There has been much talk of the rich man and Lazarus over the time. Much argument has taken place over whether the words of Yahshua in Luke 16:19-31 were intended to be understood literally or as a parable.
But is it to be taken as literal or is it simply a parable?
Well, let us have a look at it from both angles.
To begin this study, we’ll take a closer look at just what a parable really is, and then examine the setting in which Yahshua told this story. Perhaps then we will better understand what lessons there are for us in the story of the rich man and Lazarus.
The Random House College Dictionary describes a parable as “a short, allegorical story designed to convey a truth or moral lesson.” Cruden’s Complete Concordance further expands this concept, saying that parables in the Bible were used “more generally than elsewhere.” We know that the Bible writers used situations both imaginary, as in the trees asking the bramble to be king over them (Judges 9:8-15), and realistic in parables. Whatever form the parable took, it was only a vehicle for the moral lesson being taught.
In simple terms, a parable signifies a complete and often imaginary story from which a moral or lesson is to be drawn.
Matthew 13:34 All these things spake Yahshua unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them:
Mark 4:34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.
By the above two verses we learn that Yahshua never spoke without a parable to the people. Only to His disciples did He speak without a parable.
It is appropriate here then to ask to whom Yahshua was speaking to in Luke 16:19-31? Which category of people was He dealing with? The last verse before Yahshua’s voice begins in this passage tells us. Verse 14 says, “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.”
So we learn that Yahshua was speaking to the Pharisees, a class of men who were notorious all through the gospels for their refusal to deal honestly with Him and the truths He taught.
So what does this tell us? It clearly tells us that this was a “parable”, because without a parable spake he not unto them. [Mat 13:34, Mark 4:34] Using one of their own well-known stories about the future (nearly every detail was recorded in Josephus’ book, Josephus’ Discourses to the Greeks Concerning Hades [pp. 637, 638], which was written shortly after Yahshua’s time), Yahshua pointed out that in this life only we determine our future destiny. No second probation exists for the human race.
Also, The Pharisees believed that salvation is based on Abrahamic descent. They believed that all of Abraham’s descendants would automatically go to heaven. They also believed that if you were earthly rich, you would also automatically go to heaven.
Yahshua used this parable to turn the tables around and show them that is not the case. A very good lesson was drawn from it. It’s simply a parabolic fable.
He employed a popular pharisaical story to teach an important lesson to the Pharisees. But the details of the story so contradict the other teachings of Yahshua (see Matthew 13:36-40) that no one should accuse Him of supporting the details of the parable itself.
Yahshua’s parables started this way: There was a certain etc., bit like, once upon a time etc. This is a good guideline for us to recognise parables. Look at the parables just preceding the rich man and Lazarus, and you will clearly see the connection. Please read them for yourselves and you will clearly see with Yahweh’s guidance that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus was Yahshua’s last appeals at his end of public ministry.
1) The parable of the lost sheep [Luke 15:1-7] Shepherds love.
2) The parable of the lost coin [Luke 15:8-10] The woman’s diligent search.
3) The parable of the lost son [Luke 15:11-32] The wonderful love of the Father over his wayward son.
4) The parable of the unjust steward [Luke 16:1-18] Preparation for the life to come and building friendships for the future.
5) The parable of the rich man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31] The necessity of being ready for the day of death and the futility of counting on a 2nd probation. It teaches of the lost opportunity and the eternal fixity of mans destiny when life ends. And it also teaches that salvation is not based on earthly riches or Abrahamic descent.
Please allow me to add something right here and now that not many people know about; Abraham’s Bosom” was a Jewish idiom meaning “Paradise.”
What’s an idiom? An idiom is an individual peculiarity of language – the language peculiar to a people or to a district, community, or class. Allow me to quote from the Collins Dictionary: Idiom: “A group of words which, when used together, have a different meaning from the one suggested by the individual words. e.g. It was raining cats and dogs.”
We can very clearly see, just as “Abraham’s Bosom” was symbolic, so is also the whole story of the rich man and Lazarus.
What does all this mean?
Answer: Rich man and Lazarus is not to be taken literally. It is a parable!
Yahshua rebuked the Pharisees for their disregard of the Scriptures, foreseeing that even a supernatural event would not change the hearts of those who persistently rejected the teachings of “Moses and the prophets.” The miracle of raising the real-life Lazarus from the dead soon afterwards confirmed the accuracy of Yahshua’s conclusion.
One did rise from the dead, yet the brothers of the “rich man” did not repent. In fact, the Pharisees even plotted to kill Lazarus after his resurrection. His very life was a reminder to them of their own hypocrisy.
John 12:9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Yahshua was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.
John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well,
So you have to ask yourself a question, do you side with the Pharisees over Yahshua?
Let us now look at it from a literal angle, and you shall soon see how ludicrous it is!
If it’s literal, then it means that the dead are in some hellfire now in not spirit form, but bodily form, because the rich man has a tongue and a finger. And I don’t know about you, but if I was burning in agony in some fire I would be asking for more than a drop of water on my tongue, I would be asking for a truck load.
Also, if it’s literal, that means the lost and saved can hold a conversation with each other. Also, the wicked and saved can see each other through a great chasm.[v26]. This would then mean that for eternity that the saved and lost can talk with each other and see each other! Can you see how ludicrous this idea is?
Let’s look at this carefully and see how the rich man and Lazarus cannot be taken literally:
A. Abraham’s bosom is not heaven (Hebrews 11:8-10,16). And as we have learned “Abraham’s Bosom” was simply a Jewish idiom, as is the whole story.
B. People in their graves can’t talk to those in heaven (Isaiah 65:17).
C. The dead are in their graves (Job 17:13; John 5:28,29). The rich man was in bodily form with eyes, a tongue, etc., yet we know that the “body” does not go to some “hell” at death. It is very obvious that the body remains in the grave, as the Bible says.
Most people admit that no-one will go into this so called hellfire in a bodily form, so we must ask this question…where does the finger and tongue come from then? If the story is to be taken literally, then at death, the good and the bad do not soar away as shadowy spirits. Instead, they go to their rewards as real beings with body parts. Yet, how could this be, as their bodies return to dust? [Ecc 12:7]
D. Men are rewarded or punished at Yahshua’s second coming, not at death (Revelation 22:11,12).
E. The lost are punished in the lake of fire [Gehenna] at the end of the world, not when they die (Matthew 13:40-42). And this fire will go out. [Psa 37:20, Mal 4:1-3].
In conclusion, parables cannot be taken literally. If we took parables literally, then we must believe that trees talk! (See this parable in Judges 9:8-15).
If Yahweh tortured His enemies in a fiery horror chamber throughout eternity, He would be more vicious and heartless than men have ever been in the worst of war atrocities.
An eternal hell of torment would be hell for Yahweh also as He would always know and feel the agony personally of these people. Satan loves it when we believe this deception and lie.
A question for you; If you had a child and they grew up to become rebellious and rejected you and dishonoured you, and you had only 2 choices or options between putting them to sleep for ever or setting them alight and letting them burn in agony for ever if possible!
Which one would you choose?
You only have 2 options! Eternal sleep or eternal agony for your child? Please imagine you had only these 2 options.
Which would you choose?
I believe all parents would choose eternal sleep of course, even though their child rebelled against them and rejected them.
So being evil as you are, you truly believe our loving Yahweh would choose more evil than you? Eternal sleep [death] is wages for sinners and not eternal agony. Please believe this wonderful truth as it will enable you to love Yahweh and Yahshua more deeply.
This truth does not harm your relationship with Yahshua at all. In fact this wonderful truth helps build it.
If I personally was to believe that the dead are in agony and that the wicked will burn forever in horrific agony and pain, then I could never love Father in heaven!
The Bible teaches me that whoever does not accept Him will not see life [death] (John 3:36) and this truth is better than Satan’s invention of hellfire in agony.
Please do not sweep aside all clear verses in Scripture that tells us the dead sleep the death of sleep until the resurrection day, an unconscious, dreamless sleep for this lie and deception from Satan.
Rich man and Lazarus is the only passage in the New Testament of suffering in Hades, yet it’s a only a parable, so please do not take it literally.
Pray to Yahweh about this with a sincere heart and He will lead you into all truth.