How Was Lazarus Saved?

Published on June 19th, 2019

[From the One-Year Lectionary]                                                                                                                                               

Lazarus entered heaven, and the rich man entered hell. When the rich man asked why Lazarus could not go to his unbelieving brothers who were yet alive, Abraham responded, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” (Luke 16:29).  “Moses and the Prophets” was a Jewish way of referring to the Scriptures, which in Jesus’ day consisted of what we call the Old Testament.  By stating that the testimony for salvation comes from “Moses and the Prophets” Abraham was stating the fact that the testimony of salvation comes only from Holy Scripture—particularly here, the Old Testament.

How then did poor Lazarus obtain eternal life?  He did not merit it because he was poor.  He did not merit it because he was sickly.  He did not merit it because he was a good man. In fact eternal life was not merited by Lazarus at all.  It is apparent that Jesus chose the name Lazarus for a reason.  Lazarus is a Hebrew name that means God helps.  This is why Lazarus entered Abraham’s heavenly presence:  He believed that in spite his poverty and sickliness, God helps, and this help comes from God because of the Christ.  How did Lazarus know this?  The implication of the parable is that Lazarus had Moses and the Prophets—the Holy Scriptures!

Lazarus must have believed in the Christ. The primary work of Moses and the Prophets (the Old Testament) was and still is to testify of the Christ.  Referring to the entire Old Testament as “the prophets”, Jewish Rabbis had a saying: “All the prophets prophesied not but of the days of the Christ.” [Sanh. 99a]   No wonder Jesus would say of the Old Testament Scriptures, “These are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39).  Similarly to the Emmaus disciples Jesus explained the necessity of His dying and rising by pointing to Moses and the Prophets: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27). Though Old Testament believers did not have the full picture of the Christ, and He had not yet performed His saving work, yet they believed in Him (See 1 Peter 1:10,11).

Faith in the Christ is truly what the Old Testament witness is about.  Thus Moses—foundational character of the Old Testament—“considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:26).  Moses suffered reproach because he believed in the Christ. Thus also young Timothy had listened to the “Scriptures” from his infancy, and as he heard these writings—the Old Testament—he was made “wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  (2 Tim. 3:15b).  Before the Christ appeared on the scene young Timothy was wise for salvation as he believed in the Christ. When Jesus then told the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, certainly those in the early church—who were resolutely instructed that only by faith in Jesus could a person be saved—realized that Lazarus too was saved by the Scriptures that made him “wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  Additionally Lazarus, like Moses, considered the poverty-induced reproach of Christ to be greater riches than what his wealthy overlord possessed.

So now the consistency of God remains:  A person is saved only by faith in Christ, and that faith is only brought to pass by hearing the Word of Christ. (Romans 10:17).  Moses heard.  Timothy heard.  Lazarus and you and I have heard, and heaven is our home—in Christ alone.