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Sermon : Sodom and Gomorrah

The Rich Man and Lazarus - Luke 16:9-31

It is very curious and interesting that each side, heaven and hell, can see the other. Also, each translation maintains that the rich man must look up in order to see Lazarus and Abraham. In addition to this, they can even speak to each other. Verse 24 says that the rich man pleads to Abraham to 'have mercy' (KJV), and to 'have pity' (NIV), or to 'have pity and mercy' (AMP) on him. Here the rich man's selfishness shines through. He immediately expects Abraham to show him, a sinner, mercy, and send Lazarus over to hell simply to ease his suffering. In the NLT version of the text, the rich man demands, perhaps even trying to command, Abraham to 'have some pity!' But Abraham replies, and similarily so in every version, that he cannot do so. He tells the rich man that in life he recieved good things and Lazarus had bad, so now Lazarus is being comforted while he is in anguish. If taken literally, this statement is very interesting. It seems to imply that those who recieve good things on earth will be condemned, and those who recieve bad things will go to heaven. That does not seem right. However, if not read literally, it simply follows Jesus theme of reversal, such as the Beatitudes. For example, Matthew 5:4 says 'blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted' (KJV) and Matthew 5:6 says 'blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.' (KJV) Or better yet is Luke 6:20-22 which states 'blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled.' (KJV) Then come the woes in Luke 6:24-26: 'Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have recieved your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger.' (KJV) These verses connect very well with Jesus' parable of the rich man and Lazarus, and display Jesus' them of 'many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first' quite well.

So, then, after Abraham rejects the rich man's request of sending Lazarus to give him a drop of water on his tongue, and explains to him that there is a chasm fixed in between them so they may not cross, he shows the first sign of compassion. Verse 27 says that he pleads with Abraham to send Lazarus, raised from the dead, to his father's house to warn his five brothers so they may not also come into the place of torment he is in. Abraham refuses, saying to him that they have Moses and the Prophets and should listen to them. However, the rich man did not listen to neither, and so fears that his brothers will not, as well, so he argues that if one is raised from the dead they will believe. Abraham, wisely fights back by telling him that if they do not listen to Moses or the Prophets, neither will they listen to someone who is raised from the dead. This last part is quite interesting. It could almost be a foreshadowing of Jesus' death and ressurrection: people did not obey the old law, and they continued not to believe even when Jesus arose from the dead.

Upon reading different view points of various researchers, much was similar. There were a few themes one can pick up in reading this particular passage: one, that God brings justice to people in the afterlife, if not in this world; two, money should not be our god; three, we have only one lifetime to decide our fate because after death, our placing is permanent; and four, if we close our eyes to the truth that we are given, we are dead.

An interesting question was posed in the article from JesusWalk.com: 'is this teaching of Jesus a parable?' Wilson defines a parable as a 'story intended to convey a spiritual truth.' It does not necessarily need to be of real people and real events, but simply to attain a teaching goal it must be 'striking and memorable,' so that when the story is retold, the truth held within is strengthened again and again. Yet, one must be able to imagine the situation being depicted (Wilson). With this said, it should be noted that every one of the sources referred to mentioned that it cannot be sure whether this is an exact account of the afterlife. However, despite that fact, one should not take this narrative too seriously, so as not to base our entire perception of the afterlife on this one parable. The descriptions used may be figurative, such as the image of the flames, the water, the finger, and Abraham's bosom (DeLashmutt). However, the key elements are in place, such as the fact that one remains conscious after death, and goes to one of two places (DeLashmutt). Also, it was mentioned that the depictions of heaven and hell differ in the accounts of John in the book of Revelation (Wilson). Also, Jesus never says that this is actual events, and neither claims that this is what heaven and hell actually appear as (Tiede 289).