Our Readers' Opinions
January 5, 2018
Is the account of the rich man and Lazarus literal?  

Editor: 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.” He had lived and died long before Jesus came to earth. 

According to John 3:13, quoted above, and 1 Corinthians 15:23,  Abraham was NOT in heaven when Jesus related the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In fact, NO human had gone to heaven then. Abraham was in the grave, already decayed and returned to dust, like Adam and any other human who died as Genesis 3:19 and Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20 prove.

Since Abraham became 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. Faithful David, who killed Goliath, is not in heaven either, but is  awaiting a resurrection like Abraham. Acts 2:34. 

Therefore, Jesus’ use of Abraham’s name in the account of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” is only symbolic, NOT literal. 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. Luke 16:24. Therefore, the account of the “Rich Man and Lazarus” is a parable, used to illustrate the aforementioned. It is NOT literal. 

Kenneth Kayman