Luke 16:19-31 the Rich Man and Lazarus


There was a popular book a few years ago titled, Love Wins… by Rob Bell. The book made certain claims that in the end everyone goes to Heaven. Yet, we cannot get that from the Scriptures, or from the Parable we will look at today.

Who can tell me my theme for Lent? Someone, anyone shout it out—

The Gospel is for everyone… So, I do not have to have a lot of money, do I? No, not at all. I do not have to be highly educated, do I? No, not at all. The Gospel is for everyone. My other theme is that we serve a Mighty Savior.

There is a professor at the seminary which I attended who gave an illustration of the wrath of God. Dr. Mulholland, said that if I walk out of a window, what makes me fall? The consequence of jumping out of a window is gravity makes you fall. Gravity does it. God’s wrath on sin is like gravity. God’s wrath on sin is a natural repercussion of sin. When I break God’s law His wrath is a natural response to that violation.  The subject today is on one hand a tough one. We are looking at the eternal destiny of those without Christ. On the other hand we have an encouraging subject as we look at the eternal destiny of those with Christ. We also will see how Jesus sympathizes with the poor man. Jesus, once again, looks after the poor and the marginalized.

From this passage I could preach on hell. I will just a little bit. But, this passage is also saying that the Jewish lineage does not take care of your eternity. Jesus is also saying that your wealth does not take care of your eternity. Jesus is also saying that if people do not believe the Scriptures they will not believe a resurrection.

I am going to teach this passage and I wish to show you:

  1.        The Gospel is for everyone, regardless of wealth.
  2.        The reality of eternity.
  3.        The supremacy of Scripture.

Read with me Luke 16:19-31:

The Rich Man and Lazarus

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

25 “But Abraham replied, ‘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. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

  1.                    In verses 19-22, The rich man and Lazarus introduced:
  2.        This is a parable, it is story with a purpose. I wonder what it would look like on the big screen. Think with me. There is a certain rich man. He has lots of wealth. In fact, the literal wording says that he was eating sumptuously every day. He had it his way, every day. He was wearing purple linen. It was rare to be able to afford this type of clothing, yet he could.
  3.       Now, at his gate… stop right there. He had a gate. This was rare as well. He had enough wealth to have a gate around his home. I remember being in the Dominican Republic and I saw people with gates around their homes. I saw businesses with gates. We built a gate around a church. But that gate we built to protect the place. We saw others with gates and they were elaborate, it was displaying their great wealth. In this case the indication is that this man had the wealth and he was displaying it.
  4.        Now, at the gate sat Lazarus, who was poor. This is the only parable where Jesus gives a character a name. By the way, Jesus may not have made up this parable. It could have been a common Jewish story at the time.
  5.       Also, this is not the Lazarus whom he would raise from the dead later on.
  6.        The Bible says that this poor beggar was laying at his gate, but the language really says that he was thrown at the gate. That is some strong verbiage.
  7.        Now, imagine with me: Every day the rich man walks right by the poor man. Every day, maybe he tries not to look, because if he looks, he may feel guilty. Maybe, just maybe, he looks on purpose. He does not care. He wants to flaunt his great, great wealth. He walks right on by the poor man and he does not care. He will look at him and think, “Oh well, you should work harder.” Or, “Serves you right, you were born to the wrong family.”
  8.       Maybe the poor man Lazarus, made the rich man sick because of his sores. The Bible says that he had sores on him. The Bible says the dogs licked the sores. These sores would not be leprosy. They would be sores from malnutrition or something else. The dogs would not be Ol’ Shep, or some “Man’s best Friend” dog. These dogs were wild pests. I remember being in the Dominican Republic and Belize, Central America and I saw dogs which were wild. The people did not like them around. They were scavengers. Jesus, including these dogs in the parable shows how bad Lazarus’ condition was. When the dogs lick his wounds it would make them hurt worse. Yet, you know what? Imagine, the rich man, he still walks right by this poor man Lazarus. 
  9.       Jesus came for this poor man in addition to the rich man. Certain people always think they have a free ticket everywhere because of something they have accomplished, or the family they come from, or their great wealth. In this parable Jesus is showing that the Gospel is for everyone. That He cares about the poor and the destitute.
  10.         I recently heard a speaker on a video. She talked about being a pastor’s wife in Austin Texas. Her family and a few others moved onto a nice street with a nice house. Everything was good except for that house next door. That house was overgrown and unkempt. They would not cut the grass, or take care of the upkeep. She said something like: “Bye, bye resale value.” But then she realized something, whether through getting to know the person or God’s conviction or both. This house belonged to an elderly widow (I believe), and her children were draining her of her finances. She was not able to keep up the house and her children were not treating her right, then she has a pastor next door and all they think about is how bad the house makes the street look.
  11.         I do not know what the pastor and her family did in order to help their neighbor but that was a good example of what we as Christians ought to be doing and what we ought not to be thinking. Instead of thinking “How can I serve my neighbor,” many times we think, “Why don’t they clean up their house?”
  12.       Back to the parable.
  13.         They both die. It has been said that death always evens the score. We all die. No matter how good you are or even you are, you will die. I will die. In this case, death switches their roles. The rich man did not care about poor Lazarus in life, but God cares about Lazarus’ eternity.
  14.     Avoiding Hell

Not everyone is as fortunate as Alfred Nobel who in 1888 read his own obituary in a French newspaper. One of his brothers had died, but a careless reporter had used a statement prepared for the wrong man. Alfred, principal inventor of dynamite, was disappointed with the published account. He was described as a “merchant of death” who had made a fortune from explosives and human exploitation. This haunting image caused him to reevaluate his life and revamp his will. Consequently, his money has made possible the famous Nobel Peace Prizes.[1]

  1.       The poor man died and is carried to Abraham’s side. They would have all known that this was paradise. This was Heaven.
  2.       The rich man dies and was buried. Notice that Lazarus was not even buried. This means that he was very low in his station in life. Everyone was to be buried.
  3.                 In verses 23- 24 we see in Hades their roles are reversed.
  4.        The rich man is in torment. He is in Hades. Hades is not hell. Hades would be called Sheol in the Old Testament. It was known as a realm of the dead. But Jesus, in this parable indicates that there was suffering. The text says, multiple times, that he was in suffering. (verses 23, 24, 25, 28)
  5.       Again, I think I could pull out things about hades and hell from this passage, but my purpose is to show that The Gospel is for everyone. This poor man was not in hades. He was in paradise. The rich man who ignored the beggar was missing something in life. He calls Abraham “Father Abraham” meaning that he was Jewish, but he did not take care of the poor.

The Reality of Hell

The rich man of Luke 16 became painfully aware of hell and its stark reality, as will every person who rejects the love of the Savior. As one old preacher expressed it, “After you’ve been in hell five seconds, you’ll believe in it!”[2]

  1.        Now, the roles are reversed. Lazarus is being comforted. Actually, the Bible says that God is comforting Him. The rich man is in torture.
  2.       Notice, and this goes along with my next point, the rich man wants help, but it is too late. He sees Lazarus and he just wants to dip the tip of his finger in water. But it is too late. Again, the roles are reversed. Before, Lazarus needed the rich man’s help, but now, the rich man needs Lazarus’ help. 
  3.              In verses 27-31, we see that the Scriptures are sufficient as a witness.
  4.        The rich man wants someone to warn his five brothers, but no. Abraham says that the Scriptures are sufficient.
  5.       Notice that the text says in verse twenty-seven that he wanted Lazarus to warn his brothers. The literal word is to “testify”. He wants someone to witness to them. All throughout Acts that same word is used of the Apostles being a witness.
  6.        The rich man thinks that if someone rises from the dead, they will believe. Abraham says, no, if they do not listen to the Scriptures, they will not listen, even if someone rises from the dead.


This passage says that the Law of Moses is a witness.

I have Naked juice right here. This is perfectly healthy stuff. But, you know if it is healthy, it may not taste very good. So, why don’t I add some whip cream, everyone likes whip cream. You know that probably is not enough to make it taste good, so let me add something else. How about I add some chocolate chips. Hmmm, everyone likes chocolate chips. Okay, now it may taste good enough. But, what else could I add? Any other ideas, please share???

What did I do? I just ruined the value of this drink. Okay, God has given us His Word in order to be a witness. His Word is sufficient to be a witness, yet sometimes we do not trust His Word as a witness so we want to add to it or take from it. Sometimes we wish for a special sign, but Jesus is telling the Pharisees that His Word is enough.

This passage says that His Word is enough and the Gospel is for everyone. It is not about money. It is not about possessions. It is not about having a nice gate around your place. It is not about having plenty of nice food. No, it is about our faith in the Savior and our works matching that faith. (Ephesians 2:8-9) Do you have this faith??? Jesus came for everyone.


In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says that when we take care of those need, we take care of Him. In James 2:14-26 the Bible teaches that our works must match our faith.

So, I hope you noticed.

  1.                    The Gospel is for everyone, regardless of wealth.
  2.                    The reality of eternity.
  3.                    The supremacy of Scripture over the desire for miracles.   

Apply this to your life this week. Look to take care of those in need. Look to make sure your faith is verified by your works. Trust in the Scriptures and remember there is a real eternity. Be a witness.




[1] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 153). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2] Jones, G. C. (1986). 1000 illustrations for preaching and teaching (p. 155). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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