Lazarus and the Rich Man: Can the Rich Man Repent and be Saved?

Some dismiss Christ’s story of Lazarus and the Rich man as a parable with no relation to reality. But parables always have relation to reality. For example, in the Luke 15:3-7 parable: the “hundred sheep” relate to “one hundred persons”; “the lost sheep who is found” to “the one sinner who repents”; the “friends and neighbors” on earth to “like inhabitants in heaven”; the “joy and rejoicing they have on earth” to “joy and rejoicing they have in heaven”. If parables had no relation to reality, they would be incoherent babble.

The Pharisees mocked Jesus when warned they could not serve God and Mammon (Luke 16:13-14). Jesus warns not a jot or tittle of the law they preferred above Him (Deut. 18:15, 18-19; Luke 16:16) would fail to be fulfilled (Luke 16:17), including punishments for their spiritual adultery with riches (Luke 16:13, 18).

Confirming the “rich man” symbolizes the Pharisees, Jesus begins the parable contradicting their belief Abraham would save them from Hades (Luke 16:23):

In the Hereafter Abraham will sit at the entrance of Gehinnom and will not allow any circumcised Israelite to descend into it. (Gen. R. XlVIII. 8.”)-A. Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, (Schocken Books, NY 1995), p. 381.

But Hades is temporary, it will be emptied of its souls (Rev. 20:13). Judgment Day is when eternal destiny is set, some rise to life and others to condemnation (John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13). Then Death and Hades are destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14).

Is Hades “just a holding cell” until Judgment Day or is it possible sinners repent and rise to a resurrection of life?

This question is not addressed in Jesus’ parable, a reversal of fortunes is. If timed, the entire scene would span a few minutes, and begin immediately upon the Rich Man’s death. Therefore, eternal destiny is not the theme. This parable’s focus is on the reversal of fortunes Lazarus and the Rich Man experience immediately after physical death. The Rich Man is tormented, but language used in the parable suggest these torments are not punishment only as it would first appear.

For example: The Rich Man’s spiritual “father” is Abraham (Lk. 16:24). Abraham confirms their relationship, the Rich Man is his “son, child” (Lk. 16:25). That is true only of God’s elect.

Our LORD used two different words TWICE to describe the Rich Man’s torment. Repeating things twice in Scripture is for emphasis. In Luke 16:24, 28 the “torment” (931 βάσανος basanos) is the kind that reveals truth. Torment for the sin of adultery with riches is why the Rich Man (Pharisee) is being tormented (Luke 16:13, 18). The parable is a warning not to end up like Rich Man. But even this torment that forces truth to be revealed has benefits beyond mere punishment.

The relationship with reality “torment βάσανος” is its cutting through the dross of self-deception so the truth of oneself (gold) is seen. The “sorrow ὀδυνάω” it produces would be purposeless if it did not have ultimate redemption in view.

In Luke 16:24, 25 a “flame” (5395 φλόξ phlox) causes the “agony” or “anguish” (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao), the “visible aspect of a fire that springs upward and is usually orange”(Logos Bible Sense Lexicon). God is revealed in the “flame” (Ex. 3:2; Judges 13:20; Isa. 66:15; Acts 7:30; 2 Thess. 1:8). Christ’s eyes are like “flames” of fire (Rev. 1:14; 19:12) symbolizing His deity just as “crowns” do His authority. This is not “torment with fire (4442 πῦρ pur)” felt by the Beast, False Prophet and Devil (Rev. 14:10; 20:10). This “torment” springs from a revelation of God and contains the aspect of “sorrow” (compare Luke 2:48; Acts 20:38).

God is revealed in the “flame”, the revelation of God’s light causes the agony. The sinner sees himself as he really is causing anguish and sorrow, real torment to the soul. But it is not the burning of fire as in punishment, therefore it has another purpose. The only other purpose for such sorrow is repentance. Godly repentance has ultimate salvation of the sorrowful in view.

The Rich Man is clearly sorrowful. If he were not, then he would be irredeemable. Confirming the Rich Man was not irredeemable, the redeemed in heaven want to comfort the Rich Man (Lk. 16:26). Feeling “pity” or “sorry” for the Rich Man would be rebellion against God’s judgment if it were punishment for sin (Deut. 19:21).

Moreover, the Rich Man’s concern for his family is implausible if he just learned his own torment would never end. Irredeemably wicked would insanely begin cursing God, Abraham and everyone else after learning no one would help them. Therefore, his rational demeanor and concern for his family is consistent with his still having hope for future relief.

Finally, it follows from God’s love for humanity (John 3:16) Hades is among the “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28) because the majority of these would be eternally lost if postmortem evangelization does not occur. Hades is an “intermediate state” before the final judgment, therefore its logical purpose is re-education, not judgment. If that is not so, from whence these who rise from Hades to a resurrection of life?

28 “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
29 “and come forth– those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (Jn. 5:28-29 NKJ)

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them…
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:13-15 NKJ)

John is viewing this terrifying event and observes only those NOT written in the book of life were cast into the Lake of Fire. For John to know that, he had to see those who WERE written in the book of life and notice they were NOT cast into the Lake of Fire.

So where did these Elect come from if they did not repent in Hades? They must be God’s Elect because their names were written in the book of life written since the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4; Rev. 13:8; 17:8). Therefore, they are God’s Elect predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Even Hades was one of the things working together for their good (Rom. 8:28-29). Therefore, Hades cannot be a place of torment for sin only, it must include a means for redemption from eternal death.

The elephant in the room? The incompetence required for a creator who produces over 90% defective product. If its incomprehensible men be so incompetent, how much more Omniscient God?

For all the above reasons the purpose of Hades is to evangelize the dead. Upon repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, it follows torment in Hades ends once God’s anger for sin is turned away (Isa. 12:1-2; 54:8; Ps. 30:5; 126:5).

In other words, once ‘judged according to men in the flesh, they live according to God in the Spirit’ (1 Pet. 4:6; Psa. 86:13; 139:8; Jonah 2:2). Although they remain in Hades until Judgment Day (Luke 16:26; compare 1 Cor. 5:5; John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13), it is likely in timeless sleeplike state (John 11:11) in God’s Spirit (1 Pet. 4:6) eagerly waiting (Heb. 9:29) for the Day of Christ (1 Cor. 5:5; John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13).

Catholic ideas about Purgatory are a corruption of the correct view given in the New Testament. The Elect in hades died as unbelievers, not believers. Isaiah 53:5 emphatically declares Christians are healed by Christ wounds. Upon death Christians (like Lazarus) are “gathered to their people” to “paradise” (Gen. 25:8; Lk. 16:22; 23:3; 2 Cor. 5:6-8) which is in “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2, 4; compare Rev. 6:9). Christians pass from death into life when they believe (John 5:24-25). Hades is for unbelievers, not believers. The Elect who die sinful rebels against God, get an “attitude adjustment” in Hades and then “live according to God in the Spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6).

Catholics cite 1 Cor. 3:15 for purgatory, but the fire does not purge the sinner, it burns up what was built upon the foundation of Christ “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw” (1 Cor. 3:12). The first three are precious materials that fire does not harm, the last easily consumed by fire. This is figurative for sound and unsound doctrine a teacher has built upon the foundation of Christ. Teachers are rewarded or stripped of rewards according to whether they taught correct doctrine. The imagery Paul used depicts a person fleeing a house that burns so quickly there is no time to carry out any possessions. “He will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire”. Stripped of all rewards, house destroyed by fire, he himself still has salvation because foundation of Christ was unscathed. (1 Cor. 3:11-15).

Also ruling out Catholic purgatory in that verse, the definite article in “the Day” (1 Cor. 3:13) shows Paul is referring to the special Judgment of believers (2 Cor. 5:10) who appear before the throne (Rev. 20:4) for deeds done while in the body (1 Cor. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:10). This occurs in heaven, not Hades (Rev. 20:4).

Confirming repentance and eventual salvation is possible for the elect in Hades, Jews who died enemies of the Gospel are still God’s Elect (Rom. 11:28) He will not forsake (Rom. 11:1). God’s election to predestination (Rom. 8:29), the gifts and calling of God; are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). Although they died enemies of the Gospel (Rom. 11:28), and so judged according to men in the flesh, they can choose to live according to God in the Spirit (1 Pet. 4:6), eagerly waiting (Heb. 9:28) for their Deliverer:

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob;
27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”
28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom. 11:26-29 NKJ)

At first read so all Israel will be saved seems limited to those of the circumcision, however a “greater Israel” exists that includes both Jew and Gentile children of Abraham, an “Israel of God” who are made one in Christ:

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. (Gal. 6:15-16 KJV)

Just as Jews who died enemies of the Gospel can rise from Hades to a resurrection of life, so also Gentiles after they confess Jesus is LORD and live according to God in the Spirit (1 Pet. 4:6):

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Gal. 3:28-4:1 NKJ)

When God’s mercy and love, His righteous judgments are made manifest, all the earth will see His glory and cry out:

Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested.” (Rev. 15:4 NKJ)

Lest God lose even one of those He foreknew were His, God predestines them to salvation, even if they must go through the torments of Hell first, to bring them to their senses:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
34 “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?”
35 “Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
(Rom. 11:33-36 NKJ)

Hence it is written only those not the Elect who rise from Death and Hades, are cast into the Lake of Fire:

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:13-15 NKJ)

All who refuse God’s offer of salvation are judged according to their works. Their blood is upon their own head, God went the “extra mile” trying to save these, but their free will choice was to be evil. The Torments of Hades are an act of God’s love, His going “the extra mile” even trying to save those who He knew in His omniscience, would never love Him.

I believe He did this for OUR sake. He knew they would not repent, but for all eternity the redeemed would question to themselves, ‘if only God did a little more, might some of them have recanted their perverse love for evil and be saved?'” Therefore, God lets their refusal to repent and be saved despite the torments of hades, answer that question.

The Elect In Hell Are Not Cast Into The Lake of Fire

Predestination unto Salvation: Was Divine Election Conditional or Unconditional?

God’s Plan for the Lost

Preaching to the Dead

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