The Rich Man and The Beggar
Finally, the superior position of the Pharisees and scribes (rich in spiritual things, clothed in purple and fine linen, representing their own estimate of their righteousness and hopes of royalty, and faring sumptuously every day — Psalm 69:22; Rom. 11:9) is contrasted with the outcast, beggarly condition of the publicans and sinners (poor in spiritual things, lying at the gate of the “rich man,” and desiring to be fed with some crumbs of the favour so bountifully enjoyed by the “rich man” — Rom, 3:1,2).
“ Let their table be a snare before them, and their prosperity their ruin.” (Ps 69:22 GenevaBible)
“And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a net, and a stumbling block, even for a recompense unto them.” (Ro 11:9 GenevaBible)
“1 What is then the preferment of the Jew? or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much every manner of way: for chiefly, because unto them were of credit committed the oracles of God.” (Ro 3:1-2 GenevaBible)
Knowing that the scribes and Pharisees would not accept the good advice offered them by means of the parable of The Unjust Steward, the Lord now makes a positive prediction of the course of events, and by means of the picture of the deaths of the beggar and the rich man shows the changes that were to come to the circumstances of the self-righteous Pharisee class and the penitent class of despised publicans and sinners.
The latter, dying to their unfavourable spiritual conditions, were to be carried by “angels” (messengers of truth) into “Abraham’s bosom“; they would by this change come into line to inherit the good things of divine favour expressed in the Abrahamic promise.
The Pharisees boasted of their lineage, not realising that the fleshly descent from Abraham would profit them nothing, if their hearts were not right. When their class, as a class, “died” to their favourable circumstances, it, as a class, was “buried.” How accurately this describes the condition of the scribes and their sympathisers for nearly twenty centuries! They have been “buried” beneath the social “earth”; every nation has crushed them down, and while in this hadean or covered or buried condition, they have been in most grievous torments.
In an earlier portion of this study, we have seen that the condition of dead persons is such that they know nothing and feel nothing. Many scriptures indicate this plainly, and we must not suppose that our Lord would contradict the straightforward utterances of the Old Testament, which He constantly quoted as the Divine Word.
By recognising that our Lord was in this parable depicting the fortunes of two classes, as carried through the group of parables beginning with that of The Lost Sheep, the perfect harmony between Him and the Old Testament is clearly discerned.
While in his “torment,” the “rich man” class apprehends something of what he has lost and the “beggar” has gained. The Jews realise that they are under the divine disfavour; they also know that they are in many nations socially beneath the “earth,” and without doubt they realise that they have been tormented in the “flame” of trouble which destroyed their city and polity in A.D. 70, and which has been “burning” them ever since. They call to “Father Abraham” for relief, but God refuses to send it, not even a drop of the cool water of truth to relieve their distress. This, however, is not on account of vindictiveness on God’s part, though the “rich man” is reminded that circumstances once were different. The hardness of heart of the Pharisee and scribe class and their sympathisers has caused a “great gulf” of prejudice to be “fixed” between them and those who have entered into the divine favour (“Abraham’s bosom”), so that it is practically impossible for spiritual benefits to pass to the Jews. This “gulf” represents also, we undorstand, the “blindness in part” of Rom. 11:25, which has been so effective that but few Jews have been converted to Chris! since A.D. 70.
“ For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this secret (lest ye should be arrogant in yourselves) that partly obstinacy is come to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Ro 11:25 GenevaBible)
Near the close of this most marvellous of parables, in which the great Teacher so wonderfully used the impossible to represent the actual, is found a reference to the written words of Moses and the Prophets. If the “brethren” of the “rich man” (possibly representing the Jews living outside of Palestine at the time of our Lord’s ministry were indisposed to hear them, neither would they regard the testimony of the “beggar,” now received into divine favour, nor of the gentiles who have been received into favour with him, having been raised from the death state of trespasses and sins. (Eph. 2:5,6.)
“5 Even when we were dead by sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, by whose grace ye are saved, 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph 2:5-6 GenevaBible)
This should be to us an intimation of the reverence we are to render to God’s Word, as expressed in the Old Testament, and that we are not to suppose that the New Testament contradicts Moses and the Prophets, when they tell us that “the dead know not anything.”
– The New Covenant Advocate June 1909 p. 43-44
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