The Rich Man and Lazarus

“And the Rich Man Looked Up”

…and he looked up and saw something different. He saw someone, like a Son of Man, talking with Lazarus and the rest…

The Rich Man and Lazarus

The man looked at the ground of jagged stone and sobbed. His tears were his continual meal as he crawled across the harsh landscape an inch at a time. He could never catch a full, deep breath as the fond memories of the sweet cool air he once knew in life were replaced with smoke, sulfur, and heat that constantly filled his lungs. The screams and cries for help filled his ears with repeating choruses of regret, pain, and anguish. His hands, hands that once felt the smoothness of his purple robe and fine linen, were now filled with soot, calluses, and cuts from rocks and heat that comprised his eternal bed. The once-wealthy man, whose mind seemed to race but still clear, went over the conversation with father Abraham again and again, his words still ringing in his ears, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.” (Luke 16:25) He remembered his brothers (Luke 16:27-28) and lamented that he could not warn them. He remembered the good things he had in his former life. He remembered, and it brought him more agony than the cuts, thirst, and thunderous noise of screams that sang the same melody of regret.

The poor man looked up from his stony path to see a man in front of him. He was new, not covered in wounds, burns, and blisters from the rocks. He had the fresh look of bewilderment, despair, and horror that one has when first entering the land of Sheol. Conversations were irrelevant here, but he chose to engage this pitiful soul in dialogue, if not to replace the repeating symphony that continued in his soul.

“You! What were you in your other life? Were you possibly at one of my fine banquets, where good food abounded? Did I trade with you at one time?” the pitiful wretch asked, hoping that this new arrival would have had some part of his old life so he could re-live a time long ago.

“No, I was a thief.” the new arrival replied.

“Oh, the Romans caught you, didn’t they. Yes, they always catch you.” the affluent man replied, chocking out the words with some semblance of laughter through the sulfur. “Yes, I can see the holes. Oh yes, they caught you all right.”

The new arrival looked around. The thief looked high and low as if he had lost a precious jewel and became enraged when he again gazed back at the man with his dirty smile that seemed to drip words of torment.

“There was another, no, two others that were with me. WHERE ARE THEY? They should be with me in this place!”

“Well, this place is vast,” the once-rich man said, “it can hold many, and more come every day if there is a day. Were they thieves as well? Did they share the same wonderful life you had?” the man chuckled.

“No.” the thief replied, “In fact, the one closest to me said that He was a King and that He, and the other one, would be together in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43).

Paradise…Yes, Abraham’s Bosom, the man knew this word and did not doubt what the thief had said.

It was an effort for him to look up to converse with the thief in dialogue. Yet, he not only saw the new arrival but the horrors around him. He saw people he once knew from his childhood. They were engaged in their torture. The rich man heard their screams and witnessed their once-proud form transform into pitiful shells of madness that spoke aloud the same songs of regret that whirled through his mind and the air of this foul place. Once proud men and women brought low by that same pride of life that he once had.

It was hard for the man to look up, but the words rang clearer in his head than ever before – “Paradise.”

Long ago, when he was new in Sheol, he looked up to Paradise but never chose to look up again until now. Something was urging him to gaze once more into Abraham’s Bosom, to speak to someone not covered in sores, soot, sulfur, and shame. He looked up and saw something different. The wealthy man saw someone talking with Lazarus and the rest of the people there (Ephesians 4:8-10). He recognized many of them, and they gathered around this individual. A light shined around Him that was brighter than anything he had ever seen. The chasm (Luke 16:26) was filled with the brilliance that could not be ignored by anyone as the Son of Man’s Words seemed to dance on the beams of light. His speech echoed everywhere, and they were the same, “It is finished…it is finished” (John 19:30). Lazarus, and the multitude, cheered. Their songs accompanied the theme of the message in the glorious harmony that all accounts of sin were no longer an issue, that they were paid in full.

The rich man, thief, and everyone else looked into the light, heard the song, and began to weep, for they knew that this Good News did not apply to them (Romans 2:4, Hebrews 9:27). They knew that this liberator, this Jesus, would one day be their judge (Revelation 20:11-16). While in Sheol, the residents understood that there would be another place they would go. It would be a far worse place that would make their temporary abode (Revelation 20:14) seem like Paradise by comparison.

As the multitude looked up, they saw something strange. In the twinkling of an eye, Paradise was empty (Ephesians 4:8), which filled them with such sadness and despair. This Jesus had taken them somewhere else, where they did not know but filled with the knowledge that they would one day see, if only for an instant (Revelation 20:12-13).

There was no one left. Lazarus, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah…everyone was gone.

The man and thief turned toward each other. Both of them instinctively knew what had happened. The man that the thief mocked was a King, and how the thief wished that he had a change of heart like his counterpart had in his earthly life. The rich man, who was once dressed in purple and fine linen, knew how naked he was now and wished that he had purchased gold from the source so he could have seen what he was indeed like in his earthly life and turned towards the Son (Revelation 3:17-18). Neither of them nor the other inhabitants regretted their rebellion against the King, only that they were imprisoned and tormented.

In an instant, what was once a brilliant light in Paradise was now in their midst (1 Peter 3:18-20). The glory that radiated from Jesus illuminated the land of Sheol. So then, the exact words uttered by the Son of God in Paradise reverberated from His lips. Everyone begged and wept to leave this place, but the once affluent man knew His answer (Luke 16:29).

As Jesus finished His song of victory, He turned toward the rich man with pity in His eyes.

“You will be remembered, not in glory, but as a warning,” Jesus said.

The rich man’s eyes fell towards the stony ground as the light left.

Everything was dark again. The song of victory that once filled the air was again replaced with the themes of torment and agony. Each pitiful soul began their choruses that filled this wretched place. Soon, they will be called out, and soon, Sheol will be destroyed, and one day, they will reside in an even worse home known as Hell, or as others call it, the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

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