Rich man and Lazarus
Was the narration of the rich man and Lazarus, told by Jesus, a historical story or was it only a parable? If it was a historical event then indeed it contradicts the rest of the scripture. But if it was only a parable then there is no problem at all because parables are not taken literally, but the intent of the parable is only taken. Going by logic and reason we can conclude that this has to be a parable because the scripture cannot say the two opposites. Even if one wants to believe that this passage of scripture is historical and true, the narration of the rich man and Lazarus still poses a lot of problem.
One, Lazarus is seen by the rich man to be sitting “in his bosom” (Luke 16:23), that is in Abraham’s bosom. If it is a literal and a historical story then we need to take that phrase literally as well, which means Abraham’s bosom is the seating place for Lazarus and probably for all the millions of Abraham’s children! This means he has a massive and rock solid bosom! And if people are sitting upon Abraham in heaven, poor Abraham has to be stationary all the time!
Two, the people who believe in immortal souls going to heaven and hell instantly at death also believe that paradise is way above—in the 3rd heaven were God lives—and hell is way inside the earth. But if you take the narration of the rich man and Lazarus as a historical fact, then we have to conclude that heaven and hell are so close to each other, because the people from both the camps could see each other and talk to each other as well!
Three, also we need to conclude that hell fire is not really hot and scorching because the rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to cool him off, not with barrels of water, but only with a drop or two! He said, “That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue” (Luke 16:24). And it looks like only his tongue was burning!
Four, we also see that the Rich man, Lazarus and Abraham are having—bosom, tongue, eyes, mouth, finger (Luke 16:22, 23, 24). This seems to be that they have gone to heaven or hell with their physical bodies, and not the so-called soul entity. And who can convince anyone that indeed their bodies have gone to heaven or hell, at death, for we all can see that once a person dies his body is still around on earth, left to rot and not transported to heaven or hell!
Well, it is easier to interpret this passage as a parable than as a historical fact, and interpreting it as a parable is right, and also it harmonizes with rest of the texts of sacred scriptures. But interpreting this as a historical story is very hard with the four points that we have shown. Also it then contradicts the rest of the Bible on the same topic, which then shows it is an unsound interpretation of scriptures.
The intent of Jesus in giving this parable was to teach a few things.
- Being rich is no indication that one is blessed of God, and being poor is no indication one is cursed of God. Finally, the poor man, in the parable, made it to heaven and the rich made it to hell.
- The rich man in the parable also symbolized the Jewish people who were rich in heavenly knowledge, and the poor man symbolized the Gentiles who were poor, and craving for the bread of life—the crumbs of bread falling from the rich man’s table.
- The believing Gentiles will sit down with Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, while the unbelieving children of Abraham, in the flesh, will be lost because they did not live to the light they had, and did not share them as well.
- There is no hope for a person to change his destiny once he dies.
- The dead can’t return to earth to warn others of the future life,— the scripture is the only source of information for all.
- The scripture, symbolized by Moses and the prophets, is greater than miracles. One should not base their beliefs on miracles, but on the word of God.
g) Because the Jews placed miracles and signs above the word of God, they finally did not believe the greatest miracle that they could get, because they did not believe the word of God to be the foundation of their faith. Having the same name of the poor man in the parable—a real man called Lazarus was indeed raised from the dead; and not just that. The one who told this narration—our Lord Jesus—rose from the dead as well, and did the Jewish nation believe Him for the two greatest of miracles? No! Well, the conclusion of the parable was prophetic in nature. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). And indeed they did not believe, and still don’t believe as a nation, after 2000 years!