There are those who think they see in the story of
the Rich Man and Lazarus, the casting away of the Jew and the
"receiving" of the Gentile. However, there is nothing in
the story to show that Gentiles are in the picture at all.
Some of the saints have a theory that Hades and
Paradise were very close together before the ascension of Christ - the
former a place of torment for "disembodied spirits," and the
later a place of comfort. They tell us that when Christ ascended
He took Paradise with Him to heaven. They seek to prove this by
quoting, (or misquoting), "When He ascended on high He lead a
multitude of captives," Eph. 4:8. A literal rendering says,
"Upstepping into height, He captures captivity." The
leading of captives is not the thought. Christ captured that which
held sinners bound. This insures their release.
In the scriptures, spirits are not associated with
Hades. Souls are. But not living souls. We are told by
some that the soul cannot die. But God says, in Un. (or
Revelation), 16:3, "EVERY LIVING SOUL DIED." Sometimes
in sermons a great play is made on the supposed fact that the soul of
man, being a living soul cannot die. The scripture quoted above
should be sufficient answer to this teaching. Since it is the soul
that goes into Hades, Acts 2:27, there can be no doubt that the soul is
dead, for we are told in Un. 20:13, that Hades will give up the dead in
The scriptures do not picture Hades as a place of
torment. The soul of Christ went there when He died. Was our
Lord's soul in torment? If so, that is a very poor argument for
endless torment, for the soul of Christ came out, when His body was
raised. And if Hades is a place of punishment, why was our Lord's
soul there? Did He deserve to be punished?
The soul is manifested in life - not death.
Adam was without consciousness or sensation, until God blew the breath
of the living into his nostrils. This created that energy we call
spirit. The union of spirit and body produced consciousness and
sensation. Thus Adam is said to have become a living soul.
He still was a body, and he certainly had a spirit. But the soul
was predominant in his thoughts, desires and actions.
The soul does not seek after God. It seeks
after things that will satisfy the body. It is concerned with
food. "Thy soul longeth to eat flesh," Duet.
12:10. "Their souls abhorreth all kind of meat," Ps.
107:8. "...if he steal to satisfy his soul when
hungry," Prov. 6:30. "Eateth to the satisfying of the
soul," Prov. 13:25. "The full soul loatheth a honey
comb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet," Prov.
27:7. "Be not anxious for your soul, what you shall eat or
what you shall drink," Matt. 6:25. The rich farmer who had to
tear down his barn and build larger ones, talked to his soul - not about
God, but about earthly possessions, saying, "Soul, you have many
goods laid up for many years. Rest, eat, drink, make merry, Luke
12:12. But the foolish fellow had already eaten too much of this
plentiful harvest. So God said to him, "Imprudent one!
This night they are demanding your soul from you." This was a
way of telling him he should die that night, and that "they,"
the goods of which he was speaking, were the cause of his
When death occurs the soul goes to Hades, Acts
2:27. Hades is the unseen. The etymology of the word forces
one to this conclusion. It is a condition - not a place. The
spirit returns to God who have it. Eccl. 12:7. This is not
said of the spirits of the saints alone. It is true of all
mankind. The body returns to the soil. The soul, which is
the sensation, the consciousness, ceases. It is said to go into
the unseen. Consciousness is not ascribed to anyone, except when
spirit and body are united, producing soul.
Except in symbolic passages, the scripture never
speaks of the dead as having consciousness. "In death there
is no remembrance of Thee," Ps. 6:5. In Ps. 88:10-12 we read
of the grave as the land of forgetfulness. "The dead praise
not Jehovah," Ps. 115:17. "The dead know not
anything," Eccl. 9:5.
If the righteous go at once into bless and glory, it
seems a very cruel thing for our Lord to call them back into this life
of sorrow, as He did on more than one occasion, during His
ministry. If our Christian friends are sure to be wafted on
angel's wings into unspeakable bliss, as soon as they die, we are trying
to keep them out of heaven when we call a physician to keep them from
dying. How can we ever justify such conduct? It is a fact,
that even those who love God are trying as hard to keep people out of
heaven, as they are trying to keep people out of "hell."
The scriptures say Abraham died and was buried.
Nowhere do they command us to believe that his bosom is a place of bliss
for others who have died. If he could be found in the tomb where
he was placed - if he were not decayed - a dead man placed in his bosom
would not experience either pain or pleasure, for the dead are not
And shall we believe that a man is doomed to endless
torment just because he had good things in life? If so, I have no
hope of heaven, for I have had good things all my days. And must
we believe that one is sure of endless bliss just because he is a poor,
lame beggar in this life? If we believe it, why don't we seek
lameness and poverty and hunger, instead of comforts?
And shall we believe that "heaven" and
"hell" are so near to each other that the lost can talk to the
saved, and the saved see all the suffering and the hopelessness of the
And if we believe men are lost because they had
riches in this life, how do we explain the fact that Abraham is the
place of bliss, instead of being with the rich man in
"hell?" Abraham was one of the most wealthy men of his
day, and he certainly fared sumptuously. Why do preachers seek
higher and higher salaries, if it takes poverty to go to heaven?
Or is it a fact that they do not believe any such thing, but feel that
they must preach it in order to frighten others?
When we remember that our Lord was talking to the
Pharisees, the problem of the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is
partly solved. The Pharisees were a religious denomination among
the Jews. According to Josephus, they claimed to believe in living
"meanly." This is the opposite of living in
wealth. In other words, they claimed to believe poverty is
essential to endless bliss. But, like the modern churchman who
"believes" in sobriety, honesty and chastity, but
practices drunkenness, dishonesty and unchastely, these Pharisees were
always seeking riches and living sumptuously and wearing purple, when
Moreover, according to Josephus, the Pharisees
believed that the souls of the dead go to Hades - the righteous to that
part where there is bliss, and the unrighteous to the part where there
is torment. They called the former Abraham's bosom. The
unrighteous are not actually in the flames, according to Josephus but
are so near that they are being burned, and are waiting for the day of
judgment, when they will actually be placed in the flames. The two
compartments are so near each other that the righteous and the
unrighteous can carry on conversations.
So, when our Lord told the story, He was repeating
the doctrine of the Pharisees - not teaching the doctrine of God.
I am reminded of a colored man, who, when asked at a
funeral, "Do you think Moses has gone to heaven,?" replied,
"No; I have never seen him going in that direction." The
purpose of Christ was to show the Pharisees that if their doctrine were
true, there would be no hope for them. They were not going in that
This type of story may be called an Admission.
The entire passage, beginning with Luke 15:3, is like this. The
Pharisees claimed they had never hone astray. Christ admitted it,
"for the sake of argument," when He spoke of one sheep going
astray, and ninety-nine staying in the enclosure. His purpose here
seems to have been to ridicule such a claim, by showing that they were
doing what no real flock of sheep would do - objecting to Him going
after the one that had gone astray. Of course, it was not true
that they had not strayed. Isaiah, speaking for the nation, had
said, "We all, like sheep, have gone astray."
In the story about the lost money, our Lord was
ridiculing the Pharisees. They would not object to a woman seeking
lost money, but they did not want Him to seek lost men. In the
story of the lost son, He showed them up when He spoke of the ugly
temper of the one who had not strayed. It is easy to see that the
"home son" was worse than the prodigal. This "home
son" was a picture of the Pharisees; the prodigal son, a picture of
tax gatherers and sinners.
In the story of the unfaithful steward He admitted
the claim of the Pharisees. In spite of the fact that they had
robbed God and had helped others do so, they claimed God was recognizing
them as stewards of His earthly affairs. It is in this story that
our Lord's sense of humor comes to the front. He told the story to
His disciples in the presence of the Pharisees. It was too
fantastic to be believed; so was the claim of the Pharisees. They
know He was laughing at them, and they "turned up their noses"
at Him. They had been justifying themselves before men; justifying
their conduct in robbing God. "God is pleased at it,"
they claimed. No wonder they were angry when the Lord showed how
preposterous is such a claim. And he showed it by telling an
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is another
impossible one. A dead man suffering from the flames; another dead
man enjoying the bliss of Abraham's bosom; the place of suffering so
close to the place of boss that conversation could be carried on from
one to the other; a man's bosom sufficing to give happiness and glory; a
man in torment because he had good things; a man in bliss because he was
lame and poor; Abraham, instead of God, boss of the situationall
this was too unreasonable to be believed. No disciple of His would
believe it at the time. Even the Pharisees could see how
ridiculous it was, and in what a position it showed them to be. It
was a continuation of His sense of humor.
When Elijah admitted to Baal's prophets that Baal was
a god, and "made sport" of them, he was doing what our Lord
was doing in this series of stories. A knowledge of the scripture
will keep us from believing it was more than an impossible story, told
for the purpose of exposing a ridiculous claim.
We were delighted to have with us the fifth Sunday in
May, Brother and Sister C. W. Dean of Norfolk, Va. Brother Dean
spoke at Grace Tabernacle morning and evening. The spirits of the
saints were refreshed by his talks. He spoke on "God's Two
Responsible Sons;" and "The Seventy Heptads."