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The Rich Man & Lazarus

  

The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is perhaps the most difficult section of Scripture for those of us who hold to the belief of conditional immortality (the understanding that immortality is contingent on the resurrection not on the existence of an immortal soul). Before we take a look at the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus itself I think it would be best to review the texts that speak to the state of the dead.

The dead are unconscious.

Ecclesiastes 9.5-6, 10
For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. Indeed their love, their hate and their zeal have already perished, and they will no longer have a share in all that is done under the sun… Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might; for there is no activity or planning or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.

The dead are not even able to praise God or give him thanks.

Psalm 6.4-5
Return, O LORD, rescue my soul; Save me because of Your lovingkindness. For there is no mention of You in death; In Sheol who will give You thanks?

Psalm 30.9
“What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it declare Your faithfulness?

Psalm 115.17
The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor do any who go down into silence;

Psalm 146.4
His spirit [or “breath”] departs, he returns to the earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.

The primary metaphor used to describe death in the Scriptures is “sleep,” which connotes the ideas of inactivity and unconsciousness.

Psalm 13.3
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,

Acts 7.60
Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 13.36
“For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay;”

1 Corinthians 15.17-20
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

The solution to the problem of death is resurrection at the return of Christ.

Daniel 12.2
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”

John 5.28-29
“Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.”

1 Corinthians 15.20-23But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,

1 Thes 4.13-17
For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

Many more Scriptures could be given to substantiate the viewpoint that the dead are asleep until the resurrection. Putting this all together we get the following understanding:

The New Bible Dictionary, page 346
The Christian hope for life beyond death is not based on the belief that part of man survives death. All men through their descent from Adam are naturally mortal. Immortality is the gift of God which will be attained through resurrection of the whole person…The Bible therefore takes death seriously, it is not an illusion. It is the consequence of sin and evil…It is seen as sleep from which one will awaken.

Resurrection is the way that we become immortal. We know that resurrection occurs when Christ comes (1 Corinthians 15.21-23). Therefore if Christ has not come yet, then the resurrection has not happened yet, and that means that dead people are not living yet. Now, let’s take a look at the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus which is found in Luke chapter 16.

Luke 16.19-31
19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers– in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Some argue that this is not a parable because (1) it starts with the phrase “a certain man.” But this assertion is groundless because the parable of the Unjust Steward in Luke 16.1 starts just this way. A second reason given for this not being a parable is (2) that it never calls itself a parable. But that is not compelling either because 11 out of the 26 parables in Luke’s Gospel do not self identify as a parable. A third reason given that this is not a parable is that (3) Lazarus is named. However, Lazarus means “God has helped,” which would certainly be an appropriate fictitious name considering the irony of the story.

    Some observations about this parable. (list adapted from Wrested Scriptures by R. Abel, pages 107-110, also available here).

  1. No mention is made of either “heaven” or “hell”
  2. No mention is made of “souls”
  3. If taken literally of someone’s soul going off to Abraham’s bosom there is a problem because the passage speaks of bodies not disembodied souls
  4. body parts mentioned include eyes, the tip of a finger, and the tongue
  5. if souls are immaterial then how can they be carried by the angels?
  6. if their is a great chasm or gulf fixed between Abraham’s bosom and hades, how is it that they can see accross it and converse with eachother effortlessly?
  7. Just imagine living forever within ear shot of the agonizing screams of the tortured
  8. If taken literally then we have a contradiction with Hebrews 11.8,13, 39-40 because there it says that Abraham has not yet received his reward. (Note that Hebrews was written decades after Jesus told this parable).
  9. If one is being tormented in flames of fire, would he ask for just a drop of water?
  10. If the righteous dead go to Abraham’s bosom at death, then what about those who died before Abraham? Did Noah go to Abraham’s bosom at death?

If one takes into account the fact that the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable not a literal account, then all of these problems go away. Edward Fudge is insightful when he says,

Two Views of Hell, page 41
Few serious interpreters attempt to make the details of the story literal. To do so would require us to imagine the saved and lost conversing with each other after death in full view of each other and at close range. We also would have to think of literal tongues that burn with literal fire and literal water that does not cool them. Not to mention physical bodies that can be tortured by fire but which somehow do not burn up.

Another note about parables needs to be made.

Life, Death and Destiny by Warren Prestidge, page 39
First of all, there is no doubt that this is a parable, not a report of actual events. It begins the same way many parables do: “There was a (rich) man (19; compare 16.1, 15.11; 14.16). As with any parable, then, it is essential to distinguish between what it says and what it teaches For example, the parable in the first half of Luke 16 speaks of a steward cheating his master and says: good on him! But Jesus is not teaching that we should cheat our bosses. What he is teaching is that we should give to the poor, in view of God’s coming judgment. That, also, is what the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is teaching: it is simply a vehicle for his teaching.

We are not supposed to imitate what happens in the parables. We are supposed to get the point of the parable, understand what Jesus is teaching through the method of parable.

Now, I will have to admit that upon first inspection of this parable, instantaneously our minds go to the typical modern picture of someone burning mercilessly in hell while others are up in heaven. But, the audience of Jesus had a different perception of what was happening in this parable. In order to bring out what Jesus’ hearers would have understood we need to look at the parallels in their own literature. For example, if I make a reference to you about the Trinity from the Matrix. What would come to your mind? You would likely picture a young attractive girl who wears a lot of black clothing and does incredible martial arts. You are not thinking about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is because we share the context of the word “Matrix.” We understand that “the Matrix” is a movie. If someone a thousand years from now looked back on a conversation two people had about the Matrix and the Trinity they would be more likely to associate a matrix with a grouping of numbers and the Trinity as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (three yet one). They could totally miss what we were talking about because they miss our cultural context. Unless one is familiar with the stories of the culture (movies are stories, by the way) then when someone makes a reference to that story one is likely to miss the point by taking everything too literally or confuse it with a story from their own time and culture. This is why it is so important to do the historical research into the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.

It just so happens that there was a story going around during the time of Jesus that we have documented, in which there was is a reversal of fates after death.

The New Bible Dictionary, page 347
In Luke 16.23 it is the place of torment for the wicked after death in accordance with some contemporary Jewish thinking, but it is doubtful whether this parabolic use of current ideas can be treated as teaching about the state of the dead.

In other words, there were some contemporary Jewish thinking at the time that this parable was accessing and should not be taking for our doctrine for what happens when people die.

The Fire that Consumes by Edward Fudge, page 203
The plot of the parable, the reversal of earthly fortunes after death, was familiar in popular Palestinian stories of Jesus’ times. Hugo Gressmann cites a Greek parallel from a first-century Egyptian papyrus, and he says there are at least seven versions of the story in Jewish literature. One of the most famous involved a poor student of the Law and a rich publican named Bar Ma’jan. There are differences between these stories and Jesus’, of course, and therein lies the Lord’s uniqueness. But the baise plot was well-known folklore.

Froom cites a discourse of Josephus concerning Hades which paints almost precisely the same picture found in Luke. He concludes that “Jesus was clearly using a then-common tradition of the Jews to press home a moral lesson in a related field.” Although the Whiston edition of Josephus offers a lengthy defense of the treatise’s authenticity on internal and external grounds, most scholars today regard it as spurious, as conditionalists Edward White and Henry Constable both note.

It was like the Jews had watched movies in which this idea of two people whose fates were reversed in the after life was common (that would be our modern equivalent). If this story was in fact common in the time of Jesus then what matters is not so much the idea of fates reversed in the after life but what Jesus does with the parable, how he changes it to convict the Pharisees.

Rediscovering the Parables by Joachim Jeremias, page 145
To understand the parable in detail and as a whole, we have to recognize that the first part derives from well-known folk-material concerned with the reversal of fortune in the after-life. This is the Egyptian folk-tale of the journey of Si-Osiris and his father Setme Chamois to the underworld; it ends with the words: ‘He who has been good on earth will be blessed in the kingdom of the dead; and he who has been evil on earth will suffer in the kingdom of the dead.’ Alexandrian Jews brought this story to Palestine, where it became very popular as the story of the poor scholar and the rich tax-collector Bar Ma’jan.

So what we have here with the Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable (not a literal story) that is very similar (in its first half) to other stories that were already around in the culture at the time. Jesus is here starting a story in a familiar way and then adding a twist once he has his hearers’ interest. Lazarus is a man in a wretched state who has sores all over his body. He is starving even for the leftover food that the Rich Man feasts on lavishly. He is so weakened that he cannot even drive away the dogs (who were scavengers not house pests) from licking his wounds. The typical understanding people had at the time would dictate that this Lazarus is actually being punished by God for his sins. People who walked past him would be asking themselves, “What must this man have done for God to punish him like this?” So the first move of the parable is to reverse the fates of the two. It is to demonstrate that the Rich Man is really poor and the Lazarus is really rich in the eyes of God. Lazarus is blessed to be at “Abraham’s bosom” which is the highest place of honor at a banquet (John 13.23). This honor is given to Lazarus who had the lowest position in society.

I believe that one of the keys to understanding the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is to understand that it works together with the parable from the first half of the chapter called the parable of the unjust steward. Sandwiched in between these two parables that start with the phrase “there was a rich man” (Luke 16.1, 19) the Scriptures says:

Luke 16.14-15
14 Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

So this entire chapter is addressing the issue of wealth. The first parable is speaking more to the disciples and the second parable is reproving the Pharisees.

The Rich Man and Lazarus, article by Dr. Ralph Wilson from Jesus Walk website (http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/16_19-31.htm)
Jesus has been teaching about materialism and money–the unjust steward, serving Mammon, and stewardship. His audience includes his disciples (16.1) as well as “the Pharisees who loved money” and ridiculed his stand on money (16.14)…The parable we are studying…condemns the Pharisees love of money and neglect of showing compassion for the poor (16.19-31)…

Many scholars believe that Jesus is drawing upon a popular Jewish folk tale that had roots in Egypt about a rich man and poor man whose lots after death are completely reversed. The story doesn’t have to be true in all its particulars, but the popular mind can relate to its stereotyped characters–rich man, poor man, and Father Abraham.

Jesus is telling a common story about the afterlife in order to make a different point. What is does the parable teach? In order to answer this question, let’s go through it section by section. I have divided up this parable into four sections: [1] the setting [2] at death their fates are reversed [3] the first question [4] the second question. (All references are from Luke chapter 16).

[1] the setting
19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. “

We have already touched on the state of Lazarus to a certain extent. To summarize, he is poor, sick, and miserable. Lazarus “was laid” at the rich man’s gate. Perhaps Lazarus was also crippled and had to depend on others to put him in public areas where he could acquire food or money. The fact that Lazarus at the gate tells us that the rich man passes by him every time he leaves his house and comes home. The rich man cannot claim to be ignorant of Lazarus nor can he claim that he cannot help him, for he certainly has the means. Lazarus desired so little—the mere crumbs falling from the rich man’s table—yet there hey lays, desolate.

[2] at death their fates are reversed
22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. “

Now their fates are reversed. This is to be expected from the hearers’ familiarity with other stories like this that were circulating at the time. Notice that the poor man is again carried but this time by angels to Abraham’s bosom—the place of highest honor. Meanwhile the rich man dies, is buried, and then in the realm of the dead (Hades) is being tormented yet he can see Abraham and Lazarus at a distance. [It is noteworthy to mention that we are not talking about hell (gehenna) which only will exist after the coming of Jesus when judgment is passed (see Revelation 20).]

[3] the first question
24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ “

This question, asked by the rich man is to gain comfort while he is “in agony in this flame.” He wants mercy when he had shown none while he was living. Notice that he still thinks Lazarus is someone to be ordered around and requests that Abraham send him. Abraham’s response explains that because of their respective lots in life they have been reversed now. The chasm between them cannot be crossed, for that is its purpose–to keep the two realms separate. The point of the chasm is that no one can change their fate once he dies. Still there would have been nothing shocking up to this point in the parable; though I’m sure the Pharisees were already beginning to become aware that Jesus was reproving their love of money.

[4] the second question
27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house– 28 for I have five brothers– in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'”

Now for the last part of the parable: the second question that the rich man asks. He wants Abraham to send Lazarus back to tell his five brothers about this place of torment. The answer that comes back is no because his brothers already have a witness as to how to live–Moses and the Prophets. The rich man confidently argues with Abraham that his brothers would repent is someone went to them from the dead. Yet Abraham does not change his prior answer. He is utterly convinced that if someone does not listen to Moses and the Prophets then he will not listen even if someone rises from the dead. Livings already have the information necessary to know how to treat the poor. (There is perhaps here a foreshadowing of the disbelief of many even after eye witnesses confirm that Jesus was raised from the dead.) Two major points can be made from this parable:

The Rich Man and Lazarus, article by Dr. Ralph Wilson from Jesus Walk website (http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/16_19-31.htm)

  1. Wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness.
  2. If we close our eyes to the truth we are given, then we are doomed

…It isn’t their piety that he is condemning, but what they AREN’T doing–showing mercy to the poor, seeking justice for the downtrodden. It is ironic that the Pharisees who prided themselves on being such Bible scholars largely missed the spirit of the Old Testament–mercy and justice.

Rediscovering the Parables by Joachim Jeremias, page 147
The parable is on of the four two-edged parables. The first point is concerned with the reversal of fortune in the life to come (vv. 19-23), the second (vv. 24-31) with the refusal of the rich man’s request that Abraham send Lazarus to him and to his five brothers. As the first part is drawn from well known folk-material, the emphasis lies on the fresh part that Jesus added—on the epilogue. Like all the two-edged parables, this one stresses the second point. That means that Jesus does not want to comment on a social problem, or intend to give a teaching about life after death–he tells the parable to warn people like the rich man and his brothers of the impending fate. Lazarus is therefore only a secondary figure, introduced by way of contrast; the parable is about the six brothers…

With parables it is always important to get the point rather than get lost in the details. It may be fine to speculate on all of the different symbolisms in a parable, and sometimes they are meant to represent many different things (like the interpretations of the Sower and the Seed or the Tares and the Wheat in Matthew 13), but never should this be done at the cost of getting the major point. William Barclay has aptly titled this parable, “The Punishment of the Man Who Never Noticed.” Dr. Wilson is again insightful when he says:

The Rich Man and Lazarus, article by Dr. Ralph Wilson from Jesus Walk website (http://www.jesuswalk.com/lessons/16_19-31.htm)
We are Bible-toting Christians who have the benefit of the Old Testament AND the New. If we don’t notice and minister to the poor, what excuse will we have? In the final analysis, the rich man’s punishment is not for riches, but for neglect of the Scriptures and what they teach.

That doesn’t mean we should give out of guilt or give unwisely or give to whoever cries the loudest. Instead, we are to give out of the love of God within us. Not selfishly to assuage our guilt, but selflessly to care for someone else’s need.

The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is about money, all right. Money and wealth and self-centeredness. And mercy. It is especially a parable about mercy–mercy now!

Thus, the point of the parable is focused on how one lives now because once someone dies he or she cannot come back. We have the law, we have the prophets, and we have the poor man. The Scriptures teach to love justice and mercy. The poor man gives an opportunity to practice that preaching of the Scriptures that we all have and cherish. The question is, “are we going to do something about this or are we going to ignore the destitute, enjoy our lives, and in the end suffer as a result of it?”

Life, Death and Destiny by Warren Prestidge, page 39
No, Jesus is not endorsing the story’s paraphernalia. He is using it simply to meet his opponents, the Pharisees, on their own ground: using a story familiar to them, in order to convict them out of their own mouths, as it were, for their indifference to the poor, and perhaps to “sinners” and even Gentiles in general. All that he actually endorses here is “Moses and the prophets” (29). “…it was not the intention of Jesus…to give a topographical guide to the underworld.” “…he does not intend here to give a preview of life after death. On this almost all commentators agree.”

We should not allow ourselves to get distracted with theological discussions about life after death when it comes to this parable. We need to understand, not just what the parable isn’t saying but also what it is saying. David Smith summarizes the point of the parable well:

Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible: Lazarus by David Smith, pg 539
The purpose of the parable is not to condemn riches and exalt poverty in the spirit of Ebionitic asceticism. [In other words, the parable is not saying that poverty is a virtue and riches a vice.] It is an enlargement of the Lord’s admonition in v9: ‘Make to yourselves friends by means of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when it shall fail, they may receive you into the eternal tabernacles’ (RV). The merit of Lazarus was not that he was poor, but that he had found his help in God; the offence of the Rich Man was not that he was rich, but that he lived a self-indulgent and luxurious life, regardless of the misery around him. Had he made friends to himself of Lazarus and others like him by means of his mammon of unrighteousness, he would have had a place and a welcome among them when he entered the unseen world.

Let us take Jesus’ parable to heart. If we have money, then let’s open our eyes to see our Lazarus at the gate. If we don’t have money, there are still many things we can do for the poor–somebody had to put Lazarus at the gate of the Rich Man. This issue will not go away (“the poor you will have with you always”) until Jesus comes and makes things right on earth as in heaven, but that should in no way discourage us from compassionate acts of love towards the afflicted in this age.

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20 Responses to “The Rich Man & Lazarus”

  1. on 01 Dec 2007 at 1:08 amWolfgang

    Hi Sean,
    you wrote:

    The dead are unconscious.

    Saying that “someone IS UNCONSCIOUS” normally implies strongly that the person IS ALIVE but at this time does not have the mental capacities functioning which are associated with a state of consciousness.
    Is there perhaps a better way of stating that the dead are dead and because of that there is no thought, remembrance, speech, etc among the dead?

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  2. on 01 Dec 2007 at 10:37 amJohn Paul

    Wolfgang,
    This may be semantics here, but Unconscious is a perfectly reasonable word to use of dead people. I don’t read Sean defining the dead as Unconscious, but that Unconsciousness is one of the characteristics of being dead. And it is a very good description of your mental state.
    From Dictionary.com:
    un·con·scious [uhn-kon-shuhs]
    –adjective
    1. not conscious; without awareness, sensation, or cognition.
    2. temporarily devoid of consciousness.
    3. not perceived at the level of awareness; occurring below the level of conscious thought: an unconscious impulse.
    4. not consciously realized, planned, or done; without conscious volition or intent: an unconscious social slight.
    5. not endowed with mental faculties: the unconscious stones.
    –noun
    6. the unconscious, Psychoanalysis. the part of the mind containing psychic material that is only rarely accessible to awareness but that has a pronounced influence on behavior.

    con·scious [kon-shuhs]
    –adjective
    1. aware of one’s own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc.
    2. fully aware of or sensitive to something (often fol. by of): conscious of one’s own faults; He wasn’t conscious of the gossip about his past.
    3. having the mental faculties fully active: He was conscious during the operation.
    4. known to oneself; felt: conscious guilt.
    5. aware of what one is doing: a conscious liar.
    6. aware of oneself; self-conscious.
    7. deliberate; intentional: a conscious insult; a conscious effort.
    8. acutely aware of or concerned about: money-conscious; a diet-conscious society.
    9. Obsolete. inwardly sensible of wrongdoing.
    –noun
    10. the conscious, Psychoanalysis. the part of the mind comprising psychic material of which the individual is aware.

    I think dead means not alive and when your not alive that means unconscious.

  3. on 01 Dec 2007 at 3:11 pmKaren

    I realize that the word is used in order to counter the idea of a conscious, intermediate state, but I agree with Wolfgang: the word ‘unconscious’ assumes that the person being discussed is alive, not dead. Yes, a dead person is technically unconscious, but that’s not how the word is normally used.

    Medically speaking, ‘dead’ means that your biological functions have ceased; specifically, that you have no brain waves and no heartbeat. Saying that someone who’s dead is unconscious is misleading, like saying that a woman is a ‘little bit pregnant’: either you are or you aren’t.

    That said, the thrust of the article is excellent. 🙂

  4. on 01 Dec 2007 at 3:49 pmWolfgang

    Hi John Paul,

    you are giving dictionary definitions for “unconscious” … do you realize that all these definitions are about ALIVE people?

    I’d prefer to say “the dead are dead” rather than “the dead are unconscious” … and then I’d add that the Bible describes the state of the DEAD (not a state of those who are alive and unconscious) as having no remembrance, no thinking, no speaking, etc.

    Maybe it’s semantics … but I do think the semantic difference is important here to be accurate and to convey accurately the Biblical teaching.

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  5. on 01 Dec 2007 at 6:10 pmJohnO

    Karen,

    The problem with the medical definition is that we are not talking about medicine, but about theology. Therefore a theological definition is required. As is usual fare for explaining things we do not know from experience, an analogy is required. It seems that all Sean is doing is using “unconscious” as an analogy to being dead. That is how we can describe being dead. All the while we know and agree that the dead are dead. “Unconscious” is merely an analogy for us to possibly understand what death is like.

  6. on 01 Dec 2007 at 8:17 pmSean

    Perhaps I should have said, “not conscious?” Sorry to mislead anyone but often when Christians say “dead” they really mean “dis-embodied.” The word “dead” should mean “not alive” but unfortunately it is much more rare (maybe just in the USA) to encounter someone who believes in actual death than it is to encounter someone who believes that they consciously survive their bodily death.

  7. on 02 Dec 2007 at 2:42 amWolfgang

    Hi Sean,

    indeed, many Christians often think of “dead” as “alive in a dis-embodied conscious state” … however, doesn’t saying “the dead are unconscious” appear to give the impression of saying “alive in a (dis-embodied) state of unconsciousness” ??
    The next thing that comes into play is to use the term “sleep” for the dead in a manner which doesn’t emphasize that such an expression is a figure of speech and leaves the impression as if this was sort of like a literal use of the word “sleep” …

    Would it not be better to straight forward tell it like it is: “The dead are DEAD”. And then on that foundation – use the term “sleep” when it is clear from that context that we are using a figure of speech? And then describe the state of a DEAD person as the Bible says … there is no remembrance, no talking, etc. with the dead?

    Would this perhaps help to see the difficulty I see with speaking of “the dead are unconscious” ? => Why is there no talking, no remembrance, etc for the dead? is it because they are unconscious or is it because they are dead? I’d say it is because they are DEAD, not because they are unconscious ….

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  8. on 03 Dec 2007 at 12:40 pmKen

    In a book by E.W. Bullinger called Selcted Writings there is some documentation (including Talmudic quotes) that accords with Sean’s references to folklore at that time. Thank you, Sean for an excellent exposition about a parable that is such a potential stumbling – block to clear thinking for many.

  9. on 21 Aug 2010 at 8:15 pmDoubting Thomas

    Sean
    I would also like to thank you for an excellent exposition written way back on Nov. 30 2007, about a parable that is often misunderstood or misinterpreted.

    I just have one question. I don’t really understand the part just a few verses before the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:9 where Jesus says, “And I tell you, make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.”

    I have never understood what Yeshua/Jesus means in this statement…

  10. on 22 Aug 2010 at 2:38 pmrobert

    Thomas
    this is a very confusing translation, the word translated eternal(aiwniouv ) here is used only once thru out the NT but other variations are translated eternal. Going to the origin of the word used we find the variation (aiwni) is translated 6 times as age.
    now with that in mind lets see just who Jesus is addressing.
    From the full chapter i see him addressing israelites who believe they will be resurrected into Abrahams kingdom when that promise is fulfilled ,so the age spoke of must be this age.
    From other passages that Jesus spoke we find there will be those greater and lessor in this future age therefore meaning the lessor will serve the greater in this future age.
    So i see this verse stating they need to start chosing those they will serve in the future age because God has no respect for earthly wealth and will not forward this type of wealth to the future age.
    Wealth in the future age will be dtermined by those you served in your present age.
    So make sure there are even those of the lessor you serve in this present age so there will be someone willing to at least have you as a servant in the future age (Sabbath Rest of God).

  11. on 22 Aug 2010 at 4:10 pmSean

    Thomas,

    Luke 16.9 finds is illuminated by the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. What should the rich man have done? He should have used his unrighteousness mammon to make friends with Lazarus so that he would later be welcomed into rather than rejected from eternal habitations.

  12. on 22 Aug 2010 at 4:51 pmrobert

    Sean
    that doesnt fit
    Lazarus couldnt of if he wanted welcome the rich man because there was a great gulf between them that couldnt be crossed either way.
    this is a parable of the least and the greatest in which once you enter the age to come(Sabbath Rest of God) you will not be able to change this status.

    But this is not the promise you have set your heart to enter so why does it matter to you.
    You will receive salvation based on grace and judgement based on love your nieghbor that comes after the age mentioned in this parable.

  13. on 22 Aug 2010 at 4:52 pmDoubting Thomas

    Sean/Robert
    Thank-you for helping me to understand. It does seem pretty clear to me now…

  14. on 22 Aug 2010 at 6:00 pmDoubting Thomas

    Robert
    I had thought that Sean was basically saying the same thing as you had said. Sean said, “What should the rich man have done?” (I’m assuming he means, What should he have done while he was still alive?) “He should have used his unrighteous wealth to make friends with Lazarus.”

    This seems to be pretty much the same thing that you were saying…

  15. on 22 Aug 2010 at 7:22 pmrobert

    I had thought that Sean was basically saying the same thing as you had said. Sean said, “What should the rich man have done?” (I’m assuming he means, What should he have done while he was still alive?) “He should have used his unrighteous wealth to make friends with Lazarus.”

    Thomas
    Just how could making a friend of Lazarus be the point of verse 9 when it speaks of failing.
    What Sean is saying is the rich man should buy his way into, but this is not what is actually says, it says to make friends of those OF unrighteous wealth , even serve them well .
    If you are even serving those who will be the least of the coming age you will then guaranty there will be someone to welcome you.
    This passage needs to be understood by the context of the greatest and the least and judgement according to the Old covenant LAWS by which this promise is OFFERED.
    There is no least or greatest in the promise of the blessing which comes after the subject of these verses

  16. on 22 Aug 2010 at 8:13 pmSean

    εκ can be used to denote means, not just source…here is the relevant BDAG excerpt:

    f. Sim. ἐκ can introduce the means which one uses for a definite purpose, with, by means of (Polyaenus 3, 9, 62 ἐξ ἱμάντος=by means of a thong) ἐκ τοῦ μαμωνᾶ Lk 16:9 (X., An. 6, 4, 9; PTebt 5, 80 [118 BC] ἐκ τ. ἱερῶν προσόδων; ParJer 1:7 [of Jerusalem] ἐκ τῶν χειρῶν σου ἀφανισθήτω; Jos., Vi. 142 ἐκ τ. χρημάτων); cp. 8:3.

    Thus, the translation Thomas supplied is accurate:

    Luke 16.9
    And I tell you, make friends for yourself by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

  17. on 22 Aug 2010 at 8:18 pmRay

    It seems to me that we should make friends with Jesus and be willing to part with unrighteous mammon, as some of the wicked will at times do to save themselves in this world.

    When a righteous man tells people to make to themselves friends of unrighteous mammon that it may receive them into everlasting habitation, (hell?) we should consider if it was said that we might consider the way we go and where that kind of walk will end.

  18. on 22 Aug 2010 at 8:35 pmrobert

    Sean
    Of course your right it Can , BUT DOES IT HERE.
    Common sense reading of the whole passage will give you that answer.

  19. on 22 Aug 2010 at 8:43 pmrobert

    Sean
    dont edit something after you post it, if the 2nd part of your comment was there when i read it i could of responded to it then.

    About half of all translations will support your reading but most of the older translations support mine.
    Could that be that when they did this translation there existed a reference that supported their translation that we no longer have considering that was nearly 700 years ago when it was translated and has been translated the same by several translations up to date.

  20. on 23 Aug 2010 at 7:26 pmrobert

    “εκ can be used to denote means, not just source…here is the relevant BDAG excerpt:”

    Sean
    I just went through Luke where he uses εκ and it seems that out of 74 times he uses it only ONE according to all the translations you use translates by means. Almost every time he uses that it is translated OF,OUT OF OR FROM.
    Seems this possibilty isnt translated BY MEANS OF anywhere else.
    So I cant follow your reading.

  

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