Is this merely a parable or does it present a theological concept of the after life? It suggests that Jesus was saying people only get one chance. It further suggests that once a person dies, they await judgment in "Abraham's bosum" (heaven) or Hades (hell). Is this passage a refute to "soul sleep?"

  • The 'Parable of Lazarus and the Dives.' Feb 20 '17 at 15:41

The purpose of this parable is not to convey factual information about Heaven, Hell, or Abraham's bosom.

Rather the purpose of this parable of the conscience is to awaken an awareness of the dichotomy of choosing this world above the eternal one a relationship with YHWH presents.

In the parable the 'rich man' is rich in a worldly sense (Luke 16:19) but impoverished in a moral sense (since he did not share what he possessed Luke 16:21) whereas 'Lazarus' is rich in a moral sense but impoverished in a worldly sense (Luke 16:20).

The parable shows since this world is passing away and the eternal one remains, our actions now have eternal consequences.

Ironically Yehshua's parable contains secondary references to his own death and resurrection. The rich man asks to be sent back to warn his living brothers convinced they will listen to his warning, him having been raised from the dead.

In response he's told ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’ (Luke 16:31). Yehshua is saying that if they harden their ears to Moses and the Prophets even a miracle such as returning from dead won't convince them.


Among other things, the parable indicates that (a) the soul is conscious after death and that (b) man will be subject to a particular as well as a general judgment:

The state of the soul after death, according to the clear testimony of the word of God, is not unconscious but conscious (for example, according to the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16: 19– 31). After death man is subjected to a judgment which is called “particular” to distinguish it from the general Last Judgment. It is easy in the sight of the Lord to reward a man on the day of death according to his conduct, says the most wise son of Sirach (11: 26). The same thought is expressed by the Apostle Paul: It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb. 9: 27). The Apostle presents the judgment as something which follows immediately after the death of a man, and evidently he understands this not as the General Judgment, but as the Particular Judgment, as the Holy Fathers of the Church have interpreted this passage. Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Luke 23: 43), the Lord uttered to the repentant thief.

Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (3rd ed.), (St. Herman's Press, 2005), p. 331

  • So then - you're saying 'parables' convey specific truths? Or do they convey general truths through metaphor? If the latter - (a) can't be correct since it's specific*, and (b) appears to be a ***non-sequitur since the parable is about the relationship between the rich man and Lazarus during and after life, and not specifically about judgement.
    – user34445
    Feb 21 '17 at 21:30

I believe that a parable does not name names, so in this case it is not a parable and is showing us where the OT saints waited until the Lord came down to Sheol (the Paradise side) to collect them and share with them the Gospel, what He had done for them (and us) He then took Paradise up to Heaven, to await the believers spirits who have died and then the Rapture where all believers will have glorified bodies...my research is my teacher Arnold Fruchtenbaum


These 11 parables from Luke include the Greek word “τις” translated "certain"

  1. A certain moneylender had two debtors... (7:41-43)
  2. A certain lawyer... (10:25-37) rhetorical discussion
  3. The land of a certain rich man produced good crops... (12:16-21)
  4. A certain man had a fig tree... (13:6-9)
  5. A certain man was preparing a great banquet... (14:16-24)
  6. A certain man had two sons... (15:11-32)
  7. There was a certain landowner who planted... (20:9-18)
  8. There was a certain rich man who had a manager... (16:1-13)
  9. There was a certain rich man... (16:19-31)
  10. A certain nobleman went to distant country... (19:12-27)
  11. In a certain city there was a judge... (18:2-8)

These are all plausible observations of people in (albeit) precarious situations. One parable (10:25) is presented as an actual exchange between Jesus and another man.

The narration of these parables is by Jesus. And Jesus is attributed with following qualities:

  • the exact image, form and representation of the nature of God (Hebrews 1:3, Col 1:15, Phil 2:6),
  • the God for whom it is impossible to lie (Hebrews 6:18, Titus 1:2, Numbers 23:19),
  • and with whom there is no variation or shadow of shifting (James 1:17)

So, hermeneutically speaking, when the narrator (who cannot lie or deceive) begins a parable stating with twice certainty, using a proper name, and includes such vivid, random detail:

...there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, making good cheer in splendor every day. And a certain poor man named Lazarus, being full of sores, was laid at his gate and desiring to be fed from that falling from the table of the rich man; but even the dogs, coming, were licking his sores...

It's probably safe to assume that He is providing eye-witness testimony for the entirety of the parable and not just giving good moral counsel.

To your point: If one is willing to accept this parable in this context, yes, it directly contradicts the concept of "soul sleep"

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