The rich man and Lazarus: A Sunday School Lesson


Take your Bible and read Luke 16:19-31, a parable. A parable is a figure of speech, not a true incident, and an illustration that is purposed to make clear an obscure truth. Mr. Karl Sabiers wrote a book “Where Are the Dead?” copyright 1963, which had been heavily endorsed by Rev. Rex Humbard. Mr. Sabiers argues that Luke proves beyond a doubt that the dead have immediate consciousness after bodily death and “there is no indication whatsoever that this is a parable. Further evidence that this is not a parable is seen in the fact that parables of our Lord begin with the words such as these, ‘And he spake unto them a parable, saying.’”

One might assume these Verses are not a parable because in the KJV and NIV, they do not begin with, “And he said unto them a parable.” However, in two ancient Greek manuscripts—the Bezae Caulabrigiensis and the Koridethian-Caesarean text—words are included which have been deleted in newer translations. Both manuscripts begin Luke 16:19 with: eipen de kai heteran parabolen, which translated means, “And He said also another parable.” There are 19 “parables” in the Book of Luke and eight of them do not say anything similar to “And He said also another parable.”

The first phrase of Luke 16:23 KJV should have been the last phrase of Verse 22. Verse 22 should have been translated, “the rich man also died and was buried; also in the grave [hades—not hell].” Verse 23 should begin, “He [the rich man] lifted up his eyes…” Now this is a perfect parable.

The confusion and misunderstanding of this parable lies in the Pharisaic beliefs. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees only, [Luke 16:14, 15] and not born-again believers. Jesus, therefore, wisely judged the Pharisees out of their own mouths, from their own vantage point, for they believed in rewards and punishments immediately upon death as so many uninformed believe today. This parable does NOT say that Jesus believed in immediate rewards and punishments after death; this is what the Pharisees believed. Jesus used this parable to condemn and catch them in their erroneous beliefs. We learn in Acts 23:8 that the Pharisees believe there is a resurrection but not the Sadducees [that is why they were sad, you-see].

This passage in Luke must be interpreted in accordance with the great quantity or mass of Scriptures. One cannot reject 100 clear passages and accept the one seemingly contradictory. Jesus could not have denied Ecclesiastes 9:4-6; John 11:11-14 NIV. Luke 14:14 also plainly teaches about death and resurrection, “…you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” How could Jesus in one place talk about people being repaid at the resurrection (which occurs sometime in the future) and yet teach that there is an immediate repayment after death?

Abraham, Lazarus, and the rich man were not literally alive in hades; they, as all others, are literally dead (asleep and unconscious) until the resurrection. These three people were simply figuratively used to make a striking impact on the criticizing Pharisees. Amen

Sidney Terhune P. O. Box 6, Wash. C. H., OH

By Sidney Terhune

Religion Columnist

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