The Prophecy of the Lazarus Parable
It needs to be said that the Church has compounded confusion towards understanding “Heaven” & “Hell” by creating doctrine based solely upon Jesus’ Lazarus parable. In the Book of Luke, Jesus describes a very wealthy self-absorbed man who rules over a poor sick servant man called Lazarus, where both have died: the rich man has gone to “Hell”, and Lazarus has gone to “Heaven” (Luke 16:19-31). There’s a lot to unpack, but the point with any of Jesus’ parables, is that they are purely allegories in order to demonstrate a point (or several). But what is so amazing about the Lazarus Parable is that Jesus not only challenged the Pharisees regarding their incorrect doctrinal beliefs, but Jesus put a twist on the story making the parable become a prophecy…
IF THIS IS A LITERAL PARABLE, THEN IT CONTRADICTS BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS:
Theologically, there is nothing about the Lazarus parable that makes logical sense about Heaven and Hell, especially as the Pharisees believed that:
1. When we die, we will each be met by Abraham, who will tuck us under his bosom…
2. Aside from that horrible thought of being under someone’s bosom, how can this be possible? How can Abraham have received the promise of resurrection and eternal life, because the Bible says that ALL men are dead and buried… and are all waiting for the promised ‘resurrected’ day (Hebrews 11: 39).
3. Because if the parable suggests that Heaven and Hell is an immediate reality following death, then this also goes against the over-riding biblical understanding of what death is. That is (for example), the Book of Genesis is quite clear that when Adam died, to the dust he would return (Genesis 3:19).
4. And if Hell is a place of fire, how is it possible that the rich man is able to converse? Surely to not burn in a fire would signify ‘God’s protection’ rather than ‘God’s judgment’ (similar to what happened to Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego in Daniel 3)…
5. And if this was a literal place, why would anyone want to live next to this fiery lava pool anyway? Because if the Third Heaven is truly like this, having to always look across the chasm and see people who denied Christ would be absolutely horrible. Hearing them continually crying out for help!!! Who would want to see their family members calling out in pain from this fiery lake, especially as you go for a stroll along the outer edges of this heaven? This in itself would probably be more tormenting for the believer.
Overall, it does not stack up! So why did Jesus use this illogical fantasy?
HERMENEUTICS & METAPHORS:
If we examine the context before Luke 16, we see a series of parables spread over the previous two chapters:
· The Wedding Feast Parable re the honourable man and the poorly man (Luke 14:7-11)
· The Great Banquet Parable inviting guests to the feast (Luke 14:15-24)
· The Lost Sheep Parable (Luke 15:3-6)
· The Lost Coin Parable (Luke 15:8-9)
· The Prodigal Son Parable (Luke 15:11-32)
· The Unjust Steward Parable (Luke 16:1-14)
Yes, ALL of the above parables are directly aimed at the Pharisees, where Jesus uses these ‘stories’ in hope that the Pharisees will repent of their evil ways: from being covetous life-stylers; thinking themselves better than others; not being concerned about those who are lost in the community; while distributing lies throughout the people of God.
Thus the Lazarus Parable is another example of the Pharisee hypocrisy, where Jesus uses a ‘rich man’ character to represent those who were ‘rich in God’ (i.e. the Pharisees), but have abused their position by having a love for money and power… yet still calling Abraham their father (John 8:39). Contrasted to the Lazarus character who represents those who are ‘poor in God’: those who have ailments and are struggling in life within the rich man’s controlled system.
The metaphors continue with Abraham’s bosom. This of course, is referring to the ‘closeness’ to Abraham’s side: a child under the arm and protection of the Father… a true believer walking the same faith journey as that of Abraham… someone who understands who God really is while serving others where possible (Galatians 3:29).
What is really cool to see is the word “Hades” in verse 23. This is where the rich man ‘resides’… living in ‘torment’ while seeing Abraham afar off. When Luke uses this word “Hades”, it reinforces that this parable is a message for the here and now (i.e. those in the First Kingdom). Because, if this parable was meant to reflect the futuristic end time “lake of fire” event (where all mankind is burnt to a cinder), then Luke would have used the word “Geenna”. Thus the term “Hades” reinforces that this parable is about our two characters living life on earth in the First Kingdom: one character on a road to destruction; the other protected by the Father.
Verse 24: It’s ironic that the unnamed rich man asks for "droplets of water” to be sucked off Lazarus’ finger, contrasted to when Lazarus had once hoped for the “crumbs” from the table of the rich man. “Water” of course represents the goodness and blessings that come from the true people of God, which helps ‘cool’ the rich man’s tongue… whereas the “crumbs” are from the bread: which is, of course, is full of the Pharisees yeast (Matthew 16:11-12)… reminding us of Jesus’ warning that these leaders in the world (spiritual or not) have doctrines that are contrary to God.
Verse 26: The great chasm reflecting the differences between the two characters: two contrasting ways of life where there can be no crossing. In other words, there will never be a bridge.
And at the end of the story, the rich man resigns himself to his fate, and then begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers. This number “five” is seen earlier in the Great Banquet parable where one servant could not come due to purchasing five oxen (Luke 14:19), where I have read some commentaries that suggest the five brothers are referencing the brothers of Judah: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, and Zebulun… all of course coming from their mother Leah. Not that I personally advocate this, but I suspect the “five” represents five other faith models similar to that of the Pharisees Church (i.e. other denominations).
Abraham therefore replies that these other Churches have all of Israelite history (i.e. the Bible) to help remind those leaders of the faith that a Messiah would come to set everything right again with man and God.
In summary, Jesus aimed to use the Lazarus Parable to again show that the Pharisees were living and teaching a way of life contrary to the way of heaven.
THE LAZARUS PROPHECY:
And here’s the genius of it all: days later, Jesus raises a man called Lazarus from the dead (John 11). After four days lying in a tomb, Lazarus rose from his deathly smelly state and became a healthy, breathing, walking, talking person… having come back from the dead to become a living testimony to the power of Jesus.
Many would have remembered this Lazarus Parable that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees about: especially that undeniable request for Lazarus to be sent back so as to warn the other Pharisees of the lake of fire… but knowing that even if Lazarus came back from the dead, they still would not believe. Yes, this parable suddenly became a prophecy overnight, being seen by all the people and Jewish Leaders of the faith…
However, despite there being countless eyewitnesses to this prophetic event, there were those who “went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done” (John 11:46)… where “the chief priests and Pharisees Council” recognized that “all men would believe in this Jesus” fellow… where they concluded that Rome would take away their own positions of power (John 11:48). Thus, they plotted to not only kill Jesus (John 11:46-53) … but also to kill Lazarus (John 12:10)… as by reason, many were turning to Jesus.
SO IN SUMMARY:
The Lazarus Parable is not be taken literally, as it is another ‘tale’ demonstrating the controlling system of the Church… which means that the “Heaven” & “Hell” doctrines taught in the Church today are fantasy based, and should not be taught without first understanding the terms “Hades” and “Geenna”: “Hades” referring to the First Kingdom of Heaven that we all live under: controlled by the Devil himself… contrasted to “Geenna”: the omega event at the end of time where everything perishes.
And we also cannot forget the awesomeness of Jesus, having now raised a man from the dead… which politically speaking, the Pharisees could only see this miracle as something that jeopardized their positions of power within their community. There was no glory given to God, but purely a self-centred approach “how does this affect me?” Therefore, may our modern day leaders of the faith (or any leader in fact), when meeting gifted people, consider not the abilities of others as a threat to their personal ‘role’ within their institution, but rather as a blessing from God.