The Pharisees - Part 9

Posted in: 2011
By Tom L. Ballinger
Sep 21, 2011 - 11:37:14 AM

Plainer Words since 1968
September 21, 2011
Whenever the unmitigated Truth concerning “Hell” is taught, preached, or heralded, there is a knee-jerk reaction by those who have been reared on Sunday School Theology—the Theology of Children. Those who have graduated from Sunday School have, sadly, been brought up, for the most part, on man's books instead of the Bible. People draw their theology from hymns written by men who were saturated with tradition who, when they did write a good hymn, generally spoiled it in the last verse by setting “death” as the church's hope instead of the Appearing of Christ (Colossians 3:4). As a result, hymns are solemnly sung which contain such absurd, paradoxical teaching as the singing of God's praises while our tongues are singing lies, and while the dead “lie silent in the grave.” (In this paragraph, we have expressed a few of Dr. E. W. Bullinger’s classic thoughts which he expressed in his article, “The Rich Man and Lazarus”).

This issue considers “The Rich Man and Lazarus.” Persons saturated with false traditions come to these Scriptures with their minds filled with the creations and imaginations of man. They can, of course, see nothing but their own traditions, thinking they are sanctioned by our Lord. They believe the Lord Jesus is teaching a Parable. They fail to perceive that the Lord Jesus is, in fact, correcting the false doctrine by introducing the truth of resurrection (Luke 16:31). But, when we read the passage in the light of the whole Word of God and, especially, in the light of the context, we see that Christ is pointing out, Satirically, the traditions of the Pharisees, which were “highly esteemed among men,” but were an “abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16: 15).

The story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” is NOT a Parable. The Lord Jesus was teaching a large crowd comprised of all manner of Jews—the common Synagogue- attending Jews, those who were the outcast-ones, members of the Priesthood, men who were of the Sadducees, the Scribes, and, most importantly—the Pharisees. Luke 16:19-31 was, primarily, directed at the Pharisees. They were His indignant enemies. They accused Him of having the power that came from the Demon, Beelzebub —the Prince of Devils.

These words, spoken by Christ, were actually directed at men who were rigidly set against the Truth. Therefore, no revelation of the Truth was given to them; light rejected became lightening!


This story IS NOT A REVELATION OF TRUTH. It is not the Gospel Truth. It is not God’s revelation about the future life; nor, the state of the dead; nor, of the future rewards or punishment. The story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” is an exposé and mockery of the Pharisee’s rejection of God’s Word, written by Moses and the Prophets. Pure and simple, it was a Satirical story ridiculing the Pharisee’s unbelief in the Scriptures which they professed to believe. This story is told in Luke 16:

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 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; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 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. 25 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. 26 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. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 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).


“There was a certain rich man.” The rich man, in this story which the Lord Jesus told, depicted the aristocratic ruling class in Israel—comprising Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, and Scribes. This pointed to a definite class of men—the Elite as compared to the Poor. As it has been pointed out, the Pharisees and the other elite gave rise to a “Caste System” which was rigidly maintained in Israel. There was a “great gulf” between the rich and the poor; the rich did not allow anyone to bridge the gap.

“Rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen.” Purple generally described the color of cloth which was customarily worn by kings. In John 19:2, we note that the kingly claims of the Lord Jesus Christ were made a mockery of by soldiers. They “put on Him a purple robe, And said, Hail, King of the Jews! and they smote him with their hands.” (John 19:2-3). This, also, pointed to the fact that the aristocratic class in Israel had assumed the place of kings. They had assumed the authority while, altogether, disregarding the responsibilities that God had laid upon the rulers in Israel; “…  He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God” (2 Samuel 23:3). The aristocratic ruling class was tyrannical and suppressing. They did not rule in the fear of God, nor were they just. (This is a universal Truth—it is required of rulers to “Rule in the fear of God and be just”).

“Fine linen” was a garment worn by the priests. This pointed to the fact that the “click” (the Pharisees) controlled the Priesthood and had assumed their chief role—instructing the people. In Matthew 23:2, the Lord Jesus made reference to the fact that the scribes and the Pharisees loved to “sit in Moses’ Seat.” God positioned Moses to sit in judgment over Israel; Moses did so, reluctantly. By contrast, the scribes and the Pharisees usurped the legitimate ruling authority, and they ascended to an illegitimate role as the ruling party. They were determined to hold onto this usurpation of power. Moses and the legitimate rulers, who were to have followed him, were to have sat in judgment, being guided by the written Word of God. The illegitimate ruling class—the scribes and Pharisees—wearing the “fine linen,” judged Israel according to their “own Law.” They were self-appointed usurpers and acted as though their pronouncements were as binding as the revelations God gave to Moses. They taught precepts and bound them upon the people but would not apply these same precepts to themselves. “They say and do not” (Matthew 23:3).

“And fared sumptuously everyday.” This pointed to the luxurious manner in which the ruling class lived. Their position shielded them from the oppression and sufferings which most Israelites were undergoing because of the Roman conquest and occupation.

So far, we find nothing which would present the rich man as being exceedingly wicked, or vile, or worthy of punishment. This is not the picture of great wickedness being set forth in the portrayal of the rich man. All we know of this man is that he was rich, and that he wore expensive clothing, and that he lived luxuriously every day. This is all that we know of him, and it is very little. There is not enough information to form any true estimate of his character since the facts deal with his state. The facts reveal nothing of his character. According to the story the Lord tells, the worst that could be said about the rich man is that he was content to dwell at ease, and that he tried to surround himself with things that were pleasurable.

The things said about the rich man are not statements that described a repugnant sinner like an Ahab, or a Judas Iscariot. We should not sit in judgment of the man’s character by whether or not he is rich. Neither do we condemn a man as wicked because he dresses well. However, in most orthodox interpretations concerning this story, the rich man is judged as being extremely wicked. We are not told how this man gained his wealth, and we must not assume that his wealth was gained dishonestly. Nothing in the story stated anything as to what was his lack of integrity.

It was evident that the Lord Jesus Christ desired to set forth a composite picture of the rich and powerful men of Israel during that time period, especially, the Pharisees. Let’s not be guilty of taking from, and adding to, the word picture the Lord presented.

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