Go to Introduction 5.2
#5.2 THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS (Luke 16) IS NOT A PARABLE
This bible study uses a Greek Unicode font and is printable.
Greek Word Study ᾅδης meaning 'hades' Strong's 86
Luke 16:19 to 31 is another scripture that shows very plainly that the souls or spirits of people are alive after someone dies physically. They can talk, think, remember, and feel pain as it says, but if we take this scripture literally then it destroys the doctrine of 'soul sleep'. For this reason there are many who would like to explain this scripture away as a parable, because then it enables them to ignore the literal interpretation. This is wrong, and if Jesus believed the doctrine of soul sleep he would never have told a parable like this which contradicts it very plainly. This bible study gives plenty of scriptural proof that the scripture about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is not a parable.
LUKE 16:19-31 (Jesus)
19 There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who 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 Hades1, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, 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 good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you tormented.
26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that those who would pass from here to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that 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 brothers; that he may testify to them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham says to him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said to him, If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Note: Although some may ignore the truth of this scripture, by saying that it is a parable, there are several valid reasons which show that it is certainly not a parable:
(1) People are never named in parables. Search the gospels and find one if you can, but you will fail. In this scripture however, three people are named, Lazarus (v20, 23) , Abraham (v23, 24), and Moses (v29, 31), of which Moses and Abraham are definite historical figures who are mentioned many times elsewhere in the scriptures. Parables on the other hand refer to people as "a king" (Luke 14:31-42), "the master of the house" (Matthew 24:42-44), "that evil servant" (Matthew 24:48-51), "a man taking a far journey" (Mark 13:34-37), "a judge" (Luke 18:2), "a widow" (Luke 18:3), "a certain man" (Luke 13:6), "a certain rich man" (Luke 12:16), and so on; but none named.
(2) Every parable has an earthly setting, which the people hearing could relate to, but never a heavenly or spiritual one. In this scripture however, Hades1 (Gtr. hades) (v23), and 'Abraham's bosom' (v22), are not earthly settings, showing that this is not a parable.
(3) Because the settings of parables are always earthly they never include spiritual beings either, although God may be mentioned. The interpretation of a parable may include spiritual beings though, because a parable is a simile, which has a spiritual comparison to it. For example 'the reapers' in the parable of the wheat and tares, are 'angels' in the explanation, and 'the enemy' in the parable is 'the Devil' in the comparison (Matthew 13:39). So if spiritual beings such as angels only appear in a comparison, but never in a parable, then this scripture about the rich man in hell cannot be a parable, because angels are also mentioned (v22). The conclusion to be drawn is that Jesus was relating a true story here, either one that happened in the past or it was prophetic; the rich man and Lazarus were people who had or would actually live and die.
(4) If Jesus believed the doctrine of soul sleep he would never have told a parable like this which plainly contradicts it. Doctrine should be based on plain statements of scripture, and parables are an earthly story similar to the spiritual truth, and are meant to illustrate it. They are laid alongside spiritual truths as a comparison. Parables should NEVER contradict spiritual truth, and Jesus would never tell one that did.
There are some who would object to this on the basis of this verse, "All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables, and without a parable he did not speak to them." (Matthew 13:34). Now looking back in Luke 16 it says, "Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard these things, and they derided him. And he said to them ... " (Luke 16:14-15). So the argument is that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, and therefore he must have been speaking a parable. This is a failure to rightly divide the word of God on the subject, for if we look immediately before he spoke about the rich man and Lazarus, we see this:
(Luke16:18) "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery."
The parallel scriptures that go with this are Matthew 19:9 and Mark 10:11-12. We see that prior to these verses in Mark it says, "And in the house his disciples asked him again about the same matter." (Mark 10:10). So when he spoke the scripture in Luke 16:18 he was in the house talking to his disciples, not the Pharisees. After all, he was speaking plain language in Matthew 19:9, Mark 10:11-12, and Luke 16:18 so on the basis of their argument that he would only speak to the people in parables, he was not speaking to the Pharisees. Matthew confirms that after this statement about adultery (Matthew 19:9) he was speaking to his disciples; "His disciples said to him, ... But he said to them, ... ." (Matthew 19:10-11). So their argument to try and prove that this was a parable, on the basis that he was speaking to the Pharisees, is false.
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