by John Greene
The Bible illustrates eternal punishment as an end result of disobedience and separation from Elohim [God]. But is this belief really true? Discover an enlightening perspective regarding the parable about the Rich Man and Lazarus.
Augustine influenced third century Christianity’s adoption of this ancient Greek belief about the nature of the soul when the Romans hijacked Christianity. Augustine was a great admirer of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. Many ancient Greeks, including Plato, believed and taught that the human soul is immortal and indestructible. When Augustine adopted this belief into the Catholic Church, it seemed only logical to believe that those who go to hell must suffer eternal torment, stuck there forever in burning flames. Mainstream Christianity has never really recovered from this theological embellishment as well as moving away from the truth of scripture. (“Bible Truth About Death“; “Ongoing Corruption of Christianity“)
Bible readers would do well to remember that Yashua ben-Yosef [Jesus] as He was known in His day, was a Jew speaking from a Jewish perspective. This is only natural. In this parable, Yahshua [Jesus] was speaking from Jewish folklore as a frame of reference. He was not trying to mirror the corruptions of His teachings by more modern thinking. (Luke 16:10-31; “Consenting to Fables of Men“)
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus immediately draws a parallel between contrasts, two polar opposites, beginning with the world as mankind would understand it. The rich man was a man of business that often met and did business at a certain gate of the city, in line with Jewish tradition. As was typical of many Jews of the time, he was a believer in the immortality of the soul and had adopted ancestor worship. The beggar was laid at the same gate. The rich man and the beggar were contemporaries, often in plain sight of one another during their earthly lives. (“Leaven of the Pharisees; Leaven of the World“; “The Kingdom of YHWH and the Drive for Self-Importance“)
The unnamed rich man represented a lifestyle of abundant wealth in that day, a lifestyle of material mammon in stark contrast to Lazarus, a lifestyle of abject poverty and debasement in status, symbolized by dogs licking his sores and his inability or refusal to keep them at bay. The real difference between them is the mindset of the hardened heart.
When the beggar died, according to popular belief of the time that was thoroughly influenced by Babylonian mystery cults, he went to Abraham’s bosom. In Jewish folklore, this was paradise, representing right standing with YHWH. “The Bosom of Abraham” was also the name of a place in the “Hades” of Jewish folklore. In this twisted theology, the rich man had died and was in Hades, tormented by his past life and actions, perhaps even his inaction in helping others and doing what he knew was right. What was Hades in Jewish thinking? Hades was simply the abode of the departed, which mysticism had embellished with real burning fire.
Yahshua [Jesus] knew that the mythological background of Hades influenced the Jews to hold a view that was out of line with Jewish roots as well as actual Bible teaching on the state of the dead. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus reports that Hades is a place where the souls of departed mankind are held. In this version of Hades, YHWH had a lake of unquenchable fire, ready for the judgment of mankind, but otherwise unused. Terrible flying angels, complete with wings that were adopted from Babylon, dragged the disobedient into the vicinity of the lake where they felt its heat in anticipation of their judgment of destruction. The idea was that the disobedient would be destroyed in this lake of fire. In the other part of Hades, to the right, was “The Bosom of Abraham”, where the obedient are led to a place of rest to prepare for new life in paradise. The rift between the parts of Hades was impassable, illustrating the contrasts between the disobedient and the obedient. Of interest, you can see the influence of Greek mythology as well as Jewish folklore, heavily influenced through Babylonian captivity, on future Christian theology which was adopted after Pope Augustine.
The idea behind Jewish folklore was that the souls of men after death were confined to Hades until the season of YHWH’s judgment. The obedient would be made immortal by YHWH. The disobedient would be bound by the diseases that had killed them, judged to unquenchable fire and fiery worm that never died where death, nor the destruction of the body would free them from punishment. How interesting that much of mainstream Christianity picked up this idea of a fiery eternal hell and have built on it over the centuries since, notably through Constantine and the Roman Catholic church.(1)
Based on an understanding of Jewish folklore, the parable is taking place at the judgment, once again, based on popular belief of the time. The rich man mourns in agony for his past, longing to warn his family, which really is already in judgment. He improperly addressed Abraham as “Father,” a title reserved for the Almighty alone. In this twisted belief system from Jewish mysticism, Abraham takes a prominent role instead of YHWH or Messiah. Abraham is his Father, so the rich man is represented as worshiping a false god. This poor misguided rich man does not want his family to suffer the same fate as a result of their hardened hearts. In this momentary state of mental anguish as a result of immediately impending judgment, the rich man begs for what used to be the most contemptible of men be allowed to alert his family, touching their hearts toward repentance. In the parable, Abraham rebuked the rich man, explaining that if his family would not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they would not be convinced by the resurrected dead. The hardened heart of a man is not swayed either by evidence, by miracles or perhaps even by impending judgment. The condition of the hardened heart rooted in worldly paganism is what the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is about. (“Hardened Hearts: Strengthening the Brotherhood in Messiah“)
Professed Christians face the same choice today. Will they live in the darkness of hardened hearts and falsehood, or will they obediently accept the mantle of Messiah, to renew their minds and to prepare others for the truth in the Last Days? What will you do? (“Renewing Your Mind“; “The Beginning of Life Renewal“; “The Struggle of Kingdoms Involves You“; “Wisdom & the Battle of Two Kingdoms“)
What is the reality of the dead? “The living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing.” – Ecclesiastes 9:5