Beggar and Rich Man Experience a Change
1. In his sermon what changes did Jesus indicate for poor and rich?
IN HIS sermon on the mount Jesus said: “Happy are those who are conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them. Happy are those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, since they will be filled.” In contrast with these words pronouncing such kind of persons happy he said: “But woe to you rich persons, because you are having your consolation in full. Woe to you who are filled up now, because you will go hungry. Woe, you who are laughing now, because you will mourn and weep.” (Matt. 5:3, 6 and Luke 6:24, 25, NW) Jesus illustrated these changes for poor and rich in his parable of the beggar Lazarus and the rich man. He pictured the changes as coming by death.
2. At death what happened to Lazarus and the rich man? What did Lazarus’ new position indicate?
2 Jesus said: “Now in course of time the beggar died and he was carried off by the angels to the bosom position of Abraham. Also the rich man died and was buried. And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, he existing in torments, and he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in the bosom position with him.” (Luke 16:22, 23, NW) The New World Translation, in its footnote, says of this “bosom position” that one occupying this position is “as when reclining in front of another on the same couch at a meal”. It denotes a position of favor with Abraham. Death ended the beggar condition for Lazarus and put him in a favored place. The question now is, When did he die, and in what sense? There are facts to give answer.
3, 4. When and as a result of what did the Lazarus class die?
3 The Lazarus class died when the Kingdom news began to be told to the poor ones whom the religious clergy despised and neglected. They were sinners needing repentance, the harlots, the publicans, the circumcised Samaritans, and finally the uncircumcised Gentiles; and these accepted the news and became followers of the Messiah, Christ the King. This began in the days of John the Baptist, for he came preaching in the wilderness: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near. I, on the one hand, baptize you with water because of your repentance; but the one coming after me is stronger than I am, whose sandals I am not fit to take off. That one will baptize you people with holy spirit and with fire.” (Matt. 3:1, 2, 11, NW) About six months after John began Jesus was baptized by him and was anointed with God’s spirit to be the Christ. After forty days of temptation in the wilderness he came back to John and began gathering his disciples. Particularly after John’s arrest in the following year Jesus retired to Galilee and began preaching like him: “Repent, for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” En route to Galilee he even preached to the despised Samaritans.—Matt. 4:17, NW; John 4:1-42.
4 While in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth he read to the congregation his preaching commission from the prophet Isaiah: “Jehovah’s spirit is upon me, because he anointed me to declare good news to the poor, he sent me forth to preach a release to the captives and a recovery of sight to the blind, to send the crushed ones away with a release, to preach Jehovah’s acceptable year.” With that he added: “Today this scripture that you just heard is fulfilled.” (Luke 4:16-21, NW) Some time later John the Baptist in prison sent to him for some verification that he was really the One that was to come. Jesus told John’s messengers: “Go your way and report to John what you are hearing and seeing: The blind are seeing again, and the lame are walking about, the lepers are being cleansed and the deaf are hearing, and the dead are being raised up, and the poor are having the good news declared to them.” (Matt. 11:2-5, NW) Ah, yes, the Lazarus class were having the good news preached to them, and that led to their death as a beggar class, spiritually diseased and hungry. No longer were they going to the “rich man’s” gate for food, but were flocking to Jesus the Messiah. Those conscious of their spiritual need and hungering and thirsting for what was right were being filled and comforted.
5. So to what were the Lazarus class now pressing forward? And ahead of whom were they entering in, and why?
5 After John’s messengers left Jesus said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press, and those pressing forward are seizing it. For all, the Prophets and the Law, prophesied until John.” (Matt. 11:12, 13, NW) Jesus said something very similar just before he gave his parable of Lazarus and the rich man. After exposing the self-righteousness of the money-loving Pharisees who were listening in, Jesus said: “The Law and the Prophets were until John. From then on the kingdom of God is being declared as good news, and every kind of person is pressing forward toward it.” (Luke 16:16, NW) Or, to quote Moffatt’s translation: “And anyone presses in.” Every kind of person, or, anyone? Yes; the lowly Lazarus class, which once begged from the “rich man”, was pressing forward toward the kingdom and seizing it. In view of this fact Jesus finally told the chief priests and the religious elders: “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and the harlots are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God. For John came to you in the path of righteousness, but you did not believe him. However, the tax collectors and the harlots believed him, and you, although you saw this, did not feel regret afterwards so as to believe him.” (Matt. 21:23, 31, 32, NW) So the Lazarus class died to those religious leaders and were conducted to the right source for food, comfort and relief.
DEAD TOWARD THE LAW, BUT NOT BURIED
6, 7. So what divine provision was now due to be minutely fulfilled? By whom and how?
6 Now God’s kingdom was being preached and anyone or every kind of person was pressing toward it to enter it, especially after the apostle Peter was authorized to use the “keys of the kingdom”. Even the Lazarus class was pressing toward it. So it was time for the law of Moses to be fulfilled down to the last particle of a letter. Hence Jesus went on to say: “Indeed, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one particle of a letter of the Law to go unfulfilled. Everyone [Anyone, Mo] that divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he that marries a woman divorced from a husband commits adultery.” (Luke 16:17, 18, NW) As a son of a Jewess, Jesus came to be under the law of Moses. But he as a perfect Jew did not come to destroy that Law from God; he came to fulfill it. He had to prove himself to be the Seed of Abraham which was first foretold in Moses’ writings. As such Seed he must be sacrificed on God’s altar, in the same way that Abraham’s beloved son Isaac was offered on the altar at God’s command, this resulting in God’s oath-bound promise, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”—Gen. 22:1-18.
7 As prescribed in Moses’ law, Jesus must fulfill it by being offered up as the real passover lamb, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” Yes, he must be offered in sacrifice like those animals slain at Mount Sinai, whose blood Moses as mediator sprinkled on the book of the Law and the people in order to validate the Law covenant between God and Israel. But Jesus’ blood validates a new covenant between God and spiritual Israel, by which God really forgives sins beyond remembrance. To fulfill the many prophetic pictures in the Law, Jesus also had to be offered like the bullock and Jehovah’s goat on the day of atonement, the blood of which sacrifices was taken by the high priest into the Most Holy and sprinkled before the divine mercy seat. Only Jesus had to rise from the dead and ascend as High Priest into heaven itself and appear in God’s most holy presence to offer there the blood or value of his sacrificed human life for believers on earth. By these means his followers on earth could gain true righteousness from God. In fulfilling these and other features of the Mosaic law Jesus fulfilled the purpose of it. So it was taken out of the way and was nailed to the torture stake on which he died.—Ex. 12:1-13; John 1:29; Ex. 24:3-8; Lev. 16:1-19; Heb. 9:11-28; 13:10-13; Rom. 10:4; Col. 2:14.
8. What did Jesus there say regarding divorce, and why so?
8 Because the Law of Moses was then being fulfilled and removed from his believers, Jesus declared that the divorce provision in the Law whereby a man could have more than one living wife did not apply after this to his followers. (Deut. 24:1-4) The Law covenant through Moses was passing out and the new covenant through the Greater Mediator, Jesus Christ, was superseding it. Under it if a Christian got a divorce from a marriage mate on any grounds other than sexual unfaithfulness, then if either of these remarried that one would be guilty of adultery. The Christian standard of marriage under the new covenant would be that established by God in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. The man had but one living wife given him for the purpose of raising children to fill the earth and subdue it to a paradise state. (Matt. 19:3-9; Gen. 1:28; 2:21-24) God provided no divorce for the perfect pair. Likewise a married Christian must be the mate of only one living partner and should be faithful to that one. This statement of Jesus on the marriage situation must have irritated the Pharisees who followed Talmudic teachings on marriage and who were listening in.
9. How did Paul say the Lazarus class were discharged from the Mosaic law, and for what purpose?
9 Showing how the Jewish members of the Lazarus class had died to their former beggarly condition under the Law covenant, the apostle Paul addresses some of them: “Can it be that you do not know, brothers, (for I am speaking to those who know law,) that the Law is master over a man as long as he lives? For instance, a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law of her husband. So, then, while her husband is living, she would be styled an adulteress if she became another man’s. But if her husband dies, she is free from his law, so that she is not an adulteress if she becomes another man’s. So, my brothers, you also were made dead to the Law through the body of the Christ, that you might become another’s, the one’s who was raised up from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in accord with the flesh, the sinful passions that were excited by the Law were at work in our members that we should bring forth fruit to death. But now we have been discharged from the Law, because we have died to that by which we were being held fast, that we might be slaves in a new sense by the spirit, and not in the old sense by the written code.”—Rom. 7:1-6, NW.
10. So upon whom were the Lazarus class no longer dependent for food? Why?
10 Thus the Lazarus class had died to the Mosaic law and was no longer subject to the “rich man” class or dependent upon that Jewish clergy class for anything. They had “died together with Christ toward the elementary things of the world” which the “rich man” class taught. Their life was now “hidden with the Christ in union with God”. They no longer begged from the “rich man”. No, they followed Jesus’ command, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy,” and avoided them.—Col. 2:20; 3:3 and Luke 12:1, NW.
11. Where does Jesus’ story locate Lazarus after death? Why does this prove it a parable?
11 But did you notice one interesting point? What? That, though Lazarus died, the parable does not say the beggar was buried and put in Hades, as was the case with the rich man. In place of being buried and going to Hades, the beggar was “carried off by the angels to the bosom position of Abraham”. Thus the Lazarus class is not pictured as a dead class, “dead in your trespasses and sins,” but as very much alive, “alive toward God.” (Eph. 2:1; Gal. 2:19, NW) All these features about Jesus’ story here prove that it does not tell of a literal Jewish “rich man” and of a literal beggar in Israel named Lazarus. Why should a literal Jew named Lazarus be carried at his death to Abraham’s bosom just because he was a beggar covered with ulcers and licked by dogs? Furthermore, the literal Abraham had been buried eighteen centuries before this and his bosom had moldered in the grave, in the cave of Machpelah, near Hebron. He was not reclining at a feast and able to entertain Lazarus. (Gen. 25:8-10) Abraham’s son Isaac was buried with him at his death. (Gen. 35:27-29) Abraham’s grandson, surnamed Israel, was also buried with him at death. (Gen. 49:29 to 50:13) When speaking of his death, Jacob said: “I will go down to Sheol [into hell, Dy] to my son mourning.” (Gen. 37:35; 42:38, AS) Since Jacob was gathered to his people at death and was buried with his fathers, and thus went to Sheol or hell, Abraham must also be in Sheol or hell, that is, in the common grave of mankind, or Hades.
12. Where do religionists say Abraham then was? What questions does this raise about transportation to hell?
12 The religious clergy of Christendom teach that Abraham is in the hell taught in their creeds. That hell is in two parts, in the center of the earth: one part is called paradise or limbo, where the souls of those faithful ones went who died before Christ’s sacrifice; the other part is called Gehenna, with literal flames of torment, where the rich man is. Hence to be in Abraham’s bosom means to be in an underground paradise. If that is true and if that is where a literal beggar named Lazarus went at death, how is it that angels carried him there? Do angels carry dead beggars to the center of the earth to Abraham’s bosom? Who, then, carried the rich man to the flames of torment—demons? The Scriptures say Jesus went to hell, but got out again by God’s resurrection power. (Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27, 31, 32) The Revelation or Apocalypse tells us: “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Rev. 20:14) So Jesus got out of hell in time, so as not to land with it into the lake of fire. If, now, hell is at the center of the earth, as religionists claim, then what becomes of the earth when hell is cast into the lake of fire?
13. Why does it not do to say Abraham’s bosom was transferred from hell to heaven?
13 Now look here, says someone, paradise or Abraham’s bosom has been transferred from hell to heaven since Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension to heaven! But how can that be? On the day of Pentecost, ten days AFTER Jesus’ ascension, the inspired apostle Peter said: “David did not ascend to the heavens.” So neither did Abraham nor anybody in his bosom. (Acts 2:1, 29, 34, NW) Moreover, Jesus told his parable of the rich man and Lazarus some weeks at least before dying on the torture stake at Calvary. So Jesus had not yet ascended to heaven and paradise could not yet have been transferred from hell to heaven at the time he spoke. And yet Jesus said angels carried the dead Lazarus to Abraham’s bosom.
14. Why, then, is the Abraham of the parable not in any hell?
14 So from all the absurdities into which the religionist falls by arguing that Jesus’ story is literal, it is apparent that he spoke a parable. And this will show up more and more as we look at further absurdities and contradictions in a literal interpretation. It follows, therefore, that the Abraham to whose bosom angels carried Lazarus is symbolic, just as Lazarus and the rich man are. This symbolic Abraham is not in hell. Why not? Because Abraham in the parable represents Jehovah God himself. When faithful Abraham, “the friend of God,” offered up his only son Isaac on Mount Moriah, he was a prophetic picture of Jehovah God offering up his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul wrote his fellow Christians to say: “Those who adhere to faith are the ones who are sons of Abraham. . . . You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” This proves that Abraham pictured Jehovah God, who is the real One in whom all the families of the earth will be blessed. In further proof, the apostle tells the Lazarus class: “Now we, brothers, are children belonging to the promise the same as Isaac was”; and Isaac was the son of Abraham.—Gal. 3:7, 8, 26, 29; 4:28, NW.
IN THE FAVOR OF THE THEOCRACY
15. What, then, does being carried to Abraham’s bosom mean? Why was the beggar’s name appropriate?
15 To lie in the bosom of someone at a banquet meant to occupy a place of loving favor with that one. For example, concerning Jesus we read: “No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is in the bosom position with the Father is the one that has explained him.” (John 1:18, NW) The apostle John occupied such a favored place at the last passover, for we read: “There was reclining in front of Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, and Jesus loved him. So the latter leaned back upon the breast of Jesus and said to him: ‘Master, who is it?’” (John 13:23, 25, NW) To be carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom means, therefore, to be transferred from the despised beggarly condition of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate into the loving favor of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God. It means to be adopted by him as a son of God to be associated with the promised Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ. It means to have close fellowship with Jehovah and his Son and to feast with them at the “table of Jehovah”. As it is written: “This partnership of ours is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. . . . if we are walking in the light as he himself is in the light, we do have partnership with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Cor. 10:21 and 1 John 1:3, 7, NW) How fitting, then, the beggar’s name Lazarus! It means “God is helper”.
16. Whom did the angels that carried him there picture? Why?
16 We see, then, that, to begin with, the beggar Lazarus pictured the remnant of natural Jews who exercised faith in God, accepting the message of his servant John the Baptist and of his Son Jesus Christ. Remember how Jesus said of the despised chief tax collector Zacchaeus after his conversion: “This day salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:9, 10, NW) John and Jesus were as angels, or messengers, to conduct the Jewish remnant into this position of Abrahamic favor. Mark 1:2 says respecting John: “Here I am, sending forth my messenger [or, angel] before you, to prepare your way.” (NW; margin) Jesus confirmed the application of that prophecy to John, at Matthew 11:10, 11. And referring to Jesus Christ himself, the prophecy at Malachi 3:1 said: “And the Lord whom ye seek will suddenly come to his temple, and the Angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he cometh, saith Jehovah of hosts.”—Da; Dy.
17. Whom did the Lazarus class come to include? How?
17 But Jesus started off the preaching to the Samaritans, too, and he foretold the extension of the Kingdom gospel to the Samaritans and finally to the Gentiles. (Acts 1:8) So the Lazarus class came to include the believing Samaritans and the believing Gentiles, beginning with the Italian centurion Cornelius. Thus these also were transferred from a poor beggarly state in this world into the bosom of divine favor. So we read: “Now the Scripture, seeing in advance that God would declare people of the nations righteous due to faith, declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: ‘By means of you all the nations will be blessed.’ Consequently, those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with faithful Abraham.”—Gal. 3:8, 9, NW.
18. What did Jesus say after the expression of a centurion’s faith?
18 In the second year of Jesus’ public ministry a Gentile centurion or army officer, whether Cornelius or not, we do not know, manifested unusual faith in Jesus’ healing power. This was a sample of what faith was to be found among the despised Gentile “dogs”, as the self-righteous Jews called them; and so Jesus predicted a conducting of these poor, sin-diseased, hungry people of the Gentile nations into the “bosom position of Abraham”. In his amazement Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, With no one in Israel have I found so great a faith. But I tell you that many from eastern parts and western will come and recline at the table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of the heavens; whereas the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the darkness outside.”—Matt. 8:5-12, NW.
19-21. (a) Here, whom does Abraham picture, whom Isaac, and whom Jacob, and why? (b) So whom do the three together picture?
19 This was not saying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob of old were then reclining at a table in the kingdom of the heavens; for these three men were not prophets greater than John the Baptist, and Jesus said, “A person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than him.” (Matt. 11:11, NW) In Jesus’ words Abraham represents the Greater One in whom all families of the earth will be blessed, Jehovah God the Great Father. Therefore Isaac, Abraham’s only son by his wife Sarah, represents God’s only-begotten Son Jesus Christ, whom God anointed to be King of kings.
20 Jacob received life from Abraham through Isaac and so was Abraham’s grandson. Likewise, the Christian congregation receives life from God through Jesus Christ. “The Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it.” “The Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body.” (Eph. 5:23, 25, NW) “That one surrendered his soul for us.” (1 John 3:16, NW) At the time when God declares the members of the congregation righteous the perfect human life that Jesus surrendered is counted to them. To that extent Jesus becomes father to them, just as Isaac was father to Jacob, and just as much as Jesus will become the “Everlasting Father” to believing obedient mankind in the new world. (Isa. 9:6) But that human life imputed to his congregation is sacrificed in imitation of Jesus Christ and for the vindication of God’s supremacy and name. So Jehovah God the Greater Abraham begets them by his life-giving spirit. They become his spiritual sons, adopted members of the Seed of Abraham, members of Christ’s body. Hence in this trio of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom the Christian congregation is well pictured by the last one, Jacob, and it is made up of joint heirs with Jesus Christ in the Kingdom. It has a Jewish remnant or nucleus to begin with and the Gentile believers are added later.
21 In that way Abraham, Isaac and Jacob stand for God’s kingdom arrangement, The Theocracy.
22. Hence what did Jesus mean by saying many would come from east and west and recline with those three in the Kingdom?
22 Hence when Jesus marveled at the Gentile centurion’s faith and predicted that many people of the non-Jewish nations would come from east and west and recline with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the heavenly kingdom, he meant that many Gentiles would exercise faith when the Kingdom gospel was preached to all the nations. By reason of their faith in God’s message about his Christ they would be transferred from a pauper condition of alienation from God and spiritual starvation, and would be brought like Lazarus into Abraham’s bosom. That is, they would be received into Jehovah God’s favor and taken to his heart and adopted as his sons and heirs of the Kingdom with Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham. They would come into the favor of The Theocracy where the Jewish remnant was, and would feast at the “table of Jehovah” on spiritual riches of Scriptural truth and sacred service as his witnesses. This has been going on during the past nineteen centuries, and has reached a climax in our day.
23. What must we leave to our next magazine issue to discuss?
23 But other interesting and important parts of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus remain yet to be discussed to complete our understanding of the matter, especially as it pertains to our own day. For lack of space in this issue, we must leave it for articles in the next succeeding issue of The Watchtower to explain to our mutual pleasure and profit.
The spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me; because Jehovah hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; to proclaim the year of Jehovah’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn.—Isa. 61:1, 2, AS.