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The Rich Man & Lazarus

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 immediately at death. The body remains in the grave, as the Bible says. If you’d like to know more about what happens after death, visit The Truth About Death website.
  • People are rewarded at Christ’s second coming, not at death (Revelation 22:12).
  • The lost are punished in hell at the end of the world, not when they die (Matthew 13:40–42). Luke 16:31, the last verse of the story, contains a spiritual lesson, showing that the story is actually a parable. 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 judgment upon a person.

Also, Jesus was 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 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 do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

To use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus 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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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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