This Week's Focus Passage

This Week’s Focus Passage: Luke 16:31 ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be

This Week’s Focus Passage: Luke 16:31

‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded.’


    The account referenced above, is taken from Luke 16:19-31. Many suggest that the account is another parable from the lips of Jesus Christ, but the word ‘parable’ is not to be found in the pericope, neither even in the entire chapter. It is true that in the previous chapters, as well as those which follow, Jesus has set before His hearers parables. Conspicuous among them is the well-known parable of the prodigal son, in chapter fifteen. Also, this account, commonly called ‘The Rich Man and Lazarus,’ being shortly followed by chapter eighteen, the first verse of which begins with, And he spake a parable unto them to the end that they ought always to pray, and not to faint. There are questions from many whether this ‘story’ is actually a parable, or is simply parabolic; that is, similar to, or like unto, a parable. The latter it most surely is, whether it actually be a parable, or not. Whichever it may be, from it, we learn, “that death is the common end to which all classes of mankind must come. It has been pointed out, that the trials of the “beggar,” and the sumptuous faring of the “rich man” alike ceased at last. There came a time when both of them died. As it is written in the Word of God, in Ecclesiastes 3:20, All go to one place. The “beggar” died, and his bodily wants were at an end. “The rich man died,” and his feasting was stopped for evermore. We were reminded of a note in a biography of Dwight L. Moody, the famous nineteenth century evangelist, who told his friends when one of them asked him what he would wish to have written upon his tombstone, what scripture reference he might like to have on that memorial stone; he replied that he would wish to have this scripture on his stone; ‘And the beggar died.’ Yea, a good choice, for in this account given of the beggar, Jesus has told us, that when the beggar died, he was carried away by the angels into Abraham’s bosom.

    Bishop J. C. Ryle, [1816-1900], of the Church of England, has well written, 

We learn from this, “The Lord Jesus tells us plainly, that after death, the rich man was “in hell,—tormented with flame.” He gives us a fearful picture of his longing for a drop of ‘water to cool his tongue,’ and of ‘the gulf’ between him and Abraham, which could not be passed. There are few more awful passages perhaps in the whole Bible than this. And He from whose lips it came, be it remembered, was one who delighted in mercy.” There is a hell for the impenitent, as well as a heaven for believers. Today, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is offered to all who will believe; and as Ryle added, “if men find themselves in torment at last, it will not be because there was no way of escape.” He quotes another writer’s wise saying, that “hell is nothing more than truth known too late.” This is along the very lines of Abraham’s response to the rich man in hell, when he asked the patriarch to send Lazarus to his brothers; If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead. Do we not declare to many today that ‘One rose from the dead,’ even Jesus, the Son of God, and how few will believe it? The brothers of this rich man, likely were of the same mind and behavior as this one who died, and lifting up his eyes, saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. We should, at this point, take note that we are not told that this rich man, nor his brothers, were open violators of the laws of God. We are not told that any of them were idolaters, blasphemers, murderers, adulterers, or thieves. They simply were those who only lived for themselves; and that proved to be the ruin of their souls.

    To continue then, we learn that, between them and Lazarus, there was a great gulf fixed. Here again, Bishop Ryle has posited, that, “The language of this verse teaches plainly, if words have any meaning, that there is no hope of deliverance from hell for those who die in sin. Once in hell, men are in hell for ever. The doctrines of purgatory, or of a limited duration of punishment, are both incapable of reconciliation with this text.” The teachings of Rome are totally dismissed here, as they should be. This account/parable sets before the reader of the Word, the serious matter of death. Death is something by which we shall all be confronted; unless our Lord’s return precedes; even so, come Lord Jesus. George Swinnock (1627-1673), has written succinctly, to say the least, when he wrote, particularly timely, perhaps, for our own day “Against this arrest there is no bail.” And a much more extended statement was set before, it seems, individuals wishing ‘honour’ before their names. Henry Smith (1560-1591) spoke the following somber address before some such ‘honorable’ persons.’ He said to them, “Mighty and gracious lords, I will tell you to what your honour shall come; first, ye shall wax old like others, then ye shall fall sick like others, then ye shall die like others, then ye shall be buried like others, then ye shall be consumed like others, then ye shall be judged like others, even like the beggars which cry at your gates: one sickens, the other sickens; one dies, the other dies; one rots, the other rots: look in the grave, and show me which was Dives and which was Lazarus. This is some comfort to the poor, that once he shall be like the rich; one day he shall be as wealthy, and as glorious as a king; one hour of death  make all alike.” 

    Speaking, or writing, of the ministry that Death performs for many, one Richard Baxter (1650-1691) contributed his thought on the matter, when he said; “Rebirth brings us into the Kingdom of grace, and death into the Kingdom of glory.” It, most assuredly, depends largely upon one’s perspective of the matter, does it not? Thomas Watson (1620-1686), always worth the time to check on what he has to say, has added a brief thought; when he wrote: ‘We spend our years with sighing; it is a valley of tears; but death is the funeral of all our sorrows,” as well as, adding to that, “Let them fear death that do not fear sin.” These counsels and suggestions, advices, were offered by these men some four centuries ago, but they each in their own way have posted directions for the people of the Lord, along their way [Jeremiah 31:21,2)

    Set thee up waymarks, make thee guide-posts; set thy heart toward the highway, even the way by which thou wentest: turn again, O virgin of Israel, turn again to these thy cities. How long wilt thou go hither and thither? Jeremiah 6:16; Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. 

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church   


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