<< THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS. >>
WORLDLY AND HEAVENLY RICHES.
19″There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22″The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In hell,[c] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24So 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.’ 25″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. 26And 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.’ 27″He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29″Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30″ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31″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 XVI. 19-31.)
Genuine reformation results from an earnest reception of Divine truths in the will, understanding and life. Great wealth of knowledges, unaccompanied by a disposition to live by the truth, cannot result in regeneration. But a sincere and eager desire for spiritual truth, in order to govern the life by it, will open even the ignorant mind to the light and warmth of heaven. Centering the affections upon the things of the outward world, closes the heart to the appreciation of heavenly things, and makes the man unable, because unwilling, to receive heavenly life, either here or hereafter.
In the parable, the picture is made up of opposites and extremes, sharp contrasts, in the life, in the death, and in the world to come. And, in the meaning of the parable, we must expect to find extremes of character. One man is rich, and the other poor; one is covered with purple and fine linen, and the other with rags and sores; one lives daintily, and in plenty, and the other receives but a few scraps to appease his hunger; one is attended by a company of slaves, obedient to his every whim, and the other is left, without human care, to the pity of the dogs; the body of one is buried with pomp and lamentation, and the loathsome carcass of the other is hurried to an unmarked grave, without a word of sympathy, or a tear of regret.
But, when the earth receives their bodies, the contrast does not encl. One died amid luxury, and awoke to misery, as he sank into the abodes of the evil; but the other passed from the hard, cold stone, and from the neglect of harder and colder men, into the company of angels, in the spiritual world.
Angels were as ready to lead the rich man’s soul to heaven, as the poor man’s; but he who had fixed his heart upon the good things of the material world, gave no heartfelt response to the angelic invitations, and felt no inward drawing towards the beatitudes of heaven.
Historically, the parable refers to the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews were rich in possessing the Divine Word of the Old Testament ; and thus they were able, if willing, to live in spiritual feasting. But the Gentiles were poor, in their ignorance of the Lord’s Word. And the well-disposed among the Gentiles were desirous to be instructed from the Lord’s Word. And, in the rejection of heavenly things by the Jews, and in the regeneration of many Gentiles, we see the application of the words, ” He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.”
In its abstract application, the parable refers to states and conditions of life, rather than to persons. The whole scene is laid in the individual mind of each regenerating man. Each of us has his rich man and his Lazarus, his worldliness and his spirituality of character, And, in each of us, the natural temptation is to favor the rich man of worldliness and to starve the Lazarus of spirituality, as a mere beggar for inward life, amid the pomp and pleasures of sensuous existence.
Spiritually speaking, a rich man is one who knows many truths of the Lord’s Word, and who thus possesses the means of spiritual life. The Lord’s Word, with its Divine truth, constitutes the riches of heaven. Especially are they rich, spiritually, who know the internal, spiritual meaning of the Lord’s Word, and who thus see truth. in its own spiritual light.
PURPLE AND FINE LINEN.
Symbolically, garments represent truths, which are the clothing of good principles. The letter of the Word of God clothes the naked truth of its inward meaning, and thus adapts it to natural men. Purple was the royal color. In the New-Church, we use the term knowledges, for what we know, of good, of truth, etc., all the various principles and facts known to the mind. The purple garment represented the knowledges of good, of things to be loved and done; and the fine linen garment represented the knowledges of truth, or things to be believed. The man whose mind is rich in the knowledges of good and truth is, spiritually, clothed in purple and fine linen.
And he fares sumptuously, every day; i. e., he has, in every state of life, in every condition of his affection and thought, the knowledge necessary to enable him to live upon heavenly principles. He feasts mentally. And he feels delight in what he knows.
Spiritually, a beggar is one who is without knowledges, and who seeks to know the things necessary to life. The word, Lazarus, means “without help;” i. e., without help of knowledge, or truth. Historically, Lazarus represents the Gentiles, who were without the help of the Lord’s Word, But, individually, Lazarus represents the well-disposed Gentile state, in our minds, an ignorant, but childlike state, eager and willing to learn.
The gates of the rich were common places of resort for beggars where they might expect both food from the house, and money from the visitors. A gate serves to introduce to what is beyond and within. So a gate represents introductory truths, the teachings, or doctrines, which introduce the mind to that which it seeks. Every science has its introductory truths. The beggar was outside, seeking something from within, but was despised, and an outcast. So, to the Jews, the Gentiles were despised outcasts. And, so, in our natural minds, full of their sensuous self-importance, our childlike, humble, Gentile states of mind are apt to be regarded as things to be despised and cast out.
THE BEGGAR’S SORES.
The beggar was “full of sores;” i. e., the Gentile state of mind is full of natural false principles, being without genuine truth, although well-disposed. Good health makes a sound body, but bad blood often shows itself in sores. So, mentally, false principles show themselves in the outward life, keeping the mental circulation impure. So, we read, in Isaiah, concerning the natural mind, “from the sole of the foot, even unto the head, there is no soundness in it; but wounds and bruises, and putrefying sores.” As the natural body of poor Lazarus was repulsive and unclean, so the unregenerate natural mind of every man, even when ignorant and well-disposed, is spiritually unclean in the sight of angels.
Dogs represent those principles which, or those persons who, are on a very external and sensuous plane of life; who know little and talk much; but who often perform some very external uses, and even vile uses. Sensuous good, like the dog, is faithful to its trust. The dog licking the sores, to heal them, represents the effort of natural good affections (however low in quality.) to restore the mind to order. Men in such states have natural pity, and a desire to heal, or instruct, those who are in spiritual poverty, suffering from ignorance of truth, and from false principles of conduct.
The beggar died; i. e., he was removed from a natural to a spiritual state. And he was carried, by the angels, into Abraham’s bosom. Abraham’s bosom was a poetical and representative expression, common among the Jews, to represent paradise. John, the beloved disciple, was said to lie in Jesus’ bosom, at the last supper. The bosom, where the heart is, represents love. Abraham represents the Lord, and his bosom represents the Lord’s love.
DEATH OF THE RICH MAN. HADES.
The rich man, also, died, and was buried; i. e., he passed into the spiritual world ; but he sank into a sensuous, low condition, in which he was buried in sin.
“And in hell,” (as the text commonly reads.) “he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and seeth Abraham,” etc. The Greek word is “hades,” which does not mean hell, but the world of spirits, the intermediate state, between death and the judgment, the paradise, into which the thief on the cross went to meet Jesus. Recognizing the common mistranslation, the New Version of the New Testament gives the word “hades,” not hell. Hades is the first condition after death, into which all men go, and where the judgment occurs. Good persons pass through hades, or the world of spirits, into heaven, and the evil pass through it into hell.
TWO PARTS OF HADES.
But, as the man’s final home is determined by his life in this world, according to his opportunities, so there are, practically, two sides to hades, the good side, in which good men are preparing to enter into heaven; and the bad side, in which evil men are preparing for hell. And so, practically, in the world of spirits, or hades, a man is in the beginnings of heaven or of hell. And, as evil character necessarily induces suffering, those who are in the evil side of hades must be suffering, as they come more and more fully to develop their inward character. Still, while there, they can elevate their thought, to some extent, and can consider their condition; but, as their hearts are confirmed in evils, they are not willing to change their character. And they soon forget even the fact that they are evil.
ABRAHAM AFAR OFF.
The rich man (Commonly called “Dives,” which means rich,) saw Abraham “afar off,” because the character of the rich man was very far removed from a heavenly condition.
COOLING THE TONGUE.
The rich man asked to have Lazarus wet his tongue with water. This cry was not a sincere prayer for reform and regeneration: it was a cry of misery, because he found himself in a state of restraint, where he could not pervert the truth, nor torment the good, in others, as he had done on earth, or in his own external mind.
Water represents literal truth, such as the commandments of life. And to cool the tongue is to assuage the man’s mental thirst for attacking and perverting the truths of the Divine Word; i, e., of abusing and misapplying spiritual riches. For, in the “world of spirits, as the evil man comes more and more into his real and inward character, he loses, more and more, even the knowledge of the truths which he would not use.
The tongue, which speaks, represents the doctrine which is spoken. We all know how hard it is for anyone to be put in a position where he has to control his tongue, when he would like to speak evil and unkind things. And so, in the world of spirits, the evil man suffers, because he finds himself growing less and less able to attack and pervert true and good principles, as he loses even the knowledge of them. The flame in which he suffers is the fire of his own evil passions. Physical fire could not affect a spirit, who is in a spiritual body, fanned of spiritual substance. Evil spirits feel punishment, in their inability to give vent to all their evil passions.
Abraham reminds the rich man that he had his good things in the natural world, because, as a natural-minded man, he fixed his heart upon the things of outward life, and regarded such things as the real and only good things; and so he had not fitted his mind to appreciate, and to enjoy, the good things of a heavenly life. The things of the sensuous life appear to be good: but, apart from spiritual life, they are not good, but evil. So, to the natural man, trials and temptations appear to be evil things; but they are the means of receiving the good things of spiritual life.
And so the mind that is fixed upon worldly good things alone, seems to have its good things in this world, and yet it is not prepared for the genuine good things of heaven; and the mind that passes this life amid trials and sorrows, may become, by reformation, fitted for heavenly good things. And the life of evil necessarily leads to sorrow. The Psalmist speaks of “men of the world, whose portion is in this life.” And Jesus said to the worldly rich men,” Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation.”
CIRCUMSTANCES ONLY MEANS.
Neither a state of poverty nor one of riches can be, in itself against a man. A good man can make any circumstances afford him an opportunity to act from good principles; as a good sailor can make a wind from any direction carry him into port. As, by “tacking,” the mariner can sail directly against the course of the wind, so a good man can turn adverse influences to serve his purposes. Neither knowledge, nor the want of knowledge, will either save or condemn any man ; but the use or abuse of what he knows. Much knowledge, used for sensuous life, may give sensuous pleasure, but spiritual misery : and little knowledge may occasion trial and temptation, but, well used, may lead to heavenly joy. ” A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked.” Often, both literally and spiritually, “They that did feed delicately are in the streets; they that were brought up in scarlet embrace dunghills.”
THE GREAT GULF.
After death, men do not change their character, “There is a great gulf [or chasm] fixed” between the evil and the good; not merely in location, but also, and primarily, in character. The great chasm that separates the evil man from heaven is in his own heart, and in his own life. Good and evil are opposites: they cannot live together: there is nothing in common between them, Goodness lives in the glad reception of life from the Lord; but evil lives in the fierce rejection of all Divine and heavenly good and truth. What is heaven to one, would be hell to the other.
As to mere locality, the Lord can send angels on errands of mercy to the hells, when He so desires, and when any good can be accomplished thereby. But, as the evil spirits hate good, they hate the angels, and are tormented by their presence, as the diseased eye is tormented by the sunlight. There is nothing good that the Lord and the angels would not do for the devils, to help them: but the devils are utterly unwilling to receive any help of a heavenly character.
The man who, in this life, abuses his mental and material riches, is like a player in a theater, who, for a little season, assumes the part of a rich man ; but who, when the play is over, throws off his robes, and goes home to a hovel.
THE BRETHREN, ETC.
The five brethren of the rich man are all who are in a similar state, and who are mentally his brethren. His father’s house is the condition of his ruling-love, and the things derived from it. The evil mind desires to pervert the truth. And, if it cannot do this, then it still seeks to have liberty given to all the brethren of the mind, all the false principles in the natural mind, derived from, or fathered by, the ruling-love. When the man finds himself fixed in his evil life, he still hopes to have liberty to exercise his evil desires and false thoughts.
And, in the intermediate state, before the judgment, if, in a moment of elevated understanding, he claims that he was in ignorance of the truth, and so should not be judged by it, he will be shown that he had the Word of the Lord, in which is all truth, adapted to all and every state of mind and life, in men, And he will be taught that all the things in him, even those which he thought were good and true, are tainted with the quality of his ruling-love; that all the brethren of his mind have the same general character, and the same opposition to all good and truth.
MOSES AND THE PROPHETS.
“They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them.” “Moses and the prophets,” or “the law and the prophets,” represent the whole of the Old Testament Word of God. The books of Moses and the prophecies, were, especially, read in all the Jewish synagogues: and hence no Jew had any excuse for being ignorant of the Divine commandments. To ” hear ” “Moses and the prophets,” is to hear them in the memory, and to be instructed; to hear them in the understanding, and to believe; and to hear them in the heart, and to love and obey.
RECEIVING THE TRUTH.
Truth carries its own evidence to the mind that is open to it. The mind to which truth is demonstrated by “the self-evidencing reason of love,” needs no external demonstration. The natural man calls for signs and wonders, because he is not open to the light of truth. What the evil man needs, is not more evidence of truth, but more disposition to believe the truth. Evidence of spiritual truth is never sufficiently strong, or sufficiently abundant, to convince the man who is not disposed to receive it. And, in fact, it would be dangerous to compel a man to believe what he is not willing to accept; for then he would be guilty of profaning the truth, and thus in greater condemnation.
LEARNING FROM THE DEAD.
Visions, and talking with the dead, never confirm a man in truth that is against his ruling-love. The Lord could easily compel every man intellectually to see the truth, if that would be of any use to the man. Jesus, Himself, rose from the dead; but that fact did not convince His enemies of His Divine character, or of the truth of His teachings. And it
is noticeable that, after His resurrection, Jesus did not show Himself to His enemies, but only to His disciples. Saul did not reform his character, after his attempt to call up Samuel from the dead, through the witch of En-dor. And, in fact, he disobeyed the Divine law when he consulted a witch, to call up the dead. The Word of the Lord teaches principles, and precepts of life, adapted to all men. And no man, rising from the dead, could teach truth in any better way than it is taught already, in the Scriptures.
THE NEW-CHURCH VS. SPIRITISM.
This is the inherently weak point in modern Spiritism : it has nothing new to say; and it seeks to prove to the outward senses what ought to be seen by spiritual insight. And it should be called Naturalism, not Spiritualism. How different the mission of Swedenborg. He was illuminated by the Lord, that he might be an instrument to open the Scriptures, and to open men to the Scriptures; and to show men that all truth is in the holy Word of the Lord, not only in its letter, but also in its inward, spiritual sense. And so, in fact, Swedenborg offers the only effective antidote to modern Spiritism, “To the law, and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.” And nothing that arises from the spiritually dead state of our own evils, can convince us of any truth.
BELIEF NOT COMPELLED.
Miracles did not convince those who were opposed to the Lord’s principles. “Though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him.” And, in His own country, “Jesus did not many mighty works, because of their unbelief.” And yet, if miracles were intended to compel belief, they would seem to have been most needed where unbelief was most prevalent. And in these days, men who ascribe all things to nature, would not listen to anyone claiming to come from the spiritual world, And men cannot be frightened into heaven. Fear of hell will not produce love of the goodness and truth which make heaven. Heaven is positive, not negative.
It is a law of the Divine Providence, that a man shall, as of himself, remove evils, as sins, in his external man, and thus, and not otherwise, the Lord can remove evils in the internal man, and, at the same time, in the external man. A man in whom evil rules is, already, a hell; and the man in whom heavenly principles rule is, already, a form of heaven. Regeneration cannot be effected, except by hearty and sincere reception of the principles of Divine Truth, in the heart, understanding and life. The parable emphasizes the contrast between being rich in worldliness and rich in goodness. The contrast is not precisely between heaven and hell, but between those states of life on earth which finally make heaven and hell.
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887