The Rich Man & Lazarus

Doesn't the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 teach an eternal hell of torment?

No, Indeed!  It is simply a parable used to emphasize a point.  Many facts make it clear that this is a parable.  A few are as follows:

  • Abraham's bosom is not heaven (Hebrews 11:8-10, 16)
  • People in hell can't talk to those in heaven (Isaiah 65: 17)
  • 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 hell at death.  It is very obvious that the body remains in the grave, as the Bible says.  If you'd like to know more about what happens after you die visit The Truth About Death website.
  • Men are rewarded at Christ's second coming, not at death (Revelation 22:11, 12)
  • The lost are punished in hell at the end of the world, not when they die (Matthew 13:40-42).  The point of the story is found in verse 31 of Luke 16.  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).
By representing the beggar as being in heaven and the rich man as lost, Jesus taught His hearers that, contrary to the prevailing view, wealth was not necessarily an indicator of divine favor, just as poverty was not a sign of God's judgement upon a person.

Jesus was also seeking to educate the Jews that salvation would not be theirs by birthright.  The rich man in torments calls out to "father Abraham," just as the Jews of Jesus' day were mistakenly pointing to heritage as proof of their assurance of salvation.

Furthermore, Jesus was seeking to lead His hearers to understand that only faithfulness to God's Word would prepare them to enter into eternal life.  He told them, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

To use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in order to promote the false doctrine of an eternally burning hell is to misuse God's Word and to misrepresent His character.


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Is Hell Eternal?

A Tale About Hell