What Does Luke 16:31 Mean?

"But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Luke 16:31(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

There are many that deny the existence of the fires of hell and refuse to believe that eternal separation from God, awaits those who refuse to trust in Christ for their salvation, and yet there are many passages that warn of this terrible place of torment, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. Jesus Himself tells us he who believes is not condemned, but he that does not believe is condemned already - because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.

There are many that deny a truth, that is clearly recorded in the word of God - eternal damnation, in the lake of fire for the lost. There are many who dismiss the teaching of the Lord Jesus, who are ready and willing to believe extra-biblical prophecies; new-age philosophies; revelations from mystics; illumination from tarot cards, and secret intel from a wide range of plausible people and teachers who tickle their itching ears. Broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who believe a lie in preference to the truth.

There are many passages that warn of the torment that awaits those who do not believe in the only begotten Son of God for their eternal redemption, and perhaps there is no more chilling passage that attests to this truth, than the story the Lord Jesus related during his earthly ministry, which describes the eternal destinies of Lazarus and the rich man, in Luke chapter 16.

While many teach the story of this beggarman is only a parable, that teaches some principles, there is compelling evidence to suggest this is a true story, and relates the eternal destinies of two Jewish men. Lazarus was a poor vagrant who was covered in sores and would sit by the gate of a wealthy merchant, begging for scraps of food. Sometimes he was fed by crumbs of bread that fell from the table of this rich man, But Jesus told this story as a warning to the hypocritical Pharisees, who treated Christ with contempt and ridiculing His message of salvation.

These short-sighted men flaunted their religiosity and justified themselves in the sight of others - but God knew the thoughts of their heart which were disgusting in His sight. It was to these men, who prided themselves on their knowledge of Old Testament Scripture, to whom Jesus related the terrible fate of the rich man, who was clothed in purple cloth and fine linen, and dined sumptuously on the best of fare.. and Lazarus, the poor beggarman who sat at his gate.

Jesus explained that after the death of these two men, Lazareth was taken to Paradise - to 'Abraham's bosom', where he was comforted, while the rich man was sent to Hades, where he was tormented and in deep distress. Seeing the comfort Lazareth enjoyed, the rich man begged him to come to him, and soothe his thirst with a drop of water. But he was informed that there was an unbridgeable gap between the paradise that Lazarus enjoyed and the misery the rich man was suffering.

Realising the shocking truth... that his own punishment was never-ending, the rich man's begged that Lazareth be permitted to return to earth to warn his five brothers to mend their ways, so they would not also have to come to that terrible place of torment. It was then that the Lord Jesus uttered this chilling world, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone were to rise from the dead.

Jesus knew that if men refused to believe the Word of God...nothing would persuade them - even if someone coming back from the dead. Indeed, not many months later a man named Lazareth... the brother of Mary and Martha, was brought back to life, and Jesus Himself rose from the grave - yet they refused to believe his message of salvation. Jesus taught the futility of trusting in one's sight or relying on signs, feelings, dreams, or emotions. We live by faith and not by sight. We live by faith in God's Word and not as a result of an experience, an angelic appearance, or even someone returning from the dead.

Throughout Scripture Abraham is identified as the 'father of faith', "and his faith was reckoned as righteousness". The reason that Lazareth was taken to 'Abraham's bosom' - to 'Paradise', was because of his faith in God's Word. Lazareth believed God and HIS faith was also reckoned as righteousness. However, the reason that the rich man was sent to the place of torment was that, like the proud Pharisees, he believed in his OWN righteousness to save him. And because of his lack of faith in God's Word, he remained under God's condemnation - for HE who believes in NOT condemned BUT he who does NOT believe is condemned already - because he has not believed in the only begotten Son of God.

Lazareth, the beggarman,  was not saved because he was poor and the rich man was not condemned because of his wealth, or elevated position in the community. Lazareth was saved by God's grace because of his faith and the rich man was condemned because of his lack of faith. Like the proud Pharisees, the rich man was trusting in his own wealth, generosity, position, religious adherence, and self-righteousness to secure his place in Paradise - but nothing can earn our eternal salvation. Salvation is the free gift of God THROUGH having faith in the Person and Work of Christ Jesus our Saviour - for there is no other name, given among men whereby we must be saved.

Like Abraham, and all Old Testament saints, who were looking for their coming Messiah, the soul of Lazarus was taken to a holding place called 'Paradise', or 'Abraham's Bosom', UNTIL Jesus died on the cross, as payment for their sins and rose from their grave to set these captive souls free. Like the rich man, and all who do not believe on Jesus for the redemption of their soul, the same place of torment, and Great White Throne judgement awaited these proud, religious, Pharisees - if they refused to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sin.

When the Lord Jesus told these proud, religious men, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead', His message held a profound and eternal truth, that continues to resonate down the corridors of time. JESUS HIMSELF would soon walk to the cross to as the ransom price for the sin of the world HE HIMSELF would die and He would rise from the dead, as prophesied by Moses and the Old Testament prophets... but Jesus knew that if these proud Pharisees would not listen to the truth spoken by Moses, the Prophets, and His own Messianic ministry - they would not even be persuaded when HE HIMSELF rose from the dead.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, how I praise and thank You for all Your goodness, grace, and long-suffering patience towards me, a sinner saved by grace through faith in Christ. Thank You for the Scriptures and the truth they contain and thank You for opening my eyes to believe the truth Your word teaches. Thank You for the many prophetic voices in Scripture that point us to Jesus Christ - our God and Saviour. Have pity on those whose minds are closed to the truth and who are trusting in their own righteousness. Show them the truth that there is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved - and point them to Jesus, in Whose name I pray, AMEN. 

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