The Parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man does NOT support Hell, though this scripture is commonly used as a 'proof text'.
As recorded in Luke 16:19-31, this is a Parable, not a Play-by-Play, and as such it must be carefully researched and studied. It is widely known for its brilliant substance in so few words.
I’m saying it is not a play-by-play tour of Hell, but an allegory or parable corroborating the validity of the Old Testament.
This is one of Jesus’ most brilliant Parables. Much of Christendom has been taught that it is not a parable at all but a play-by-play because it is his only parable that contains names.
But I think that is a lame and baseless claim dished out because they want it to be so. Let us be careful about assigning a name, accounting validity or removing it if it is not supported by scripture.
Here is the word-for-word account: Luke 16:19-31 19 ‘There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in Hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.”
25 But Abraham said, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, who would come from there.”
27 Then he said, “I pray you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
29 Abraham said unto him, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.”
30 And he said, “Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.”
31 And he said unto him, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
Note that the whole point of the parable is in its last line: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Jesus is corroborating the authority of the Old Testament.
In today’s vernacular, the way I would say it is: ‘Why would you believe Jesus if you don’t believe the Old Testament?’
If you throw away the Old Testament, saying it is ‘done away’ or obsolete, you are throwing away Jesus. Don’t do it! Jesus verifies the so-called ‘Old Testament’ as scripture we should believe.
Why? Because he is the God of the Old Testament. He was the Rock which led them through the Red Sea, the Desert of Sinai and into the Promised land; he is the one who created mankind, the world and the universe. (See John 1:1-5, Colossians 1:14-18, Philippians 2:6 and Romans 1:19-25).
Here are some Questions and Answers to consider about this brilliant parable:
• Q. Who did the Rich man represent? A. The Jews, namely the Sanhedrin, Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.
• Q. What’s the significance of the ‘purple and fine linen’? A. It was worn by the upper class, ruling class and the priesthood. Deuteronomy 28:1-7
• Q. What was the meaning of ‘fared sumptuously every day’? A. These ‘fat cats’ got to eat the best and fattest portions of the daily sacrifices. Leviticus 2:10
• Q. What about the Beggar? A. This man was a gentile and an outcast to the rich and powerful.
• Q. Who was this ‘Lazarus’? A. Lazarus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Eleazar’, servant and steward of the house of Abraham.
• Q. Was it the same Lazarus resurrected back to life by Jesus? A. No. This is a parable with names; not a play-by-play tour of Hell. Besides, Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Some sources say Lazarus became a pastor in the Jerusalem.
• Q. Was this Lazarus the servant of the Rich Man? A. Possibly he was and got fired and thus became a homeless beggar. (This is sheer speculation.) But the rich man did ask if Lazarus could get him a drop of water. This would have been done by a servant or slave, but in my opinion, the 'water' he was asking for is 'that water of life' i.e. Jesus and his salvation, but it was too late, his fate was sealed.
• Q. What is the significance of his sores? A. Most likely bed sores from sleeping on the ground in one spot too long or representative of the ridicule and snobbery the Jews showed toward all Gentiles.
• Q. Why was he hungry if he was the servant of the Rich Man? A. He did not care at all about his slaves. He cared only about himself, his power and his money. The rich man had been guilty of idolatry.
• Q. Who were the dogs that ‘came and licked his sores’? A. The Jews referred to the Gentiles as ‘dogs’. (See Mark 7:27. Matthew 15:26)
• Q. Why wasn’t the beggar buried? A. Beggars were dumped into the Valley of Hinnom, the city dump of Jerusalem where refuse fires were kept burning.
• Q. What is ‘Abraham’s Bosom’? A. Simply a close relationship.
• Q. Was the beggar righteous so that is why he was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side? A. Well, is anyone ‘righteous’? Repentant is kin to righteousness, is it not? Only the forgiven have repented and asked for it, so I’d say, yes, he probably was, since the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.
• Q. Was the Rich man wicked so as to wake up in ‘Hell’? A. Actually this is probably the Judgment Day which is his resurrection day. He knew he was about to die the second death, which is permanent. If eternal life is permanent, eternal death is permanent as well.
• Q. Was money the Rich Man’s god? A. In a word, Yes, by all implications.
• Q. What were his ‘torments’? A. His torments were the realization that he was about to lose his life in the fire, not that he would be ‘spending eternity in Hell.’ (Based on all the Biblical texts about the state of the dead explained in this document.)
• Q. Can those who wind up in Hell really see their loved ones on ‘the other side’? A. No. Once their execution is completed by God, the dead will be forever unconscious and unable to see, hear, etc. (See Jeremiah 51:39, 57). The dead know nothing, are unconscious and will be erased from history, forgotten forever. In this parable, the Rich Man apparently was on death row awaiting his final execution in the Lake of Fire.
• Q. Why weren’t there many others there also? A. This is a parable Jesus used to validate the Old Testament as well as the New (it’s in the phrase ‘Moses and the Prophets’ (the Old Testament) and ‘rose from the dead’ (Jesus in the New Testament). No others are really required to complete Jesus' purposes for the parable.
• Q. Why did the Rich Man ask Father Abraham for Lazarus to just ‘dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue’? A. Perhaps he still thought Lazarus was his servant and as such was there to serve him. Perhaps just a drop of water was what he thought he needed to overcome the dry mouth usually associated with fear. But I think not. Rather, I believe the Water and the Bread of Life was what he needed and was asking for, i.e. Jesus. The rich man had what others lacked: the Law and the Prophets on his table. Some of his crumbs fell and Lazarus made the most of them, accepting Jesus and eternal life. The rich man could have eaten of this Bread all day, every day because he had the Law and the Prophets; but he'd rather concentrate on his place in society, his power and his money. It had become his god.
• Q. Were the ‘evil things’ now being suffered by the Rich Man the same things he had dished out to the beggar Lazarus? A. Probably not, but in this parable he was being tormented with the prospect of being judged unworthy of life, i.e. he was being tormented by the thought of his second and permanent death. (Mentioned in Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 14, and 21:8)
• Q. What is the 'great gulf fixed'? A. I think this is the difference between Life and Death or even belief and unbelief.
• Q. What is the significance of ‘my father’s house’? A. This would be the house or family of his father Jacob or Israel, i.e. the Jews and the other 11 tribes.
• Q. Who are the Rich Mans' 5 brothers? A. Go back to the rule of ‘First Mentions’. Where in the Bible are their six boys from one father first mentioned? Jacob and Leah had 6 boys:
‘Genesis 35: 23 The sons of Leah; Reuben, Jacob's firstborn, and Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Zebulun.’
The Rich Man in this story was likely one of the six sons of Jacob and Leah… in other words Judah and by implication and extension, he represented the Jews (Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes... the Sanhedrin), since Jesus was talking directly to them in a loving effort to convict them of their sin of disbelief. He was indicting them openly in front of the very ones they were trying to impress with their wealth, prestige and power.
• Q. What was meant by ‘Moses and the Prophets’? A. Where are the words of ‘Moses and the Prophets’ to be found? The Old Testament.
• Q. Why would Jesus even put ‘Moses and the Prophets’ in his parable if it was really about eternal torture? A. As I said before it’s not about eternal torture but about reinforcing the authority of the Bible, both ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Testaments (which was the ONLY Bible they had back then). Plus, in saying this, he predicted he would die and be raised from the dead; but even if they saw him alive after his crucifixion, they still would not believe.
• Q. Is God really a sadistic, cruel, vindictive, unforgiving eternal torturer? (No wonder there are atheists, if God is really like that!) A. No, God is not like that, if you trust God’s word on it, he is 'full of compassion and merciful'.
When his people sacrificed their children to Molech by burning them in the fire in the belly of this metal god, it grieved God to his heart and he called it an abomination and sin, and something that never entered God’s mind.
Notice Jeremiah 32:33 ‘And they have turned unto me the back, and not the face: though I taught them, rising up early and teaching them, yet they have not hearkened to receive instruction.
34 But they set their abominations in the house, which is called by my name, to defile it. 35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.'
If God himself called this heathen practice a sin and an abomination, how could he turn around and burn people for all time to come?
It doesn’t add up! He hated this abominable practice and it grieved him to his inner most being.
Precious, tender and innocent babies and small children quite literally cooked to death to the sound of very loud bass drums to drown out their horrific screams!
These hapless children only lived a few minutes in their parent-sanctioned torment and then they perished, ending their suffering.
But the preachers promote the damnable propaganda that God would have his wayward children suffering for all time to come, in conscious, escape-less and hideous agony in the flames of Hell Fire.
They keep saying the unrepentant sinner will be ‘spending eternity in Hell’. But that is not found anywhere in scripture.
Preachers constantly and continuously reinforce this farce of eternal conscious torture every Sunday at church or on TV.
Some have even acted this out fable on stage for their parishioners! They get a couple of ‘actors’ (liars) to dress in ugly black raggedy costumes and parade around on stage and down into the congregation to instill this fear and perpetuate this big lie. Shame on them!
This is Satanic! God is no hypocrite and he would never consider doing any such thing.
What a shame so many lives down through the ages have listened to mere mortal men and their evil self-serving teachings rather than the clear words direct from the heart of God!
• Q. Notice there is no mention of time or duration… why not if Hell, as a place of conscious eternal torture is grounded in fact? A. This is noticeably missing in the parable, disproving the idea that it is a play-by-play about a visit through eternity or Hell. It’s not about eternal damnation at all, because there is no mention of time or eternity.
• Q. Why wasn't Jesus or God in the story? A. The three people mentioned as the Rich Man, Lazarus and Father Abraham are the only people in the story.
One might think, if it were really about our eternal fate or destiny, there would be others mentioned. But if people refuse to believe what God himself inspired his servants Moses and the Prophets to painstakingly write down, they would not believe Jesus, even if he rose from the dead.
That is the whole point of the parable, as evidenced by the last line.
God then, preserved this massive writing effort we call the Bible so as to hand his word all the way down to us for our benefit and admonition.
Yet even though Jesus Christ died the cruelest of all deaths, most still will not believe him, but instead mere mortal men.
Jesus, shivering naked in the cold wind with no sleep for more than 24 hours, after nearly being beaten to death by the Roman soldiers who stripped off the skin from his back, chest and legs with a cat-of-nine-tails whip, was then nailed through the wrists and ankle bones to the cross.
Pitifully pallid and weak from loss of blood, he was erected to hang high in the frigid spring air in the sight of all that passed by on the road.
Writhing up and down bare-boned and raw on the rough and rugged cross just to gasp for breath, he was mocked and spitted upon and ultimately stabbed in one final blow through the heart with a spear, ending his suffering. Why?
Why did he subject himself to such cruelty and torture? Especially, knowing he was God and would live forever without needing one single human being what was his motivation?
Why would he do it, knowing full well what would happen to his body and the pain he would have to endure?
He did this to prove his love for us and to give us power to obtain permanent life, by his resurrection. After he rose from the dead, suffering was now retained in his memory. He knows what it is like to suffer, far more than we ever will.
He led the way by going through this death for us. We are the ones who deserved the punishment of death for our own sins, but instead, he bore them for us and for all people, in all places, for all time.
He did this to demonstrate his mercy, compassion and unmerited pardon (grace) for us, asking God to ‘forgive them for they know not what they do!’
While we were still unrepentant sinners, he went through all that pain and torture because he loves us and wants us in his family as permanent beings, permanent members.
Now, that is a God I can worship; not one who would torture us for all eternity for our few sins we committed in our short lives while in the flesh.
He doesn’t want us to suffer. He doesn’t want us to die, especially to perish and be as though we had never been.
So, why do we still insist that he would allow us to ‘put ourselves’ in Hell to suffer torment in the flames for all time to come?
Yet, some still refuse to believe his words, though he rose from the dead to open the door for our permanent futures and pave the way by going before for us.
We love him because he first loved us. (See Ephesians 2:4, 5:2; 1 John 4:10 & 19 and Revelation 1:5)
Add to this the realization that his resurrection can be abundantly proved through countless historical documents numbering in the thousands.
And this goes along with early Greek and Latin writings from hostile sources who were embarrassed by the fact of the life and teachings of Jesus. It makes this belief in the Hell dogma all the more unfounded because words to support it are missing from every one of these early texts.
If it were real, it should be abundantly clear by a mere perusal of basic scriptural texts and these hostile sources. But, alas, none are to be found.
So, let’s send this foul doctrine where it belongs: in the city dump!