It has been suggested by several brethren that we write upon the above named parable. Many in days gone by have written upon this subject, yet there is room, we hope, for a few suggestions from us.
The Savior spoke in parables, that the Scripture might be fulfilled which says, “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. * * * that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.” Many, however, who claim to be the servants of God apply them literally, and teach many false lessons from them. Sometimes they are applied experimentally, but we feel that much of the hidden treasure in them is missed in so doing. If the parables are to be applied literally, how can there be any obscurity in them! If applied experimentally, where is the instruction! For many years we have felt that some deep truth is hid in each one, and that we are not warranted in applying every detail in order to reach their import; our desire should be to know the truth contained in them; this can be done by the Spirit’s teaching only, as natural men do not understand the things of God better to-day than when Jesus spoke to them in parables. His disciples then were given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, and none but such now understand.
The rich man in the parable before us was the Jew, and represented national Israel in all their riches and splendor. Paul asks, “What advantage hath the Jew!” then answers the question by saying, “Much in every way:” to them were given the promises, the law and the oracles; these things constituted the riches of the Jew. God recognized them as his people, he watched over them, guided them, fed them, sheltered them, and they were the only nation on earth, before the coming of Christ, that had a God-given form of worship.
Lazarus (poor man) was the Gentile, and represented all Gentile nations in their dire poverty and distress, being without the promises, the law and the oracles, or in other words, without “hope and without God in the world;” the lack of those blessings made them poor. The Gentiles were idolators, but occasionally one would be found with the Jews, and was called “a stranger.” They observed a difference between their gods and the God of Israel, in that He guided, protected and fought their battles for them, while the gods of the Gentiles could neither hear nor help them. The king of Babylon recognized this when Daniel had interpreted his dream and said, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets.” Yet none of the Gentiles had the knowledge of God, but there seems to have been a hope in the Gentile that he might be blessed through the Jews. This is seen in the desire of Lazarus to be fed with the crumbs (lesser blessings) which fell from the rich man’s table. Again, the Syro-phenician woman, who had no right to claim anything from that nation, asked help of Jesus. He first told her it was not meet to take the children’s bread and give it to dogs. She answered, Truth, Lord, but the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table. She, a Gentile, manifested her hope of help through the King of the Jews. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, “Salvation is of the Jews.”
We are told in the parable that the poor man died, (but was not buried) and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. This is not heaven, and should not be represented as such; neither was the death literal, but experimental: death to all hope of heavenly blessedness coming through nations or idols. The angels were the apostles, ministering spirits, sent to minister to the heirs of salvation; they carried the poor Gentile into Abraham’s bosom in preaching salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. The preaching was, “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, [children] and heirs according to the promise.” This relationship between Abraham and the Gentiles did not come through Abraham, but through Christ, the promised Seed; “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” Abraham is the “father of the faithful,” and with him, Isaac and Jacob, the Gentiles sit down in the kingdom of God.
The rich man also died and was buried. This death was not literal, nor was his body deposited in the earth, neither did he descend into a lake of literal fire. He died to the favor of God in that the kingdom was taken from him (Jews) “and given to a nation [Gentiles] bringing forth the fruits thereof.” The natural branches were broken off that we Gentiles, contrary to nature, might be grafted in and be partakers of the fatness of the tame olive Tree. In the work of Christ the law was fulfilled, justice satisfied and all types and shadows done away; the Jews therefore who had answered the purpose as a figure of spiritual Israel were cut off and cast out into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, scattered among all nations, and to this day have no country of their own. This condition of the Jews is represented by the word ” hell,” a terrible state indeed for those to be in who had been so blessed and prospered. It was in the fullest sense of the word “torments.” This part of the parable is often used to frighten people into getting religion, (as it is called) being presented or set forth as a literal fire wherein sinners are to burn eternally. The word “hell” in the Scriptures is not as carefully examined as it should be; in many places it means no such thing as a place of literal fire. For instance, when Jesus said by the mouth of the prophet David, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell,” he meant no such thing as a lake of fire and brimstone, but that God would not leave him in the grave or state of death. Again David said, “The pains of hell gat hold upon me;” immediately he explains by saying, “I found trouble and sorrow.” When Jonah said, “Out of the belly of hell cried I,” he referred to the condition he was in: “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” How well acquainted are all of the Lord’s children with this condition called hell by Jonah.
We have thought of the Scripture in John v. 28,29: “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life: and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,” as referring to this condition of the Jews as a nation, and to the blessedness of the elect, both Jews and Gentiles. The words “grave” and “graves” are used in a figurative sense, and very seldom are we permitted to give them their literal meaning when speaking of them from a scriptural standpoint; almost invariably they signify condition rather than location, as is taught by the “vision of dry bones.” The Lord commanded Ezekiel to say unto the bones, “Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.” Not one bone was buried in the earth, but all of them appeared on the surface of the earth. This Scripture in Ezekiel is intended to show the condition of Israel at that time. It seems that John v. 28, 29, is explained in Matthew xxv. 31-46. In that parable is seen a resurrection or coming forth of two classes, and judgment is passed according to John v. 28, 29. To those on the right hand it was said, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” They had “done good “in that they had ministered unto the brethren of the King (Christ). To those on the left hand it was said, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels,” (Jesus told the Jews on one occasion that they were of their father the devil) condemnation, torment, cut off, cast out. These had “done evil” in not ministering to the brethren of Christ. Remember that the rich man (Jew) did not minister to the poor man. There is a sense in which this separation takes place every time the gospel is preached, for the gospel always separates between the righteous and the wicked, saying to one, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord, while to the other it says, Depart, ye workers of iniquity.
In this condition of torment (house left unto them desolate) the rich man or Jew sees “Abraham afar off,” and Lazarus in his bosom. He addresses Abraham as father, and Abraham calls him son. This very thing establishes the fact that the “rich man “was a Jew, and that the “poor i man “was a Gentile, as the son of Abraham claimed no relationship to him. It is worthy of note that the rich man did not call upon God for mercy, but upon his father Abraham, asking that he would send Lazarus that he might comfort him. Abraham called his attention to the good things (blessings) he had enjoyed in his lifetime (while God wa9 with them as a nation); his attention was also called to the former condition of the poor man, and said, “But now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 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.” The great gulf did not come by chance, but was “fixed “between the Jew and the Gentile and remains unto this day; it is unbelief, in the Jew, of the sonship of Christ the Son of God. A Jew and a Gentile may live in the same house and labor side by side day after day, yet this gulf is fixed, and in faith they are as far apart as the east is from the west; it is as impossible for the believing Gentile to come to the Jew religiously as it is for the unbelieving Jew to come to the Gentile, hence no passing from one to the other.
When the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to his father’s house to warn his brethren that they come not into that place of torment, Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” None but the Jews had Moses and the prophets, and they believed them not. Jesus said to them, “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” But the rich man continued by saying, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”
Abraham replied, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” How true these words are; Jesus, the crucified Lord, did rise from the dead, and his gospel was preached in all the world for a witness, but the Jews rejected the testimony, persecuted the apostles and put them to death, but the Gentiles believed on Jesus and rejoiced in the salvation of God, hence “are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,” while the Jews still refuse to speak the name Christ Jesus, manifesting that their terrible condition: “hell,” remains to the present day.
We have now given such as we have upon this subject, and have tried to be clear and as brief as possible that our view be fully understood, and leave it for the consideration of our readers. K.
Editorial – Elder H. C. Ker
Signs Of The Times
Volume 76., No. 1.
JANUARY 1, 1908.