The Pharisees - Part 10

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Oct 4, 2011 - 10:18:15 AM

Plainer Words Since 1968
October 4, 2011
PLAINER WORDS ONLINE …THE PHARISEES – PART 10                                   
(The Rich Man and Lazarus - Continued)
“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” (Luke 16:20-21).
“There was a certain beggar named Lazarus.” This character is brought into the story to point to the poor in Israel. Many passages of Scripture show that the poor were those who were oppressed by the high-handed and cruel aristocracy (see Amos 8:4; Isaiah 3:14-15, 10:1-2, 32:7; Ezekiel 16:49, 22:29). In much of the writings of the Prophets, we find that the wealthy ruling class was constantly being criticized for their cruel and unjust treatment of the poor. This had not changed in the least by the time the Lord Jesus Christ showed up in the midst of the Israelis.
We see that the beggar is given a name—Lazarus; whereas, the “rich man” was not. The fact that the name, “Lazarus,” is used is a definite part of the Lord’s Satire. Its use is significant. “Lazarus” means, “God a help,” and it was a practice that seemed common among the rich. When the poor asked them for help, such as, their requests for food or clothing, the rich and Pharisees’ standard reply was, “go in peace, be ye warmed, and be ye filled,” yet, they did nothing to fulfill these needs (James 2:15-16).
“Was laid at his [the rich man’s] gate.” In Scripture, the word, “gate,” is generally a symbol of authority. As in Lot’s day, the city council of Sodom conducted their business at the “gate” of Sodom (Genesis 19:1). Israel’s poor were the responsibility of the rich according to God’s Word, but in the time that Christ taught in the Holy Land, the rich refused to accept this responsibility and put it back upon God. An example is that the Pharisees would devour a widow’s property, then, make long prayers for God to help her.
“Full of sores.” The word for “sores” was the Greek word for “ulcers” or primarily, wounds, according to “Vines Expository Dictionary.” This is another description of the miserable conditions in an occupied and oppressed country such as Israel. They suffered from the tyrannical and oppressive Roman conquerors. The poor also suffered deprivation from the tax-gathers and lawless neighbors. On top of all this were the sufferings heaped upon them from the elite, aristocratic ruling class.
“And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.” All that the poor ever asked for was a little easing of their hard lot, a thing well within the power of the Pharisees to grant. But, they refused to fulfill the directive of God as set forth in Deuteronomy 15:7-8.
“Moreover the dogs came and licked his [the begger’s] sores.” This pointed to the fact that there were many kindly and merciful acts performed for the poor in Israel by individuals of the Roman occupation. Cornelius, the Roman Centurion in Acts 10, was one who gave much alms to the people (Acts 10:2). Of course, in Israel at that time, Gentiles were referred to as “dogs.” In this Satirical story, in which the Lord Jesus told to ridicule the Pharisees, He pointed out that even “Gentile dogs,” in instances, would try to relieve the suffering of the poor.
Now, up to this part in His story, the Lord set the stage and placed the characters upon it.  At this point, He is going to take these fictitious players, move them about and cause them to speak; but their speaking will be in harmony with the principles and doctrines of the “Oral Law” made-up by the Pharisees. Their speaking will not be in harmony with any of the Scriptures. The Pharisees’ doctrine of their “Oral Law” invalidated the Word of God (Mark 7:13).
Part of their Traditional doctrine was their teaching which implied that a man who was poor and needy, in this life, would be rich in the life to come. Since the “Oral Law” was not committed to writing, at that time, there was no chapter and verse to back-up any of the Pharisees’ “own Law.” The traditional teaching of the poor being rich in the world to come kept many of the poor satisfied with being impoverished. This helped maintain the gulf between the rich and the poor. This pseudo-doctrine spared the Pharisees the task of caring-for the “down and out.”
This Pharisaical teaching was—that if in this life, it was filled with evil things, the life to come would be filled with good things. But, this was as far as the Pharisees carried that doctrine. They never allowed the idea to go as far as to say that if a man were to be rich in this life, he would be poor in the next. Or, if a man enjoyed good things in this life, he would receive evil things in the life to come. Their teaching was never carried to its logical conclusion.
The motive behind their doctrinal teaching (their “Oral Law”) is now apparent. There are no commandments in the Word of God which could be plainer than those which made it the duty of the rich, in Israel, to care for and provide aid to the poor. Even the crafty Pharisees had difficulty in explaining away the clear statements as found in Deuteronomy 15:7-11. Note that Verse 11 sums up the aforementioned passages:
“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I [the LORD] command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.”
So, what did the Pharisees do? They made these commandments VOID by their tradition which they devised—making poverty a virtue which carried a guarantee of great bliss in the next life. By getting the people to accept the Pharisees’ Tradition of being poor, hungry, and destitute as being the will of God, the Pharisees saved themselves from the God-Given responsibility of caring for the poor. Concerning such things, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke unadulterated Truth:
“Thus you [Pharisees] nullify the Word of God by your tradition [Oral Law] that you have handed down. And you do many things like that" (Mark 7:13) NIV.
It appears that the Pharisees were in control of every situation, always ready with some doctrine that would relieve them of their obligation to the poor. Such was the case with the fictional character of Lazarus in this story of Satire. The Pharisees probably expressed deep compassion, wiping away tears as they did so. They always made a good impression. Embodied in their doctrine was the fact that better times were sure to come for those who, like Lazarus, were uncomplainingly miserable. Lazarus received his evil things in this life, and this signified that he would get his good things in the life to come. Why, then, should they go against the will of God and change the wretched man’s state when that was the beggar’s guarantee of a better state in the next life. Thus, the Pharisees protected their wealth and position by leading the people to believe that poverty was a cardinal virtue, but frankly, it was a virtue which no Pharisee cared to possess.
In His censure of the Pharisees, Christ took their own teachings, held them accountable for their idol words, judged them out of their own mouths, and bound upon them what they laid upon others. The common people, in Israel, may have sensed the contradictions in the teachings of the Pharisees, but they dared not state it. The Pharisees were in authority, and the common people knew not to question, or answer back. When the Greatest of all Teachers appeared upon the earth, He was not afraid of the Pharisees. By means of Satirical stories, He developed their teachings to all of its logical conclusions.
If one position was to be reversed in the life to come, then, all positions were to be reversed. If the poor were to be rich, then, the rich were to be poor. If a man was on the good side of the great gulf reversed in this life, then, he should be on the evil side in the life to come. This is a situation we find in the second part of the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” The Lord Jesus caused all of the actors to move and to be in complete harmony with the teachings and principles of the Pharisees. The result is startling, especially when, as in this story, dead men begin to act and talk.
“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.” The Pharisees’ Tradition taught that this was the way it would take place. It is amazing at the gyrations men go through to make the Satirical story plausible and to fit in with their concept of death, hell, and the state of the dead! THE LORD JESUS CHRIST WAS NOT REVEALING WHAT HAPPENS AT DEATH! Rather, He was exposing the doctrine and teaching of the Pharisees about angels carrying the dead to a place they called “Abraham’s Bosom.” This is a place UNKNOWN IN THE WORD OF GOD. But, it was not unknown in the Tradition of the Pharisees, as the Talmud and the writings of Josephus give abundant witness.
According to “The New Unger's Bible Dictionary,” “ABRAHAM'S BOSOM is also an expression of the Talmud [a collection of writings of the Oral Law] for the state of bliss after death. Father Abraham was, to the Israelites, in the corrupt times of their later superstitions, almost what the Virgin Mary is to the Roman church.” What we have, here, in the story of Satire regarding the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, is the fact that the Lord Jesus is subtly mocking the Pharisees because of their superstition about Abraham’s bosom. We are dumbfounded that a majority of Christendom embrace the superstition of the Jewish Oral Law. As an example, the day after we issued Part 9 of this series, a man wrote asking that we remove him from our mailing list. He chose to believe the Pharisaical superstition instead of Truth. Those who wrongly believe that the dead are conscious, either in the state of bliss or torment, find solace in the Satirical fairy-tale of “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Yes, the fairy-tale is told by Jesus Christ, but Him telling it doesn’t mean it is the Gospel Truth. The sincere student should recognize the Satire employed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ used the form of Militant Satire—to wit, saying what He didn’t mean and meaning what He didn’t say! In plainer words, the surface meaning is different from that intended by Christ. His purpose was that of ridiculing the “Leaven of the Pharisees.”
Furthermore, it should be pointed out that Bishop Lightfoot, in his body of work, wrote, “speaking of death the Pharisees would say, ‘this day he sits in Abraham’s bosom’” (Volume xii, pp. 159-63).
“The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” In Christ’s story, it is stated that the rich man died and was buried. The one who was buried is seen in the story as being tormented in “hell.” Since no-one has been able to tell us how he got out of the grave and into a place of torment, men are forced to insert here, some vague idea about a “soul.” The result has been that men have devised the platonic idea about a soul which is not according to the Word of God. We have said many times—unless a person understands the Scriptural Truth regarding a “soul,” he winds up getting the doctrine of “Heaven,” “Hell,” “Life,” “Death,” and even the Doctrine of “Salvation,” all messed up.  In the Satirical story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” we find that the Lord Jesus is not presenting the story of the rich man in harmony with Scriptural Truth. Rather, it is in harmony with “The Oral Law” of the Pharisees. Their doctrine on the "soul" amounts to that of the “transmigration of the soul.”
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