Many so-called “Christians” paint a sadistic picture of God. But God is not a sadist. The bible clearly tells us that “God is Love.”
The bible clearly tells us that the “wages of sin are death.” But there is no verse in the bible which says that the wages of sin are death and eternal torture in a lake of fire.
Yes, there are many stories which use references such as “lake of fire” and “eternal punishment.” But these stories need to be examined in the context that they were written and for possible symbolic references.
One such story is the story of the Rich Man and Lazurus.
Let’s copy the bible story for you to read:
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
Some Christians argue that this story should be interpreted literally, and that it is a literal indicator of the reality of hell. But is this really so? Is this story really literal, or a parable?
Jesus often spoke in parables while He was on earth, and when he was asked why He spoke in parables, He responded that He did not want certain people to understand His message, but that some will.
Indeed, Jesus made it clear that His parables were not literal, but parables, and contained symbolic meaning.
If we were to interpret the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus as literal, then we can deduce the following:
- That all rich people are going to tell – watch yourself successful pastors! What about David, Moses, Abraham and Jacob who were all rich men close to God?
- That all destitute people are going to heaven. Even those who worship idols, perform witchcraft and were atheists?
- That it is possible for the people in hell to speak with the people in heaven. I do not know this, but I think it is very unlikely.
- That we go to hell or heaven right away – the bible makes it clear that we have to wait until the Judgement before going either to heaven or hell. It also makes it clear that the “dead is conscious of nothing.”
As Jesus told us in plain language, a parable is not meant to be interpreted on a literal level. In fact, here are the symbolic references that the parable might point to:
The rich man might represent the Jews who once had a close relationship with God. Lazarus might represent the gentiles who did not know God.
By the death and resurrection of Jesus, the tables turn and now the gentiles receive God’s kingdom through Jesus Christ.
By saying “even if one raised from the dead they would not believe,” Jesus might have making a reference to his future resurrection that even after raising from the dead many of the Jewish people will still not believe in Him.