Lk 16 19-31 A Literal Hell CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
Lk 16:19-31 is a passage that gives the reader a lot of information about a literal Hell. For this reason that many pastors and teachers teach that the passage is a parable. Many of them don’t believe in a literal hell.
The first way we know that this passage is not a parable is that, most often, when Jesus used a parable to illustrate something, the Bible says, “he spake a parable unto them,” (Lk 6:39) or “Now learn a parable,” (Mk 13:28). No such statement is made by the Lord or by the Bible that this is a parable. Yet the words parable and parables are used 47 times in the New Testament gospels alone!
The second way we know this is not a parable is that, while Jesus refers to “a certain rich man” and “a certain beggar” (Lk 16:19-20) like he did in some parables (compare Matt 21:33, 22:2, for example), he actually gives you the name of the beggar, Lazarus (Lk 16:20). Furthermore, Lazarus’ name is used by both the rich man and Abraham to refer to the beggar when he is in Abraham’s bosom (Lk 16: 24-25). Jesus never gives names to the characters in parables.
The third way that we know this is not a parable is that Ezekiel got the same reaction when he preached on hell in Eze 20:45-48. When he concluded his prophecy, he remarked to the Lord, “Ah Lord God! They say of me, Doth he not speak parables?” (Eze 20:49). The infidels who refuse to believe in a literal hell confess that preaching about such a place is merely fiction.
Nevertheless, notice something interesting about parables. A parable is a similitude of something which might actually occur in life by which a moral is drawn. Jesus used parables to teach his disciples and to preach to the Jews. The thing to note about Jesus’ parables is that they were always true concerning the similes he used. For instance, the parable of the sower in Matt 13 is true concerning sowing seed. Likewise, the parable of the mustard seed is true, as is the parable of the leaven. So is the parable of the householder who planted a vineyard and the parable of the fig tree.
Therefore, if the passage in question were a parable, the things said about hell in the passage would still be true. A man could not conclude that there is not a literal hell by simply declaring that the passage is a parable. The elements of the parable are all true as are the elements of other parables. I mentioned this truth about parables to a Jehovah’s Witness, who testified that Lk 16:19-31 was a parable. I asked him, “So, what great truth was Jesus trying to teach that would have been harder to understand than the parable he used to teach it?” He answered, “He was trying to teach that the Pharisees were hypocrites.” I laughed and reminded him that Jesus didn’t need to speak in parables to teach them that truth (Matt 23).
Now look what we learn about Hell from the passage.
Souls are alive. After the rich man’s body was buried in the grave, he was still alive in hell (vs. 22-23). Thus, his soul was down there in hell (Matt 10:28). Notice his soul has the characteristics of his body (eyes, voice, tongue, fingers, and senses). Hence the soul looks just like the body; though it would be invisible to our sight.
Souls burn. There it remains, tormented by flames of fire forever, with no way to escape. The rich man was tormented (Lk 16:23-25); he was hot (Lk 16:24); he was without mercy (Lk 16:24); he was without water (Lk 16:24); he was in flames of fire (Lk 16:24); he was comfortless (Lk 16:25); he was stuck there with no way to get out (Lk 16:26); and his prayers went unanswered (Lk 16:27).
Souls go down. We know from other passages that hell is down in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). When lost men die, their souls go straight to hell, just like the rich man did (Matt 23:33, Mk 9:43-48). There they will remain until they are brought out for judgment at the White Throne (Rev 20:13). Then, they will be cast into the lake of fire (Rev 20:15; Rev 21:8) to burn forever.
And notice what we learn about Abraham’s Bosom.
Saved souls went there. When Old Testament saints died, right up to and including the thief on the cross, they went into Abraham’s bosom. Abraham’s bosom was, likewise, in the heart of the earth, separated from hell by a great gulf that kept those in hell from getting into Abraham’s bosom and those in Abraham’s bosom from going to hell. When Jesus died on the cross, his soul went into the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40). He was both in hell (Acts 2:27, 31) and in Abraham’s bosom with the thief on the cross and all the other Old Testament saints (Lk 23:43). After Jesus was raised from the dead, he took the souls of those saints in Abraham’s bosom with him to heaven (Eph 4:8-10).
Conclusion: Lk 16:19-31 is not a parable and the things said about hell are real. Therefore, if you are saved, rejoice that you will not go there (2 Cor 5:4-8). Also, be sure to not keep this great salvation to yourself. Tell others not to go there (Lk 16:28). However, if you are lost, by all means, trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, because without him you are on your way to a place of torment, forever.