Torments of the Rich Man
IN OUR previous issue we discussed the parable of Rich Man and Lazarus down to the first part of Luke 16:22. The Scriptural proof was offered to show that the favored rich man and the beggar Lazarus symbolized two classes: the rich man the highly favored religious clergy among God’s professed people, and the beggar Lazarus the despised, neglected people who realize their spiritual need and who hunger and thirst after truth and righteousness from God. The parable had its first application to the Jews or Israelites to whom Jesus spoke the parable. Among them the “rich man” class included the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and other religious leaders, who opposed Jesus and sneered at his teachings. Because Jesus and his disciples preached the good news of the Kingdom to the poor and afflicted ones who listened to him with pleasure, this enriched them with the truth of God and with privileges of serving him aright. It meant death to their beggarly, diseased spiritual condition. It relieved them of dependence on the “rich man” class for what religious instruction they got. It brought them into the favor of Jehovah God, who was represented by Abraham, where they could feast to the full at the spiritual “table of Jehovah”. In this way it was that, to quote the parable, “the beggar died and he was carried off by the angels to the bosom position of Abraham.”
1. What befell the rich man at death? What did his death picture?
WHAT now occurs to the “rich man” is the opposite of the favor to the beggar Lazarus. Luke 16:22, 23 tells us: “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.” (NW) The “rich man’s” death did not mean the physical death of any members of that class. It pictured their death to the privileged, advantageous position that they had till now enjoyed and in which they had treated the Lazarus class as despised, diseased beggars. So when and how did the “rich man” class die and get buried?
2, 3. (a) When did the “rich man” class die? (b) How did Jesus strip them of their linen and purple and spoil their table?
2 It was at the same time that the Lazarus class experienced their change of condition for the better. What worked for the removal of the disadvantageous condition of this poor class worked for the death of the “rich man” class to their special privileges seemingly in God’s favor. This occurred when John the Baptist came preaching repentance because God’s kingdom was near. He turned the people to Jesus as the “Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”, the Anointed One, the Christ. John exposed their self-righteousness and called them the “offspring of vipers” and showed them they were in danger of being baptized with fiery destruction in the coming wrath of God on Israel. They needed repentance just as much as the sinful poor people who were condemned by Moses’ law. They need not think they were the promised “seed of Abraham” due to their natural descent from that faithful Hebrew.—Matt. 3:7-12, NW.
3 But Jesus himself was still more deadly to the “rich man” class in their linen and purple clothing and at their sumptuous table. Declaring themselves righteous, they once appeared lofty in the eyes of the Lazarus class, but they were actually disgusting in God’s sight. Jesus exposed them as such to the Lazarus class. (Luke 16:15, NW) Thus he stripped them of their linen of self-righteousness. He disrobed them of their purple claims to royalty in God’s kingdom when he declared that the harlots, sinners and tax collectors of the beggar class went into the Kingdom before them. He climaxed this with the awful judgment: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matt. 21:43, NW) He spoiled their religious table for them when he turned from them and committed the Kingdom mysteries and the privilege of Kingdom preaching to the poor of the Lazarus class and said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes. . . . Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and become my disciples, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matt. 11:25-30 and Luke 10:21-24, NW) When the “rich man” class willfully rejected him and procured his death, this sealed their death as spiritually privileged ones. Their religious table became a trap and their feast a deadly snare to them.—Rom. 11:7-9.
4. Does the parable describe Lazarus as buried at death and gone to hell? Why?
4 We have already noted that the parable avoids saying that Lazarus was buried and went to hell, Hades or Sheol. But it does say of the rich man that he “died and was buried” and found himself “in Hades”. His death was openly certified by that day of Pentecost ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven to appear in God’s presence with the value of his human sacrifice. Then the holy spirit was poured out on the first members of the Lazarus class. The spirit was an evidence of their being accepted with God and of having Christ’s righteousness imputed to them and of becoming heirs of God’s kingdom. The spiritual food concerning his kingdom by Christ did not fall on that day of Pentecost from the “rich man’s” table for the poor people. No; it came through those disciples who had been taken into the “bosom position of Abraham”. There Peter, and not the “rich man” class, began using the “keys of the kingdom of the heavens”. About 3,000 Jews turned to the table of the Greater Abraham and were baptized and got the outpoured spirit. Thus the Lazarus class began to be lifted out of deadness in trespasses and sins and to be seated “together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus”. (Acts 2:1-42; Matt. 16:19; Eph. 2:1-6, NW) So how could the parable describe Lazarus as in Hades, Sheol, hell, or the common grave of mankind? It could not.
5. In what way was the “rich man” class dead and yet living?
5 But as for the “rich man” class: By refusing Jesus and stubbornly holding onto the works of the Law to justify themselves to life they proved themselves cursed by the Law. So they died to the privilege of being associated with Jesus Christ as the promised Seed of Abraham. Till their physical death they lived on in the flesh, just like the gadabout woman of whom the apostle wrote: “The one that goes in for sensual gratification is dead though she is living.” (1 Tim. 5:6, NW) The Law to which they held proved to be death to them, condemning them to death as accursed sinners. (Rom. 7:9-11) Living on in the flesh, though they were dead in God’s eyes, they could see what happened with the Lazarus class and could be chagrined by it.*
6. When was the “rich man” class buried back there?
6 As far as the Jews are concerned, the “rich man” was buried three and a half years after Pentecost. Why then at the latest? Because then the good news of God’s kingdom was preached to the despised uncircumcised Gentiles for the first time, at the home of the Italian centurion Cornelius. The “rich man” class among the Jews were not the ones to do the preaching. No; they were not the ones proving to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth in harmony with Jehovah’s promise to Abraham. The one preaching to Cornelius was a member of the despised Lazarus class, the apostle Peter equipped with the “keys of the kingdom”. (Acts 10:1 to 11:18) The “rich man” class was without any life-giving message and was inactive in God’s service, and hence was as dead and buried.
7. If hell is the grave, how is it they are pictured as talking there?
7 But, you ask, how is it that the rich man is pictured as talking in hell if it is just the common grave of mankind? It is because this is a parable. So dying, being buried and being in hell are used in a symbolic way. This fact shows that it is a parable, because if the “rich man” class were actually in the Bible hell, they could not talk or see a thing. “Let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol” (AS)—“be silent in the grave” (AV)—“be brought down to hell” (Dy). So says Psalm 31:17. (Ps. 30:18, Dy) And at Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10 we read: “For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know nothing more, . . . Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly: for neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom, nor knowledge shall be in hell [(Dy)—in Sheol (AS)—in the grave (AV)], whither thou art hastening.” If one is in the condition like Sheol, hell, or the grave, he is not active in God’s service nor learning any of the truth. There the “rich man” class find themselves and can see the Lazarus class’ change of condition and can talk and complain. It is as when the psalmist despondently said concerning himself: “My life draweth nigh unto Sheol. I am reckoned with them that go down into the pit; I am as a man that hath no help, cast off among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more, and they are cut off from thy hand. Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in dark places, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me.”—Ps. 88:3-7, AS.
HOW IN TORMENTS
8. Does not his “existing in torments” there prove there is fire and torment of conscious souls in hell? Why?
8 But if Hades, Sheol, or hell is the common grave of mankind, where there is no sensation, knowledge or activity, how is it that the parable says of the rich man in Hades, “he existing in torments”? In the next verse he says it is due to a “blazing fire” Lu 16:24. Does that not show there is fire and torment of conscious human souls in Hades, Sheol, or hell? Not at all. This is a parable, and Sheol or Hades is used to picture the condition of the “rich man” class while still here among us on earth. Hence this class can be pictured as being in Sheol or Hades or hell and at the same time existing in torments from a blazing fire. The rich man could not be pictured as in Gehenna, because then he could not be pictured talking, for Gehenna or the “lake of fire that burneth with brimstone” symbolizes “second death”, utter destruction from which there is no resurrection.—Rev. 19:20, AS; Re 20:14. See footnote.*
ABRAHAM SEEN AFAR OFF
9. What did the rich man see afar off? What did this mean to him?
9 The “rich man” class, although living in their religious realm, were dead to God and were as buried in Hades or hell as far as his active service is concerned. For this reason they could be pictured as dead and buried in Hades or the grave and yet be alive and able to look up and see afar off and also to experience torment. What they saw helped to contribute torment to them: “he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in the bosom position with him.” That means the “rich man” class saw they were not getting the blessing as Abraham’s natural seed. They saw the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, far off from them and his favor going to the Jewish remnant and Gentiles who believed on Jesus and followed him. Far from being the promised seed of Abraham for a blessing to all the families and nations of the earth, they were a curse to them. Said Paul: “They are not pleasing God, but are against the interests of all men, as they try to hinder us from speaking to the nations that these might be saved, with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins.” (1 Thess. 2:15, 16, NW) Both Paul and Barnabas said to them: “It was necessary for the word of God to be spoken first to you. Since you are thrusting it away from you and do not judge yourselves worthy of everlasting life, look! we turn to the nations. In fact, Jehovah has laid commandment upon us in these words, ‘I have appointed you as a light of nations, for you to be a salvation to the most distant part of the earth.’”—Acts 13:46, 47, NW.
10. What did being in the bosom position mean for the Lazarus class? What did not being there mean for the “rich man” class?
10 So they see the Lazarus class in the bosom position with Abraham, hence at meal or at banquet with Abraham and on the first couch with him, to betoken being in his special love and favor. (John 13:23, 25; Deut. 13:6; 28:54, 56; 2 Sam. 12:3, 8; Mic. 7:5) That means they are in the bosom favor of the Greater Abraham, Jehovah God, and are having fellowship with him. They have been adopted as sons of God to be associated with Jesus Christ, the true Seed of Abraham, and so they are feasting at the “table of Jehovah” on the Kingdom mysteries and truths and on the pure worship and service of God. (1 John 1:3, 7; John 4:34; Jas. 1:27) But the “rich man” class are on the outside of all this favor, afar off. The Lazarus class are like Isaac, Abraham’s son by his beloved wife Sarah, the son who was made Abraham’s heir. As God said: “It is in Isaac that your seed shall be called.” (Rom. 9:7; Gal. 4:28, NW) But the “rich man” class are like Ishmael, Abraham’s son by the slave girl Hagar. God rejected Ishmael as the seed and he was therefore cast off and sent away so as not to threaten Isaac’s life. So, although those in the “rich man” class might be Abraham’s natural descendants, they were cast off from God’s favor. So they persecute the Lazarus class in envy and revenge, as Ishmael did.—Gal. 4:22-30, NW.
11, 12. How were they in torments in Jesus’ day? How in apostolic days?
11 No wonder the “rich man” class are in torments. In Jesus’ day his message tormented them. After he exposed their religious traditions and precepts as contrary to God’s Word and commands, the disciples said: “Do you know that the Pharisees stumbled at hearing what you said?” When he pronounced woes upon them for their religious hypocrisy and self-righteousness, one of them said: “Teacher, in saying these things you also insult us.” This did not quiet Jesus, but he went on further to tell them they had taken away the key of knowledge from the people. Tormented at the report that Jesus was teaching in the temple, they dispatched officers to arrest him, but the officers refused to do so and came back with the tormenting confession: “Never has another man spoken like this.” When he spoke his parable of the vineyard and they saw that the murderers in it meant them, they tried to seize him in their mental anguish, but did not do so, for they feared the people there.—Matt. 15:12-14; Luke 11:45; John 7:32, 45, 46; Matt. 21:45, 46, NW.
12 Thinking to reduce their torment, they finally had him killed. But their torments were only renewed through the Lazarus class from Pentecost onward. For example, the priests, temple captains and Sadducees were annoyed because Peter and John taught the people in the temple about Jesus and his resurrection. But arrests and imprisonment did not intimidate and silence the apostles. They became bolder and the preaching in Jerusalem was intensified, exasperating the religious heads still more. At Stephen’s testimony before them they felt cut to the heart. Gnashing their teeth and shrieking they rushed on him en masse, threw him outside the city and stoned him to death. Saul of Tarsus, who witnessed this, pushed a rabid persecution of the Lazarus Christians. Being extremely mad against them, he breathed threats and murder against them. But for him it was like the kicking of an ox against the goads and getting deeply pricked. When Saul changed and became the apostle Paul and he and Barnabas preached to great crowds of people, the religious leaders were filled with jealousy and blasphemously contradicted what these said to the people, and then persecuted them for turning with the message to the non-Jews. Repeated are the reports of their uprisings in rage against Paul and his missionary companions. What a torment they were in! How the heat of the flaming message of denunciation and exposure scorched and sizzled them!*
13, 14. Who have acted as the modern counterpart of the rich man?
13 The religious officials and leaders of Jewry who made up the “rich man” class of that first century find their modern counterpart in the clergy and religious leaders and supporters of Christendom today. They represent systems that have become entrenched among human society and have great antiquity and age-old traditions. So with their wealth and their influence with the rulers of this world, they have gained for themselves a place of great prominence, respect, influence and control over the people. Outwardly they have appeared very righteous and sacrosanct to men, so that to criticize them seemed sacrilegious, blasphemous and irreligious. They have basked in the favor of the wealthy and the rulers and have wielded mighty political influence. They have appropriated to themselves the Kingdom promises of God’s Word and imagined they were first in the favor of God, the Greater Abraham, and that through them God’s kingdom was to be established over the earth. They have gone in for educational, social and political advantages and have looked down upon the common people as the laity, unlettered, and utterly dependent upon the betitled, educated clergy and their religious systems for Scripture information.
14 They have given the people little of God’s Word and service and have deceived them with the sectarian traditions and pagan philosophies, leaving them in their spiritual hunger and ulcerous disease. They have taken away the key of knowledge opening the meaning of God’s Word. They have turned the people away from God’s kingdom as humanity’s sole remedy and turned them to the political schemes and policies of worldly rulers and blessed them for engaging in the sanguinary combats of the nations. At this end of the world they have no saving message for the distressed people, but leave them spiritually poor, starving and diseased with only the forlorn hope of a League of Nations or United Nations organization as their best hope for world peace, stability and prosperity.
15. How are they shown to be dead and buried?
15 Now these religionists are in a spiritually dead state like the “rich man” of the parable. Certainly they are not alive to the fact that the “appointed times of the nations” closed in 1914 (A.D.) and that there God’s kingdom was put in power over the earth with the promised Seed of Abraham, Christ Jesus, in the throne. They despise the remnant of the Lazarus class, Jehovah’s modern witnesses, for preaching such a message. In the face of the sign of the consummation of this system of things and the presence or pa·rou·siʹa of Jesus Christ in Kingdom power, they should have believed the message, at least by the end of World War I in 1918. Yet they did not come to life and activity and take up that Kingdom message and proclaim it to mankind. The remnant of the Lazarus class did so after they recovered from the oppressions of their foes during that world war. They reorganized in 1919 and became alive and increasingly active in preaching “this good news of the Kingdom” to all nations for a witness before the end of this world arrives at Armageddon. But the religious “rich man” class scorned the prophetic meaning of world events. They turned down the message taken up by modern “Lazarus” and sought refuge in a human substitute for the Kingdom, that futile thing called the League of Nations. So they demonstrated no activity for proclaiming and advancing the Kingdom. They showed they were dead and buried toward God; and his judgment, written aforetime in his Word, pronounces them so.
SEEKING THE THEOCRACY
16. When does Luke 13:27-30 reach a climax? Who are the ones that come?
16 All through the Christian era the prophecy at Luke 13:27-30 has been working toward its climax now. In that prophecy Jesus told of the time when the door would be closed in the face of people once religiously privileged and said: “He will speak and say to you: ‘I do not know where you are from. Get away from me, all you workers of unrighteousness!’ There is where your weeping and the gnashing of your teeth will be, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves thrown outside. Furthermore, people will come from eastern parts and western, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the kingdom of God. And, look! there are those last who will be first, and there are those first who will be last.” (NW) After Jerusalem was destroyed by Rome’s imperial armies A.D. 70, the coming of those from east, west, north and south was mostly of the non-Jews or Gentiles from all nations reached with the good news.
17. What does seeing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets in God’s kingdom mean?
17 In our previous Watchtower issue we saw how Abraham, whose name means “Father of a multitude”, pictured Jehovah God, the Father of the promised Seed of Abraham. Abraham’s son Isaac, who was offered in sacrifice, pictured the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who chiefly fulfills the role of the Seed of Abraham for blessing all mankind. Jacob, the son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, pictured the congregation of Christ’s followers, for God adopts them as his spiritual sons and makes them part of the promised seed of Abraham. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel; and they are spiritual Israelites, “the Israel of God.” (Gal. 4:28; 3:26-29; 6:16, NW) The expression “all the prophets” also represents the congregation of spiritual Israel, the members of the “body of Christ”. In the prophecies such ancient prophets were used to foreshadow these spirit-begotten Christians and to forecast their role or course of action. So together, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets picture the Theocratic Government. Our seeing them “in the kingdom of God” means seeing with the eye of understanding that Jehovah, Jesus Christ and his congregation of spirit-begotten followers form the kingdom of God and are the ones in that heavenly kingdom.
18. Hence what does coming and reclining with them in the Kingdom mean?
18 Hence when people from all directions come and recline at the table in that kingdom, it means that these believers are taken into the class of Kingdom joint heirs and feast on Kingdom truths and privileges at the “table of Jehovah”. So there is no need to wait till Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets are resurrected from the dead in order for us to see this prophecy fulfilled.
The Catholic Douay Bible reads: “And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.” The Latin Vulgate and the Roman Catholic Confraternity translation of 1941 read similarly. The Catholic Version by Monsignor R. A. Knox reads: “The rich man died too, and found his grave in hell.” (Luke 16:22) These readings, stating that a man makes his grave in hell, proves what all the rest of the Bible shows, namely, that the Bible hell is the common grave of mankind, gravedom, the realm of the dead, not of the living. This is corroborated by Revelation 20:13, 14: “And death and hell gave up their dead that were in them; . . . And hell and death were cast into the pool of fire. This is the second death.” (Apoc. 20, 13, 14, Dy; AV) Here the Catholic translation of 1946 by Rev. F. A. Spencer, O.P., reads: “And Death and the Grave gave up the dead who were in them, . . . And Death and the Grave were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death—the Lake of Fire.” By this very comparison of Roman Catholic authorities themselves it stands proved that the Bible hell is mankind’s common grave, without our making any argument on the subject.
A more extended comparison by any honest courageous person will disclose to him that where the Douay Version reads “hell” in the Hebrew Scriptures, the King James Version reads “grave”. The American Standard Version discloses that in all these places the Hebrew original word is “She.ol”, whereas the Greek Septuagint Version uses the word “Hades”. No hellfire screecher can disprove this. Now you can understand why Amos 9:2 says: “They dig into hell.”
No one can cite Psalm 116:3 as a proof that there is torture of souls in Sheol, Haʹdes or hell, even though it reads: “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.” Here other Bible versions read: “the pains of Sheol” (AS), “the tortures of Sheol” (AT); “the perils of hell” (Dy); and Monsignor Knox’s translation reads: “the terrors of the grave.” (Ps. 114:3, Knox) The pains, tortures, were not in Sheol or hell itself; but the psalmist was in peril and in terror of going into Sheol, hell or the grave. The psalmist here foreshadowed Jesus Christ in his agony in the garden of Gethsemane on the night he was betrayed. Was Jesus in danger of pains and tortures in hell? No; he was the chief of God’s saints or loyal ones, deserving of the loving-kindness of God. (Ps. 16;10; 2 Sam. 22:6) Jesus went to hell, but not into everlasting torment in literal fire and brimstone at the center of the earth. His soul or life was not left in hell, but was resurrected out of hell on the third day after he died.
That explains why the prophetic 116th psalm goes on to say: “Then called I upon the name of Jehovah: O Jehovah, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for Jehovah hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death [not, from eternal torment], mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. Precious in the sight of Jehovah is the death of his saints.” (Ps. 116:4, 7, 8, 15, AS) As Jonah got out of the “belly of hell”, the fish’s belly on the third day, so Jesus got out of the literal Bible hell. Jonah, in the whale’s belly, did not picture Jesus in any torment in hell. (Jon. 2:1-3) The “sign of Jonah” which Jesus said would be given to the Israelites, including the “rich man” class, was Jesus’ own resurrection from death and hell on the third day.—Matt. 12:38-41; 16:1-4.
The harmonious Bible truth therefore stands uncontradicted, unshaken, that Sheol, Hades, or hell, is the common grave of mankind and there is no fiery torment of human souls in it.