The Interpretation of the Rich Man and Lazarus Parable

This study is available in Spanish here.

To view a list of all studies in this blog, click here.

Recommended before reading this study,

The Sleep of Death in Sheol, the Two Resurrections, and the Lake of Fire Judgment

Just as this preceding parable,

And he said also to his disciples, A certain man was rich, who had a manager; and this one was accused by him as wasting his possessions. (Luke 16:1 [ABP])

And this other preceding parable,

And he said, A certain man had two sons. (Luke 15:11 [ABP])

The passage of the rich man and Lazarus begins in the same style of the parables that immediately precede it,

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. (Luke 16:19 [NIV])

The rich man specifically symbolizes the Jews, who disbelieve and enrich themselves, for just as the Jews have Abraham as a father, so did the rich man also have Abraham as a father,

So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham… (Luke 16:24 [NIV])

The purple the rich man wore symbolizes royalty,

And was the weight of the ear-rings of gold which he asked for — a thousand and seven hundred shekels of gold, besides the ornaments of the crescents, and the wrap around garments of the ones of purple, of the ones upon the kings of Midian, even besides the collars of the ones on the necks of their camels. (Judges 8:26 [ABP])

The linen the rich man wore symbolizes priesthood,

and the Levites, the psalm singers, all with the sons of Asaph, of Heman, to Jeduthun, and to their sons, and to their brethren of the ones putting on apparels of fine linen, with cymbals, and with stringed instruments, and with lutes, were standing over against the altar, and with them a hundred and twenty priests trumpeting with the trumpets. (2 Chronicles 5:12 [ABP])

As such, just as the rich man wore purple and linen, so were the Jews composed primarily of the tribe of Judah, who were royals, and of the tribe of Levi, who were priests, and an example can be seen of a young man belonging to both tribes, as many of the Jews were also intermixed among different tribes, inclusive of being of the tribes of Judah and Levi,

And there was a young man from out of Beth-lehem Judah from the kin of Judah, and he was a Levite, and he sojourned there.(Judges 17:7 [ABP])

And just as the rich man who wore purple and linen was wealthy, so were the Jews who were primarily of the tribes of Judah and Levi also wealthy, as these were the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus Christ spoke against,

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. (Luke 16:14 [NIV])

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you tithe the mint, and the dill, and the cummin, and leave the heavier matters of the law — the judgment, and the mercy, and the belief — these necessary to do, and these are not allowed. (Matthew 23:23 [ABP])

Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for you are like tombs being whitewashed, ones which outside indeed appear beautiful, but inside are full of bones of the dead and of all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27 [ABP])

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:6 [NIV])

And just as the the rich man had five brothers,

for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ (Luke 16:28 [NIV])

So did the tribe of Judah, or the tribe of Levi, also have five siblings, as both tribes were born to Leah who had six sons, with each brother having five siblings,

The sons of Leah, the first-born of Jacob, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun. (Genesis 35:23 [ABP])

And just as the brothers of the rich man had Moses and the Prophets,

“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ (Luke 16:29 [NIV])

So did all the Jews of every tribe have Moses and the Prophets,

Much in every way! First of all, the Jews have been entrusted with the very words of God. (Romans 3:2 [NIV])

theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. (Romans 9:3-4 [NIV])

As such, although the rich man was a son of Abraham as the Jews were also sons of Abraham,

Theirs is the adoption to sonship… (Romans 9:3-4 [NIV])

They will not sit with Abraham in the kingdom of the heavens, but instead will be cast into the place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,

I say to you that many will come from the east and the west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:11-12 [BSB])

Just as the rich man does not sit at the bosom of Abraham, but instead is tormented,

And in Hades having lifted up his eyes being in torment, he sees Abraham from far off, and Lazarus in his enfolded arms. (Luke 16:23 [ABP])

Because they did not believe,

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”(Luke 16:31 [ESV])

Even though one had been risen from the dead, who was Jesus Christ, and still the Jews refused to believe,

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:11 [NIV])

But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the other Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. (Acts 14:2 [NIV])

And as a result of their disbelief, they chose to enrich themselves, instead of believing and choosing to humble themselves by becoming poor,

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12 [NIV])

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16 [NIV])

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24 [NIV])

So therefore every one of you who does not give up all that he himself possesses, is not able to be My disciple. (Luke 14:33 [BLB])

In which case, the rich man not only symbolizes the Jews who disbelieve and enrich themselves, but all who disbelieve and enrich themselves as opposed to merely believing and humbling themselves by becoming poor,

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; (1 Corinthians 1:26-27 [ESV])

Jesus said to him, If you want to be perfect, go away and sell your possessions, and give to poor ones! and you shall have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me! (Matthew 19:21 [ABP])

And although Hades and the lake of fire are two distinct places, to where even Hades itself is destroyed in the lake of fire,

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. (Revelation 20:14 [NIV])

The interpretation of why the rich man was in a flame, while also being in Hades,

In Hades… I am in agony in this fire.‘ (Luke 16:23-24 [NIV])

Is because the judgment of the lake of fire also pertains to those whom have died and gone to Hades, in which case the Jews who did not believe, and also all others who are symbolized by the rich man, that die and go to Hades, will then be resurrected in the second resurrection, where they will then be thrown into the lake of fire,

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:13 [NIV])

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 [NIV])

Whereas those who will sit with Abraham in the kingdom of the heavens will be the Gentiles,

I say to you that many will come from the east and the westto share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11 [BSB])

“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:28 [NIV])

Which is who Lazarus specifically symbolizes, the Gentiles, and is the Greek name for Eliezer, who was a servant in the household of Abramthat was not to be an heir of Abram,

And Abram says, Master, O LORD, what will you give to me, for I am wasting away childless, but the son of Masek of my native-born maid servant, this Damascus Eliezer is heir? (Genesis 15:2 [ABP])

Then the word of the LORD came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.” (Genesis 15:4 [NIV])

Yet the Gentiles who were not heirs,

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)– remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12 [NIV])

Have become the heirs of Abraham by belief and the blood of Jesus Christ,

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 [NIV])

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:7-8 [NIV])

And just as Isaac came forth by promise, the Gentiles, who walk by belief, have become the sons of promise through the promise that the Gentiles will be blessed through Abraham, in which case the Gentiles that believe are also symbolized by Isaac, who was born out promise that Sarah would bear a child, who was the free woman,

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. (Genesis 18:10 [NIV])

Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. (Galatians 4:28 [NIV])

But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.
(Galatians 4:23 [ESV])

Whereas the Jews who did not believe, who is symbolized by the rich man, are also symbolized by Ishmael, who was born of Hagar, who was the slave woman,

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is HagarNow Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. (Galatians 4:24-25 [NIV])

And just as the Jews who disbelieve and enrich themselves will be cast out, so were Ishmael and the slave woman cast out,

But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:30-31 [NIV])

And just as Lazarus was poor and suffered in his life,

At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. (Luke 16:20-21 [NIV])

So are the Gentiles, who walk by belief, also poor and receive sufferings,

Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:17 [NIV])

And the possessions and the things of substance they sold, and they divided them to all in so far as anyone had need. (Acts 2:45 [ABP])

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold (Acts 4:34 [ESV])

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3 [NIV])

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 [NIV])

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
 (Matthew 5:11-12 [NIV])

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Timothy 3:12 [ESV])

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:29 [ESV])

As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” (Romans 8:36 [ESV])

strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. (Acts 14:22 [NIV])

As opposed to those who the rich man symbolizes, which is those who disbelieve and exalt themselves with wealth and received good things in this life,

“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. (Luke 16:25 [NIV])

As such, the meaning of the name of Lazarus is “God is my help”, which correlates with the Gentiles who rely on God for help in the sufferings. Lazarus not only symbolizes the Gentiles, but also the Jews that did believe and humble themselves by becoming poor and received sufferings in the same manner as the Gentiles, since the Gentiles that do believe are part of the same olive tree of the Jews that also believe,

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you being a wild olive tree were engrafted in them, and became fellow-partakers of the root and the fatness of the olive tree, (Romans 11:17 [ABP])

As such, all who believe and humbled themselves, whether Jew or Gentile, will one day all be called Israel,

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; (Romans 11:25-26 [NIV])

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:28 [ESV])

And just as Lazarus died, and was then taken by angels to Abraham,

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. (Luke 16:22 [NIV])

So will all who believed and humbled themselves, which are all offspring of Abraham by belief, whether Jew or Gentile,

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (Galatians 3:7 -8[ESV])

Will also be resurrected and then gathered by angels to be brought where Jesus Christ will be at his second coming, which is where Abraham will also be, as he also will partake in the first resurrection,

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:28-29 [NIV])

Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (John 5:25 [NIV])

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:31 [NIV])

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 [NIV])

It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. (Romans 4:13 [NIV])

And just as the rich man spoke to Abraham, who was an heir of the world, after he died,

So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue…’ (Luke 16:24 [NIV])

So will those symbolized by the rich man also speak to those who inherited the world, for the elect who have inherited the earth are also appointed to judge the world, and will sit and also judge them,

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5 [NIV])

Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? (1 Corinthians 6:2 [NIV])

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28 [NIV])

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4 [NIV])

And just as the rich man did not receive any mercy from Abraham nor Lazarus, not even a drop of water,

So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ (Luke 16:24 [NIV])

So will the Jews who disbelieve, along with all others who the rich man symbolizes, will not receive mercy at their final judgment, but will be thrown into the lake of fire to be destroyed,

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 [NIV])

And just as a chasm is set between the rich man and Lazarus so that neither can cross over to either side,

And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ (Luke 16:26 [NIV])

So can those of the first resurrection that will sit with Abraham never die again,

And they will never die again. In this respect they will be like angels. They are children of God and children of the resurrection. (Luke 20:36 [NLT])

And not be hurt by the second death in the lake of fire,

Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Revelation 2:11 [NIV])

And those that are thrown into the lake of fire, which is a permanent destruction of body and soul, will subsequently never be able to cross over into where Abraham will be, which is also where Jesus Christ will be, as this judgment is final,

Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28 [NIV])

“And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind.” (Isaiah 66:24 [NIV])

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 4:1-3 [NIV])