Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 21: "A Great Gulf Fixed"
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The rich man had not abandoned the idea that he was
a child of Abraham, and in his distress he is represented as [p. 264] calling upon him for aid. "Father Abraham," he prayed,
"have mercy on me." He did not pray to God, but to
Abraham. Thus he showed that he placed Abraham above
God, and that he relied on his relationship to Abraham
for salvation. The thief on the cross offered his prayer
to Christ. "Remember me when Thou comest into Thy
kingdom," he said. (Luke 23:42.) And at once the response
came, Verily I say unto thee today (as I hang on the cross
in humiliation and suffering), thou shalt be with Me in
Paradise. But the rich man prayed to Abraham, and his
petition was not granted. Christ alone is exalted to be "a
Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and
forgiveness of sins." Acts 5:31. "Neither is there salvation
in any other." Acts 4:12.
The rich man had spent his life in self-pleasing, and too
late he saw that he had made no provision for eternity.
He realized his folly, and thought of his brothers, who
would go on as he had gone, living to please themselves.
Then he made the request, "I pray thee therefore, father,
that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father's
house; for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto
them, lest they also come into this place of torment." But
"Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets;
let them hear them. 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."
When the rich man solicited additional evidence for his
brothers, he was plainly told that should this evidence be
given, they would not be persuaded. His request cast a
reflection on God. It was as if the rich man had said, If
you had more thoroughly warned me, I should not now be
here. Abraham in his answer to this request is represented [p. 265] as saying, Your brothers have been sufficiently warned.
Light has been given them, but they would not see; truth
has been presented to them, but they would not hear.
"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will
they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." These
words were proved true in the history of the Jewish nation.
Christ's last and crowning miracle was the raising of
Lazarus of Bethany, after he had been dead four days. The
Jews were given this wonderful evidence of the Saviour's
divinity, but they rejected it. Lazarus rose from the dead
and bore his testimony before them, but they hardened their
hearts against all evidence, and even sought to take his life.
The law and the prophets are God's appointed agencies
for the salvation of men. Christ said, Let them give heed to
these evidences. If they do not listen to the voice of God
in His word, the testimony of a witness raised from the
dead would not be heeded.
Those who heed Moses and the prophets will require no
greater light than God has given; but if men reject the
light, and fail to appreciate the opportunities granted them,
they would not hear if one from the dead should come to
them with a message. They would not be convinced even
by this evidence; for those who reject the law and the
prophets so harden their hearts that they will reject all light.
The conversation between Abraham and the once-rich
man is figurative. The lesson to be gathered from it is
that every man is given sufficient light for the discharge
of the duties required of him. Man's responsibilities are
proportionate to his opportunities and privileges. God gives
to every one sufficient light and grace to do the work He
has given him to do. If man fails to do that which a little
light shows to be his duty, greater light would only reveal
unfaithfulness, neglect to improve the blessings given. "He [p. 266] that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in
much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also
in much." Luke 16:10. Those who refuse to be enlightened
by Moses and the prophets and ask for some wonderful
miracle to be performed would not be convinced if their
wish were granted.
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows how the
two classes represented by these men are estimated in the
unseen world. There is no sin in being rich if riches
are not acquired by injustice. A rich man is not condemned
for having riches, but condemnation rests upon him if the
means entrusted to him is spent in selfishness. Far better
might he lay up his money beside the throne of God, by
using it to do good. Death cannot make any man poor
who thus devotes himself to seeking eternal riches. But the
man who hoards his treasure for self can not take any of
it to heaven. He has proved himself to be an unfaithful
steward. During his lifetime he had his good things, but he
was forgetful of his obligation to God. He failed of
securing the heavenly treasure.
The rich man who had so many privileges is represented
to us as one who should have cultivated his gifts, so that
his works should reach to the great beyond, carrying with
them improved spiritual advantages. It is the purpose of
redemption, not only to blot out sin, but to give back to
man those spiritual gifts lost because of sin's dwarfing
power. Money cannot be carried into the next life; it is
not needed there; but the good deeds done in winning souls
to Christ are carried to the heavenly courts. But those who
selfishly spend the Lord's gifts on themselves, leaving their
needy fellow creatures without aid and doing nothing to
advance God's work in the world, dishonor their Maker.
Robbery of God is written opposite their names in the books
of heaven. [p. 267]
The rich man had all that money could procure, but he
did not possess the riches that would have kept his account
right with God. He had lived as if all that he possessed
were his own. He had neglected the call of God and the
claims of the suffering poor. But at length there comes a
call which he cannot neglect. By a power which he cannot
question or resist he is commanded to quit the premises
of which he is no longer steward. The once-rich man is
reduced to hopeless poverty. The robe of Christ's righteousness,
woven in the loom of heaven, can never cover him.
He who once wore the richest purple, the finest linen, is
reduced to nakedness. His probation is ended. He
brought nothing into the world, and he can take nothing
out of it.
Christ lifted the curtain and presented this picture
before priests and rulers, scribes and Pharisees. Look at it,
you who are rich in this world's goods and are not rich
toward God. Will you not contemplate this scene? That
which is highly esteemed among men is abhorrent in the
sight of God. Christ asks, "What shall it profit a man, if
he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or
what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Mark
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