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Explain the parable of the rich man and Lazarus and the eternal hell fire.

Caller:  I'm just kind of confused Brother Doug because I read in Luke chapter 16 about the rich man being in torment and he looks up at Lazarus and wanted a drop of water, and I'm just confused.  Now I don't know what to believe.

Pastor Doug:  All right.  I'm glad you mentioned that.  If you go to Luke chapter 16 where it has the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, keep in mind that this is a parable.

If we try to interpret this parable literally, we get into all kinds of trouble because, and incidentally - that's Luke 16 verse 19 through the end of the chapter - because first of all, it talks about the people in heaven and hell communicating.  Let's all hope that that is not literal.  If people in heaven are going to be communicating with people in torment through eternity, that's a very hideous, grotesque picture.

Co-Host:  Yes.

Pastor Doug:  Another thing is it talks about one drop of water cooling the tongue of a person who's in torment.  Well that's obviously an exaggeration.  And then finally, it says that the beggar who dies and is saved goes to Abraham's bosom.  There's no other Scripture anywhere that says that all the saved go to the bosom of Abraham.  If that's true, then he has one very large bosom because there have been a lot of saints who have died through the ages.

So there's so much symbolic language in this that if we take all of the pictures literally, we're going to come up with a very distorted picture.  The lesson in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus is always missed because people use it to try and prove the state of the dead and hell.

The lesson is, that the rich man, who is a symbol of God's people who have the truth that are not sharing their food with the poor, the lost, they may find that in the Judgment the poor are saved and the rich are lost.  We have a responsibility to share the Gospel.  Just like Jesus was telling His Jewish brethren that if you do not share it with the Gentiles, you might find that many come from the East and the West and sit down in the Kingdom with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and you will be cast out and the Gentiles will be in.

For the church today, it's the same message.  If we are building walls around our church and saying, 'We're saved because we're Christians and we're going to study our Bibles together and forget the lost of the world' - in the Judgment we might find out we really didn't love our brother.  We've been hoarding our food so to speak, while they've been starving for the crumbs of the Gospel.

Everyone misses the real message in this parable.  It has nothing to do with what happens when you die, or hell.  Jesus uses the word Hades - forgive me for being on a little rampage here Doug, but I get excited about this because a misunderstanding about hell was one of my big problems with accepting Jesus years ago.  And when I found out the truth about hell, it just helped me realize God is a God of love.

The word Hades that Jesus used comes out of Greek mythology.  Now just suppose for a minute Doug I start telling you a story.  I'm assuming you were born in America?

Caller:  Yes.

Pastor Doug:  And you've heard the story of Alice in Wonderland?

Caller:  Yes.

Pastor Doug:  Ok - and I say, 'Doug, let me tell you a story - one day Alice was walking in wonderland....' Now that's all I've got to say ok?  As soon as I say Alice was walking in wonderland you know ok Doug's going to tell a fairytale, he's telling a parable, an allegory.  As soon as Jesus used the word Hades there, that was a place in Greek mythology controlled by Pluto, the god of the lower world.  Jesus did not believe in Pluto.  He didn't believe in Greek mythology.  And incidentally, we have a booklet for you or anyone that wants and Pastor Dick, tell us about that.

Co-Host:  It's called The Rich Man and Lazarus written by Dennis Crews and it's part of our resources at Amazing Facts.  And we'll make it available to you if you would like to call our resource operator Doug and just mention this booklet.  It's entitled The Rich Man and Lazarus.  It's a good booklet.  It'll help you a lot.

Caller:  Ok.

Co-Host:  The number is 1-800-835-6747.



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Hell in the Bible

The word “hell” is used 54 times in the Bible. It is translated from several different words with various meanings, as indicated below:
In the Old Testament:
  • 31 times from the Hebrew “Sheol,” which means “the grave”
In the New Testament:
  • 10 times from the Greek “Hades,” which means “the grave”
  • 12 times from the Greek “Gehenna,” which means “a place of burning”
  • 1 time from the Greek “Tartarus,” which means “a place of darkness”

What is Purgatory?

A tradition held by the Catholic Church that teaches people who are not good enough to be worthy of heaven, but not bad enough to deserve hell, suffer in an intermediary state until their sins are purged.

But is it in the Bible? Click here to learn more.

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