Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish …. 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.’ – Luke 16:25, 27-29, ESV
The above quoted passage is from a parable Jesus shares in the Gospel of Luke. In this parable, a rich man dies and goes to Hades (a.k.a. Hell) while the beggar who suffered in this life is brought to the side of Abraham in the next. These verses are part of the exchange between the Rich Man and Abraham in the afterlife.
I draw two major lessons from this parable:
1) Someone may look and even be blessed in this life while disobeying God’s word.
We see this in how the Rich Man lived his life and how he interacts with Abraham in the next life. He even mentions his brothers and Abraham responds with the implication being that they are not obeying Scripture (vv. 30 makes their need for repentance explicit). They are not choosing life by the actions in the present day. The Rich Man was hoping someone would come from the dead to persuade them to change their ways and obey Scripture before it was too late and they ended up in Hades like himself. Abraham denies this request saying it wouldn’t matter hinting at Jesus’ ministry (as we know Jesus dies and comes back to life but is not believed by most of the Jews in his day).
Let’s apply this to situations involving adultery: An adulterer or an adulteress might look like they are living the high-life after sinning against God and the faithful spouse. They are the “Rich Man” in such situations. It may actually be good for them in this life (though I have my reasons to doubt how good living in sin is now), but the adulterous person is forgetting about the future like the Rich Man did. They fail to take into account the warning about what is coming in the next life. And Scripture is crystal clear about that: they would do well to repent now as dying in adultery without repentance does not end well for them (see I Cor 6:9).
2) We will be held accountable in the next life for our actions and failure to respond to what God has revealed to us.
This is the most sobering of the lessons from this parable told by Jesus. He warns us to heed the Scriptural warnings. Jesus does this by reminding the Rich Man that his brothers have the Hebrew Scriptures (“Moses and the Prophets” being shorthand for that). They need to listen to the Scriptural witnesses just as we do today.
Applying this to situations involving infidelity, I see a clear teaching that a reckoning is coming even if it does not take place in this life. The only way to avoid such a reckoning as an adulterer/adulteress is to listen to Scripture and repent from adultery accordingly. Also, I see a need for this repentance to be in deed and not just words. The Rich Man is hoping a dead person will persuade his living brothers to repent, which means turning from their sin.
To summarize, this parable teaches us that people doing wicked things may actually prosper in this life, but their unwillingness to repent in this life will come at the price of perpetual torment in the next. Prospering in this life does not necessarily mean that you have the blessing of God and will avoid judgment in the next. The safest course of action is to follow the Scripture honoring God’s word through obedience in this life as empowered by His Holy Spirit.