Lazarus and the Rich Man

Lazarus and the Rich Man is a parable, or similitude.  A parable is a simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson.

Jesus teaching at Emmaus

Jesus Teaching at Emmaus

The word parable comes from the Greek word parabole which means "to compare."  The narrative is usually symbolic.  Christ used parables to teach moral principles.  One example is Lazarus and the Rich Man.

To understand the parable, we must find the context in which Yeshua presented it.  We must also know that the word of God is true and one part cannot contradict another.


The context of this parable is that Jesus was being mocked by the Pharisees, because He was referring to the fact that we cannot serve two masters (God and riches).


Luke 16:14
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him.

Luke 16:15

And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

Luke 16:16
The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.

In verse 19, Yeshua starts the parable.

Luke 16:19
Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and linen, enjoying himself sumptuously every day.

As we can see, the Rich Man is described similar to a Pharisee.  He dressed in purple, an expensive dye extracted from murex, which only the Pharisees and wealthy could afford. 

The rich man lived in the lap of luxury

The Rich Man lived in luxury

Luke 16:20
And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with ulcers,

Lazarus by the gate

Luke 16:21
and longing to be fed with the things which were falling from the rich man's table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.

Jesus is comparing two types of men -- a rich one and a poor one.

The Rich Man was oblivious to the suffering of the poor one.  Lazarus longed to be fed even from the crumbs, but he could not.  

It is evident that Lazarus is presented as the type of man that cannot provide for himself and has no family to help him.  One of the reasons for his poverty is his illness. 

The Rich Man, in contrast, is presented as the type of man who has the means to help those in need, for example, Lazarus, but is unwilling to help.  The Rich Man did not even let the poor one get the crumbs that fell from his table.

Luke 16:22
Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried.

Jesus does not say that both of them went to heaven.  He does not say that one of them went to heaven.  But it does say that both of them died.

The rich man died

Rich Man dies

The Bible says that the Rich Man was buried, but it does not say that Lazarus was buried.  He probably could not afford cost of burial, the grave, and the inscription.

Luke 16:23
In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.

Now it says that in Hades the Rich Man lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away.  First we have to understand what is Hades. 

The original Greek word  "Hades," which some translators have rendered as Hell, has the following meaning:

The nether world kingdom; according to classical mythology, the abode of the shades, ruled over by Hades or Pluto; the grave.

In the parable, the meaning for Hades is the grave.  Some other places in the Bible that use the word Hades are:

Rev 20:13-14
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them
according to their deeds.  Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.

The Lake of Fire
Second death - Lake of Fire

Acts 2:31
he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay.

The book of Acts is quoting from the book of Psalms in reference to Christ, that His body was not left in Hades.  The original Hebrew word in Psalms is Sheol which also means the grave.  Jesus was not left in Hades, the grave, because He was resurrected.  His flesh did not suffer decay because He resurrected at the 3rd day before His body was decomposed.  

Therefore both, our Lord Yeshua and the Rich Man, went to the same place, Hades -- the place for the dead or the grave.

Continuing with the parable,

The rich man cried out in anguish as he was tormented

Luke 16:24
And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'

The Rich Man asks Abraham for a favor...that he would send Lazarus to cool off his tongue.

Here we realize that this narrative is a parable, and not a real story.  Why?

In the reality we live in, anybody who is in a "flame of fire" needs more help than a finger dipped in water to cool off his tongue.  So we must interpret this story as a parable, not as what can actually occur word by word, now or in the future.

Luke 16:25
But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony.

The rich man suffered in the fire

This part of the parable is comparing and contrasting again the two types -- the rich and the poor --  and what happens later on...  the ones that suffered in this life will be comforted, but the ones that had a "good time" during this life, without any regards for others, will suffer.

Compare and contrast to the words of Yeshua as recorded by Matthew and Luke:

Matthew 5:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Luke 6:24
But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.

Continuing with the parable...

Luke 16:26
And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'

The story states there is a great chasm fixed to prevent mixing of one group with the other group.

In the future after the second resurrection, there will be a great difference between one group and the other.  The ones that were part of the first resurrection are not able to die.  The ones that are part of the second resurrection will be judged according to their works.  Some might be sent to the "lake of fire," the second death.

The parable also relates that at the time the Rich Man opens his eyes in Hades, Lazarus is already with Abraham.  This is consistent with the fact presented in the book of Revelation that the first resurrection --the resurrection of the righteous --occurs many years before the second resurrection.  Lazarus, evidently, was part of the first resurrection.  The Rich Man was part of the second resurrection.  For more on this topic, we invite you to read  The First Resurrection.

Continuing with the parable,

Luke 16:27
And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house--

Luke 16:28
for I have five brothers--in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

The Rich Man sees his doom, but wants his relatives to be spared.

Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
Father Abraham

Luke 16:29
But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'

Luke 16:30
But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!'

Again, the words are said "if someone goes to them from the dead."  

It does not say Lazarus was a spirit; it does not say the Rich Man was a spirit.  But it stresses the fact that the dead will live again.  The Rich Man wants someone from the dead to come back and preach to people.

Luke 16:31
But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'

Yeshua ends the parable with those words.  If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, even if He sends someone from the dead....they are not going to listen.

The fact is, Jesus did just that.  He resurrected His friend Lazarus from Bethany (not the one in the parable).  What happened when Lazarus from Bethany was resurrected?  The Pharisees wanted to kill Lazarus too...not only Yeshua.  They wanted to kill him because people were believing in Yeshua and turning to God.

Jesus himself appeared to people after His resurrection.  Did that make the Pharisees repent and turn to God?  No, they invented lies with which to deceive the people.

Therefore the words of Yeshua are true. Those who have no desire to repent and find the true God will never find Him, even if someone comes back from the dead to preach to them.



The words of Yeshua do not contradict the word of God anywhere in the Torah or the Prophets.

As stated in the book of Daniel:

Daniel 12:2
Many of those who SLEEP in the dust of the GROUND will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

The Tenach/Old Testament agrees with the New Testament in that there will be two groups:  one group that awakes to everlasting life (1st resurrection) and another to disgrace and everlasting contempt (2nd resurrection).

May the words of Yeshua ring true in your ears.

Mark 12:26
But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?

All who are IN THE TOMBS will hear Yeshua's voice,

John 5:28
Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are IN THE TOMBS will hear His voice,

John 5:29
and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.

Some people may have been led to believe that  the dead are "alive in heaven;" however nowhere in the Bible does it say that.  On the contrary, the dead are referred to by Jesus as "those that are in the tombs."   It is only with God's promise of a resurrection that the dead can attain everlasting life.  

We should remember the parable of Lazarus, to care for those who have less than we do and try to help them, rather than despise them.  It is not for us to judge them; God will judge all of us.  Let us worry about our own judgment, which is near.

Return to Main Menu