And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)But if one went unto them from the dead.—The words are in accordance with the general Jewish craving for a “sign,” as the only proof of a revelation from God. (See Notes on Matthew 12:33; Matthew 16:1; 1Corinthians 1:22.) The return of one who had passed into the unseen world and brought back a report of its realities would rouse, the rich man thought, the most apathetic. So far the picture is generic, but if we follow up the suggestion which has thrown light upon the parable before, we shall find here also a more individualising feature. It is specially recorded of the Tetrarch that he had hoped to see some miracle done by Jesus (Luke 23:8). He had given utterance, when he heard of the miracles that had been actually wrought, to the belief that John the Baptist was “risen from the dead” (see Note on Matthew 14:2), and yet that belief had not brought him one step nearer to repentance.Luke 16:30-31. And he said, Nay, father Abraham, &c. — He answered, that the writings of Moses and the prophets had proved ineffectual to himself, and he feared would be so to his brethren; but that they would certainly change their sentiments, and reform their lives, if one actually appeared to them from the dead. “It is uncertain,” says Dr. Macknight, “whether the rich man, by one from the dead, meant an apparition, or a resurrection. His words are capable of either sense: yet the quality of the persons to whom this messenger was to be sent, makes it more probable that he meant an apparition. For, without doubt, the character Josephus gives us of the Jews in high life, namely, that they were generally Sadducees, was applicable to those brethren; so that, disbelieving the existence of souls in a separate state, nothing more was necessary, in the opinion of their brother, to convince them, than that they should see a real apparition,” or spirit from the invisible world. And he said, If they hear not Moses, &c. — Abraham tells the rich man, that if they did not hearken to Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded to a thorough repentance and reformation, though a person should come back from the dead to visit them: for though such an event might indeed alarm them for a time, the same prejudices and lusts, which had led them to despise or disregard those methods of instruction which God had afforded them, would also lead them, ere long, to slight and neglect such an awful appearance as he desired they might see. If it be objected here, that Moses nowhere expressly asserts a future state of rewards and punishments, it may be replied, that the facts recorded by him strongly enforce the natural arguments in proof of it; and the prophets speak plainly of it in many places. Bishops Atterbury and Sherlock have shown clearly and fully the justness of Abraham’s assertion here, in their excellent discourses on this text, which well deserve the attentive perusal of every professor of Christianity.” The impenitence of many who saw another Lazarus raised from the dead, (John 11:46,) and the wickedness of the soldiers who were eye-witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, and yet, that very day, suffered themselves to be hired to bear a false testimony against it, (Matthew 28:4; Matthew 28:15,) are most affecting and astonishing illustrations of this truth; for each of these miracles was far more convincing than such an appearance as is here referred to would have been.” — Doddridge. Certainly, if men be so immersed in vice and wickedness as to be inattentive to the evidences of a future state, which God has already afforded them by the inspired writings; or, if they be careless about such a state, they would, for the same reasons, reject all other means whatsoever, which God might make use of for their conviction and reformation. Reader, put thy own heart to the trial: dost thou really believe the awful representation of future things given in this parable by him who is ordained judge of the living and dead? Dost thou really believe that a life of sin and voluptuousness; of worldly-mindedness, love of pleasure, honour, or profit, will assuredly bring thy soul to the place of torment, where a drop of water is not to be had? If thou dost believe this, what madness is it to continue one moment in such a state, and to have less regard for thy own most precious soul, than a damned spirit had for the souls of his relations! But if thou believe not, what thinkest thou would persuade thee of the truth? Would it convince thee, were the request of the rich man on behalf of his brethren granted thee, and one came from the dead to testify to thee these dreadful truths? Do not mistake the matter: if thou dost not believe upon the abundant evidence already given, sufficient to convince any reasonable thinking man, whose eyes are not entirely blinded by worldly lusts and pleasures, neither wouldest thou be persuaded though a spirit came back from the dead to warn thee. Abraham assures the rich man, that if the writings of Moses and the prophets, though far less clear and explicit on the subject of a future state than the Scriptures of the New Testament, did not convince his brethren of the reality of it, they world not be persuaded though one rose from the dead; how much more, then, may we assert, that a person’s coming from the dead would not persuade those who resist the much greater evidence with which we are favoured since life and immortality have been brought to light by the gospel. If men regard not the public revelation, which has been confirmed by miracles, and the evident accomplishment of a variety of prophecies, neither would they be influenced by a private testimony given to themselves: for, 1st, A messenger from the dead could say no more than what is said in the Scriptures, nor say it with more authority. 2d, There would be much more reason to suspect an event of that kind to be a delusion than to suspect the Scriptures to be so; and those that are infidels in the one case would certainly be so in the other. 3d, The same strength of depravity that resists the convictions of the written word, would certainly triumph over those produced by a witness from the dead. 4th, The Scripture is now God’s ordinary way of making known his mind to us, and a way perfectly sufficient; and it would be presumption for us to prescribe any other; nor have we any ground to expect or pray for the grace of God to accompany or bless any other way, when that is rejected and set aside. Let us, then, not desire or look for any other, but be wise, and pay a greater deference than we have done to the exceeding goodness of our God, for having given us so clear a revelation of his will in the blessed Scriptures, and so plainly marked out before us the way to future felicity and glory! Let us well consider the foundation on which those Scriptures stand, and take them for our guide, assured that their authority is divine, and their instructions all- sufficient. From them let us, as reasonable men, as men peculiarly favoured with so inestimable a treasure from the great King of heaven; — from them let us weigh in the balance of true reason the gains of time and eternity: let us put into one scale the enjoyment of all our hearts could wish upon earth, and in the other the suffering of unutterable and everlasting misery: and how light will the scale of earthly happiness be to that of endless torment! Let us put into one scale the denial of all our evil affections, nay, and a life of poverty and suffering; and in the other the gain of everlasting felicity; and how light, how very light, will all the sufferings of time be to the exquisite joys and glories of eternity. See Dodd’s Discourses on the Miracles and Parables.
but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent—a principle of awful magnitude and importance. The greatest miracle will have no effect on those who are determined not to believe. A real Lazarus soon "rose from the dead," but the sight of him by crowds of people, inclined thereby to Christ, only crowned the unbelief and hastened the murderous plots of the Pharisees against the Lord of glory; nor has His own resurrection, far more overpowering, yet won over that "crooked and perverse nation."
but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent; but alas! repentance is not of man's will, but a gift of God's grace; nor could these men repent, because in a judicial way their eyes were shut, their ears were stopped, and their hearts were hardened; and though Christ came in person to them, and preached, as never man did, with power and authority, and confirmed his doctrine with miracles, yet they repented not, nor did they when he arose from the dead.And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Luke 16:30. οὐχί, a decided negative = nay! that is not enough; so he knew from his own experience; the Scriptures very good doubtless, but men are accustomed to them.—τις ἀπὸ νεκρῶν: something unusual, the preaching of a dead man returned to life, that might do.Luke 16:30. Οὐχὶ, nay) Therefore the rich man during his life did not know the plan of salvation; and the wretched man, after having left behind his luxury, brought with him into hell his low estimation for Scripture. Hence he gave a counsel (proposed a plan) by no means in accordance with true theology. He supposed that, as he himself was now affected, so the survivors will presently be sure to be affected. Do thou [reader] rather look upon Lazarus whilst still living; so there will be no need of Lazarus’ appearing after death. Ungodly men demand that in one moment the reality of things invisible should be shown to themselves, first of all, in a manner altogether palpable, and such as to exclude the possibility of faith: they shrink back from laborious investigation, faith, and patience.—τὶς, one) Lazarus, or some one else.—ἀπὸ νεκρῶν, from the dead) Therefore the rich man had not believed, neither did his brothers then believe, that there is a hell or a state of blessedness. It is not professed Sadduceeism, as the tenet of a sect, which is to be inferred from this [as the condemning characteristic of the rich man], but practical atheism, wherewith even not merely the Sadducees, but the Pharisees also were tainted, with (i.e. notwithstanding) all their hypocrisy. They were really deriding mockers, Luke 16:14. And it is probable that five Pharisees are stigmatized in Luke 16:28 above the rest.—μετανοήσουσιν, they will repent) That there is need of repentance, all are aware, even without apparitions: for even the self-indulger knew this in hell; although he could not comprehend that Moses and prophets aim at enforcing this same truth.
 For where sight is, there is no scope for faith, which is trust or belief in things unseen.—E. and T.Verses 30, 31. - And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. The Master not only wished to drive home this momentous truth to the hearts of the group of varied ranks and orders listening to him then; his words were for a far larger auditory, so he prolongs the dialogue between Dives and Abraham. "If Lazarus from the dead would only go to them," pleaded the lost soul. "Even if I send," replied Abraham, "and Lazarus goes, they will not be persuaded." They would see him, listen to him, perhaps, and then, when the first feelings of amazement and fear were dying away, would find some plausible reasons for disregarding the messenger and his message. Criticism would discuss the appearance; it would be disposed of by attributing it to an hallucination, or others would suggest that the visitant from the other world had never been really dead, and these pleas would be readily taken up by others who cared not to examine the question for themselves, and so life, careless, selfish, thoughtless, would go on as it had done aforetime. A striking example of what the Lord asserted through the medium of the shade of Abraham took place within a few days from that time. Another Lazarus did come back again from the dead into the midst of that great company of friends and mourners and jealous watchers of Jesus gathered round the sepulchral cave of Bethany, and though some true, faithful hearts welcomed the mighty sign with awful joy, still it served not to touch the cold and calculating spirit of Pharisee, scribe, and Sadducee, thirsting for the blood of the Master, whom they feared and hated, and whose word had summoned back the dead into their midst. The mighty wonder wrought no change there. One went unto them from the dead, and yet their hard hearts only took counsel together how they might put Lazarus again to death. And so the parable and this particular course of teaching came to a close. Perhaps it is the deepest, the most soul-stirring of all the utterances of the Master. Expositors for eighteen centuries have drawn out of its clear, fathomless depths new and ever new truths. It is by no means yet exhausted. This voice from the other side of the veil charms and yet appals, it terrifies and yet enthrals all ages, every class, each rank of men and women. There are many other important items of special teaching which have been scarcely touched on in the notes above. Among the more interesting of these is the brief notice of the life which the blessed lead in Paradise. The happy dead are represented as a wide family circle. Abraham is pictured with Lazarus in his bosom. The image is taken from the way guests used to sit at a banquet. John at the Last Supper occupied a similar position with regard to the Master (John 13:23, 25) to that occupied by Lazarus with regard to Abraham here. The two extremes of the social scale are thus represented as meeting in that blessed company on terms of the tenderest friendship. With these were Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets (Luke 13:28). "All the just," as Marcion gives it in his recension of St. Luke. And while the Paradise-life for the blessed dead is described as a holy communion of saints, there is evidently no corresponding communion in the case of the unhappy dead. The selfish rich man finds himself in an awful solitude. The suffering is rather represented by the image of the void; there are no external causes of pain apparently; hence his longing to speak a word with Lazarus, to feel the touch of a friendly sympathizing hand, if only for a moment, to distract his burning remorseful thoughts. There was nothing to live for there, nothing to hope for, but he felt he must go on living - hopeless. As no special crime, no glaring sin of lust or wanton excess or selfish ambition, is laid to the rich man's charge, and yet when dead he is represented as lifting up his eyes, being in torments, many, especially men belonging to those schools which are generally unfriendly to the religion of Jesus Christ, have endeavoured to show that the condemned was condemned on account of his riches, while the saved was saved because of his deep poverty. Nor is this error alone common to the Tubingen school, and to brilliant free-lances in religious literature like M. Renan. Some such mistaken notion doubtless materially aided the rise and the popularity of the mendicant orders, who played so important a part in the Christianity of the Middle Ages in so many lands. But the burden of our thrilling parable emphatically is not "Woe to the rich! blessed are the poor!" The crime of the life to which so awful a punishment was meted out as the guerdon, was selfish inhumanity, which Christ teaches us is the damning sin. (See his words in his great picture of the final judgment, Matthew 25:41-46.) Lazarus was no solitary individual; he was one of the many suffering poor who abound in this world, and to find whom the rich need not go far from their own gates. Lazarus represents here the opportunity for the exercise of Dives's humanity. Of this, and doubtless many like opportunities, Dives cared not to avail himself. He was apparently no ill-natured, cruel man, he was simply self-centred, delighting in soft living, generous wines, costly fare, sumptuous clothing, good society. He loved to be surrounded with applauding, pleasant guests; but the Lazaruses of the world, for him, might pine away and die in their nameless awful misery. Professor Bruce, with great force, puts the following words into the beggar Lazarus's mouth; these words tell us with startling clearness what was the sin of Dives: "I was laid at this man's gate; he knew me; he could net pass from his house into the street without seeing my condition, as a leprous beggar, yet as a beggar I died." Dives here was endowed richly with all the materials of human happiness, but he kept all his happiness to himself, he took no trouble whatever to diffuse his joy and gladness, his bright and many-coloured life among that great army of weak, poor, woe-begone brothers and sisters who go far to make up the population of every great city. That riches are not in themselves a ground for exclusion from the blessed life is plainly shown by the position occupied by Abraham in that happy family circle of the blessed. For Abraham, we know, was a sheik possessed of vast wealth. Then, too, in the latter part of the parable, when the imminent danger which the five brothers of the lost Dives ran of being similarly lost, was discussed, the danger is represented as springing from their careless disregard of the Law and the prophets, and not from the fact of their being rich men. When Ezekiel sought for examples of the most righteous men that had ever lived, he chose, it must be remembered, as exemplars of mortals living the fair, noble life loved of God, three men distinguished for their rank and riches - Noah, Daniel, and Job (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
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