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

lazarus and the rich man
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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.

But we must reject the classic Catholic approved interpretation favored by many Protestants that Hell/Hades is a place of eternal torment for those who die unsaved. That is impossible as Hades will be emptied of its dead and destroyed in the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:13-14).

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. (Rev. 20:13-14 NKJ)

When the Pharisees derided Christ’s teaching about money (Lk. 16:13-14), Christ responded blasting their hypocrisy (Lk. 16:15) citing as proof their disobedience to Moses, they refused to follow Him as did the people (Lk. 16:16; Deut. 18:18-19). Not one of the curses for those who disobey the Law would fail to be fulfilled (Lk. 16:17-18), including punishment for their liberal view of divorce (Lk. 16:18).

Among the Pharisees two main schools of thought emerged, the conservative school of Shammai, the more liberal school of Hillel:

A. The House of Shammai say, “A man should divorce his wife only because he has found grounds for it in unchastity,
B. “since it is said, ‘Because he has found in her indecency in anything’ (Deut. 24:1).”
C. And the House of Hillel say, “Even if she spoiled his dish,
D. “since it is said, ‘Because he has found in her indecency in anything.’ ”
E. R. Aqiba says, “Even if he found someone else prettier than she, since it is said, ‘And it shall be if she find no favor in his eyes’ (Deut. 24:1).”-Neusner, J. (2011). The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Vol. 11b, p. 404). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

The mockers must have been of the school of Hillel. That is confirmed when Christ rejects their teaching Abraham stands at the Entrance of Hades to prevent circumcised Israelites from descending into it:

“In the Hereafter Abraham will sit at the entrance of Gehinnom and will not allow any circumcised Israelite to descend into it.”- Genesis Rabbah XLVIII. 8

[But the school of Shammai believed otherwise:]

“‘Passing through the valley of weeping’ (Ps. lxxxiv. 6), i.e. they who are sentenced for a time in Gehinnom; and Abraham our father comes and takes them out and receives them…”-Erubin 19a.-Abraham Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud (Schocken Books, NY, 1995), pp 381, 382

Catholic-Protestant confirmation bias that refuses to accept scripture teaching repentance in Hell is possible must be rejected as unsound.

Scripture where repentance in Hell is presumed, implied or explicitly stated:

(1Sam. 2:6-10; 2Sam. 22:5-7; Ps. 16:10-11; 30:3; 49:15; 56:14; 68:18-20; 71:19-24; 86:13; 88:1-18; 107:10-15; 116:3-9; 118:17-18; 139:8; Isa. 4:4; 26:19-21; Lam. 3:25; Hos. 13:14; Jon. 2:2-6; Mic. 7:7-9; Zec. 9:11; John 5:28-29; 1 Pt. 3:18-22; 4:6; 1 Cor. 5:5; Eph. 4:8-10; Heb. 9:27-28; Rev. 20:11-15 )

And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the LORD, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice. (Jon. 2:2 KJV)

I called on Your name, O LORD, From the lowest pit (0953 בּוֹר bowr). (Lam. 3:55 NKJ)

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit (0953 בּוֹר bowr), out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. (Ps. 40:1-3 KJV)

As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit (0953 בּוֹר bowr) wherein is no water. (Zec. 9:11 KJV) Compare Luke 16:24

The Rich Man and Lazarus parable was a warning to the Pharisees their idolatry/spiritual adultery with money would land them in Hades (Luke 16:13-18). But of course, its truth applies to everyone:

22 “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 “And being in torments (931 βάσανος basanos) in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 “Then he cried and said, `Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao) in this flame (5395 φλόξ phlox).’
25 “But Abraham said, `Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted (3870 παρακαλέω parakaleo) and you are tormented (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao). (Lk. 16:22-25 NKJ)

If the “torment” (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao) Dives was experiencing was the classic idea of hell-fire, he would ask for more than a little water to cool his tongue. Odunao here refers to mental anguish (Luke 2:48; 16:25; Acts 20:38). Its antithesis is parakaleo ‘to be consoled for sorrow’ like Lazarus (Lk. 16:25).

Christ chose the word “torment” (931 βάσανος basanos) to describe the Torment in Hades:

Meaning: 1) a touchstone, which is a black siliceous stone used to test the purity of gold or silver by the colour of the streak produced on it by rubbing it with either metal 2) the rack or instrument of torture by which one is forced to divulge the truth.-Strong’s Concordance

This “torment” is the kind that brings truth to the surface, resulting in “anguish” and “sorrow” (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao cp. Acts 20:38) for sin. The imagery of purging from sin is common in the Old Testament (Zech. 13:9; Ps. 51:7; 66:10; Isa. 1:25; 6:7; 48:10; Ezek. 24:13; Dan. 11:35):

2 “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire And like launderer’s soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, And purge them as gold and silver, That they may offer to the LORD An offering in righteousness. (Mal. 3:2-3 NKJ)

In Luke 16:24 the “flame” (5395 φλόξ phlox) causes the “agony” or “anguish” (3600 ὀδυνάω odunao). The Rich Man is being purged (Mal. 3:3; Job 23:10; Zech. 13:9 cp. 1 Pet. 1:7) by the “flame of God’s inspection”: “His eyes like a flame” (Rev. 1:14; 2:18; 19:12). The “flame” is 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 LXX; Acts 7:30; 2 Thess. 1:8).

The “torments of Hades” are designed to bring the true person to the surface, liberate their free will from all bondage to sin and delusion. After suffering for their sins “judged according to men in the flesh”, if they choose to believe the gospel preached to them in Hades they will “live according to God in the Spirit” apart from any torment, eagerly waiting for the Second Coming of Christ when they will rise with the dead in Christ [2]:

6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. (1 Pet. 4:6 NKJ)

[Compare the similar wording in 1 Peter 3:18 θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκί, ζῳοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit”. This implies the “trial/judgment/torment” in hades ends” when they repent and “live according to God in the Spirit” (ζῶσιν δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι). Their “spirit” quickened is now abiding surrounded by the Holy Spirit (Compare ἐν ᾧ καὶ “in which also” 1 Pet. 3:19) shielded from any torments.]

After death is a trial, a judgement, so Christ was offered to bear their sins to make possible they pass the Trial by believing the gospel preached to the dead (1 Pet. 6:4) and then eagerly wait for Christ’s return, for salvation.

27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment,[1]
28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Heb. 9:27-28 NKJ)

Context confirms the torments in Hades have redemption in view. The Rich Man is clearly sorrowful. He has Christian like concern for his family, that they not end up like he. Moreover, the redeemed in heaven want to comfort the Rich Man (Lk. 16:26), but that would be out of place if he were irredeemably wicked and was being punished eternally for sin. That would be rebellion against God’s judgment (compare: Deut. 19:21).

If the Rich Man knew his torment was eternal, if he were irredeemably wicked the entire conversation is irrational. Its much more likely he would curse God and Abraham and everyone else. Therefore, his rational demeanor, his concern for his family are 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.[4]

That fits the scripture revealing God is in Hades, no doubt to save as many as He can:

If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.(Ps. 139:8 NKJ)

And he said: “I cried out to the LORD because of my affliction, And He answered me. “Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. (Jon. 2:2 NKJ)

18 You have ascended on high, You have led captivity captive; You have received gifts among men, Even from the rebellious, That the LORD God might dwell there.
19 Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah
20 Our God is the God of salvation; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death. (Ps. 68:18-20 NKJ)

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).

The purpose of Hell is to liberate those who are slaves to sin, restoring their free will so they can choose life in Christ rather than eternal death. Having been “judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6), compare the similar wording in 1 Peter 3:18 θανατωθεὶς μὲν σαρκί, ζῳοποιηθεὶς δὲ πνεύματι “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit”. This implies the “trial/judgment/torment” in hades ends”[3] when they repent and “live according to God in the Spirit” (ζῶσιν δὲ κατὰ θεὸν πνεύματι). Their “spirit” quickened and now abiding in the sphere of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 139:8; Jonah 2:2). Now that their “judgment” ended they eagerly wait for the return of Christ (Heb. 9:27-28) when their “spirit will be saved in the Day of the lord Jesus (cp. 1 Cor. 5:5) either rising with all the dead on Judgment Day (Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:13; Da. 12:2) or at His coming. [2]

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 (Luke 16:26), when they repent and believe the gospel preached they live according to God in His Spirit apart from torments eagerly waiting for the Return of Christ (1 Pet. 4:6; Heb. 9:27-28; 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Thess. 4:15-18). Like Lazarus they are in a restful state.

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)

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)

END NOTES
[1]

27 Καὶ καθ᾽ ὅσον ἀπόκειται τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἅπαξ ἀποθανεῖν, μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο κρίσις·
28 οὕτως καὶ ὁ χριστός, ἅπαξ προσενεχθεὶς εἰς τὸ πολλῶν ἀνενεγκεῖν ἁμαρτίας (Heb. 9:27-28
BYZ)

The article doesn’t appear before krisis so this does not refer to “the Judgment” before the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11). The parallel with humans is elegance with a twist. Both Christ and humans were appointed to die once for sins. His death is a sacrifice for our sins, while our death for our sins. The Divine “determination” or “Judgment” is we bear their cost in Hades, but the Divine “determination” for Christ’s sacrifice is He became our Redeemer who takes away the sins of the many who repent and “live according to God in the Spirit” (1 Pet. 4:6). That is why these human dead eagerly wait in Hades for the coming of Christ a second time apart from sins when He will raise them from the dead in Salvation:

so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation. (Heb. 9:28 NKJ)

[2]
It is possible those who died and repented before Christ’s Second Coming rise with the church (Consistent with the precedence set in 1 Pet. 3:18-22; Eph. 4:8 compare 1 Thess. 4:13-18); but its possible they must wait until Judgment Day (Dan. 12:2; John 5:28-29; Rev. 20:11-15; Compare Luke 16:26 but see Mt. 19:26). Perhaps the most likely scenario is a combination, those who repented before Christ’s coming rise with the Church’s dead at His coming, those who repent after rising on Judgment Day. That is consistent with all these scriptures. As for the wicked who die during the Millennial Kingdom, including those with Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:7-9), they die “accursed” (Isa. 65:20) and so rise to a resurrection of condemnation.

[3]
Objections have been raised on two grounds. 1) Faith in Christ is a gift and not a “work” (Eph 2:8-9); 2) There is no work possible in Hell (Eccl. 9:10).

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Heb. 11:1 NKJ)

1). Faith without “seeing” “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1) is materially different than faith in what one sees (John 20:29). Christ calls those having faith in Him because they saw Him “a work” therefore those obeying Christ’s preaching in Hades can be saved:

28 Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (Jn. 6:28-29 NKJ)

2). No works in the grave like building houses, making money or getting married or any of the other works related to the “vanities of life”. This scripture does NOT rule out all works in the grave:

9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.
10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going (Eccl. 9:9-10 NKJ)

[4]

And if any (εἴ τις) was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:15 ASV)

James Boyer incorrectly includes Revelation 20:15 εἴ τις (if any) in his “Corpus of First Class Conditions in the NT” discussing its use in discourse:

If the first class condition states or implies the actual truth, then it could not possibly be used by Christ to say, “If [or according to this view, since] I by Beelzebub cast out demons…(Matt 12:27), nor “Since I do not do the deeds of my father…” (John 10:37), nor “Since I have spoken evil…” (John 18:23). Paul could not have written “Since there is no resurrection…” (1 Cor 15:13), nor “Since Christ is not raised…” (1 Cor 15:14). These are not isolated, peculiar examples; they represent 12% of all the first class conditions in the NT. It is simply not true that first conditions indicate the external objective truth or reality of the condition.-First Class Conditions: What Do They Mean?”(Grace Theological Journal Vol 2, p.75)

Revelation 20:15 isn’t discussion, it is a prose report of what is being seen by John. This is NOT a conditional argument, John is reporting what he saw as a statement of fact. Therefore, when John notices “if any was not found written in the book of life he was cast into the lake of fire” it implies some raised from Hades were written in the book of life and therefore not cast into the lake of fire. Why express it negatively? Whether the multitude of Gog and Magog (Rev. 20:8-9) are judged first (cp. Mt. 20:16) or last, the impression of so many not written in the book of life and cast into the lake of fire would be searing, set the tone for the entire horror.

God’s Plan for the Lost
Elect Rise From Hell On Judgment Day?
Preaching to the Dead (Postmortem Evangelism)
Does the Lake of Fire Symbolize Eternal Torment for all cast into it?
Jesus Preached to the Dead
What did the apostle John reveal when he said: “It is the last hour”?
Where Is The Judgment Of Fallen Angels?
The Origin of Satan and Demons
The Coming False Christ and His Followers Revealed
How can we survive the coming Apocalypse?


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