If They Do Not Hear Moses

At the end of Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable about a poor man named Lazarus, and an unnamed rich man. Both men die and go to different destinations. The poor man goes to “Abraham’s bosom”, commonly thought to be heaven. The rich man ends up in Hades – hell. He is in agony in the flames and cries out to Abraham for relief. There is much speculation about this parable. “Can those in hell really communicate with those in heaven? Can they, in fact, see across the divide? Interesting as they may be, those details aren’t the main point of the parable. Near the end, the rich man’s appeal to Abraham is this:

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

The parable isn’t about how one gets to heaven or hell but articulates a doctrine of Scripture. The rich man’s appeal is for a miracle. Send someone from the dead to warn them about this place, to tell them the truth, and then they will believe. But Abraham counters, they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. Moses and the Prophets encompass all the Hebrew Scriptures, the whole of what we know as the Old Testament revelation. These are the Scriptures that Jesus turns to in his post-resurrection ministry as a witness to himself. And, on the Emmaus Road, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Lk. 24:27).

The Scriptures of the Old Testament contain the testimony of Jesus as Messiah. He is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53, the one bringing good news to the downtrodden in Isaiah 53, and the coming King Psalm 24, and the book of Daniel. The Scriptures bear witness to the truth of Jesus as Son of God and the one by whom God will judge the world.

The rich man isn’t satisfied with this answer, and says “no, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” This is an attitude that hasn’t lost currency. To the extent we downgrade the Scriptures we share this attitude. We are telling God that his word is insufficient if we demand to see signs or to have a “surer witness.”  At the end of John’s gospel, he tells his readers “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” What Jesus did while on the earth validated his identity to those first eyewitnesses. But now that he has been raised from the dead, God himself has validated his son, and he points us to the Bible as the surest witness possible. The purpose of recording these things is to enable belief, and belief in Him brings life.

At a time when so much of the church is departing from a doctrine of Scripture that affirms it as God’s Word, it is imperative for Christians to have a solid foundation in the Bible.  We help no one by offering a gospel that isn’t built on God’s revelation. We appeal to no one with an authority that isn’t that of God himself. We have no message for a sin-cursed world if it not based on God’s book. It not only behooves Christians to have a robust view of Scripture, if we do not hold to the Scriptures as God’s Word, we are prey to every doctrinal wind and wave that blows.

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