The Rich Man and Lazarus

The subjects discussed in Chapters 14 and 15 would not be complete without a study of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Tradition and teaching have encouraged people to believe that this story is a fact rather than a parable. A parable is a lesson drawn from an example. Before beginning this study, consider several things. First, it would teach the dead are conscious in hell. We have proof in the Bible this is not so. Then it would prove that man was rewarded at death but the Bible says the judgment is at the coming of Christ. The account of the Rich Man and Lazarus proves nothing about the soul because the word soul is not mentioned. It would prove that heaven and hell were close enough for the people to converse with one another.

There are many other things we could say that would show the account is not fact but a parable. I hope this study will show the beautiful lesson the Lord wanted the people to learn from the words He spoke.

1. A certain Rich Man. Luke 16:19

There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
Luke 16:19

The way the man was clothed, “purple and fine linen”, shows he was of a royal family. This is a beautiful parable about Israel who was of the royal family of God, who “fared sumptuously” every day.

  1. Apple of God’s eye: Zechariah 2:8
  2. Given the oracles: Romans 3:1-2
  3. Israel was holiness unto God: Jeremiah 2:3

Israel was special unto God. They were given the promises, the covenant, the law, the prophets. They were truly rich in every way.

2. Beggar full of sores. Luke 16:20-21

And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

Luke 16:20-21

This shows the sorrowful state the Gentile was in. He had no prophet, no promise, that is, unto himself. To receive anything, he had to come through Israel. The sores revealed his sinful condition, with nothing to heal it.

  1. Gentiles as dogs: Mark 7:26-28
  2. Gentile had no hope: Ephesians 2:11-12
  3. Gentiles wanted to know: Acts 13:42

These Scriptures show clearly that the Gentiles had to come to Israel or become a part of Israel to receive the things of God. They were not excluded from salvation, no, but they did have to come through Israel, which was the family of God.

3. Both men die. Luke 16:22

And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
Luke 16:22

Notice! Both men die. This cannot refer to a literal death, for the Rich Man continues to talk, and the Bible says in death or after death, this is impossible. See Psalms 6:5, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6.

This death is a symbolic death. When Israel rejected Christ, they died out from salvation. The Gentile accepted Christ, and in so doing, died out to sin and into salvation. Each one experienced a death.

  1. Jews reject: Acts 13:46
  2. Israel died: Romans 11:7, 25
  3. Gentile grafted "into": Romans 11:17-24
  4. No more strangers: Ephesians 2:15-19

When the beggar (Lazarus) died he was carried into Abraham’s bosom. Being a parable, this is telling us, when the beggar (Gentile) died (to self), he became a part of Abraham’s promise. The Scriptures say, when we accept Christ we become “…Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).

4. Rich Man in torment? Luke 16:23-25

And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

Luke 16:23-25

People are taught that the torment that the Rich Man is suffering is the fire. But if a man were engulfed in fire, what good would a little water do on his tongue? If fire caused his suffering, he would want enough water to swim in, and then the fire would soon heat the water, so there would be little comfort in that.

The torment is his lost condition, being without Christ and salvation. The Rich Man, being the nation of Israel, is without salvation and tormented in that condition, pleading for relief.

Water in the Scripture can refer to the Word or Truth. The Rich Man is asking for truth, which will give him assurance and comfort.

  1. Water as the Word: Ephesians 5:25-26
  2. "My doctrine" as water: Deuteronomy 32:1-2

5. The great gulf between? Luke 16:26

And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Luke 16:26

If this is fact, I could understand why those in hellfire would want to get out and go to heaven (?) but I fail to understand why those in heaven (?) would want to go to hell. Yet, there is a gulf between the two, so the one could not go to the other. What could the gulf be?

Since the Rich Man refers to Israel and Lazarus refers to the Gentile, the gulf that separates the two is “Christianity” or “Christ.”

We cannot worship God the way the Jews do, for we believe in Christ. The Jews cannot worship as we do, for they do not believe in Christ. So there is a gulf between us.

  1. Gulf is Christ: 2 Corinthians 3:13-16
  2. Ignorant of God’s righteousness: Romans 10:1-4

6. The five brethren. Luke 16:27-28

Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:

For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

Luke 16:27-28

The Rich Man, which represents Israel as a nation, is concerned about his people. He is asking Abraham to send someone to teach his people, saying, he has five brethren who need the truth.

The five brethren represent the five different religious faiths (sects) that made up Israel. They were the Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Herodians, and Zealots.

7. Abraham refers the Rich Man to Moses. Luke 16:29-31

Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

Luke 16:29-31

The Rich Man is anxious for Abraham to teach the people. But Abraham refers him to Moses, the one they should have believed in the first place. Why Moses? Because Moses and the prophets told or spoke of the Messiah who was to come (Galatians 3:24-25), yet they did not believe or understood the real meaning of Moses’ law, which contained types and shadows of Christ to come.


The record of the Rich Man and Lazarus in no way teaches a soul lives on after death and goes to either hellfire or heaven at the time of death. There is no such thing as a soul that lives on after death.

Death is the end of this life until Jesus comes again. Then the dead are awakened; they come forth from the dust of the earth to be judged at that time.

The Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable that explained what was to happen to Israel and the experience which the Gentile would have on accepting Christ as their Savior.

Material from the book Answers to Your Bible Questions by Wesley Walker.

More info:

Answers to Your Bible Questions