"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
"The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'
"But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'
"He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
"Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'
"'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'
"He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)
This is one of my favorite Bible passages.
I’m not going to dwell on it today, but someday I will come back to this.
It’s always seemed to me there are at least a couple of great metaphysical points in this quote.
For instance, I love the phrasing of: “...between us and you a great chasm has been fixed...”
It is intriguing to think there may be absolute demarcations between people. This passage, of course, is speaking about a demarcation between the physical places of Heaven and Hell, but often concepts of Scripture can also be interpreted as “types” and “shadows” which have applications in ways that are not immediately apparent.
Now and then I meet a person and although we speak the same language and completely agree on a context when we try to have a conversation we are forever misunderstanding each other. It is as if there is some kind of metaphysical chasm set between us and regardless of our motivations and energy we are unable to make serious heart-to-heart contact. I wonder if in instances like this our physical reality is a “shadow” of some other reality and inexplicable distance here is a result of some mechanism over there.
Another thing that’s amazing to me about this passage is the observation: “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
Remember this is Jesus telling a story about Abraham. Jesus is explicitly telling His apostles that people who do not believe in Scripture will not be swayed by a person who returns from the dead. And Jesus, of course, already knows that He will return from the dead. And He knows, and wants His apostles to know, that the Resurrection in itself will not move people to belief.
That’s a pretty brave message for the New Testament to embed within its own narrative. And pretty cool, too.
Scripture is very interesting to read while keeping on the look-out for nuts & bolts metaphysical things. Very often people who promote Christianity have agendas very different from rational understanding of the content.