Luke 16:31

ESV 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.’”
NIV He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.''
NASB 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.’?'
CSB "But he told him, 'If they don't listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.' "
NLT But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’'
KJV And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

What does Luke 16:31 mean?

Abraham finishes his argument with an eternally condemned man. This man had been rich in life, living in a mansion, eating sumptuous food, and wearing expensive clothing. Outside his gate sat Lazarus, a beggar, starving and covered in sores. They both died; Abraham met Lazarus in paradise while the rich man went to torment in Hades (Luke 16:19–23). The rich man is convinced that if Abraham sends Lazarus to his brothers, they will escape his fate. They will change their ways, be more charitable, and go to paradise. Abraham points out that the Mosaic law and the Prophets have more and stronger messages than a single person returned from the dead. The rich man insists they will respond. Abraham knows they won't (Luke 16:27–30).

Jesus is telling this story to the Pharisees. Hopefully, they recognize themselves in the rich man. They value money over God and neglect the needs of others (Luke 16:14–17). They continually look for miraculous signs to corroborate Jesus' teaching but ignore them when Jesus complies (John 9). Ironically, they are getting the rich man's message: the story is the message. But Abraham's right; if they reject the Law and Prophets, no sign is going to change their minds. Jesus will literally raise a man named Lazarus from the dead, and they will react by trying to kill him (Luke 11:1–53; 12:9–11)! And far too many will continue to reject Jesus, whom the Prophets describe in detail, after His resurrection.

Like the Pharisees, people today tend to think that faith is an involuntary reaction that happens when the right evidence is offered in the right way. Many people lament that they can't "just believe," or that they are expected to make themselves express faith. That is a passive way to look at belief. Faith isn't blind. It doesn't come out of nowhere and zap our brains. Coming to faith is much more like a staircase. We see something that gives evidence that God is real and we take that step. Then we have faith for the next step, perhaps believing the Bible that it is God who provides what we see around us in creation (Romans 1:18–20). Then we see something else, like one person forgiving another, and take one more step. Then we read in the Bible that God wants to forgive us, and we believe.

The problem with us is that, like the Pharisees, we all have personal agendas that push against the idea that God is at work in our lives. We build a staircase of belief that leads us away from God. Or we push the goal out further and further, so it's always out of reach. Then, we blame Him that He didn't give us enough evidence. We need to understand that the journey of faith also requires choice. The rich man's brothers needed to choose to believe what their Scriptures said about God's expectations. The Pharisees needed to choose to believe what their Scriptures said about the Messiah. We need to do the same.

If we don't believe God's Word, it's very unlikely we'll believe more signs (Matthew 12:38–39). Without His Word, we can interpret His signs in a way that denies He exists and justify living however we want. Unless we choose to accept the truth, we'll be with the rich man in torment, knowing exactly how we got there.
What is the Gospel?
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