Hey, there! There are so many takes on Luke 16:19-31 about Lazarus and the rich man. Many, if not most, believe that it is just another parable while a good number have no doubt it is a real story. After all, a real place is mentioned (“hades” or “hell”, as the KJV has it) and even Abraham and Moses are in the picture.
If it is real, it certainly shows that there is not only consciousness after death but that sinners and unbelievers can even be in “torment” until the Great White Throne Judgement and after.
Let’s look at these verses step by step and see how they hold up to what the other scriptures say, and not just depend on our human reasoning and logic, tainted as they may be by false, religious traditions we have encountered in the past.
It is extremely important that we realize we are dealing with the “soul” of the rich man and the “soul” of Lazarus….so, what the scriptures say about the “soul” apply here. The entire person composed of the (human) spirit, the (human) body and the (human) soul is NOT under consideration….only the “soul”.
At death, ONLY the “soul” actually makes its way to “hades” (or “hell” as the KJV has it). “Hades” [ or “hell” as the KJV has it] is best defined as the “unseen” and that is the destiny of the soul when a person dies (Psa.9:17; Acts 2:27,31). On the other hand, the “spirit” returns to God (Ecclesiastes 12:7) and the “body” returns to the soil (Genesis 3:19 and others). All 3 (body, soul,spirit) go their separate ways when a person dies.
In this narrative about Lazarus, we are exclusively dealing with “hades” (or “hell”, as the KJV has it) and the “souls” pertaining to the rich man, Lazarus and Abraham. And, please also keep in mind the REAL “hell” (or, as it is properly translated,”hades” in Greek and “sheol” in Hebrew) is NOT the fire and brimstone fantasy concocted by false traditions and misguided religious organizations but is best described and defined by the Concordant New Testament Greek-English Keyword Concordance as “unseen”….or, “not perceptible by any senses, imperceptible”. Please reference the Post on “Hell” for further clarification.
This brings us to our first clue: the rich man asks for some water to cool his tongue in verse 24. Oops….no tongues are allowed in “hades” (or “hell” in KJV)!!! If this was a real story, after the rich man was entombed, the tongue would have remained with the body and eventually decayed physically (“returned to the soil”). Only the “soul” can make its way into “hell” or “hades”. This definitely is starting to look like a parable!
Next, Jesus NEVER taught the “crowds” spiritual truths and realities except by parables:
“Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables, and He would not speak anything to them without a parable”. (Matthew 13:34)
This story of Lazarus is being told to a “CROWD” of Pharisees (Luke 16:14)! Utt oh, this pretty much clinches it….we are obviously dealing with a parable.
But, let’s continue.
This doesn’t mean that Jesus did not teach His “disciples” in parables, because He did (Luke 16:1). But, He also taught them spiritual truths and realities WITHOUT parables such as the “sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5:1 and Luke 6:20: “and His disciples came to Him”. He never taught the “crowds” (non-disciples) in “plain language”, ONLY in parables (Matthew 13:34).
Another major reason this is obviously a parable is attested to in 3 other scriptures in the Bible, or 3 other “witnesses”, if you will.
The following 3 verses clearly show that there is no consciousness for a person when she or he dies (or “sleeps”) ….much less memory, various actions, plans, etc.. You can reference the Posts on “Death” and “Hell” if you like.
Psalm 6:5: “For in death there is no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?” (New King James)
Psalm 146:4: “His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish.” (New King James)
Ecclesiastes 9:5: “For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing” (New King James)
Coupled with this is the fact that the “soul” does not and cannot experience “life”, sensation, etc. unless and until there is the joining of the (human) spirit and (human) body first: “Yahweh Elohim formed the human out of soil from the ground, and He blew in to his nostrils the breath of life; and the human BECAME A LIVING SOUL.”. (Genesis 2:7….emphasis mine….Concordant Literal Old Testament, Rotherham’s and The Companion Bible are all similar in properly translating it “soul”).
And, the soul is actually in the blood: “for the soul of all flesh, it is in the blood” (Lev.17:11, Concordant Old Testament and Companion Bible). Where there is no human blood….there is no human soul (or, life, consciousness, etc.).
As a side note: This is why animals and humans can be said to have a “soul”….because they have blood flowing within them. Even though plants, vegetation and the like are “living organisms”, they are never said to have a “soul” because they have no blood….meaning, they have no consciousness nor any type of feelings. If you chop a tree down, rest assured it feels no pain!
Now, when the combination of these 3 elements (spirit, body, soul) is dissolved at death (as in Psalm 146:4 above) the soul returns to where it was before it became a “living soul” when the human body and human spirit merged….i.e., back to total unconsciousness (Psalm 6:5 and Ecclesiastes 9:5).
There are quite a number of additional factors which also show the story of Lazarus is dealing with fiction (a parable) to reveal a (Holy) spiritual truth but I will just mention one other. Notice in Luke 16:1, Jesus starts that PARABLE with “and there was a rich man”; and, notice in this PARABLE about Lazarus He also begins in verse 19: “and there was a rich man”.
Bottom line: This is a dramatic and FICTIONAL PARABLE to illustrate a (Holy) spiritual truth and reality that the Pharisees would have no clue of grasping. The parable was meant to illustrate that truly evil, sinful people, who have their hearts set on living in darkness and without God, WILL NOT CHANGE….even, if someone from their family literally came back and told them about their sad mistakes and illusions, and about what lies ahead for them in the way of punishment.
Later, in Christ,
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