Before we break this passage down, it’s important to note that this is more than likely a true story and not a parable. I say this because a person’s NAME was never mentioned in the parables that our Lord Jesus told. This is a most solemn passage and we should weigh it carefully and seriously.

Verses 19-23: “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 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. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (NKJV). Here are TWO MEN who lived TWO DIFFERENT LIVES and when they died they had TWO DIFFERENT DESTINIES. Lazarus lived a life in poverty and pain, but ended up in eternal bliss. The rich man lived a life of luxury and ease, but ended up in eternal misery. We aren’t told WHY each man ended up where they did, but it’s vital to see (from other scriptures) that it is FAITH IN CHRIST that resulted in Lazarus being in Abrahams’ bosom and a REJECTION OF CHRIST that landed the rich man in Hades and eternal ruin. Jesus said in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.” But to the unbeliever scripture says, “He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on Him” (John 3:36). Before we go on, it’s needful to point out that this account refutes the evil teaching known as “soul sleep” (that the soul is NOT conscious once the body dies and must wait for the resurrection to be “awakened”). The Lord Jesus made it quite clear that after these men died they were very aware of where they were and, as we shall see next, what they were experiencing.

Verses 24-26: “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.’ 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 torments. 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’.” We learn here in more detail how the “tables had been completely turned” on these two men. Lazarus is now “comforted” and the rich man “tormented.” The fact that the rich man was “tormented in this flame” has led some to think that he was already in Hell, but no one will be in Hell until the final judgment at the Great White Throne, as recorded in Revelation 20:11-15. We believe the Lord is using figurative language here, for remember it was the rich man’s “soul” (not his “body”) that was in torment and thus the “fire” and the “thirst” symbolize suffering that we can’t relate to here on earth. It is striking to see that he “prays for mercy” only to learn that he is beyond mercy. Eternity has sealed his doom! In his prayer he even asked for Lazarus to be sent to him to relieve his sufferings and then he was told, “there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot.” Even if Lazarus desired to help him, he couldn’t do it. Do you suppose that the rich man was made to recall that Lazarus too had desired to have his hunger and sufferings relieved, but the only one who came to his side were dogs? This thought too would torment the mind of this man throughout eternity.

Verses 27-31: “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 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’.” The rich man realized that he was beyond help, so his thoughts now change to his five brothers. Thinking they may still be warned of “this place of torment,” he asks that Lazarus be sent to “testify to them.” It is amazing that this dreadful man, who had perhaps never prayed a day in his entire, miserable life on earth, now becomes a “man of prayer.” But here he must also learn that “he is too late.” Prayer is utterly useless on the other side of death! And not only that, but even if it were possible to grant him his request, the sending of Lazarus to his brothers would have no effect whatsoever. The one and only means of his brothers being warned of eternal ruin was through “Moses and the prophets” and if they refused to give ear to the Holy Scriptures, they would equally reject the testimony of one who rose from the dead. (227.9) (DO)