How is Abraham able to speak to the rich man in hell if there is a chasm between them? And Abraham is speaking with Lazarus who is in hell? How is this possible since we have a great chasm between us? Does God give efficacious grace for us to speak to people in hell? I don't think so because than we'd be sad? So why does Abraham speak to someone in hell?

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. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
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 in this flame.'
But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'
Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house, 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'
Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' (Luke 16:22-31, NKJV)

  • 3
    That is a parable told to illustrate a point. Like the other parables only the object lesson should be taken. Everything in every parable can't be equated to something. The Bible says David is asleep and here with us - Acts 2:29. This clearly means that David is not in heaven (the context makes it even clearer). So it follows that people don't go to heaven or hell once they die.
    – One Face
    Jan 18, 2015 at 12:08
  • What happened to "today you will be with me in paradise", Christ's Words. Or, "absent from the body, present with the Lord"?
    – Connie
    Jan 18, 2015 at 20:53
  • Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This question is off-topic and does not fit into one of the Types of questions that are within community guidelines If possible, edit this question so that it better fits into one of those question types.
    – user3961
    Jan 18, 2015 at 21:26
  • These particular verses have been asked about a lot on the site. Please see those before editing this post to be on-topic to ensure that your question has not been asked before.
    – user3961
    Jan 18, 2015 at 21:31
  • 1
    Jesus Himself did not to heaven that day. How would the thief have gone to heaven? It is a translation mistake. What Jesus meant was today I say unto you that you will be in heaven. The assurance was given that day. There are so many verses dealing with resurrection in the Bible none of which would make sense if people go to heaven or hell one they die.
    – One Face
    Jan 19, 2015 at 0:00

6 Answers 6


I am not claiming that this is orthodox, but it is the explanation I heard in a Baptist church. It was the pastor's explanation.

First, according to the pastor, this story is not a parable. Jesus never gives names in His parables (instead He uses descriptions such as a certain rich man).

Second, at the time the parable was told, Jesus had yet to be crucified, resurrected and ascended to the Father. So the sacrifice for sins had yet to be paid. Thus, the righteous souls from the old testament (those who looked forward to the sacrifice Christ would one day make) were also not yet ascended to the Father. Instead, they waited in Paradise, which was separated from the place of punishment, but in the same proximity (center of the earth?).

After Jesus was resurrected, the graves were opened and many dead also arose. These were the souls from Paradise ascending to Heaven.

It is late and I don't have time to look up the scripture references that he used, but I will try to add them tomorrow. As I said at the beginning, I don't claim this to be orthodox, but it was the explanation given by a Baptist pastor.

  • is it tomorrow yet? Interesting thread, I came across this after realizing that Mormon spirit prison is about the same thing as Purgatory, a question I will pose directly soon. Curious to see your references on this answer before I ask that question, this OP question seems to be the only potential duplicate. Thanks
    – JimLohse
    May 13, 2016 at 0:22

Jesus used Parables (made up stories) to illustrate things about Heaven and the Kingdom of God to the people. The parable of the Rich man and Lazarus was meant to show the common people that those who go to Heaven are at peace while those who go to Hell are in torment.

What you need to keep in mind is that times were very different in Jesus day. People were not as educated as we are today, nor did they have any real concept of the World. All they really knew was their immediate surroundings and what took place there. Almost no one had ever journeyed further than a few miles from home. The Population spread was because Of the Tower of Babel, when people gained different languages. they naturally grouped together with those who could understand them. It is somewhat similar to immigrants from other countries, that is why we have even today neighborhoods where ethnic groups gather together.

Today is much different than it was in Jesus day, we know about other Countries and different religions, but I can tell you from my day in the Navy it is much different to know about a place than it is to be there. When you can't even get across to people around you that you do not know where you are and need to find a certain place, than it is to read or have someone describe a place to you.

Jesus actually had a two fold problem, not only was he teaching an uneducated group, but even today we have no real concept of either Heaven or Hell. It must have been a monumental task in trying to relate to the people of his day, having all knowledge as he did. In explaining how the second coming would be, He explained that this way:

Matthew 24:37 through 42 NKJV 37 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. 42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.

Just imagine how hard that would be to understand by people who had no electricity, and would never think of sleeping during the day, for all of those things to take place at the same time, but of course we now know that the World is round and when it is day on one side of the globe it is night on the other side. Jesus of course knew that and being very much aware of the time he was in may have inserted the sleeping part for future generations.

Hope this helps.


"This day you will be with me in paradise" does not mean go directly to heaven. Paradise is where good souls go to await their resurrection and final judgment. Those who have not followed Jesus (or never heard the Gospel) go to what is described as "prison". These are those "spirits in prison" to whom Jesus preached between His death and resurrection. If the rich man was really in "hell" in this parable, it must have been meant to represent a time after the final judgment. Otherwise, the rich man would be in spirit prison (I think the Catholics call this Purgatory), where spirits can still be preached to, as Jesus did.

But the refusal of Abraham to offer any help seems to point to the after-final-judgment scenario. However, I know of no reason that that would prevent Abraham from hearing the rich man's plea, or replying to it; Abraham would not necessarily be "sad" because he would know that the rich man's punishment was just—since that man had already had his chance, and had rejected the Gospel (or the part of it that was available to him, the words of Moses).

The point being that the best time to repent and turn to Jesus is in this life, not after we're dead. And certainly not after the final judgment, when all repentance is useless. In the parable, the rich man didn't even show repentance, only desire that his pain would be eased.

The rich man made the appeal to Abraham, because he still thought somehow his lineage would save him, despite his sinful life. There is another place (Matt. 3:9) where Jesus mocked this line of thinking (of saving-by-lineage), saying that God could make sons of Abraham out of stones. The literal descendants of (Abraham, Isaac and) Jacob are a chosen people, but worthy of Heaven only if they recognize and follow the Messiah.



John 5:29

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

This parable likely describes the wicked man existing in a form of tribulation, and is calling out to Abraham who exists with the beggar in a state of provision and protection. They can likely talk to eachother because they can see and hear each-other either physically or spiritually.

Biblical Connections:

Before answering "how can they talk to eachother" consider this odd remark:

Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue;

Why just the tongue? What is significant about that?

James 3:6

The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one's life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Isaiah 6 explains a time of tribulation with a similar reference to a burning mouth (similar concept):

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then is mentioned afterward a time of tribulation to the point of desolation.

Before separating the Sheep from the Goats, Jesus explains that the basis for judgement is whether or not his sheep were provided for or neglected (in this case Lazarus was neglected by the rich man).

The penalty is everlasting cutting off.

Therefore his sin is likely being atoned for by his suffering. Lazarus suffered by way of neglect, pain, and starvation - it worked out to be a sin that the Rich Man did not help him. Now the rich man is paying the cost for his sin - suffering, and it is being atoned for.

So how is it they can talk to eachother? Because he is very likely alive, physically, emotionally, and spiritually in torment. God is not one to be mocked - if he gives everlasting life, one might have to spend a significant portion of that life in punishment if we "hate" our fellow man who was created in his image.

Its probably not possible to understand perfectly "how" they can talk to eachother, but the fact is both died, and yet, alive enough to get their rewards and to witness the outcome of the other party.


I think the following scriptures will help understand the parable in a better light.

Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you. Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. James 5:1 - 8

Look at the similarities of the characters portrayed here to those in the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus:

  1. Rich man is rich - He had heaped treasure
  2. Lived in pleasure on the earth
  3. Nourished the heart - In one way this represents eating and drinking (the parable of the foolish rich man who said to his soul eat and drink for I have secured provision for many years for you!)
  4. Condemned and killed the just - Lazarus dies at the end of the parable
  5. He (the poor) does not resist you - Lazarus did not resist/demand anything of the rich man. He just begged and when given no food, did not complain

Look at the conclusion: Be patient unto the coming of the Lord. The wickedness of the rich will be judged and the recompense given at the coming of the Lord.

James is warning the rich (wo)men to cry now (this present time) and repent of their evil deeds so that they need not cry at the end, when the Judge of the whole earth will give the reward to the just and the unjust according to his/her deeds.

This passage in James is not a parable, but rather counsel for the brethren and warning for the rich. So reading the parable in the light of this passage we can understand that the reward for the just and the wicked will be given at the appearing of the Lord.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Revelation 22:12

The parable can't be taken to mean that the dead are conscious and they can communicate because the scripture is explicit that the dead know nothing.

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6: For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.

  1. The rich man claims that he loves his brothers - this can't be as the Bible clearly refutes it.
  2. The rich man claims that he knows what his brothers are doing - this also can't be as he does not have a portion in anything that is done under the sun.

So it is very very apparent that the story of rich man and Lazarus is just a parable and does not represent truth of what happens after death at any capacity.


This story in Luke was not about hell. In any study you care to do, you'll find that Hades is the grave; Gehenna and Tartarus are hell. The story of the rich man & Lazarus is not provided for us to understand the process of what happens when we die... in that way, it is not consistent or supportable by ANY other Scripture in the Bible, and we must always interpret Scripture with Scripture. We are informed by a truckload of other Scriptures about what happens to us when we die. I won't go into that here. This story might not have some of the usual hallmarks of a "parable"... Is it therefore an illustrative story, about an unnamed rich man (symbolic of the Pharisees who He'd just been condemning), and about an actual man named Lazarus (beggarly by the standard of the Pharisees)? Well, YES!!!! The best understanding, supportable by Scripture, is that it is both a PROPHECY, and WARNING (and don't take my word for it, go and study it and pray about it yourself: Be Berean). The story is a warning about materialism and hypocrisy (eg, Pharisaical 'wealth' and the spiritual hypocrisy that Jesus had just been condemning them for, has its reward on earth, xref Matt 6:5; Luke 16:11,13,15), and it is a warning about skepticism in the face of evidence (eg, if Lazarus was raised from the dead to warn the rich man's brethren, they would not believe), and thus it is also a PROPHECY!!!! Guess what happens soon after this story... go from Luke 16 to John 11... Jesus raises LAZARUS from the dead, and not only are the Pharisees NOT moved by it, they plot to kill Lazarus!!! Jesus prophesied that they would not heed the sign to change their ways! And indeed they did not. There is no coincidence that Jesus used the name Lazarus in His story!!! Why does nobody talk about this??


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