Is the Account of the Rich Man and Lazarus a Parable?

I don’t think Lk 16 is a parable. I think it is a sober description of what happened to the souls of all dead people before Pentecost (they went to fiery Hadean torment or the relative comfort of the Hadean place where Abraham was), and Lk 16 describes what still happens to the souls of the wicked and unbelievers. The account starts with the statement, “There WAS a certain rich man” and then it names Lazarus specifically. None of the actual parables names specific individuals and often start out with a statement something like “the kingdom of heavn is like unto…” (Mt 13:33, Mk 13:34, Lk 13:19, etc). Lk 16 does not do that but relates an actual incident from the underworld.

The place described in Lk 16 is a temporary place of punishment where the wicked are kept under punishment until the final judgment (Rev 20:13, Lk 12:48). It does not describe either heaven or hell, but describes the temporary abode of the dead until the Judgment. The eternal lake of fire is Gehenna, and it will be revealed at the Second Coming. No one goes to Gehenna/the Lake of Fire until after the final judgment (Rev 20:13-15). Those thrown into Gehenna/the Lake of Fire will be there for ever (Rev 14:11, Isa 66:24, Mt 25:41, 46). It is a place of being eaten by worms (Mk 9:44, Isa 66:24), eternal fire (Mt 18:8, 25:41, Mk 9:44), and a mist of darkness for each individual there (Acts 13:11, II Pet 2:17, Mt 25:30).

Before the cross, heaven was inaccessible to men living or dead (Jn 3:13, Heb 9:7-8). The souls of the righteous dead went to the Hadean realm where they were kept in relative comfort (there was water there–Lk 16:24). After the cross Christ opened the way to heaven and the souls of the righteous now go there (Rev 6:9, II Cor 5:8-9, Php 1:23-24).

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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