And it happened, the poor one died and was carried away by the angels into the bosom of Abraham. And the rich one also died and was buried. And being in torments in hell, lifting up his eyes, he sees Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And calling he said, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in this flame.’
But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you fully received your good things in your lifetime, and Lazarus likewise the bad things. But now he is comforted, and you are suffering. And besides all these things, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those desiring to pass from here to you are not able, nor can they pass from there to us.’
And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house; (for I have five brothers, so that he may witness to them, that they not also come to this place of torment).’
Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them.’
But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one should go from the dead to them, they will repent.’
And he said to him, ‘If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one from the dead should rise.’ LITVLuke 16:22-31
Yes this is a very controversial passage. It is a passage where there are more opinions than people. I am not going to pretend to handle all the contentions in this section. There are just too many to cover everything with all the permutations and combinations of thought on this passage. I will keep the main thing the main thing and help us to understand what is happening here. Let me repeat some of the questions from Gem 1072 to prompt you to think for yourself.
- Do we indeed have a road map of the afterlife here or not?
- Is there a chasm between paradise and hell?
- Can you see people in either place from the other side?
- Can you see through the flames and make out the faces of people who are in torment?
- What happened to the rich man’s soul?
- What is the connection between this Lazarus and Lazarus of Bethany?
The questions are endless. There have been all sorts of theories, solutions, insights and craziness attached to this passage. Many have tried to assign an association with the major players in the story explaining who they represented in real life. This was the kind of thing that Augustine was famous for.
Here is one complicated solution:
- Abraham = Abraham
- Lazarus = Lazarus of Bethany (John 11)
- The rich man = Caiaphus (the High Priest)
- Father = Annas
- Five Brothers = Eleazar*, Jonathan, Theophilus, Matthias, Annas (the Younger)
- [note the association of Eleazar* with the meaning of Lazarus’ name)
This is probably the most complicated of the solutions to this story. Others equate the rich man in this story with Judah who had five brothers (or five sons) while Lazarus represents the Gentiles. It all depends which way you adjust the facts to prove your particular theory. You see there are many difficulties with what Jesus is saying here. Are we really to believe all that is written here in Luke 16:19-31 as fact? It is so easy for us to accept non-Biblical ideas as though they were Truth, without thinking through the implications to our belief. We often assimilate or syncretize our biblical beliefs with the popular thought of the day. Like that which comes through stories, jokes or general popular belief about heaven and life after death. We are prone to accept it all and then get confused as we try to work out how it all goes together. The simple answer is that it doesn’t all fit together. Some is just plain error.
As I stated at the beginning there is huge debate as to whether this is a parable or a story, a true story, some have thought so with the mention of two proper names of specific living people at the time. Or is it an allegory where the interpretation is based on symbolic re-interpretation? There is a wide spread range of opinion on this simple question. Or is it a question of a lack of knowledge of what the Word of God actually says, as Jesus told the Pharisees, Sadducees and teachers of the Law on a number of occasions.
But Jesus said to them “You are in error, not having knowledge of the Writings, or of the power of God.”Matt 22:29
Did you spot error in this story / parable? Elements that don’t match with other Biblical references?
The close proximity of Paradise and Hades
Do you think anyone could find peace in heaven if we can look across the chasm and see loved ones suffering on the other side. What a way to disturb your peace! Much less to be able to talk across the divide.
People being able to speak and hear and see in death, before resurrection and judgement?
The Bible teaches that “the dead know nothing”. When man dies the breath returns to God who gave it, and man returns to dust. See Gen 3:19, 6:3, 18:27, Job 7:21, 21:26, 34:14-15, Ps 37:20, 49:10-14, 55:23, 76:12, 88:5, 90:3-6, 103:14, 104:29, 112:10, 140:10, 146:4, Eccl 3:19-20, 9:5, 12:7, Isa 26:14, 43:17, 51:39, Ezek 18:4, Nah 3:18, John 6:49, Rom 5:12-14, James 2:26.
Those who have known God ‘sleep’ – a euphemism for death, meaning they are in an unconscious state until Christ returns: See 2 Sam 7:12, 1 Kings 2:10, 11:43, 14:20, 31, 15:8, 24, 16:6, 28, 22:40, 50, Job 10:21, 13:12-15, 14:21, Ps 6:5, 13:3, 30:9, 31:17, 49:17-20, 88:10-11, 115:17, Eccl 9:4-6, 10, Isa 38:18, John 3:13, 11:11-13, Acts 2:29,34, 13:36, 1 Cor 15:51.
Only when Christ returns will man rise from the dust to be judged. See Job 33:25, Psalm 22:29, 37:11,22,29,34, 49:15, 116:15, Isaiah 26:19, 57:1, Jer 23:5, Ezek 21:27, Daniel 12:2-3, Matthew 5:5, 6:10, 8:11, 22:23-32, 23:39, 25:34, Mark 13:32, 14:25, Luke 1:33, 17:24, 20:35-38, John 5:21-22, 28-30, 6:39-40,44,54, 11:24-25, 14:6, Acts 1:6-7,11, 4:2, 17:18,32, 23:6, 24:15,21, 26:6-8,23, Rom 2:16, 4:17, 6:5, 14:10, 1 Cor 6:14, 15:12-14,20-23, 49-55, 2 Cor 5:10, Phil 3:11, Col 3:4, 1 Thess 4:13-16, 5:23, 2 Tim 4:1, Heb 11:13,19,39-40, Rev 5:10.
A second chance after death?
People crossing over the great divide to warn loved ones of the realties of heaven and the afterlife?
To these two questions I am only going to give you one verse.
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment. (NLT)Hebrews 9:27
Purgatory / Heaven’s waiting room? Prayers said for the dead? Being baptized for the dead?
This is a Roman Catholic practice based on Apocryphal writings (2 Maccabees 12:40-46) where the idea is that people whose sins are as yet unforgiven go to a waiting place where they endure temporal punishment to purge their sins. At the time of the resurrection of the saints they are given a second chance. This is not a biblical concept, it comes from extra-biblilical writings, books not recognized as being part of the Christian Canon. Read Bible Gem 482 to see what I said about that in 1 Cor 15:29.
To what does the “Bosom of Abraham” refer?
The only biblical reference to this term is found in the passage before us, the term is repeated twice in verses 22 and 23. References to the “bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” have been found in burial papyri. In early Rabbinical legends “the Bosom of Abraham” was where the righteous went. It is not in the Bible, but it was a popular belief. It was a contemporary popular belief at the time of Jesus. There is a reference to the concept in the deter-canonical book [Apocrypha] of 4 Maccabees 13:17 – “After our death in this fashion Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will receive us and all our forefathers will praise us”. This is a fictional work where it is reported that the forefathers of Israel, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, receive and welcome Jewish martyrs into the world of the dead. This is not Biblical, it is popular contemporary superstition.
The question now is why is Jesus “teaching” this stuff?
You are in error, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God. (Jesus)Matthew 22:29
A man with an experience is never at the mercy of a man with an argument.Brian Houston
The most powerful tool for defeating error is memorised Scripture.Ian Vail
Know how they train experts to spot counterfeit money? Not by learning all the ways counterfeiters use. By familiarity with the real thing.Ian Vail
If you don’t know the Word of God well enough to spot the error, learn. If you’re not willing to learn, you open yourself to deception.Ian Vail