tested by torture. In the testing of metal an essential
role was played by the thought of testing and proving genuineness.
The rack is a means of showing the true state of affairs. In its
proper sense it is a means of testing and proving, though also of
punishment. Finally, even this special meaning was weakened and
only the general element of torture remained (vol. I, pp. 561, 562,
In this verse,
basanois simply conveys a sense of testing and
proving through punishment. When this understanding is combined
with a proper discernment of the symbolism of Hades, we can begin
to see the point Yeshua is making. As a whole, the house of Judah
would to be cut off and replaced during this current age by those
Gentiles who in faith would accept the sacrifice of the
If the Pharisees and
scribes understood this prophetic parable, it must have astonished
and infuriated those who listened as Christ spoke. The implication
that the house of Judah and the Gentile nations were to change
places, with the Jews becoming alienated from God while the
Gentiles were to become the "seed of Abraham," would have been
almost impossible for them to believe.
LUKE 16:24 "Then 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.'" (NKJV)
First, notice that the
rich man identifies Abraham as his father, just as the Pharisees
did (John 8:39). The rich man (Judah) is now shown to be undergoing
reproof, testing, and punishment in "this flame" (singular,
not "these flames"). It is quite obvious that the flame is
not literal, because a wet fingertip on the tongue would do nothing
to quench the pain inflicted by real flames.
The word rendered
"torment" here is a form of the Greek verb odunao,
which literally means "grief," "pain," or "suffering."
Predominantly, it conveys the sense of mental anguish, not
physical pain. Forms of this word are found only four times in the
Scriptures, all in the writings of Luke. It appears twice in this
parable, in verses 24 and 25. In Luke 2:48, it is used to describe
the anxious distress that Mary and Joseph felt after they
discovered the 12-year old Jesus missing on the trip home from
Jerusalem after the Passover feast. In Acts 20:38, it depicts the
sorrow the elders of the Ephesian Church felt at Paul's farewell
announcement that they would never see him again.
The rich man cries out
from the symbolic darkness of Hades for comfort because of the
suffering caused by the flame. The explanation of the symbolism of
the flame will require a little background information.
In Deuteronomy 11 and 28,
Moses delineates God's part in His covenant with Israel. Moses told
them that if they obeyed the Eternal, they would be the most
blessed nation on earth. Conversely, if they disobeyed, God
promised to curse and eventually destroy them because of their
As the history of Israel
in the Tanakh shows, only rarely did they obey God. Although the
Eternal was patient and forgave them many times when they repented
and turned back to Him, eventually He was forced to curse Israel as
He had vowed to do.
First the house of Israel,
the ten tribes that composed the northern kingdom with Samaria as
their capital, was carried into captivity by Assyria (c. 722 B.C.).
Hosea, who prophesied during the end of the northern kingdom, said
this about God's chosen people who were called to be a royal
priesthood and a holy nation.
HOSEA 4:6 My people are
destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected
knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because
you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your
Then, about 135 years
later, the southern kingdom of Judah was subdued and finally
conquered by Babylon (c. 587 B.C.). God had delivered His people to
their enemies, as He had promised.
The people of Judah were
given another chance. After the Persians defeated the Babylonians,
the Jews were allowed to return to Judea (c. 538 B.C.) and
eventually they rebuilt the Temple. Chastened and aware that their
sins had brought about the captivity, many sought to obey God's
laws upon their return to the land.
But by the time of Christ,
once again unbelief had become a major problem. Many of the
religious teachers of the day had substituted human traditions for
the laws God had given Israel (Matt. 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13). Because
of their lack of faith, they didn't really believe the very
Scriptures they professed to follow (John 5:39, 45-47). In the end,
they rejected the anointed one God sent to them and had the Romans
Now back to the question
at hand. What does the flame in the parable represent?
When one looks at the
history of the Jewish people from the time of Christ until today,
one theme remains constant -- persecution. With the quashing of the
Jewish revolts against Rome (66-70 A.D. and 132-135 A.D.), the saga
of the Jewish people in the Diaspora has been one of persistent and
harsh persecution from virtually all quarters. The Inquisition of
the 15th century and the Holocaust of the 20th century are two of
the more well-known anti-semitic episodes, but many more are
recorded on the bloody pages of history. For their unbelief and
rejection of truth and knowledge, the Jews have been cursed by God
with the "flame" of suffering and grief down through the centuries.
Unfortunately, most of that mistreatment has come at the hands of
those who called themselves "Christians."
The Jews pictured by the
rich man in this parable are in their present state because of
their unbelief, which ultimately manifested itself in the rejection
of the Messiah, Yeshua. Unfortunately, this parable shows that the
punishment and testing they would undergo would not
immediately lead them to Christ. Instead of calling on the
Messiah, the rich man calls on his ancestor Abraham to help ease
LUKE 16:25 "But Abraham
said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good
things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted
and you are tormented. (NKJV)
Abraham clearly identifies
the rich man as his descendant by calling him "son." He tells him
that things have changed. When the Jews were God's chosen people,
they enjoyed the spiritual blessings associated with that status.
But now, Abraham says, Lazarus is enjoying those blessings while
the rich man is grieving and in sorrow. "Tormented" here is another
form of odunao, the same Greek verb found above in
LUKE 16:26 "'And besides
all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that
those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from
there pass to us.'" (NKJV)
What is the "great gulf"
which stands between the rich man and Lazarus? Paul aptly explains
it to us in the eleventh chapter of Romans. He tells us that
because of the Jews' unbelief, "God has given them a spirit of
stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not
hear, to this very day" (Rom. 11:8). Paul goes on to say that "a
partial hardening would happen to Israel until the fullness of the
Gentiles had come in" (Rom. 11:25). In II Corinthians 3:14-15, Paul
tells us that the Israelites' "minds were blinded. For until this
day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old
Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to
this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart."
The "great gulf" mentioned
by Abraham is nothing less than God's blinding in this age of the
Jews as a whole to the truth about their Messiah! It's not that the
Jewish nation won't acknowledge Christ; they cannot
recognize his true identity because of God's actions! Yet because
of the Eternal's great mercy, this state of affairs will not last
forever (Rom. 11:26).
LUKE 16:27 "Then he said,
'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my
father's house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to
them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'"
Yielding himself to his
destiny, the rich man asks one more thing of his forefather
Abraham. He pleads with him to send someone to warn his brothers,
so that they may escape "this place of torment"
(basanou), the testing and punishment that he was
The fact that the rich man
has five brothers is a vital clue to his true symbolic
identity. Judah, the progenitor of the Jews, was the son of Jacob
through Leah (Gen. 29:35). He had five full-blooded brothers:
Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Zebulun (Gen. 35:23).
While the significance of
this seemingly pointless detail has been neglected by scholars
throughout the centuries, you can be certain that it did not escape
the notice of the Pharisees and scribes to which Christ was
speaking. They thoroughly knew their history and were extremely
proud of their heritage. Yeshua wanted those self-righteous
Pharisees to know exactly who He was referring to with this
parable. This detail cements the identity of the rich man as the
house of Judah, the Jews!
LUKE 16:29 "Abraham said
to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'"
Once again Abraham refuses
the rich man's request, telling him that the brothers already have
a witness in the writings of Moses and the prophets that will allow
them to escape his fate. Moses, as well as the prophets, are shown
several times in the New Testament to support Yeshua's identity as
the Messiah (Luke 24:27, 44; John 1:45; 5:46; Acts 3:22-24; 7:37;
26:22-23; 28:23). Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers
would have to recognize the prophesied Messiah because of the
things written about him in the Tanakh. This echoes what Yeshua
told the Jews in John 5:45-47.
JOHN 5:45 "Do not think
that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you
-- Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you
would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not
believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"
As the Scriptures show,
the Jewish leaders of Christ's day generally failed to recognize
the very one Moses wrote about (Deu. 18:15, 18).
LUKE 16:30 "And he said,
'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they
will repent.' 31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses
and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise
from the dead.'" (NKJV)
Christ uses the last two
verses of this parable as an amazing prophecy of his pending
resurrection from the dead. The rich man says that although his
brothers may not accept the scriptural evidence for the identity of
the Messiah, they will accept the evidence of one who is raised
from the dead.
But Abraham answers and
plainly tells him that anyone who rejects God's Word about the
Messiah will also refuse to acknowledge the evidence of a
miraculous resurrection. This last verse is a sad prophecy about
the Jews and about all the Israelites who have not, despite God's
resurrection of His son from the power of the grave, recognized
Christ as the Messiah.
Christ ends this parable
abruptly, with no real resolution presented. The picture presented
is a bleak one, yet there is hope for the Jews and for all Israel.
In Romans 11, Paul laid out that hope in such a manner that
scarcely few today have really believed it.
In Romans 11:1 Paul
rhetorically asks if God has cast away His people, Israel. He
answers his own question emphatically by saying "Certainly not!" He
tells us that God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.
Paul writes that there is currently a remnant of Israel, analogous
to the seven thousand reserved to God in Elijah's time (I Kings
19:18), that God has elected by grace. The rest God hardened, that
the Gentiles might also be included in salvation through grace. He
gives the resolution of the situation in verse 26.
ROMANS 11:25 For I do not
desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest
you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has
happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The
Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness
from Jacob; 27 for this is My covenant with them, when I take away
their sins." 28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your
sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of
the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are
irrevocable. 30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have
now obtained mercy through their disobedience, 31 even so these
also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you
they also may obtain mercy. 32 For God has committed them all to
disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. 33 Oh, the depth of
the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
The same God that blinded
Israel unto disobedience will have mercy on all that have been
rebellious due to that blindness. To quote Paul once again, "Oh,
the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!"
Praised be the Eternal Creator of all things!
The parable of Lazarus and
the rich man, long used by mainstream ministers to teach the
reality of "hell," really has nothing to say about punishment or
reward in the afterlife. Christ used this story, which fit the
common misconception about life after death in his day, to show the
fate that awaited the Jewish nation because of the unbelief and
faithlessness which led them to reject him as the Messiah. They
still suffer from that fate to this very day. Yet the time is soon
coming when God will pour on the Jews the Spirit of grace and
supplication; then they will look on Christ whom they pierced, and
they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve
for Him as one grieves for a firstborn (Zec. 12:10).
Bryan T. Huie
Updated: January 9, 1998