Thursday, June 19, 2008

The story of the rich man and Lazarus

Okay, notice I didn't call it a parable. Because, plain and simple, it is not. I'm only getting myself riled up about this naming issue because my Seventh Day Adventist friends dismiss the entire story -- and hell-- by saying "well, that's just a parable."

Okay, a definition of a parable is a story taken from real life, earthly, and commonplace situations or universal occurrence to symbolize spiritual situations or truths. Often the parable's meaning is hidden and the person telling the parable has to give the key to understanding the parable's meaning.

For those who don't know the story, look below.

Anyway, this is the reason why it is NOT a parable:

1) It actually has a fellow in hell, a spiritual place -- which certainly is not an everyday Earthly occurrence. Certainly not one I'm familiar with. In fact, most of this story takes place in hell. It is a story about a spiritual non-physical place so how can a story about a spiritual place -- the ultimate reality-- be symbolic of a hidden spiritual truth?

2) There is an actual named character in the story. Parables do not use names. None of the characters in Jesus's other parables had names. Moses and Abraham are also mentioned. Even if they supposedly "represent" the law and the patriach, this is not a parable that everyone everywhere in the world would understand. If this is a parable, it is suited only for those who understand Jewish culture.

3) There is a big spiritual discussion in the story...a discussion where everything is spelled out. Things are so spelled out in this story that the only way one can misunderstand what is going on is to set out purposely to find some other spiritual truth the story is referring to. Parables generally do not have big spiritual discussions. No one in Jesus parables ever talk about religious matters.

This refusal to see that Jesus spoke of hell goes so far as to my adventist friends saying that when JEsus told the theif he (the theif) "Verily, I tell you, this day you will be with me in paradise, that either A) Jesus meant soul sleep where he guards and keeps those he love or B) that Jesus said "I am telling you this day, you will be with me in paradise." Honestly! When one looks at the index of verses with "Verily, I say unto you" in certain Seventh Day Adventists books one readily sees that the other commas are not moved around to suit theological situations. Only in this verse is this comma switched around.

I don't know how they explain the transfiguration on the mount. Mainstream Christians understand it to mean A) JEsus spoke with the Elias and Moses (representative of the law and the prophets) about fulfilling all that was written about him B) The presence of the three aspects of the Godhead supporting Jesus's sacrifice (father, son, and holy spirit all present) C) The idea that spirit has substance and that spirit transforms bodies, even clothes D), JEsus was honored above all other humans and was not equal to Elias and Moses and E) The disciples were given a view of the Saviour's glory. But there is also the simple matter that Elias and Moses had died and were now very much alive and talking to JEsus. What? Did God wake them out of soul sleep then put them back to sleep again? Not possible. God creates people once and only once. HE doesn't blink them out of existence and in again at his whims. Yes, yes, I know...some will say that Elias and Moses did not die, just like Enoch. But if that is true -- and the Bible says that Moses DID die-- why didn't God include Enoch in the mix to represent the folks who lived before the law and the prophets?

"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day; and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores.
"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: and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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. 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. And besides 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.

"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. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 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 16:19-31.

Charles Finney does a really great exegesis on it

It is funny how many, many, many times a sect with issues will say that everyone else has misunderstood this parable. What is it about this parable that makes it so (supposedly) easily misunderstood by everyone else by them? Because it challenges one of their main tenets.
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