Is the Account of the Rich Man and Lazarus Literal?

Many view the account of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” that Jesus related at Luke 16:19 – 31 as literal. They believe that the Rich man was actually blazing in fire and will be in it forever. Is that really so?

Jesus said at John 3:13 that “no man hath ascended up to heaven.” In fact, 1 Corinthians 15:23 shows that Jesus was the FIRST to go to heaven from the earth.

Abraham is mentioned in the account of the “Rich Man and Lazarus.” According to John 3:13 quoted above, and 1 Corinthians 15:23, Abraham was NOT in heaven when Jesus related the account. Rather, he was in the grave, already decayed and returned to dust. Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20.

Since Abraham returned to dust, he could not have been any place else either, such as in outer space. Abraham is unconscious, out of existence and is awaiting a resurrection, when he will live again. John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15.

Therefore, Jesus’ use of Abraham’s name in the account of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” is only symbolic, NOT literal. Faithful David also is not in heaven either but is awaiting a resurrection like Abraham. Acts 2:34.

The context of Jesus’ story at Luke 16:19-31 shows that Jesus used the “Rich Man” to represent the covetous Pharisees who loved money. Luke 16:14, 15. “Lazarus” represented the common Jews who were starving spiritually, not being fed by the Pharisees who looked down on them. John 7:49.

Later, when John the Baptist and more importantly, Jesus came and spiritually fed them, (Matthew 3:1, 2; Matthew 4:17) the Jews were shown to be in a favoured position with God as represented by Lazarus being in Abraham’s bosom.

The Pharisees were now in figurative “torment” as the preaching of the apostles and disciples was distressing to them.

The Pharisees were clearly shown up as being out of God’s favour, represented in the account as being tormented in flames. Luke 16:24. Therefore, the account of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” is a parable, used to illustrate something important. It is NOT literal.

Kenneth Kayman

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