Lazarus and the rich man explained as a parable

Jesus used the parable of Lazarus and the rich man to explain an important Bible truth – that the poor in this life may go to heaven, while the rich may not be there. We need to keep the injunction to “Do unto others as you want them to do unto you” if you want to go to heaven.

Many people try to bring up Jesus’ parable about Lazarus and the rich man, saying that this proves people live fairly normal lives in hell forever. Let’s explore that parable a little here.

Is hell just a few hundred meters away from heaven?

Luke 16:23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

If this is to be taken literally, hell and heaven (where Abraham is) are so close together than even in hell you can see those in heaven. So at most it can be perhaps 500 meters separated from each other?

Does the rich man want real help to get out?

Luke 16:24 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.

The man in hell doesn’t ask for real help with his thirst, but just a tip of finger in water, meaning that Lazarus can run over to hell and enter hell and put his finger in the man’s mouth. So people can run back and forth between hell and heaven, which makes sense if they are only 400 meters at the most separated from each other.

Hell and heaven have a great gulf between them

Luke 16:25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
Luke 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that [would come] from thence.

Abraham’s “great gulf” may be very deep, but only about 400 meters wide. It seems there are no helicopters or airplanes available for transport either, making one wonder how they ever got to their respective places in the first place.

Hell must be a very quiet place

Luke 16:27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Somehow the men talking can make their voices heard over this “great gulf”. That suggests that hell is a quiet place. Also, it suggests that people in hell aren’t in too much pain or suffering, and actually not doing too bad if they can converse naturally with people in heaven.

Lazarus is dead

Both the man in hell, and Abraham are referring to Lazarus as “dead”. This is very telling, and the key to understanding the entire parable.

Jesus turned familiar parable on its head

Jesus used this parable that the Jews knew, and turned it on its head, because they thot that rich people were especially favored of God, and that poor people were not. By the content of the parable itself, it is quite easy to determine that Jesus is not telling his hearers exactly what happens after death, as that has nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

David is still dead

According to Acts 2:29, even David is dead, still in 31AD.

Acts 2:29 Men [and] brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day.

He is awaiting the resurrection, just like all others who have lived and died, except for the very few that either never died, or were resurrected by Jesus.

For further study

Pastor Doug Batchelor explains Lazarus and the rich man well in this sermon:

Let’s be good Bereans, and not fall for Satan’s lie that one can sin and still live forever in misery in hell.

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