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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, April 22 2021

The rich man and Lazarus

The most common interpretation of Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the rich man is that we all have immortal souls that go to either heaven or hell when we die. But is this really the lesson we are supposed to learn from this story?

The rich man and Lazarus
Illustration of the parable about Lazarus and the Rich Man. Credit: Arabs for Christ /

Jesus related the following: "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and … a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores... laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table..." (Luke 16:19-21). The rich man, however, would not lift a finger to help.

Eventually both Lazarus and the rich man die (Luke 16:22). Lazarus is carried "to Abraham's bosom" indicating he has a deep, personal connection to the man who "was called the friend of God" (James 2:23). The rich man, on the other hand, was too worried about himself and his possessions to have a relationship with God.

Jesus then tells the Pharisees to whom He was directing this parable: "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out" (Luke 13:28).

Many believe the reference here to the Kingdom of God refers to heaven. But the Bible explains that God's Kingdom will be established on earth at Jesus Christ's second coming: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15). Also, the resurrected saints (including Abraham) will reign with Christ as kings and priests "on the earth" (Revelation 5:10).

So the context of the parable of Lazarus and the rich man does not teach the righteous go to heaven and others are condemned to eternal torture in an ever-burning hell. Rather it deals with a person's responsibility to use money and wealth properly—which includes caring for the needs of other people.