Category Archives: HEAVEN & HELL

Why are lost people not judged for their works immediately after physical death?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in Revelation 20:11-15: “[11] And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. [12] And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. [13] And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. [14] And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. [15] And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”

In verses 12-13, the dead are “judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works… they were judged every man according to their works.” This occurs at the Great White Throne Judgment, not immediately after physical death. When unsaved people (those without Jesus Christ) die and go to Hell today, they are not judged according to their works. There is a great delay until Judgment Day. Why?

The Great White Throne Judgment (see passage above) will occur after the 1,000 years (Millennial Reign—see Revelation 20:1-10). Those 1,000 years will follow the seven-year Tribulation and Second Coming of Christ (see Revelation chapters 1–19). The seven-year Tribulation will come after the Rapture (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:9 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13). The Rapture will conclude the Dispensation of Grace (see prior Thessalonian verses). In other words, there is a long time between physical death and lost people being judged according to their works. Why is there a delay between suffering in Hell and being sentenced to agonize in the Lake of Fire? Why are the unsaved not instantly judged after death and immediately enter the Lake of Fire?

It is really quite simple. Lost people’s “works” are not over yet. Although they may be physically dead, their writings remain with us even now, their policies still affect us, the religions they invented remain, and so on. They are still inflicting damage on society, still misleading the masses, and still promoting Satan’s policy of evil. These are their “works,” although they are no longer physically present here on Earth. God is letting the fruit of their work bear out entirely. Until all that influence is destroyed with the present heaven and earth (see Revelation 20:11), the degree of eternal penalty of the lost will not be determined.

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Also see:
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?
» Why did God not accept Cain’s sacrifice?
» Why did God judge Nadab and Abihu so strictly?

How are the Beast and the False Prophet “cast alive” into the Lake of Fire?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Revelation 19:20 says as pertaining to the Second Coming of Christ, “And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” How are the Beast and the False Prophet “cast alive” into the Lake of Fire? Does that mean they will be unconscious once they wind up in there?

When the Bible text says thus, it means that the Beast and the False Prophet will not experience physical death before entering the spiritual realm. They will be alive on Earth and Jesus Christ (at His Second Coming) will suddenly pick them up physically and toss them right into the Lake of Fire. In other words, there will be no burial for either, and thus no bodily trace of them left on the planet. They will not defile the Earth once the Second Coming occurs; namely, their graves will not even be here to corrupt the Promised Land.

These two men, the Beast (Antichrist, political leader) and the False Prophet (religious leader), will have deceived the world for the seven years leading up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Now, they will experience the wrath of God, eternal judgment, in the Lake of Fire and Brimstone (Sulfur).

Even after 1,000 years in the Lake of Fire, they will still exist. They will not be consumed, for the fire will preserve them! Look at Revelation 20:10: “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet ARE, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” You will notice in the earlier nine verses that 1,000 years have passed since the close of chapter 19 (our study’s opening verse). Stated another way, it is a millennium later that Satan himself meets the fate of the Beast and the False Prophet. They three, along with all of God’s other enemies (unsaved mankind and fallen angels), will “be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” There is no ended punishment; it is a literal eternity of suffering, full consciousness! If you want to see the human element added to the Lake of Fire, look at verses 11-15.

Perhaps this may help you better understand the Beast and the False Prophet being cast alive into the Lake of Fire. Remember, there are other people who do not die in Scripture. For example, Elijah never died physically—he was caught up alive into Heaven (2 Kings 2:11). Neither did Enoch die physically—he too simply went to be with God (Genesis 5:23-24). Members of the Church the Body of Christ who are alive at the Rapture (future) will never experience physical death either (1 Corinthians 15:51-54—“we shall not all sleep [die physically];” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17—“we which are alive and remain… we which are alive and remain…”). As Elijah, Enoch, and the living Church the Body of Christ meet eternal bliss without enduring physical death, so the Beast and the False Prophet meet eternal damnation without experiencing physical death!

Also see:
» Are 2 Thessalonians 1:9 and Revelation 14:10 contradictory?
» Did Pharaoh drown in the Red Sea?
» How can a “loving” God send people to hell forever?

Is Hell almost full?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Lord Jesus Christ revealed some staggering truths in Matthew 7:13-14: “[13] Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: [14] Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Understandably, people dislike the Bible here. They want to believe that everyone is God’s child, and that everyone will go to Heaven eventually (an incorrect idea known as “universalism”). Therefore, they dismiss the ideas of Hell, divine wrath, God’s judgment against sin, justice in the afterlife, as fiction. However, if we are to be Bible believers, we must face the truth of the Bible and believe the truth of the Bible. Jesus Christ said more about Hell than He did about Heaven. Hell is indeed the real, eternal fate of all who die without faith in Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for their sins.

We can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, cover to cover, and find the majority always going against God. At any and every point in human history, we find just a very small fraction of believers when compared to the global, national, or municipal human population. Remember, for example, the eight believers on the Ark during the Great Flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 7:7; 2 Peter 2:5). Where were the millions—if not billions—of other people on the globe? Why, they perished in God’s wrath, being drowned in the floodwaters! There were less than 10 believers in the whole city of Sodom (Genesis 18:32; Genesis 19:24-25)! Consider the 7,000 believers in the whole nation Israel in Elijah’s day (1 Kings 19:18)! Think of the approximately 120 believers in Jerusalem after Christ’s three-year earthly ministry (Acts 1:20)! We could go on and on and on, but we trust the point has been made with these Scriptures.

So, the Holy Bible causes us to conclude that Hell is real place. The Holy Bible also shows us that many people have gone there in history, many are going there today, and many will go there in the future. When we think about the Lord Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter 7, and the above sample verses, that leads us to only one conclusion. There are billions of people in Hell today—and billions more will eventually arrive there! Of course, the questions naturally follow. Has Hell almost reached its capacity? Will Hell ever run out of room?

Hell is a spiritual place; we cannot see it with physical eyes or touch it with physical hands. As we know, the dimension in which it is situated is not the same as the dimension in which we exist. Whatever laws are appropriate here are not necessarily applicable there: we cannot take the laws of physics and nature that are true here in this dimension and make them fit another dimension. We do not know enough about the spiritual world. Personally, I have never been there, and neither have you, and all we have is the Bible’s testimony that Heaven is real and Hell is real. While there are various things in the spiritual world that we would recognize—fire, chariots, weapons, trees, water, animals, light, darkness, musical instruments, governmental organization (crowns, thrones), bread, et cetera—other elements we would not know or understand. There is no limit of time, for example. (When you think about it, endless time is the most unsettling aspect of Hell.)

When we wonder if Hell is going to run out of room, we are thinking of it from our physical point-of-view. We think of a physical building being able to hold only so many flesh-and-blood bodies before it reaches capacity. However, Hell is not like that (for the Bible is true that Hell can hold all of God’s enemies). We do not know the size of a human soul other than it is smaller than the physical body that houses it. A human soul could be the size of a human hand… or the size of the period at the end of this sentence. Whatever size the human soul is, Hell is large enough to contain all those billions that have died before us, and it is large enough to handle billions more. Has Hell almost reached its capacity? (No. More are still destined there if they die without Christ!) Will Hell ever run out of room? (No. It will always have vacancies!)

That is why it is important, dear friend, to not go another day without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. Do not delay. We are all sinners by birth, and have fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). However, the Lord Jesus Christ came to die for our sins, to shed His blood to pay for our sins, that we be made righteous of God in Christ. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Romans 3:24–4:8: “[3:24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [3:25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [3:26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [3:27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [3:28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [3:29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: [3:30] Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. [3:31] Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.

“[4:1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [4:2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [4:3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4:4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [4:5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [4:6] Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, [4:7] Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. [4:8] Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

Also see:
» How can a loving God send people to Hell forever?
» Why is Hell forever if life on Earth is but decades?
» If dispensational Bible study is true, how come so few believe it?

Is there time in Heaven? What about in eternity?


by Shawn Brasseaux

There is a common idea—I even once held to it—that there is no time in Heaven. A related idea is that there is no time in eternity. I will show you what verses caused me to reject those positions. You can consider them and decide for yourself what you will believe about it.

It is interesting that the Apostle John, in the Book of the Revelation, provided what are evidently the only Bible verses on this subject.

Firstly, we deal with the question about time in Heaven. Revelation 8:1 comments: “And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” During the judgments of the future Tribulation period, there will be “silence in heaven about the space of half an hour.” Such horrific events are about to fall on planet Earth, and the angels watch in awe and silence! According to Psalm 83:1, even God is silent here! Evidently, there must be some reckoning of time in Heaven, or Revelation 8:1 is meaningless.

Now, to our second question. Will there be time in eternity? Yes, according to Revelation chapter 22, verse 2: “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” In the ages to come, on the New Earth, the tree of life will bear a new manner of fruit “every month.”

Time as we know it had a beginning, according to Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” However, now that it has begun, it will never end. There will never be a cessation of time, for time is necessary to have activity. Eternity is not the absence of time, but rather endless time.

Also see:
» How old will we be in heaven?
» Is faith in Christ alone enough to go to heaven? Do not the devils believe?
» Why are the heavens not clean in God’s sight?

Why is Hell forever if life on Earth is but decades?


by Shawn Brasseaux

A religionist and professing Christian contended that there was no way a “loving” God would send somebody to Hell forever. This sincere man even took it a step further by asserting something I had never heard before (or since). How could a life of sin lasting only 70 or 80 years result in damnation in Hell forever? Is this not an extreme or unfair penalty? Why have a sentence in Hell unequal to the time spent living on Earth? It is a rather interesting argument. We would be happy to use the Scriptures to expose it as utterly specious!

Why does punishment in Hell last forever if life on Earth is limited? That is, why are people not punished in Hell for the same amount of time they committed sins on Earth? The person confused by denominational teaching finds this incongruent. Surely, Hell could not be forever because people did not sin forever on Earth. Right? Actually, here, God’s omniscience has taken a backseat to man’s imperfect mind. Man is completely unqualified to correctly evaluate God’s thoughts or habits. Never forget, my friend, what Isaiah 55:8-9 says: “[8] For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. [9] For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The Bible is quite clear that we have no capacity to think divine thoughts. Since we are creatures, and not the Creator, we are limited. We do not have all the information and all the insight that Almighty God has access to when He makes decisions and decrees. As humans, we have very limited information. We have weak minds to process what little information we do have. Therefore, we have a very shallow sense of what life is all about. We also have a very shallow awareness of what creation is all about. Every day, the human race makes new discoveries. We do not have all the answers! It is very unfair and ridiculous when we use our pea-sized brains, operating on limited information, to disparage or deny something Almighty God does or says in His omniscience. We do not sit on the judgment seat and dictate to Him what He “should” think, do, or say. He is God, we are man, and that is that!

To drive this point home, we appeal to 1 Corinthians 2:10-14: “[10] But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. [11] For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. [12] Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. [13] Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. [14] But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

The “natural” (unsaved, unredeemed, un-regenerated) man “receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.” He cannot process the things of the Spirit of God. He is unable to have the spiritual insight needed to properly evaluate the situation or teaching. He cannot understand the words that the Holy Ghost teaches. Hence, he dismisses God’s words as “foolishness.” He will thus “re-translate” verses, deny verses, remove verses, and/or add verses. Whatever he deems necessary, he will do, provided that his opinions or pet denominational beliefs are upheld. In his mind, the Bible cannot be right!

However, those willing to let the Holy Spirit teach them will be provided the ability to judge between God’s truth and Satan’s error. Someone who is steeped in a denomination, religion, or similar perverted system, is not relying on the Spirit of God for insight. He or she is depending on something other than the Holy Spirit, which is why he or she has difficulty with the teachings of the Bible. In fact, they will claim to be a “Christian,” and yet, contradict the clear teachings of the Bible (recall the man in our opening remarks). They lack the Holy Spirit, or they have quenched Him, so His teaching ministry is absent from their lives. Without Him, they cannot understand divine thoughts or teachings.

Now we move on to addressing the issue of why Hell lasts forever. A very helpful Scripture is Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” The answer to this question is found in verse 10: “I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.” God says He “searches the heart” and “tries the reins.” To wit, He evaluates our innermost being. What He, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, has discovered in the human heart is delineated in Mark 7:20-23: “[20] And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

Notice the issue here is not the deeds (although they are surely horrific). No, the deeds are the symptoms of an underlying condition—the heart. The heart is the most serious of matters because it is the source of those evil works. Man’s heart is the problem because it is “desperately wicked”—not just “wicked” but desperately wicked!” The heart has intense desires to commit evil deeds. Evil actions are the outward result of evil thoughts and motives on the inside! Mark 7:21-23 again, “For from within, out of the heart of men…. all these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” The actions are offensive to God, yea, but His main controversy is the heart that generates those acts. As someone once aptly stated, “We are sinners, not because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.” Being a sinner comes first—sinning follows. If we get that one point straight in our thinking, the rest of this matter is ever so easy to grasp.

King David of old did not have a completed Bible like we do today, but the Holy Spirit did cause him to write in Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was shapen in inquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Whether David in his mother’s womb, or we in our mothers’ wombs, our sin nature is conceived therein. This is long before the individual has a chance to sin. The emphasis is on the nature, the component of the person that will produce the sins in his or her post-womb life. Man in his makeup is a sinner; he behaves sinfully because he is a sinner by nature.

Consider a very plain and clear analogy (not original to me). We can pick all the oranges from an orange tree, but it remains an orange tree because it is naturally an orange tree. Furthermore, we can hang apples on the orange tree, but it, by nature, is still an orange tree. It does not transform into an apple tree! It will never produce apples! No matter how you alter its outward appearance, the orange tree will always be an orange tree on the inside and it will always produce oranges. Similarly, a person with a heart of sin can do good works, religious works (nice outward form), but his or her sinful nature remains. That sinful nature (heart) is still offensive to God. If he or she is to be accepted of God, there must be a change in nature. The sin nature must be dealt with. Where can the sin nature of man be changed? Not Hell. The sin nature of man is remedied at the cross of Christ.

In the Apostle Paul’s epistle to Colosse, he said by the Holy Spirit: “[11] In whom [Christ, verse 9] also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: [12] Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. [13] And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; [14] Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; [15] And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:11-15).

An inward circumcision occurs the moment one trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Saviour. He or she is cut off from the fleshly identity in Adam (go back to Psalm 51:5). This is done “without hands,” meaning something God does rather than man. It is not a physical circumcision (done by men’s hands in religion—particularly Judaism). Rather, it is a spiritual circumcision. Colossians 2:11 speaks of the “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” This is a sinner moving to the position of a saint, a lost person becoming a Christian, a child of Satan being placed into God’s family.

When a believing sinner recognizes and relies on by faith the death of Jesus Christ as sufficient payment for his or her sins, God takes that person out of Adam and puts him or her into Jesus Christ. The person, once identified with Adam (sin and spiritual death), is now identified with Jesus Christ (righteousness and spiritual life). Please read Romans 5:12-21, which provides more detail. Our body of sin, our blood relation to Adam, was crucified with Christ on Calvary (see Romans 6:1-23). This is something religion cannot do. This is something we cannot do. It is something that only God can do in His omnipotence and omniscience. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In Genesis chapter 17, the LORD God gave Abraham and Israel the rite of physical circumcision to outwardly signify a spiritual circumcision they had on the inside because of faith rather than works (cf. Romans 4:11-13). Unfortunately, the Jews eventually became too obsessed with the religious rite. Eventually, the spiritual circumcision accomplished by faith was ignored and (outward) religious works were emphasized. Romans 2:28-29 corrects this inattentiveness: “[28] For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: [29] But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”

God is more interested in a Jew’s spiritual circumcision than the physical circumcision. Physical circumcision means nothing if there is no inward corresponding circumcision of the heart. After all, the spiritual circumcision is the difference between spiritual life and spiritual death. Those who die with the Adamic nature, lacking the new nature in Christ, not being spiritually circumcised on the inside, automatically go to Hell. Again, their sinful nature is unchanged, so Hell is their only destiny. Although they may have “cleaned up” their lives with religious good works, religion could not furnish them with a new nature. Only faith in Calvary’s cross could give them a new nature—and they remained in unbelief, so Calvary’s merits are inapplicable to them!


If we look at how soul salvation operates in the Holy Scriptures, listening to the words of the Holy Ghost, we understand how Hell can last forever despite sinful living on Earth being limited to decades.

God’s way of enforcing punishment is much different from ours. Punishment in Hell is not based on how long you committed sins on Earth. We do not go to Hell because we commit sins (deeds); we go to Hell because we are sinners (nature). Sins (plural, actions) are the result of our nature inherited from Adam; that nature is called “sin” (singular). While sinful actions are offensive to God, the origin is man’s sin nature. God will never approve of man’s fallen nature. This is why people can reform their behavior and still be unacceptable to God. God is not trying to improve the behavior of man—religion does this. Religion deals only with the symptoms. God wants the nature of man to be dealt with. Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary addresses the sinful nature, the root cause.

Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork takes care of both the nature and the actions of sinful man. Christ died so that we in our fallen nature would be put to death with Him, and resurrected with a new nature in Him to walk in righteousness (see Romans chapter 6). He also shed His blood in order for that blood to wash our sins, our sin debt, away (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). Christ Jesus offered himself as a fully satisfying payment for our sins. Religion cannot do this. We cannot do this. But, we can trust Jesus Christ to do it for us. Us relying on God’s Son is what pleases Him.

The reason why suffering in Hell lasts forever is that the sinful nature of man is never lost in Hell. Hell is not a place of reformation or rehabilitation. Neither is it a place of regeneration. Hell is a place of punishment, never-ending punishment. By nature, a person in Hell will always be evil. God’s wrath against their sin nature is never satisfied because their sin nature will always exist. He or she has never lost—and will never lose—the sinful nature inherited from Adam. No amount of suffering will change their nature. Thus, the punishment never ceases.


Those who argue, “Punishment in Hell should equal the length of sinful living on Earth,” never argue the (unintentional) conclusion that must also be reached: “Life in Heaven should equal the length of righteous living on Earth.” If it were valid to contend a limited Hell because of limited earthly living, then a limited life in Heaven could be argued too. After all, just as we can do a limited number of evil works on Earth—70 or 80 years, or so—so we can do so many good works on Earth. A short “good” life on Earth would result in just a short time in Heaven, not eternity. See, again, this is all erroneous. It just accentuates what we discussed throughout the main part of the study. The issue is not good or bad works; it is about someone who has a new nature in Christ (Heaven-bound), and someone who has only the sinful nature in Adam (Hell-bound). Those in Heaven never lose their new righteous nature in Christ, so they live in Heaven forever. Those in Hell never lose their Adamic sin nature, so they live in Hell forever.

Also see:
» How can a “loving” God send people to Hell forever?
» Is Luke 16:19-31 a parable?
» What is the “foolishness of God” in 1 Corinthians 1:25?

What is “gehenna?” Is that the same as hell?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Gehenna(Strong’s G1067: γέεννα) is the Greek name for the Valley of Hinnom. The Hebrew is “Ge-Hinnom.” This ravine or valley is just outside of Jerusalem to the southwest. Today it is known as Wadi er-Rababi. It first appears in the Bible in Joshua 18:16, as a boundary of the tribe of Benjamin. Later, it became a place of despicable acts.

“And they [the Jews in Jerusalem] have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my heart” (Jeremiah 7:31). “Tophet” meant “place of fire.” There was a gigantic bronze idol in the Valley of Hinnom. This is where the Jews sacrificed their infants and young children alive to the pagan fire god Molech. “Hinnom” means “lamentation” (as in the cries of the children being burned alive). Jeremiah 7:32 and Jeremiah 19:6 call it “Tophet,” “Valley of the Son of Hinnom,” and “Valley of Slaughter.” Jewish Kings Ahaz and Manasseh sacrificed their children here (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Kings 21:6; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6). The Valley of Hinnom is called “Topheth” in 2 Kings 23:10—King Josiah ceremonially defiled it in order to abolish the child sacrifices there.

In New Testament times, it was a trash dump where Jerusalem’s garbage was deposited and burned. Even the bodies of dead animals and unburied criminals were brought here. One Bible dictionary states, because of the valley’s history, “After the OT period, Jewish apocalyptic writers began to call the Valley of Hinnom the entrance to hell, later hell itself.” The Greek word gehenna is found 12 times in our New Testament Scriptures—Jesus used the term 11 times, and James used it one time. It is translated “hell” every time. On three occasions, gehenna is paired with πῦρ (G4442, pyr, “fire”) to read “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; Matthew 18:9; Mark 9:47).

For now, just notice the term as used in the Bible:

  • Matthew 5:22: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell [gehenna] fire.”
  • Matthew 5:29: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [gehenna].”
  • Matthew 5:30: “And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell [gehenna].”
  • Matthew 10:28: “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 [gehenna].”
  • Matthew 18:9: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell [gehenna] fire.”
  • Matthew 23:15: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell [gehenna] than yourselves.”
  • Matthew 23:33: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell [gehenna]?”
  • Mark 9:43: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched:”
  • Mark 9:45: “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched:”
  • Mark 9:47: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell [gehenna] fire:”
  • Luke 12:5: “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [gehenna]; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
  • James 3:6: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell [gehenna].”


Certain cults, particularly the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” will go to great lengths to diminish the Bible teaching of eternal judgment. “Gehenna” is a term to which they often appeal in an effort to prove their denominational tenets. They will say that these instances of “hell” are not a place of everlasting torment, but just references to the trash dump outside of Jerusalem. That is, Jesus was making reference to the fires of the Valley of Hinnom rather than literal flames of everlasting hell. As I pointed out to a Jehovah’s Witness who came to my house just recently trying to promote her church’s teachings, the “hell” (gehenna) of the above verses goes far beyond the flames of Hinnom.

Take the following two verses for example:

  • Mark 9:43: “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched:”
  • Mark 9:45: “And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell [gehenna], into the fire that never shall be quenched:”

The flames here “shall never be quenched.” Fires in the Valley of Hinnom have long since died out (which the Jehovah’s Witness is forced to admit). Surely, no thinking person could ever say that the gehenna of Mark 9:43 and Mark 9:45 are man’s temporary fires on Earth! This is especially accentuated by verses 44, 46, and 48: “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched….Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched…. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” By the way, verses 44 and 46 are omitted from the modern Greek text and modern English versions (including NIV, NASB, ESV, and of course, the Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation!). This way, they diminish the explicit warnings.

Now, consider the following verses:

  • Luke 12:5: “But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell [gehenna]; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
  • Matthew 10:28: “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 [gehenna].”

This is certainly not the Valley of Hinnom. Notice how only God has the power here to toss people into this gehenna. This gehenna involves not just the death of the physical body but also the soul. Such is hardly the language of any trash dump, no matter how intense its flames may be! If we study the way the Bible uses the term “gehenna,” provided we not want to form a denominational conclusion, we will discover that the Bible is speaking of something far more than just a trash dump.


Jesus took the term gehenna and taught doctrine of eternal importance. In a Jew’s mind, gehenna was the worst and most unclean place to imagine. It was there that their ancestors were burned in pagan human sacrifices! Also, it was where they would take garbage for disposal—including the corpses of dead animals and criminals! Our Lord Jesus warned of something far worse than this “trash dump.” God has a trash dump as well, and it is where He disposes the souls of those who refuse to trust His Word. He has no use for them in His program for creation, they are the vilest of all living creatures, and now they will burn for their transgressions for all of eternity! Indeed, that is the worst of all. But, the Bible says it, and the only way people go hell is because they wanted to go! God has offered His Son Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross as a fully-satisfying payment for our sins, that simple faith in Him alone could get us into heaven. But, if we want to suffer the flames of hell forever and ever and ever, never satisfying the wrath of God, He will give us the eternal abode of the damned!

Also see:
» Is Luke 16:19-31 nothing but a “parable?”
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?

Is Luke 16:19-31 a parable?


by Shawn Brasseaux

In an attempt to sidestep the Biblical doctrine of eternal judgment in hellfire, certain groups have resorted to watering down one of the clearest and most graphic passages of hell. Such people say that Luke 16:19-31—the account of the Rich Man and Lazarus—is merely a “parable,” figurative language rather than literal truth. They believe there was no historical rich man who actually woke up tormented in hell, and no historical beggar named Lazarus who actually woke up comforted in paradise. After all, their denominational doctrine demands that the dead be unconscious, completely unaware of their surroundings. Furthermore, they protest, “A loving God would never send people to an eternal hell.” They particularly pick on a Bible term found in the passage—“Abraham’s bosom.” If “Abraham’s bosom” is not literal, they assert, then neither is the rest of the passage—especially the part about “tormented in this flame.” Friends, in this study, we will critically evaluate Luke 16:19-31. Literal? Or, figurative?

Dear readers, first things first. Before commenting, we must read Luke 16:19-31: “[19] There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: [20] And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, [21] And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; [23] And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. [24] And 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 in this flame. [25] But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. [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. [27] Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: [28] For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. [29] Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. [31] And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Now to our thorough analysis!


Friends, stop and think. After reading Luke 16:19-31, was there clarity or confusion in our minds? That is, were you more confused about that topic discussed in those Scriptures, or were you enlightened? If you do not mind, please answer the following questions.

What specific verses, phrases, or words, if any, would lead you to conclude that Luke 16:19-31 is figurative? What, if anything, do you think is nonliteral in the passage? Please write your answers in the blanks below. (If you are reading this online, please use a pen and paper.)


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Okay, the next part. What specific verses, phrases, or words, if any, would lead you to conclude that Luke 16:19-31 is literal? What, if anything, do you think is literal in the passage? Please write your answers in the blanks below. (Again, if you are reading this online, please use a pen and paper.)


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Now that you have written your answers, we move on to make some general verse comparisons and present some basic facts from Scripture. First and foremost, parables bear a certain primary characteristic in Scripture. Contrary to popular belief, parables are not teaching aids. They are meant to make the truth less clear. That is, parables are meant to hide the truth from people who have rejected the truth God had previously revealed to them. To repeat, parables are meant to confuse rather than to explain.

The Lord Jesus Christ admitted this quite plainly in Matthew 13:10-15: “[10] And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? [11] He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. [12] For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. [13] Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. [14] And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: [15] For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”

In light of what the Lord Jesus Himself said about parables, Luke 16:19-31, if it were a parable, should have made the truth less clear. Did it? In light of what the Lord Jesus Himself said about parables, Luke 16:19-31, if it were literal, should have made the truth quite clear. Did it? Then, my dear friends, it should be very apparent to you as to whether or not Luke 16:19-31 is a parable! But, we will take it a step further.


Luke 16:19 does not begin with, “And he speak this parable unto them….” If the account of the rich man and Lazarus were a parable, the Holy Spirit should have made sure to notify the audience that this “graphic story” was merely a parable and not literal truth. Remember, this passage has been used for centuries to defend the reality of eternal hellfire. The implications are quite severe if we take Luke 16:19-31 as literal truth. Should not the Holy Spirit, having foreseen the alleged “misusage” of the passage in the coming centuries, made every attempt in the context to indicate that it was symbolic and nonliteral? You can search Luke chapter 16 for the rest of eternity, my dear readers, and never see where Jesus clearly indicated verses 19 through 31 as figurative (a parable).

Furthermore, the last parable of chapter 16 (in the context) ended with verse 8. That was over 10 verses prior to Jesus mentioning the rich man and Lazarus. Jesus began to speak literal truths from verse 9 of chapter 16 onward and into chapter 17. (We will address this quite thoroughly later, in point #7). If it were a parable, Jesus left much room for ambiguities and uncertainties; He never explained what the elements symbolized. This lack of explanation is the strongest indication that no symbolism was involved. Luke 16:19-31 was literal.

The only logical, Bible-believing view, is that Luke 16:19-31 was not a parable, but literal history. Just as we are aware of our surroundings today (we are on planet Earth), Lazarus knew he was in paradise (the heart of the Earth, the spirit world for believers of that time) and the rich man knew that he was in torments (the heart of the Earth, the spirit world for unbelievers even today). But, we will take it another step further!


Of all the parables recorded in Matthew through Luke (John does not contain parables), not one of them contains a person’s name. Check it out for yourself if you doubt me. In stark contrast, Luke 16:20 bears the name “Lazarus” (also see verses 23,24, and 25). The name was not a mistake. It is mentioned four times. Why? Lazarus was a literal, flesh-and-blood individual like us; he was not some imaginary character in a horror story. He was just as literal and physical as Abraham was, and “Abraham” was also mentioned by name in the passage (see verses 25 and 29). This great detail is never found in any of Jesus’ parables. Again, check it out for yourself if you do not believe me. Okay, we take it yet another step further!


As we mentioned in point #2, the Holy Spirit should have made it clear to identify the meaning of Luke 16:19-31. What was the purpose of telling His audience this if it were a parable without historical basis? If Jesus, when saying, “I am tormented in this flame,” meant something other than literal suffering in a literal fire, why did He not define that expression in literal terms for us? The same could be said of “Lazarus,” “rich man,” “Abraham,” “great gulf fixed,” and all the other elements in the passage. Jesus left them undefined. Why? The only logical conclusion is that those words were to be taken at face value. He gave no alternative meaning for them because there was no alternative meaning for them. Our Lord Jesus said exactly what He meant about the rich man and Lazarus, and He meant exactly what He said about the rich man and Lazarus. If we disagree with Him, we need to just come out and say that we do not believe the Bible. We should not be hiding behind some lame “figurative language” defense. (We will discuss this in our next point.) Dear friends, may we not be like all those unbelieving hearts that simply reject the simple revelations from God, just so they may keep their manmade church traditions! We take it another step….


When the Prophet Ezekiel warned Israel about God’s coming judgment upon them, note the following in Ezekiel 20:45-49: “[45] Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, [46] Son of man, set thy face toward the south, and drop thy word toward the south, and prophesy against the forest of the south field; [47] And say to the forest of the south, Hear the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, and it shall devour every green tree in thee, and every dry tree: the flaming flame shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north shall be burned therein. [48] And all flesh shall see that I the LORD have kindled it: it shall not be quenched. [49] Then said I, Ah Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?”

Did you catch it? Unbelievers equate “fire” (judgment) in the Bible with “parables.” Bible rejecters are those who do not believe in God’s literal fire of judgment! Would a Bible believer ever conclude God’s fiery judgment a “parable?” Not according to the Bible! What does this say about people who diminish Luke 16:19-31, hellfire, to a “parable?” We can take it another step!


Those who relish in “toning down” Luke 16:19-31 especially appeal to the Bible’s term “Abraham’s bosom” (see verses 22-23). To them, this figurative expression proves the whole passage is nonliteral. Abraham’s actual breast is not involved, so the entire story is fabricated… or so they say. For example, to quote official “Jehovah’s Witnesses’” doctrine, “[The] Rich man and Lazarus account [is] no proof of eternal torment. Fire [is] no more literal than Abraham’s bosom.” Friends, these dear “Russellites” are woefully ignorant of the English language. Of course, they are not interested in using English properly anyway. They just want to defend their denomination… whatever the cost!

“Bosom,” in the English language, does not necessarily mean a literal breast, as in someone resting against your upper chest. “Bosom,” as used in John’s Gospel, is most definitely Jesus’ literal breast, His upper chest (see John 13:23,25). Yet, our English word “bosom” can also mean “a state of enclosing intimacy; warm closeness.” In a similar manner, we use our English word “heart.” In one sense, the term “heart” refers to the physical muscle that pumps literal blood throughout our literal, physical bodies. Yet, another sense of “heart” is our innermost being, our seat of emotions. For instance, think about the expression, “That person is close, or dear, to your heart.” Does that mean this person is literally resting against your chest? Of course not! Yet, this figurative phrase still communicates a literal truth. You have deep emotional connections with that individual. It has nothing to do with your heart muscle, either.

You are probably curious as to why the term “Abraham’s bosom” even appears in Luke 16:22-23. I will gladly tell you. Remember, it is the title of the place where believing Lazarus went upon death. It was also the place where Abraham’s soul resided (see verses 25,29). As you may know, Abraham is the classic believer in Scripture. He is called “the father of all them that believe” in Romans 4:11. All believers who had died up to the point of Luke chapter 16, they had died believing in the God of Abraham. They, going all the way back to Adam—the beginning of the world (Acts 3:21)—had also died with faith in the message of God’s earthly kingdom. Because Abraham is called “the father of them that believe,” his “bosom” indicates the close affinity he has with other believers from that Old Testament era, as well as their closeness with him. They are all children of God, having the righteousness of Jesus Christ credited to their account, and thus have an intimate relationship with the God of the Bible. They are (even today) still awaiting bodily resurrection to enter God’s earthly kingdom (see Job 19:25-27, for instance). This is in contrast with those unbelieving souls, such as the rich man, who are (even today) still experiencing torment in the flames of hell.

By the way, if we must nitpick at the phrase “Abraham’s bosom,” saying the passage is not literal because “bosom” is not literal, then we must also dismiss John 1:18 as nonliteral. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” “Bosom” in John 1:18 is figurative and not literal, so should John 1:18 be believed literally? As in Luke 16:22-23, “bosom” in John 1:18 carries a literal truth. The Lord Jesus is not literally leaning on God’s breast, is He? Yet, even while using a figurative term, John 1:18 is conveying a literal truth. Jesus has an intimate relationship with His Heavenly Father. (Remember our comments about “heart?”) The same sense is applied to “Abraham’s bosom.” We take it another step further!


Dear friends, to have the richest understanding of Luke 16:19-31, we would have to come to a conclusion as to what it all means. If all the elements symbolize something else (as the case in a parable), then what do they all mean as a whole (as in a parable)? Remember, even parables have real-life applications. Luke 16:19-31, even if it were a parable, would still convey literal truths. It would by no means diminish God’s revelation. But, it is not a parable. Because of its serious nature, we had better take it most seriously.

As stated earlier, the easiest way to handle Luke 16:19-31 is to simply take it at face value. When you examine its context, the natural conclusion is that it means just what it says. The context is literal; Luke 16:19-31 must also be literal. Let me tell you how we deduce that.

Luke chapter 16 opens with Jesus talking to His disciples about being faithful servants. The issue of literal wealth is mentioned. Jesus says to His disciples in verse 13: “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Please note verse 14: “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.” The Pharisees dislike what Jesus said, so they mock Him. So, from verse 15 onward until verse 31 (end of chapter 16), Jesus addresses the covetous Pharisees. Notice how He is rebuking them for their materialism. “Mammon” is wealth, specifically avarice or excessive greed. They serve their wealth instead of His Heavenly Father. Now you know why Jesus proceeded to mention the “rich man” and Lazarus. That “rich man” was one of those Pharisees! Instead of serving the Creator God by faith, he too had idolized his wealth. Jesus was warning the Pharisees that they, unless they converted to Him, would literally wind up in that same literal, eternally hopeless state of “torment in flames” as that literal rich man’s literal soul! Their covetousness (idolatry) was literal and their eternal doom was equally literal! We take the argument one step further!


At this point, perhaps, the critics of Luke 16:19-31 have seen their error in dismissing it as a parable, a nonliteral portion of Scripture. We hope and pray that they have, for it is a very serious matter. However, even if one were to recognize the merits in this study’s foregoing statements, there always lingers that last-ditch effort to dismiss eternal judgment. I can just hear it being asked: “Oh, but, Brother Shawn, how can a loving God send people to eternal hellfire?” What a great question, my friend! I am so glad you asked. I am so glad to answer it as well!

“How can a loving God send people to eternal hellfire?” The Bible believer, stumped, is perhaps convinced that the “eternal-judgment critic” has made a valid point. Has he or she? Why, of course not! That “loving God,” according to Romans 5:8, did everything to keep everyone out of hell. He sent Jesus Christ His Son to experience His wrath on our behalf, to die for our sins, that we not have to go to eternal hellfire. We just need to trust alone what He did for us at Calvary. But, if someone wants to ignore that sacrifice of Christ, that person is “unloving” because he or she has rejected God’s love. God is still loving. If they reject God’s love, they wind up in hell because of their own fault. They sent themselves to hell. God did not send anyone anywhere. He let them go where they wanted! If I, out of love, offered a million dollars to a loved one who was a million dollars in debt, and that loved one refuses the money I offer, that in no way canceled my love for him or her. My love was independent of what her or she did with my offer. If he or she wants to stay in debt, that is his or her problem—not my fault! Likewise, if someone wants to stay in spiritual debt, do not blame God! (For more information, please see our related study linked at the end of this article. There, you will find a fuller treatment of that topic.)


There are at least seven reasons why Bible believers understand Luke 16:19-31 to be literal truth, not a parable.

  1. Firstly, according to the Lord Jesus Himself, parables are meant to confuse, to hide the truth from people who previously rejected it. There is nothing difficult to understand in Luke 16:19-31 unless we refuse to understand it. Luke 16:19-31 is a very graphic picture of eternal hellfire, which is why people attempt to dismiss it as “figurative.”
  2. Secondly, Luke 16:19-31 addresses a major doctrine. For it to be a parable and for Jesus never to make it clear to His audience that is a parable, is to force it to be literal. There are no ambiguities or uncertainties. Jesus expected His audience to take what He said at face value, and He expects us to do the same.
  3. Thirdly, parables do not contain names of people, and yet Luke 16:19-31 mentions “Lazarus” and “Abraham” by name several times.
  4. Fourthly, no additional explanation follows Luke 16:19-31. Jesus moved on to other topics in chapter 17. Since no other similar discourse is given in the context, Luke 16:19-31 must be self-explanatory and self-interpreting. Again, there is no mysterious language, confusion, or hidden truths—there are no characteristics of parables in Luke 16:19-31.
  5. Fifthly, unbelievers in Ezekiel’s day referred to God’s literally fiery judgment as nothing but “parables,” nonliteral statements. To say Luke 16:19-31, another passage about God’s fiery judgment, is a “parable,” is to echo the complaints of lost people, those who do not serve JEHOVAH God. Do you want to sound like a Bible rejecter? Then, my friend, you just keep on calling Luke 16:19-31 a “parable!”
  6. Sixthly, Luke 16:19-31 contains a nonliteral phrase—“Abraham’s bosom”—and yet the whole passage still contains literal truth. The same could be said of John 1:18, which uses the term “bosom” similarly.
  7. Lastly, the context of Luke 16:19-31 is literal covetousness. It is a passage spoken to literal idolaters, and serves as a clear warning of the eternal wrath coming on wealth-worshippers (idolaters). It is not some fairy tale meant to pass the time and take up space in God’s Word.

The God of the Bible is so loving that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place. If we go to hell, we do so by rejecting that love God commended to us! To reject God’s love is for usnot Him—to be “unloving.”

In short, my friends, either (1) we believe Luke 16:19-31 says exactly what it means and means exactly what it says, or (2) we just stay loyal to our manmade denomination. Those are the only two options.


Suppose, for argument’s sake, Luke 16:19-31 is a parable. Does that help us any if we deny the existence of eternal hellfire? Certainly not! Actually, relegating Luke 16:19-31 to the status of parable only proves the extreme measures people will take when twisting the Bible to fit their theology. Notice the following:

  1. Read Matthew 13:3-8. Do you notice how mysterious this passage is? It has hidden truths, symbolic language. This was Jesus’ first parable, commonly called the Parable of the Sower. Who is the sower? What are the seeds? What is the stony place? What about the thorns? The fowls? Now, read verses 18-23. In these statements, Jesus defines the terms of the parable. His next words will provide additional explanation.
  2. In verses 24-30 of Matthew chapter 13, the Lord Jesus gives a second parable, known as the Parable of the Tares—clearly called a “parable” in Matthew 13:24 and 36. Here again, Jesus utilizes various symbols. He talks about a man sowing wheat, an enemy sowing tares (weeds) among the wheat, reapers gathering the wheat and the tares, the tares are tossed into a burning fire, and the wheat is gathered into a barn. The disciples come to Jesus, asking Him to explain Himself to them (verse 36). Verses 37-43 are the Lord Jesus defining each of the various elements of the parable. He claims to be the sower of the good seed (verse 37). The field is the world (verse 38). The good seed (wheat) are the children of the kingdom (verse 38). The tares are the children of Satan, or unbelieving Jews (verse 38). The enemy who sowed the tares is the Devil (verse 39). The harvest is the end of the world (verse 39). The reapers are the angels (verse 39). The burning fire is the eternal judgment of God in hell (verse 42). The barn is the earthly kingdom of God, reserved only for Israel’s believing remnant the children of the kingdom (verse 43; cf. verse 38). Please note the fire that burns in the parable (verse 30), is, interpreted by Jesus, to be a literal fire (verse 42). The Lord Jesus thought that the fire—even in the context of a parable—was still a fire, nothing diminished. The fire did not mean something else; it meant fire. Unless of course, we reject the Lord Jesus’ interpretation so we can hold on to our church traditions? So, even if Luke 16:19-31 were a parable, the word fire means just what it says. It is a fire.
  3. It should be pointed out that, in the context of a parable (Matthew 13:30), “reapers” symbolize angels (verse 39). In Luke 16:19-31, the word “angels” appears (verse 22). So, the passage is not a parable; it is already reduced to a literal meaning. Unless, we are going to wrest the Scriptures even further and say that “angels” are not literal beings but rather symbols of some other things.

Also see:
» How can a loving God send people to hell forever?
» Why does God let Satan exist?
» In heaven, will we be aware of our loved ones in hell?