Lazarus and the rich man – parable or actual event?

In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus and describes how they lived in this life and what their circumstances were after they died.

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side.
The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.”
But Abraham said, “Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.”
And he said, “Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house—for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.”
But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.” And he said, “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”
He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

This story follows a group of parables and there is much disagreement as to whether this in another parable or a record of something that actually happened.

To answer this question we need to look at exactly what a parable is. Luke 15:3-7 records a story by Jesus which is clearly identified as a parable.

So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Let’s look at exactly what Jesus did here. He told a story about a shepherd and a lost sheep. This was something the people were familiar with because they lived in a culture in which being a shepherd was a common occupation. Then he showed how this everyday event which they could see was like a heavenly event which they couldn’t see directly; the rejoicing by the shepherd was like the rejoicing that takes place in heaven when a sinner repents. A parable illustrates a spiritual truth by comparing it with something with which the listeners were familiar.

But does the story of Lazarus and the rich man follow this pattern? It begins by describing a rich man and a beggar who was at his gate seeking help. This was no doubt the sort of thing his listeners had seen. But Jesus doesn’t make any comparison between this situation and something in heaven. Instead he continues the story by telling how the two men died and what their circumstances were after death. In addition, two of the people in the parable, Lazarus and Abraham, are named, and we know for certain that Abraham was a real person. These departures from the usual pattern of parables show that this wasn’t a parable but an account of something that really happened.

This story is the plainest description found in the Bible of what happens after death. We know that at death the body completely ceases to function but we find here that the same thing isn’t true of the soul. It is separated from the body but still continues to function in the same way it did while still in the body.

In the Old Testament there are many references to a place called Sheol which is the place everyone went after death. Both the good and the bad went there. This is the same place as Hades, which is where the rich man ended up. Since he was able to see and speak to Abraham and Lazarus they must have been in Hades too, but in a different part. Abraham said there was a chasm between the place they were and the place the rich man was, so there was a separation between the righteous and the unrighteous even though they were in the same place.

The unsaved still go to Hades immediately after they die but that is no longer true of the saved. The death of Jesus has brought about a change in what happens to them. Jesus told the thief who repented that he would be in Paradise with him that same day.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!”
But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”
And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Luke 23:39-43

We learn from 2 Corinthians 12:1-3 that Paradise is in the third heaven.

I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.

Ephesians 4:8-10 says,

Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)

This shows that between his death and resurrection Jesus descended into Hades and took out all the righteous dead and took them to Paradise. Now whenever a believer dies his soul goes immediately to be with Jesus.

Even the unsaved won’t stay in Hades forever. Revelation 20 contains a description of the final judgment, when all those who are lost will be punished for eternity by being thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:13-15 says,

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
 

TrevorL

Active member
Greetings puddleglum,
In addition, two of the people in the parable, Lazarus and Abraham, are named, and we know for certain that Abraham was a real person. These departures from the usual pattern of parables show that this wasn’t a parable but an account of something that really happened.
I believe that the Rich Man and Lazarus is a parody of the reliance of the Pharisees on their wealth using the framework of the wrong teaching of the afterlife held by the Pharisees, and now partly accepted by Apostate Christians. The reason Lazarus is mentioned is because it foreshadowed the resurrection of Lazarus. Man is mortal and returns to the dust at death and apart from a resurrection for the faithful man perishes Genesis 3:19, Daniel 12:2, John 3:16.

Kind regards
Trevor
 

Stephen

Active member
This story is the plainest description found in the Bible of what happens after death. We know that at death the body completely ceases to function but we find here that the same thing isn’t true of the soul. It is separated from the body but still continues to function in the same way it did while still in the body.

The story told by Jesus in Luke 16:19-31 doesn't give me the impression that either the rich man or Lazarus were "separated from the body". The passage is absent such language or even assumed into the language used. Look at what was said:

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side.
The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment . . .

There is no indication of a soul being carried off in either of those two instances.


And as we dig into the details, it appears that the rich man and Lazarus are both in the story bodily. For example:

he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off
send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue
I am in anguish in this flame.

The rich man has eyes, Lazarus has a finger, the rich man has a tongue, and he is burned by flame. For these things to matter, they have to be present and experience water and flame the same way experience it.


This seems to be a parable and likely one aimed at the the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, (v. 14) as Trevor pointed out.
 
And as we dig into the details, it appears that the rich man and Lazarus are both in the story bodily.

Apparently those who are no longer in their physical bodies are able to do many of the same things they could do while still in their bodies. God is a spirit but his activities are described as though he had a body, for example we speak of his eyes and his hand. The same language is used of spirits who lack bodies.
 

CrowCross

Well-known member
This story follows a group of parables and there is much disagreement as to whether this in another parable or a record of something that actually happened.
Personaly I think the event happened. Even if it was a parable, parables are based upon what actually happens and can happen
 

Stephen

Active member
Apparently those who are no longer in their physical bodies are able to do many of the same things they could do while still in their bodies. God is a spirit but his activities are described as though he had a body, for example we speak of his eyes and his hand. The same language is used of spirits who lack bodies.

Hi puddleglum,

There is a circularity in your position.

If you assume souls are separated from their bodies before reading Luke 16, then you certainly can then read that assumption into Luke 16:19-31 and arrive at the idea that "those who are no longer in their physical bodies are able to do many of the same things they could do while still in their bodies".

However, the idea of souls leaving their body isn't something within the Luke 16 text. If you hold to it as "the plainest description found in the Bible of what happens after death", then looking elsewhere for that core element of what you are trying to demonstrate may be in order..


Personally, I look to Genesis 3 and 1 Corinthians 15 for the plainest description of what happens after death.
 

Stephen

Active member
Both of these passages give us valuable information about death, but neither describes the experiences of those who are dead.

These passages seem quite explicit about the experiences of the dead. It says those who are dead are asleep and turn to dust. There is no indication of anything else happening to them. If there is something else happening, it was deemed not important enough to mention.

Genesis 3:19
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

Note that Adam is the dust (consistent with Gen 2), and what happens is that Adam turns to dust. (No mention of souls).

Likewise, Paul's great hope is that his mortal body must put on immortality, not that his soul would go somewhere.

1 Cor 15:6
Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
1 Cor 15:51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.
 
Likewise, Paul's great hope is that his mortal body must put on immortality, not that his soul would go somewhere.
Yet Paul did teach that his soul would exist between his death and his resurrection.

"If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."
Philippians 1:22-24 ESV

Our existence in a disembodied state will be temporary but it will take place.
 

TrevorL

Active member
Greetings again puddleglum,
Yet Paul did teach that his soul would exist between his death and his resurrection.
"If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account."
Philippians 1:22-24 ESV
When Paul was ready to "depart" he did not speak about going to heaven of Hades, or concerning his suuposed immortal soul, but he speaks about the return of Jesus, and his anticipation of being crowned with a crown of righteousness. Thus after his death, his next conscious moment will be with Jesus in the future kingdom.
2 Timothy 4:1,6–8 (KJV): 1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

Kind regards
Trevor
 

Johan

Well-known member
This story is the plainest description found in the Bible of what happens after death. We know that at death the body completely ceases to function but we find here that the same thing isn’t true of the soul. It is separated from the body but still continues to function in the same way it did while still in the body.
I believe that it is a parable. It begins in exactly the same way as the previous narrative, which many Bible readers seem to identify as a parable (the parable of the unjust steward):

Luke 16:1 There was a rich man... (ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος)

Luke 16:19 Now there was a rich man... (ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος)

Moreover, as has already been mentioned in this thread, the bodily details in this passage (eyes, tongue, finger, thirst, spatial references) clearly show that this narrative does not refer to a disembodied intermediate state.
 

Dant01

Active member
.
The story says that the rich man was dead and buried. Lazarus was dead; though
possibly not buried because he was a pauper. But for sure Abraham was dead and
buried.


FAQ: How are people dead and buried able to communicate with other people dead
and buried?


A: ________________________________
.
 

Stephen

Active member
.
The story says that the rich man was dead and buried. Lazarus was dead; though
possibly not buried because he was a pauper. But for sure Abraham was dead and
buried.


FAQ: How are people dead and buried able to communicate with other people dead
and buried?


A: ________________________________
.

None. Thus the story is a parable.
 

Johnnybgood

Active member
I believe that it is a parable. It begins in exactly the same way as the previous narrative, which many Bible readers seem to identify as a parable (the parable of the unjust steward):

Luke 16:1 There was a rich man... (ἄνθρωπός τις ἦν πλούσιος)

Luke 16:19 Now there was a rich man... (ἄνθρωπος δέ τις ἦν πλούσιος)

Moreover, as has already been mentioned in this thread, the bodily details in this passage (eyes, tongue, finger, thirst, spatial references) clearly show that this narrative does not refer to a disembodied intermediate state.
Great insight Johan
 

Dant01

Active member
.
It begins in exactly the same way as the previous narrative,

That's what known as stereotyping and/or profiling.

For example if one apple is red, then it must follow that all apples are red. But of
course they aren't. Some are green.

I have yet to run across even one of Jesus' parables that couldn't possibly be
true to life: They're all actually quite believable-- banquets, stewards, weddings,
farmers sowing seed, pearls, lost sheep, fish nets, women losing coins, sons leaving
home, wineskins bursting, tares among the wheat, leavened bread, barren fig
trees, the blind leading the blind, et al.

Now; if Christ had told a story with a moon made of green cheese; we would have
good reason to believe that at least that particular parable was fantasy; but not one
of them that I've seen are so far removed from the normal round of human
experience that they have no basis in reality whatsoever.

The parable theory has a fatal flaw. Abraham is not a fictional character: he's a
real-life man; the father of the Hebrew people, held in very high esteem by at least
three of the world's prominent religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He was
also a prophet (Gen 20:7) and the friend of God (Isa 41:8).

I simply cannot accept that Jesus Christ-- a man famous among normal Christians
for his honesty and integrity --would say something untrue about a famous real-life
man; most especially a prophet and one of his Father's buddies.

And on top of that, the story quotes Abraham a number of times. Well; if the story
is fiction, then Jesus Christ is on record testifying that Abraham said things that he
didn't really say; and that's pretty serious because it means that nobody's reputation
is safe with Christ when he would stoop so low as to put false words in the mouth of
one of the Bible's primo holy men.
_
 

TrevorL

Active member
Greetings Dant01,
And on top of that, the story quotes Abraham a number of times. Well; if the story is fiction, then Jesus Christ is on record testifying that Abraham said things that he didn't really say; and that's pretty serious because it means that nobody's reputation is safe with Christ when he would stoop so low as to put false words in the mouth of one of the Bible's primo holy men.
But what he gets Abraham to say is true. We should not allow our definition of what constitutes a parable to confine what type of lesson and framework of teaching that Jesus is allowed to use. He spoke of an individual strictly avoiding one tiny speck in his drink and then swallowing a camel, and a speck in someone else's eye and a beam in his own eye. Jesus was using the false concept of the Pharisees as a framework to condemn their covetousness and their despising of the underprivileged.

Those that support heaven and hell going at death have a real problem with the detail of this story. Where is Abraham's bosom? Would a bit of water cool the tongue of an immortal soul? And the real crunch of the story is the resurrection of Lazarus, and Jesus' prophecy not only came true, that they would not believe in a resurrection, but the resurrection of Lazarus became the real catalyst for Caiaphas declaring the necessity to kill Jesus. Jesus uses Lazarus in a different framework to that which actually was real and what actually happened to Lazarus, and this is totally ignored by those who support heaven going. But there is no mention of heaven going, as Lazarus is also in a different place to where Reverends for a fee send the immortal souls of the good and wicked.

Immortal souls and heaven and hell going at death is the exact opposite of the Bible teaching concerning the sleep of death and the resurrection of the dead, and then the judgement and reward of the faithful and punishment of the wicked at the return of Jesus. The return of Jesus is nullified by Platoism.

Kind regards
Trevor
 

Dant01

Active member
.
Where is Abraham's bosom?

It's likely on the front of his body, beginning just below his neck like everybody
else's bosom. Your bosom is where to hold people who, like they say, just need a
hug.


NOTE: There was, and may still be, an enterprising lady in my area who began a
snuggle service. The police investigated her for prostitution but found nothing she
was doing illegal. Last I heard the lady had hired some extra cuddle providers to
keep up with demand.



Would a bit of water cool the tongue of an immortal soul?

The nature of humanity's afterlife existence is somewhat mysterious; but I'm
confident that when Jesus spoke of it, he reported its details as an eye witness.
Most "experts" never see the afterlife till they pass away.

From the available data, it's known that folks in the afterlife are capable of speech,
sight, hearing, thirst, memory, pain, pleasure, mobility, and worry.
_
 

Johan

Well-known member
That's what known as stereotyping and/or profiling.
Stereotyping? That is a word that I would rather use for generalizations over groups of people. I simply noted that the same rhetoric device is used in both passages, just like "One upon a time..."
I have yet to run across even one of Jesus' parables that couldn't possibly be
true to life: They're all actually quite believable-- banquets, stewards, weddings,
farmers sowing seed, pearls, lost sheep, fish nets, women losing coins, sons leaving
home, wineskins bursting, tares among the wheat, leavened bread, barren fig
trees, the blind leading the blind, et al.
But this passage is, to a large extent, about what allegedly happens after life. And the details, literally taken, just do not add up.
The parable theory has a fatal flaw. Abraham is not a fictional character: he's a
real-life man; the father of the Hebrew people, held in very high esteem by at least
three of the world's prominent religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. He was
also a prophet (Gen 20:7) and the friend of God (Isa 41:8).

I simply cannot accept that Jesus Christ-- a man famous among normal Christians
for his honesty and integrity --would say something untrue about a famous real-life
man; most especially a prophet and one of his Father's buddies.
What you can "accept" or not is, of course, bound to be subjective. I can counter by saying that I do not believe for a second that Moses and Elijah were "beamed down" (Star Trek reference, for anyone who wonders) from heaven to take part in the transfiguration event. They were likewise heard to be talking to Jesus. However, Matthew (17:9) quotes Jesus to be saying that this is nothing more or less than a "vision" (ὅραμα). Now, let us analyze the parable to highlight all the absurd (when interpreted literally) details therein:

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

So what are we to make of this? That living in luxury makes you liable to hell? That the rich man knew of the existence of the beggar but ignored his predicament? That being poor in this life entitles you to enter Heaven? If this parable is meant to say something meaningful in soteriological matters, it is unclear exactly what.

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side.

What is this supposed to mean? That the angels carried the dead body of Lazarus to Abraham's side? That he was resurrected and then carried to Abraham's side? That his disembodied soul was somehow carried to Abraham? Why carrying him to Abraham at all? Surely Jesus is not saying that all saved people will be brought to Abraham to rest in his lap.

The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

From a Christian perspective, the entire passage is absurdly Abraham-centric rather than Christ-centric. Why having a dialog with Abraham rather than with Christ, the Savior of mankind? Why is Lazarus brought to Abraham rather than to Christ? Why ask Abraham rather than Christ to have pity on him? And so on. In addition, there is no mention in the Scriptures of Abraham having been translated to Heaven, now being ready to receive the departed saints. We should also note that there are several puzzling details that indicate an embodied rather than disembodied existence (fire, water, torment, eyes, seeing, finger, tongue). So what are we supposed to make of this? That people in Hades and in Heaven actually have some kind of body? What, then, is the purpose of the general resurrection?

But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

The mystery deepens. What is Abraham indicating here? That life and death is some kind of zero-sum game, to the effect that those who have a pleasant life will go to hell, and those who live in misery will be compensated by salvation? That sounds more like rabbinical works salvation rather than salvation by grace alone, as taught in the Gospel. In fact, there is not a shred of Gospel teaching in this parable, which has to be like that by design.

He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'

In a sense, the rich man was apparently a "religious" man, addressing Abraham as his "father" (which sounds potentially blasphemous). In contrast, Jesus told His disciples not to call anyone but God their father. And what kind of "warning" was Lazarus supposed to give to the five brothers? Not to become rich? Not to stay rich? To stop sinning? In what sense did they not listen to Moses and the Prophets? The questions outnumber the answers.

So, all in all, this is a parable full of puzzling and even absurd details, and at least on the surface, there is no Christian message therein. But my take on this narrative is that it is a parable about the Jewish religious elite (the rich man) and the Gentiles (Lazarus). The Scribes and the Pharisees were entrusted with the wealth of Heaven (the Word of God) but only used for their own gain. Historical Abraham had, in fact, a servant named Eliezer (the Hebrew equivalent of Lazarus) who came from Damascus (Gen. 15:2). He was not the biological son of Abraham but was still expected to inherit him. It is not even far-fetched to call Eliezer a Gentile. Moreover, historical Judah had exactly five brothers through his mother, Leah. Much more can be said about the details of this passage, but this post has become quite lengthy already.
 

Dant01

Active member
.
In a sense, the rich man was apparently a "religious" man, addressing Abraham as
his "father"

Abraham addressed the man as "son" so it's far more likely to me that the man is
related to Abraham; who is, in point of fact, the Jews' progenitor via Isaac and
Jacob.
_
 
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