Was it a Parable?

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Is it a parable or a literal historical event?





Luke 16:19-31 has been the focus of much controversy. Some take the story of the rich man and Lazarus to be a true historical account of events that actually occurred; others consider it a parable or allegory.


The Evidence of Reality:


There are several strong  reasons for seeing this story as a real historical account. 

  1. The story is never called a parable. Jesus’ other stories are designated as parables. ie The sower and the seed (Luke 8:4),  The prosperous farmer (Luke 12:16), The barren fig tree (Luke 13:6), The wedding feast (Luke 14:7) and the 28 others.
  2. The story of the rich man and Lazarus uses the actual names of three people: Abraham, Lazarus and Moses. Jewish tradition says the rich man’s name was Dives   Such specificity would set it apart from parables, in which the characters are not named.  In no parable does Jesus give a character's personal name, but refers to the characters as "a certain man", "a farmer, a sower", etc.



III. This particular story does not seem to fit the definition of a *parable, which is a presentation of a spiritual truth using an earthly illustration. The story of the rich man and Lazarus presents spiritual truth directly, with no earthly metaphor.

  1. The setting for most of the story is the afterlife, as opposed to parables, which unfold in earthly contexts.


There are those that ignore all of the above information and insist that it is a parable.



I believe that this is a real story because it is realistic and parables usually are not.

Whether a parable or a literal account, Jesus clearly taught the existence of heaven for rewards for believers   and  hell for torment and punishment for un-believers; (Heaven: (Matt. 5:11-12; Lk. 6:22-23; Rev. 6:9)  Hell: Matt. 5:29; 23:33; Mk. 9:43).  Although the two words are not used the reality of both  was definitely taught in (Matt. 25:40-46)


Those that don’t believe in a literal hell refuse to accept this as a true story.


It is interesting to note that at the time when Jesus was on earth,  paradise and hell were in the heart of the earth as Luke recorded and it was strongly believed by the Jews.  When Jesus rose He relocated paradise (Eph 4;8-10; II Cor. 12:2-4).   “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive. (souls in paradise) Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

  He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.; I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth; such an one caught up to the third heaven.

  How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”  Hell remained where it was and became larger. (Isa. 5:11-16); “  Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!

  And the harp, and the viol, the tabret, and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts: but they regard not the work of the LORD, neither consider the operation of his hands.

  Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge: and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude dried up with thirst.

  Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: and their glory, and their multitude, and their pomp, and he that rejoiceth, shall descend into it.

  And the mean man shall be brought down, and the mighty man shall be humbled, and the eyes of the lofty shall be humbled:

  But the LORD of hosts shall be exalted in judgment, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness.”

* It is used in The Old Testament and refers to a wise saying.


Rev. George Pryor Th.M.

 Pastor Emeritus.