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Spirit Communication: Lararus And The Rich Man Parable Luke 16:19-31

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hades he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And 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.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Jesus the Christ tells a parable of a selfish and negligent rich man and a beggar, Lazarus, who received no mercy from the rich man, which explains, firstly, Spirit Communication; secondly, instant transition from the earth life to another state of being according to the state of the soul; and thirdly, the fact that all of these states co-exist simultaneously.

All things to do with God and Christ are simple. The parable of Lazarus the beggar and the selfish rich man presents a simple teaching by the Good Shepherd about selfishness and the ignoring of the plight of ones fellows and the consequences it brings to the individual; it also explains in simple terms about hardships and unfairness and the compensatory consequences that these adversaries bring to the individual.

There are many ways to view Scripture, yet it would seem to be very plain that the parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar as told by Jesus to His listeners, was meant to be taken in its rudimentary sense by them according to their understanding of a post mortem existence.

This is because the hearers of Christ who were Jews, in the main, already had in their minds the type of scenario drawn out by Jesus. This is beyond any question of doubt to the mind which is not biased towards fulfilling a theology which does not allow for Christ’s parable to actually mean what it says regarding the immediate after-death experience of souls – i.e. conscious existence.

Some truly magnificent attempts by the latter theologians at providing convoluted and intricately interwoven explanations regarding Christ’s parable have been presented. Similar extravagant teachings must also be used to explain away certain other passages regarding the existence of souls in other conditions such as the clear proclamation of 1 Peter 3:18-20 & 4:6 that the Spirit of Jesus preached to conscious beings immediately after His death on the Cross, references to Christ descending and ascending, and the fact that Jesus and others saw the bright spirits of Moses and Elias who had died many centuries before.

The well-known historian Josephus, a Jewish son of a father of priestly descent born in Jerusalem AD37/38 who "excelled in his studies of Jewish law and studied with the Sadducees, Pharisees, and the Essenes", could not have been in a better position to know the state of belief of the Jews of the time of Jesus of Nazareth regarding what happens when the physical body stops breathing.

Josephus writes of the Pharisees: "While claiming that everything is affected by destiny, they do not deprive human will of power in these things. For it occurred to God to make a combination and to admit to his counsel the will of men---with its virtue and its vice. Their belief is that there is an undying power in souls and that, under the ground, there is an accounting to reward and punish those who were righteous or unrighteous in (this) life" (Antiquities of the Jews - Book XVIII, Chap. 1 section 3).

Of the Sadducees Josephus writes in Jewish War (2.164-166): "They deny the soul's permanence as well as rewards and punishments in the underworld".

The Pharisees emerged as a significant force in Jewish affairs because of their influence with the common people. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary states of the time of Jesus: "The Sadducees were the party of those with political power" but "The views of the Pharisees prevailed among the common people". Furthemore, Josephus tells us that: "The Sadducees persuade only the well-to-do and have no popular following. But the Pharisees have the masses as allies" (Antiquities 12.297-298). Again, with specific reference to the Pharisees' doctrine of the belief in conscious existence after physical death in Hades, Josephus writes: "On account of which doctrines they are able greatly to persuade the body of the people" (18.1.3).

Clearly, the Jews to whom Jesus was speaking were steeped in the teachings of the Pharisees regarding conscious existence after physical death in a place called Hades.

This parable told by Jesus the Christ was simply meant to be interpreted according the general understanding of the common Jewish masses regarding immediate consciousness after the demise of the body. Yes, it is a parable and not a factual story, but nevertheless it is clear in its intent concerning an inviolable and immutable law of consequences regarding selfishness. It is a true blessing to humankind and should not have its meaning diluted by the misdirection of Christian religionists because it does not fit in with their theologies.

The Jewish conception of Hades was similar to that of the Greek belief, with the main exception that they had a belief in a "Final Resurrection". Many Jews believed that there were punishments and rewards for souls in Hades depending upon whether they had been virtuous and just, or wicked and unjust.

Furthermore, Christ’s parable had already had an incarnation in writings from the Jews’ Babylonian captivity – it is simply being purblind to state that Jesus was not referring to a state of the Afterlife which was in the minds of contemporary hearers.

Jesus Christ also knew that two thousand years later, His parable would be read by the people of that time - us. The Great Teacher knew that His spiritual teachings would have to be applicable and relevant to all people, not just the contemporary Jews to whom He spoke. He is the Saviour, the Redeemer - He said that came "to save the world". Christ Jesus, the Lover of Souls, came to save souls from heaping up upon themselves consequences that would blacken their souls and make them fit only for that awful place of painful purging to which He was referring in His parable. Therefore, He spoke a message that covered the Truth in a way that anyone - man, woman or child - could easily understand and react positively to. He did not speak this parable so that only a few dedicated scholars specialising in that period and context could understand. No!

Symbolical meanings have been attached to this parable concerning national selfishness and wickedness which bring related consequences (i.e. Israelite tribes) - but such interpretation is far too complicated and dubious when set in parallel to the simplicity of Christ and the basic meaning of this parable.

Ironically, this parable is often used by literalists as a means to deny God's most generous gift of Spirit Communion where the Veil between this world and the next is penetrated (communication between those who were once human in the flesh). The Fundamentalist also uses this parable to spread an erroneous idea that there is a place in Heaven for them only because perfection has already come by accepting a single belief of the mind. Hence, knowledge of God's mighty plan of redemption is withheld from humanity.

Basically, the Literalist says that the different states into which people go at death are completely separate and never the twain shall meet, neither shall there be any change for the inhabitants of those conditions, i.e. everlasting punishment. There is a very definite misunderstanding in the Literalist's mind about what Jesus meant in this parable.

Christ's parable shows Lazarus and the rich man dying: "...the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried" (Luke 16:22). With absolutely no sleeping or being unconscious for any length of time, they are both very much alive and conscious in Hades.

This is a parable told by Jesus Christ which expounds a general principle of God's economy and salvation, and as such the beggar and the rich man are roles used in the revealing of that principle rather than these being two specific people.

Generally speaking, Hades in the minds of many of the Greek-speaking (lingua franca) Jews at the time represented both Paradise and Hell, i.e. Hades represented the Afterlife.

Concerning Hades, Josephus, a first-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer who was born in Jerusalem (AD37/38) writes: "The Sadducees rob the rewards of the righteous and the just in Hades" because the Sadducees did not believe in an Afterlife; Josephus wrote this because the Jews believed in the main that there were rewards for the righteous in the Hades. "Abraham's bosom" was a term used for that part of Hades representing Paradise. The rich man, however, finds himself in a very different part of Hades which is a different locality of Hades-life to that of "Abraham's bosom" and it is extremely hellish in nature.

Hades, according to the Rabbinical writings, is the place to where both the "just and righteous" and the "unjust and wicked" go after physical death. The rich man gives a clear indication as to the nature of the environment of that particular aspect of Hades into which he passed, and indeed, which he had built up for himself, as he went to his "own place", in the same manner that Acts reports Judas as having done (Acts 1:25). The change from physical death to the next state of being is reported by Jesus - when relating the death of both the rich man and Lazarus - as being immediate; this was an instant transition (throwing more light onto the "mystery" which Paul told us about: "...we shall all be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye").

"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried" (Luke 16:22). There is a telling aspect to Christ's portrayal of the end-of-life transition between the two characters, the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus is asking us to think about a higher state, a more elevated environment, and is drawing us away from the main idea that all afterlife takes place "under the earth" which was the general belief concerning Sheol of the Old Testament (possibly affected by Assyro-Babylonian belief or of independent evolution not too dissimilar). Jesus says that the rich man was "buried" and finds himself in Hades, but the beggar "was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom", inferring an upwards movement in perfect harmony with the word "anastasis" (a rising, rising up) which translates to "resurrection" in the Bible. This would correspond to his "first death" which was "close at hand" (as depicted in the highly symbolic and non-literal vision in Revelation) and due to his spiritual state there would not be a "second death". However, there clearly is a "second death" for the selfish rich man, and in that worse state he now finds himself.

The selfish rich man immediately finds himself in the hellish part of Hades, as described by our Lord: "And in hades he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom (Luke 16:23)". Once again, we are asked to raise our own thoughts in the direction of the locality that the beggar now finds himself, i.e. in a higher and more purified environment than that of the rich man (in contrast to contemporary preconceived ideas).

The rich man now recognised the reality of his fate and no doubt he realised now his foolishness in ignoring the warnings by God through His holy prophets to repent of evil ways. But it is too late, he had led a whole lifetime of selfishness and lack of interest in his fellow's plight, and what darkness had been built up in the soul over a whole lifetime of abuse had to be purged "so as by fire" (1 Cor.3:15) - God's laws had to run their course before he was cleansed in order that he was fit to enter into a higher environment of the type already declared.: "And 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" (Luke 16:24), but Abraham replied: "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented" (Luke 16:25).

Apart from anything else, we see here in Christ's parable the true course taken by the soul after the death of the body; we see clearly that the Literalist doctrine or dogma (receiving salvation solely by acceptance of a belief construction, i.e. Fundamentalist-type "born again" salvation) has little bearing on the soul's position after death (Certainly, accepting the wondrous love given and demonstrated by Jesus Christ from the Cross creates an enormous soul-change through contrition and expiation). Rather, the rich man finds himself in a hellish place through utter selfishness, and Lazarus finds himself truly compensated for the hardship endured during his life. This is Divine Law at work - indeed, Divine Justice - what has been sown is reaped (Gal. 6:7, Job 4:8), the law of retribution and the law of compensation working on in spite of man's ignorance of such laws. The conditions into which each character had passed was based solely on how they had lived their lives. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you thrust out" (Luke 13:28).

Why the Fundamentalists would choose this parable to support his or her belief - the dogma that salvation is achieved only by an acceptance of a metaphysical belief and not through living itself - is more than a little baffling; the Fundamentalists claim that one can only go to Paradise if one accepts the fact that Jesus was a "blood sacrifice" ("penal substitution" - a perfect human in place of the traditional animal to "appease" an angry being) which took away all of the sin of anyone who believes it, and thus is the only way to be "saved", and they ignore the fact that Lazarus did in fact belong to a pre-Crucifixion society which followed Mosaic Law and he did not need to be "born again" in the modern evangelical sense to go to Paradise. And as the Fundamentalists themselves point out, this was said by Jesus Himself; furthermore we should accept it as truth - instant transition at physical death.

However, the sufferings of Lazarus the beggar drew him nearer to the likeness of Christ, he suffered mentally and physically, and while the "dogs licked his open wounds" (Luke 16:21) he was persecuted by poverty and a wilful lack of charity from people including the rich man and his family, for which they received their due comeuppance. It is so plain what this parable is about.

Abraham continues: "And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence" (Luke 16:26). The Literalist assumes that this statement by Abraham means that there is never any contact between those who have passed over. That is where the biggest error arises. The "gulf" mentioned is not a gulf of a 'physical' nature, it is a gulf of moral and spiritual attainment, or lack of it.

Certainly, in terms of locality, the conditions in which Lazarus and the rich man are find themselves are different, and yet both localities are simultaneously coexistent with the earth and those living upon it: "Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment" (Luke 16:27,28).

The rich man assumes that someone who has physically died can visit his relatives who are clearly depicted as living on the Earth at the same time that the rich man was in his hellish place and Lazarus was in a far more congenial environment; Christ does not relate Abraham as saying that the rich man's relatives are long dead and "asleep" in a grave, but He declares the opposite: Christ confirms the assumption of the rich man that his relatives are living on the Earth at that very moment, thus Christ confirms co-existence.

Abraham does not deny that one can return from death to give warnings as to the life to come and its consequences but simply states that: "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them" (Luke 16:29). This is a clear indication that in Moses and the prophets there is a spiritual instruction that shows them how to avoid the fate of the rich man. The prophets of the Old Testament had been urging the people for centuries, on behalf of God, to repent of their evil and wicked ways in order to avoid a fate worse than death and receive God's salvation.

Now repentance is once more brought to the attention in Christ's parable: "And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent (metanoeo => heartily to amend with abhorrence of one's past sins)" (Luke 16:30).

But Abraham points out it would be a pointless exercise attempting to prove to his relatives the existence of life after death and the inevitable reaping of consequences to those who did not heed Moses or the warnings of the prophets: "And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

This last statement refers not only to the pointlessness of the rich man’s request to father Abraham for someone to return from "death" to warn his relatives, but it also refers to Jesus’ own reappearance after physical death as being pointless to such as these relatives in their present state on Earth - and being a parable, it can of course encompass both possibilities, but the meaning is the same either way: They would not even change their wicked and selfish ways in the face of warnings from those who had died physically and had returned to Earth.

The Literalist is asked to consider this sentence with deep honesty and ask himself or herself why Jesus did not relate Abraham as saying that the rich man's relatives could have had the Literalists' "born again" salvation doctrine that would instantly free them from their sins, thus becoming "saved" and enabling them to be transported to Paradise at physical death, as was Lazarus the beggar; but instead, Jesus clearly states that they had both the Law of Moses as a religious system and also the warnings of the prophets to repent of their evil ways to save themselves from the same fate as the rich man's torments. If the Literalists' "born again" salvation doctrine had been the reason for Our Lord's earthly sojourn, then surely He would have made a point of saying it here and not something entirely different.

All this shows many things, not least that there is and always has been a process of spiritual evolution and involution occurring. The hells, Paradise and earth all exist at the same time and each goes to his "own place" at physical death to undertake the next stage of spiritual life he has made for himself. And it sounds as if the next stage of life for the rich man's relatives was going to be a similar state of torment; they were creating a "great gulf" between themselves and Divine happiness too.

Christ's parable the reversal of fortunes, the use of antithesis, and concern for the poor) is about how to behave and live during the earth life and He is giving a severe warning of how it will be for those who ignore their duties to the less fortunate, allowing them to suffer needlessly while simply serving themselves instead; it is a severe warning because He wants people to realise it is a reality. Christ was showing that although there was communication between those in very different conditions, there could be no relief for those who had brought upon themselves - through negligence and their own self-seeking motives - the consequences that must be faced.

In other words, we are being told that the selfishness of the rich man was such that on his arrival in his new state, there was no escape from his predicament because of the health of his soul-body, and the consequences he must face. He had done it to himself through utter selfishness and must suffer the results.

Thus, there was not going to be relief from his burning torment by any cooling water (from Lazarus) because not only was there no accommodation for such a thing in his present environment but the scales of Divine Justice could not be altered and he therefore had to reap what he had sown and there was no relief possible, not even a temporary respite from that which scorched.

The literalistic religionist encounters a great stumbling block with this parable told by Jesus, especially the sentences of Luke 16:26, because he or she would say that it declares that nobody can cross between Heaven and Hell, i.e. "...they which would pass from hence to you cannot". But a basic understanding of the mechanics of the Spiritual World with its punitive but redemptive aspects, provides the explanation and reveals the truth behind this sentence, which must be taken in context of the whole parable.

When a person is sent to jail then he forfeits the privileges that the free man has, and in the rich man's case, the "sentence" he had brought upon himself did not include the quenching of his fiery torment with "water". So he pleaded for water but even those who wanted to bring things from the free man's heaven could not, because such things cannot exist in the rich man's hellish condition and such a prison-house does not have the environmental capacity or potential to contain such things as water.

Neither was there any escape for the rich man or others in the same self-imposed hellish predicament to a more congenial condition (until, by expiation, all debts were paid): "...neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence". He was in his own condition and the "great gulf" was the gulf he had "fixed" himself.

But let us not forget the wonderful love of Christ. However permanent the position this self-imposed torment may appear to be to one who has put himself there (and very permanent it seems to such a one), there is always a time when, after a hellish purification and correction (or "age-long pruning"), such a one will have eventually had enough selfishness "pruned" away, to be able to learn something of the selfless nature of the Gospel of Love from Christ and His angels, and slowly but surely be able to lighten the conditions around. The "great gulf" which was fixed through selfishness and wickedness, can, piece by piece, be transformed into a bridge by learning selflessness, compassion and love, and all those Divine qualities exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6).

God is all-wise and all-loving, and has accounted for everything in His Plan for the redemption of His children. There may be those of God's children who fix a great gulf between their self-centred, unsympathetic and uncompassionate natures, and the spiritual health and attainment to be gained by learning from God and those "ministering spirits" who work for Him (Heb.1:14) who would relieve them of their "debt", as it were, but the Law of Consequences cannot be altered (Luke 6:37, Gal.6:7, 1 Cor.3:13-15, 2 Cor.5:10, Rom.2:6, Matt.16:27, Rev.22:12, Rev.20:12) which is in operation constantly and which is made manifest at the end of an individual's earthly life ("the time is near", "behold I come quickly"), and which has been in force from the very beginning for the redemption of God's children; those who have imprisoned themselves in such a way must remain in their self-created jail until all "debts" are paid, yet because of God's love and wisdom, they shall at some future time be free of their darkness - God has ordained it.

Indeed, we can see the state of such a one in another parable told by Jesus: "And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him" (Matt. 18:34). It is impossible to disassociate this parable from the parable of the selfish rich man under discussion because the state of the wicked servant and the selfish rich man is the same state, albeit in parabolic form. The Fundamentalist will probably have missed this association due to his erroneous assumption that he, and those who think like him, will be the only ones who are not going to Hell for eternity. However, it is important to notice the word "until" in Christ's parable about the wicked servant. He, like the selfish rich man, must reap what he had sown "until" he should "pay all that was due".

This is brought powerfully home to us by the example of the loving Good Shepherd Who seeks the lost sheep "until He finds it" (Luke 15:4), when He left His dead body on the Cross and went in His spirit to teach people who were once wicked (who had since undergone a long 'pruning' period and were now ready to learn) about His Gospel of Love; Christ was: "put to death in the flesh, but quickened *by the Spirit*: by which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing" (1 Pet. 3:18-20).

NB: *by the Spirit* - This should be 'in the spirit' with a small 's' but the interpreters, being conditioned to a limited salvation doctrine, altered this to 'by the Spirit' to fit in with their scheme of things, as continuity of life was either consciously or subconsciously ruled out by them i.e. they could not contemplate that the spirit leaves the physical body alive, conscious and sentient, or they could not condone the claim that those killed in the Flood were able to be redeemed from the hells. The Greek words and possible definitions are given below with the correct translation to contrast with the rendering of the Translators:

Greek of 1 Peter 3:18-20:

"...thanatoo sarx de zoopoieo pneuma en hos kai poreuomai kerusso pneuma en phulake pote apeitheo hote hapax makrothumia theos ekdechomai en hemera Noe" (1 Peter 3:18-20)

English of 1 Peter 3:18-20:

"...put to death in the flesh but caused to live in the spirit in which also he pursued the journey to proclaim the gospel to spirits in the place where captives are kept who in time past refused belief and obedience when at one time the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah" (1 Peter 3:18-20)

thanatoo: to put to death
sarx: flesh, the flesh, denotes mere human nature
de: but
zoopoieo: to produce alive, to cause to live, make alive, quickening as respects the spirit
pneuma: the spirit, vital principal which animates the body, a life giving spirit, a human soul that has left the body, God's power and agency distinguishable in thought from his essence
en: in, by, with
hos: who, which, what
kai: and, also
poreuomai: to lead over, carry over, transfer, traverse, travel, pursue or continue the journey one has entered
kerusso: to be a herald, to publish, proclaim openly, proclamation of the gospel
phulake: a watching, place where captives are kept, a prison
pote: in time past
apeitheo: refuse belief and obedience
hote: when
hapax: one time
makrothumia: patience, forbearance, longsuffering
theos: God, of God
ekdechomai: to look for, wait for, await
hemera: the day(s)
Noe: Noah

Furthermore, 1 Peter 4:6, when given its more accurate and unbiased translation appears as this:

"For this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit..." (1 Peter 4:6)

The hellish place related by our Lord in which the rich man found himself, will last for a terminable time - a time with an end. The Age whose closing shall see the fulfilment of God's "Purpose of the Aeons" (Eph.3:11), i.e. "the Restitution of all things", will be the Age when all souls have been purified of the evil they contain.

This Age is a finite period, it may be a vast one, as Christ's purpose is worked through "all the generations of the Aeon of aeons" (Eph.3:21); Christ spoke of "Aeonial pruning" (Matt. 25:46), indicating an ongoing process of painful soul-purification for those who are dead spiritually, contrasted with living the Christ-Life and progressing spiritually with Christ, remembering that Christ the Redeemer was "with God" (John 1:1) from the very beginning.

This great Aeon will close only when the Purpose of God in Christ shall have been accomplished; when the epochs of pruning and death shall have passed away, and the "lost" and "dead" beings shall have been found and made alive to God.

We have a promise from our Lord and the greatest unimaginable comfort available to man on Earth: "If a man keep My word, he shall not see death all through the Aeon" (John 8:51). How blessed are we compared to the selfish rich man who did not have knowledge of our Lord. Let us show how great is the Love of our Lord.

The great Aeon of Christ Jesus' purpose shall finally achieve its fulfilment and to Christ's satisfaction: "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied" (Isa.53:11), when in "the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ" (Eph.1:10) and "...when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father" (1 Cor. 15:24) - then those terrible pruning areas in the "Hades" of old will no longer exist as all of the children of God will now be living free from evil and spiritual death - in Perfection.

Tony Bisson

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