IN reading the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) a person should note that our Lord evidently had just related the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-13); and so here He pressed on—to show not only the need of rightly using wealth in this present world but the folly of gaining the world and losing one’s own soul.
Doubtless He also had in mind the Jewish nation which had refused Him—in particular, the haughty Pharisees who rejected the Messiah. Moses and the prophets had testified of Him, and if they were not enough, these men would not be persuaded if one rose from the dead—which one actually did in the case of Lazarus of Bethany!
Nor can anyone deny, even if it be granted that the main object of this passage is not to teach about hell, that our Lord Himself gave us the most fearful pictures of eternal punishment to be found in the Bible. Here He plainly shows that those in torment have sight, they suffer, they speak, they have memory, they have concern for others. And there is a great gulf fixed! Critics have done their utmost to tone down this picture, but our Lord here, as well as elsewhere, held the very opposite of present-day sentimental ideas about hell.
Another truth, usually overlooked in this passage, comes out in the last verse: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” It applies first to the Jews, of course. Their rejection of the resurrection of Lazarus and our Lord proved that. But it also applies to us. Dives is a type of those today, both sinners and saints, who demand some extra sign in addition to the Word of God. The Bible is not enough for them, and they think they would believe if they were furnished some remarkable extra display or manifestation.
Some think that if Christ were walking among us in the flesh, more would believe. But in His own day, while multitudes followed Him, most of them were superficial disciples, out for the loaves and fishes. Human nature has not changed. Faith that will not depend on His Word would not be convinced by works. If men refuse the Word of God, nothing else will be enough.
Even Christians fall into the error of demanding extra signs, feelings, visions, experiences, to confirm the Word of God. The Word often is not enough for assurance. Like Thomas, they demand to see before believing, forgetting that our Lord promised the greater blessing to those who see not, yet believe. True, God often favors believers with extra evidences and confirmations of His Word, but not because they would not take the bare Word. To ask for further evidence is to doubt God. If Moses and the prophets… and now the whole New Testament… be not enough, no other demonstration would be enough. We think it would, but it would not. Praise God for the sufficiency of His Word!