In the Gospel of Luke, we read of the rich man and Lazarus:

Luke 16:25-26, NAS: “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. 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’" (emphasis added).

How might we understand what this "great chasm" actually is? For example, could this be symbolic of:
1. Sin and godlessness;
2. Time versus timelessness (e.g. "spirits now in prison", 1 Pet. 3:19);
3. Something else analogous to the above?

(NOTE: This question has nothing to do with the identities of the parties involved.)

5 Answers 5


We can not know what or how spiritual dimensions operate. We are limited to what we can perceive via our physical senses, and then from that deduce via our reasoning. Going beyond that we enter the realm of the imagination, and then anything can result.

We can only go by what we are told. And what we are told in this account is that there is an impassable chasm.

Greek chasma - only used once, and indicates an interval, that is, it’s more of a dimensional aspect as opposed to a physical aspect (e.g. distance).

And then there’s the debate about this passage, literal? parable?

Elsewhere we are told that angels are ‘chained’, or ‘bound’ - how does that work? The issue is that we are told about these spiritual ‘pictures’, or ‘happenings’, but we need them explained in a way we can relate to - that is, using physical terms - because we know what these mean.


Is it possible that the chasm between the two be could be symbolic of belief versus unbelief in Gods word?

I know you only wanted to know what the chasm could be but felt it necessary to explain a possibility for this answer.

Throughout these parables the audience is composed of tax gathers, sinners, Pharisees, scribes and His disciple. Luke 15:1-2 and Luke 16:1

The Story of the rich man and Lazarus is directed to the Pharisees.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:14 <

It is in this story that Jesus is talking to them where the chasm is mentioned.

The very last sentence in the story is that if they did not listen to Moses and the prophets neither will they be persuaded is someone rises from the dead. Luke 16:31

After that verse Jesus turns directly to his disciples saying that stumbling blocks should come, but woe to him through whom they come. Jesus goes on to say it would be better for them to die in the sea than to cause one of the little ones to stumble. The little ones are the tax gathers and sinners listening too the parables

I wonder if Jesus is teaching his disciples that are going to be shepherds over his flock to be careful of these Pharisees who will never come to believe in Jesus even though he rises from the dead because of their unbelief.

Jesus is basically giving authority to his disciples over the Pharisees that has been leading Israel for a long time… But they have been blind and don't even know it.

They are never going to believe at this time so don't waste your time to convert them… The chasm has been set because of the hardness and unbelief of their heart. Be careful of them because their unbelief in God has been exposed to you through this story.

Could the chasm be unbelief that is separating them at this time?


Luke 16:1–13 tells the story of The Unrighteous Steward: "… There was a certain rich man …", and 14–18 deals with the Pharisees' reaction.

Luke 16:19–end continues with The Rich Man and Lazarus: "There was a certain rich man …".

Luke 17 begins with advice about forgiveness, and then verses 5–10 talk about Faith as a Mustard Seed and The Master and Servant.

These are obviously all parables, and are listed as such in most lists of Jesus's parables. Even so, many people want to understand The Rich Man and Lazarus as a literal story rather than as a parable. And moreover, having removed it from its context, they can then use this made-up story as "proof" of non-Biblical doctrine.

Just as modern sermons might illustrate a point by referring to common memes from say the Harry Potter stories, Jesus could very well have been using popular Greek or Roman mythology to illustrate his point, not expecting disciples to take it as literal truth.

  • Ray, Good points you made. That is one of the reasons I looked at the chasm differently. Scripture always says when you're dead you're dead and don't know anything. There are many that build a doctrine of hell based on this parable. A simple story illustrating a moral or religious lesson. Upvoted
    – Sherrie
    Commented Oct 3, 2021 at 21:39

How might we interpret the "great chasm" from the account of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:26, NASB)?

The Law of Moses was given to the Israelites shortly after they left Egypt, the rich man (class) represents the religious leaders, the Sadducees, and scribes who were favored with the "Law" a great spiritual privilege. The Lazarus class represented the common people, who hungered for spiritual nourishment.

The New Covenant that Jesus makes with his faithful followers,

Luke 22:20 NASB

20 And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant in My blood.

"The Great Chasm" Is the change in God's favor.

On Pentecost 33 C.E. Jesus poured God's spirit on about 120 of his followers, this replace the old Law covenant with the new covenant. Now it was clear that Jesus' disciples were favored by God, and not the religious leaders and the Pharisees. The change in God's favor is the symbolic "great chasm" that separates the rich man class from Jesus' disciples.


The subject reveals the answer. A Greek word study is important here too. (2 Timothy 2:15).

The overall message is the place and state of departed souls ***.

But to be exact Luke 16:23 "hell" here is Hades; and its only real Bible meaning is grave; pertaining to a decay of body.


Acts 2:31 (kjv) He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.(1 Corinthians 15:53 kjv).

(Its Hebrew equivalent is Sheol in Psalm 16:10). Paul would say of the body : corruptible or incorruption of the bodies ressurection (1 Thess 4:15 (prevent = precede).

The divide is a illustration of place and State. To draw on Paul's wording of this exact subject ; a person stands at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Not The Lake of Fire). But Paradise. To either immortality or to remain mortal until The Judgment Day (Revelation 20).

2 Corinthians 5:10

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

Paul here introduces a different subject (bold Type) of the Soul :

1 Corinthians 15:53  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. ( Hence The Divide in Jesus's teaching)

It maybe good to know the Greek for these words: Mortal -

G2349 θνητός thnētos thnay-tos' From G2348; liable to die: - mortal (-ity).

(At Judgment Day).

And immortality -

G110 ἀθανασία athanasia ath-an-as-ee'-ah From a compound of G1 (as a negative particle) and G2288; deathlessness: - immortality.

Luke 16:26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

This is further made clear by The Rich mans request for water that exist across this Divide. Immediately this should remind The Christian of Jesus's teachings in parables.

John 4:14 (kjv) But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.**

Greek solidifies this further:

Luke 16:23  And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

G931 βάσανος basanos bas'-an-os Perhaps remotely from the same as G939 (through the notion of going to the bottom); a touch stone, that is, (by analogy) torture: - torment.

Touch Stone NOUN 1 A piece of fine-grained dark schist or jasper formerly used for testing alloys of gold by observing the color of the mark which they made on it.

‘Small black stones were used as touchstones to test the colour, and hence purity, of gold.’

Example sentence: A standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized. ‘they tend to regard grammar as the touchstone of all language performance’

The Rich mans life was Judged and found lacking value for Eternal life.

1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Revelation 3:18 “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

This burning in flame, is one of analogy to pure emotions of falling short of Gods standard. In Paradise/Heaven his sins are revealed.

It is this feeling within self , while in naked view of Gods Majesty who he neglected in life and who will Judge Him after The Lords Day concludes.

That burns him in regret guilt and shame. In the presence of all those who overcome that are happy there . It is this that torments the rich man. Not from God, nor of Satan. But self, in The Light revealing the darkness in man that Only Christ can cleanse.

In closing I'll compare the difference to another Greek word:

Matthew 10: 26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.

27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.

28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Verse 28 hell is Gehenna. Following the Subject related to Revelation 20. In our Lord's day the idolatry had ceased (Jeremiah 7:31 kjv), but the fires were still continually burning there for the destruction of the refuse of Jerusalem. Hence, geenna was used for the fires of destruction associated with the judgment of God.

The Great White Throne Judgment not having taken place Yet as in the order of Gods plans. The rich main is very much alive as God is not the God of the dead, but Living. Albeit those in the rich mans state, are dead in a spiritual sense being mortal. Seeing as even Satan is very much alive and the continual accuser (Revelation 12:10) until he meets his fate in The Lake.

Closing Notes consider

Luke 23:43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

1 Peter 3: 18 For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:

19 By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

Romans 6:22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Ill add this verse in and now should be more readily understood:

Daniel 12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

The everlasting part only applies to those who perish. As if a everlasting proverb. Ashes to Ashes and smoke to smoke. A soul bottled is never reconstituted.

Psalms 37:20 But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away.

Obviously with ALL sequence of teachings and events accounted for.

Licking the dust is also used in the bible sometimes for a moral state of degradation.

Ex. Isaiah 49:23


Micah 7:17 They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the LORD our God, and shall fear because of thee.

I had fun typing up this study and notes. I hope it Helps someone. John.

  • 1
    Thanks for your response. However, I would respectfully suggest that it would be prudent to differentiate between a few things. First, Hades is not Hell. Hades is temporal while Hell is eternal. Second, all human beings possess a spirit. That which is "corrupted" is the physical body, upon death. The spirit (our mind, consciousness, etc.) persists either in paradise or everlasting torment. You may wish to see my post here on Judgment.
    – Xeno
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 0:53
  • The make up of a spirit and How the bible defines this, was not what you asked about. My reply was to the divide specifically . I'd suggest do a greek word study and Bible study for how the word is used by scriptures. Also alot of what you said I already stated in the text. Your reply suggests to me ; you have over read a lot of what I wrote there. Or did not recognize what was shared.. ( Which makes me wonder if I should reply next time )? Id consider re reading it. Regardless I enjoyed studying this myself. Have a goodday .
    – W_R
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 0:59
  • I want to clarify, I Never said simply Hades is Hell. So very confusing how you could possibly conclude that , after reading my study ? I'm rather concerned with some courtesy as to my studies helpfulness providing information to enlightened to Bible truths about the question you raised. Not interested in stuff i didn't even write about or new questions not raised in your Original post.
    – W_R
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 1:17
  • 1
    Apologies if you took my comment the wrong way. I wasn't criticizing as much as differentiating between Hell/Hades and Body/Spirit. There's no need to take any of this personally. I've noticed that you have posted quite a few good responses. :)
    – Xeno
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 1:29
  • @Xeno yea no problem.
    – W_R
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 1:50

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