Difficult Bible Passages
by Lorraine Day, M.D.
1. “Preaching to the spirits in prison”
“Preaching to the spirits in prison” - Please explain 1 Peter 3:18-20 where it speaks of Jesus preaching to the spirits in prison. Here is the passage, as translated in the literal Concordant version of the Bible:
“For it is better to be suffering for doing good, if the will of God may be willing, than for doing evil,
“Seeing that Christ also, for our sakes, once died concerning sins, the just (righteous) for the sake of the unjust (unrighteousness), that He may be leading us to God; (It is the KINDNESS of God that leads us to repentance). Being put to death, indeed, in flesh, yet vivified in spirit (the flesh was crucified He was vivified made alive - spiritually) (God takes us from the carnal flesh to the spiritual),
“In which, being gone (preached?) to the spirits in prison also (those locked in sin),
“He heralds (proclaims) to those once stubborn, when the patience of God awaited in the days of Noah while the ark was being constructed (120 years), in which a few that is, eight souls, were brought safely through water,
“The representation of which, baptism, is now saving you also (not the putting off of the filth of the flesh, but the inquiry of a good conscience to God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 3:17-22
There has been considerable misunderstanding of these verses of Scripture. It has been preached that Christ actually descended into the lower regions of the earth (“hell”) and preached to lost souls who were in prison in some type of purgatory or limbo or hell.
Let’s let the Bible define the terms in this passage.
a. To whom was the preaching done?
Those who were “in prison” - referring to those bound in sin.
Throughout the Bible we find this terminology used in describing those who are bound in the prison house of sin. David prayed,
“Bring my soul out of prison, . . .” (Psalm 142:7)
Paul spoke of his experience in these words, “bringing me into captivity to the law of sin.” (Romans 7:23)
When Jesus stood up in the synagogue in Nazareth to proclaim that He was the Messiah, He quoted Isaiah 61:1:
“The spirit of the Lord God is upon Me; because the Lord hath anointed Me to preach good tidings unto the poor, He hah sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening (literal = jubilee) of the prison to them that are bound;
During the jubilee ALL slaves were set free.
b. How was the preaching done?
The preaching was done through the Spirit of God (pneuma in the Greek meaning Breath) God’s Breath of holiness (mistranslated Holy Spirit).
For the prophecy came in not old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by God’s breath of holiness.” (Holy Ghost Holy Spirit) 2 Peter 1`:21
God spoke through the prophets including Noah, who prophesied of the coming world-wide flood through God’s Spirit (Holy Spirit = God’s Breath of holiness the spirit of God in the individual prophet, one who speaks for God).
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of (the prophesy concerning) the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit (breath) of Christ in them was pointing, when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by God’s Breath of holiness (Holy Spirit) sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 1 Peter 1:10-12
c. When was the preaching done?
The answer is plainly given in verse 20: “when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being constructed.”
So the preaching was actually done while the ark was being built - - during the preaching of Noah to that wicked antediluvian world.
Conclusion: What Peter is telling us here is simply that Christ, through the “Holy Spirit” (God’s Breath of Holiness) was through Noah, His prophet speaking conviction to the hearts of those alive at that time, appealing to them to believe in God and come into the ark.
The three questions are clearly answered in the text itself: 1) that Christ preached by God’s Breath of Holiness (Holy Spirit), 2) that the preaching occurred while the ark was being built, and 3) Christ preached to the “spirits in prison” those individuals whose sinful lives were bound in the prison house of sin.
Jesus did NOT physically go to “hell” (a word that NEVER appears in the Bible in the original manuscripts) to preach to those who had died and “gone to hell.” This could NOT in any way be the interpretation of this text, because Jesus Himself said that Death is a sleep in which the dead person knows nothing.
“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth: but I so, that I may awake him out of sleep.
Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.
Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.
Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” John 11:11-14
“The living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5
2. The Nephilim
Sons of God and daughters of men: Were the Nephilim giant off-spring of demons who co-habited with human women?
“And it came to pass, when humanity began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them,
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took them wives of all when they chose.
And the Lord said, My spirit shall not abide in man for the eon, in that moreover he is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years (until the flood and the destruction of all humanity except Noah and his family).
Now the nephilim (#5303 in Strong’s Concordance - mighty men of large stature giants?)) come to be in the earth in those days; and moreover, afterward coming are those who are sons of God to the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, they are the masters, who are from the eon, mortals with the name (men of renown?).” Genesis 6:1-4
Again, we will let the Bible define its own terms:
a. Who are the “sons of God”? Are they human beings or (fallen) angels (demons)?
There are more than seven texts in the Bible where the designation “sons of God” is used. Only two of those texts, both found in the book of Job, use the phrase “sons of God” to refer to heavenly beings, but almost certainly they refer to heavenly beings that follow God.
Satan, a word that means the Adversary (of God) comes along with the “sons of God” but he is, in both cases, referred to separately. He is not included as one of the “sons of God” and he apparently “presents himself” separately from the “sons of God.” See below:
“Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and the Adversary (Satan) came also among them.” Job 1:6
“Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord.” Job 2:1
All of the other texts obviously refer to human beings, but again they are all followers of God. See the following texts.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit (Breath) of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14
“And because you are sons of God, God has sent for the Spirit of
His Son in your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6
“That you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights of the world.” Philippians 2:15
“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew Him not.” 1 John 3:1
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2
One must conclude that the term sons of God, whether applied to angels or humans, are those who are followers of God and not the enemies of God, as are Satan and his demons.
b. What does the Hebrew word Nephilim mean?
Does it define a half-demon half-human alien-like being, or does it refer to an all-human person of large stature? What does the Bible say?
When Caleb, Joshua, and the others who were sent to spy out the land of Canaan, returned from searching of the land after forty days, they reported to Moses, Aaron and all the congregation of Israel:
“We came into the land whither thou sent us, and truly it has an abundance of food; and this is the fruit of it.
“Nevertheless the people are strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there.
“The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
“And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and take possession of it; for we are well able to overcome it.
“But the men that went up with him said, We are not able to go up against the people: for they are stronger than we.
“And they brought up a bad report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, through which we have gone to search, is a land that devours up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of a great stature.
And there we saw the nephilim (translated giants #5303 in Strong’s Concordance) the sons of Anak, which come of the nephilim (giants mighty men large stature); and we were in our own sight as mere insects, and so we were in their sight. Numbers 13:26-33
There is no question that the Israelite spies had seen warriors of large stature to whom they (the Israelites) appeared as “mere insects.” Obviously, that was God’s plan to remind the Israelites that they could only conquer the land of Canaan if God was with them! They could not do it alone.
But the Israelites, as usual (except for Caleb and Joshua), were not able to trust God, so they refused to go in and take the land of Canaan. Thus, God turned the Israelites back into the wilderness for forty years until that entire generation (again, except for Caleb and Joshua) had died.
These sons of Anak are referred to in Numbers 13:33 as nephilim (#5303 in Strong’s Concordance), are obviously human beings mighty men of large stature compared to the Israelites who appeared in their own sight “as mere insects.”
The same word, nephilim, is used in Numbers 13:33 as in Genesis 6:4, leading us to firmly conclude that the “giants” in both cases are human beings and NOT the offspring of demons and human beings.
One more important point is that we have no Biblical evidence that angels (whether holy or fallen) can reproduce. We have every reason to believe that each angel was individually created by God, as opposed to the human race where God created only two beings Adam and Eve who then produced offspring.
It is possible that one of the major reasons Satan wants to destroy humanity is that God has given human beings the ability to reproduce. Satan views this as co-creation with God, something he is unable to do. Thus, his major goals are to destroy the family, debase sexuality, promote promiscuity, promote death through abortion the murder of innocent babies by their own mothers and euthanasia of the sick and elderly.
Conclusion: The phrase sons of God refers to human beings who were followers of God probably the offspring of Seth whereas the daughters of men describe the Unbeliever pagans (heathen) women who were NOT followers of the true God possibly the offspring of Cain.
The term Nephilim refers to human beings - mighty men of large stature - NOT to half human-half demon alien beings.
3. Does the Bible Endorse Vegetarianism?
Didn’t God say after the flood,
mankind could eat meat?
A large segment of Christianity believes that vegetarianism is not only unnecessary, and even unwise, but they believe it is spiritually WRONG, the result of a “deceiving spirit and a doctrine of devils,” according to 1 Tim 4:1-5. Doesn’t the Bible say to beware of those who command you to abstain from eating meat (1 Tim 4:3)?
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing (deceiving) spirits, and doctrines of devils:
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
“Forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats (The Greek word here is broma and means “food” not “meat” - as in flesh food.) that God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
“For every creature (created thing, or creation) of God is good, (Everything God has created is good - including marriage and natural food - fruits, grains and vegetables originally created as food) and nothing is to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
“For it is sanctified (consecrated - set apart) by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Tim 4:1-5
This passage describes a group who depart from the Biblical truth in the latter days. According to 1 Tim 4:3, they teach two twin errors. This group, 1) forbids marriage, and 2) commands to abstain from the food that God has created to be received with thanksgiving.
The word “commanding” is in italics, denoting that it is an added word and does not appear in the original Greek Scriptures.
The word “meat” here refers not to flesh food, in particular, it refers to food, in general. The same word (broma = food) is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) in Genesis 1:29:
“Every herb-bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is a fruit of a tree yielding seed to you shall it be for “meat” (broma = “food”).
Obviously, herb-bearing seeds and fruit are not literal meat animal products. The correct word is food.
Certain religious groups throughout the ages have endorsed asceticism. Declaring the world as evil, they forbid their spiritual leaders, such as priests and monks, to marry, and they have looked on the enjoyment of the food God created for us to eat “with thanksgiving,” as a sin. Excessive fasting and a close-to-starvation diet are encouraged as part of a religious program of salvation by works.
But marriage and food are both created by God. They both were created in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden. They both are part of God’s good plan for the human race on this earth. According to 1 Tim 4:4,5, those created things sanctified by the word of God are good and not to be refused when received with thanksgiving.
The “foods God has created to be received with thanksgiving” are clearly described in Genesis 1:29: “every herb-bearing seed and every tree yielding fruit” -- grains and fruits. Vegetables were added later, after sin (Genesis 3:18).
“Paul here is arguing against the fanaticism that declares all physical pleasure as evil. He reveals that God’s creation is good. God desires that His creatures heartily enjoy the food He has created for them. The issue here is NOT clean or unclean foods, but whether food itself is part of the material world to be rejected through monastic life. Paul says, “NO! God’s creation is good.” Studying Together, Mark Finley, pg 46,47
4. Jesus Ate Fish and Lamb,
So Why Shouldn’t We?
Jesus ate fish, and He also ate lamb at the Passover. If He ate meat (flesh food) - why shouldn’t we?
We must go back to the beginning. God’s original, ideal diet given to Adam and Eve before sin was fruits and grains, in their natural form (Gen 1.29).
After sin, God added vegetables as well to His Ideal Diet for mankind (Gen 3:18).
It was only after the flood that God allowed humanity to eat flesh food, but even then, man was forbidden to eat the blood or the fat. (How many Christians obey that directive of God? Flesh food eaters agree that without the blood or fat it tastes like shoe leather!)
“It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that you eat neither fat nor blood.” Leviticus 3:17
Yet, many hundreds of years after the flood, when God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, before He gave them the Ten Commandments (in Exodus, Chapter 20), He cleared the minds and bodies of the Israelites so they could understand the Ten Commandments. He gave them a totally vegan diet - - - MANNA! (In Exodus, Chapter 16 four Chapters earlier.)
And what was the Israelites’ response? Total ingratitude! Speaking of the Manna they said, “We loathe this light bread!” and they pleaded for the fleshpots of Egypt.
So God gave them exactly what they wanted - - all the quail they lusted after. And thousands died! Many died with the flesh still between their teeth. And not one of those who lusted after flesh food entered into the Promised Land. They ALL died in the wilderness!
This is a perfect example of “God’s wrath!” Giving us what we want what we desperately whine and complain for, and then letting us reap what we have sown.
God’s IDEAL diet is a totally vegan vegetarian diet.
This is the diet God gave Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
He confirmed it when He gave it (manna a vegan diet) to the Israelites when he brought them out of Egypt through the wilderness into the Promised Land.
And God tells us that a vegan vegetarian diet will be the only one available in heaven and the New Earth (because nothing will die). Even the animals will be vegan vegetarians.
“And the cow and the bear shall graze: their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.” Isaiah 11:7
Some incorrectly believe that the saved will not be eating anything in heaven or in the New Earth. But that is not biblical! We have already seen that the animals will eat straw. And in Revelation 22:2, we learn of the “tree of life that bears twelve manner of fruits, and yields her fruit every month.”
After Jesus was resurrected He was in His “resurrection body” and He ate food. Luke 24:40-43. Notice that when Jesus was resurrected, He was not a “spirit.” He could be seen and felt, and he ate food. He referred to His body as “flesh and bone.”
So if Jesus ate flesh food, why can’t we?
Jesus came to change hearts. When we truly love Jesus, we will want to follow the IDEAL diet He gave mankind in the Garden of Eden, in the Wilderness during the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, and the diet He has designated for heaven and the New Earth for eternity.
Jesus was against slavery:
When Jesus was on earth, He was against slavery, but He never organized a march to “Free the slaves.” He even told slaves to work hard for their masters.
Jesus was against licentious behavior:
Jesus was against fornication and adultery, but he told the adulterous woman thrown down in front of Him by the Pharisees, “Neither do I condemn you. But go and sin no more.”
Jesus was against divorce:
When the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was acceptable to divorce one’s wife, after all, Moses said it was, Jesus responded by saying, “Moses said you could divorce your wife because you are a stiff-necked, hard-hearted people. But it was not like that in the beginning. It was to be one husband and one wife, for their whole life.”
The answer is this:
When Jesus came to earth He met the people where they were but He did not leave them there. He came to change hearts, to turn the heart of mankind back to Him. Once that happens, then all else will follow. When we truly love Jesus Christ, we will want to follow His precepts.
Eating Flesh Food Lowers Life Expectancy
After the flood, when the eating of flesh food was allowed (not commanded but allowed) by God, the life expectancy dropped dramatically - from Methuselah at 969 years (Methuselah died the year the flood came) - to a life expectancy of 400 years within 4 or 5 generations after the flood. By the time of King David, the life expectancy had dropped to around 70 or 80 years only TEN PERCENT of the original life expectany!
Of course, the flood changed other things as well; the water canopy surrounding the earth was destroyed leading to extreme seasonal changes in temperature, and the oxygen content was lower. Both of these things contributed to the decrease in life expectancy. But the eating of flesh food was a major factor, as well.
Even as recently as 2001, studies show that vegetarians live approximately 10 years longer than meat eaters. (See Archives of Internal Medicine 2001:161:1645-1652)
Why would God allow the human race to eat something that would be harmful?
Remember, God’s wrath (Romans 1:18, 24, 26, 28) is giving us over to “our own desires” to reap what we have sown.
It took only 1400 years, from Creation to the Flood, for wickedness to “fill the earth.” During that time, men often lived to be over 900 years old. With that lifespan, a person could become very wise or desperately evil.
God promised never again to destroy the earth by water. But Jesus tells us (Matthew 24:37-39) that before He comes again, the earth will become as wicked as it was “in the days of Noah” and eventually the earth will be destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:10). It appears we are now entering that general era of “End-Times.”
But it has taken over 4,000 years to “achieve” the same level of wickedness that was attained in only 1,400 years before the flood. Why has it taken so long?
The most likely answer is the difference in life expectancy. Man, if he is so inclined, can become much more wicked in 900+ years than he can in 70 years. And because God has an appointed time for everything: for Creation, for the Flood, for His Appearing on earth as a man 2,000 years ago, AND for His Second Coming, the earth had to last an additional 4,000+ years so wickedness had to be restrained to some extent.
How could that be accomplished? By shortening the lifespan!
But notice that God did not command mankind to eat flesh food. He left it up to the individual. If carnal man lusted after flesh food, he would significantly shorten his life span. He would reap the consequences of his own decision. He would reap what he had sown.
But a diligent student of the Bible can easily discern from the diet given by God a) in Eden, b) to the Israelites in the wilderness (which represented God delivering each of us from sin Egypt and taking us to the “Promised Land), and c) in heaven and the New Earth, that God’s IDEAL diet is a vegan vegetarian diet!
In ALL three instances, God designates a vegan vegetarian diet!
The Israelites in the wilderness were griping and complaining about having nothing to eat but manna, God’s miraculous “bread from heaven”, the perfect food that represented the coming Jesus Christ, instead they wanted the flesh pots of Egypt.
And the mixed multitude that was among them yielded to the intense craving and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, “Who shall give us flesh to eat?”
We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely; . . and now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all beside this manna, before our eyes.
And Moses heard the people weep throughout their families, every man in the door of his tent: and the anger of the Lord was aroused greatly. . .
And the Lord said unto Moses, “Say unto the people, ‘Sanctify yourselves again tomorrow, and you shall eat flesh: for you have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Who shall give us flesh to eat? For it was well with us in Egypt;” therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and you shall eat.
You shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;
But even a whole month, until it comes out your nostrils, and it becomes loathsome to you; because you have despised the Lord that is among you and have wept before Him, saying ‘Why came we forth out of Egypt?” (Numbers 11:4-6, 10, 18-20)
So God “gave them what they wanted”, flesh food quail, for a whole month - until it came “out of their nostrils!” And thousands died “while the flesh was still between their teeth!”
And there went forth a wind from the Lord, and brought quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, as it were a day’s journey on this side, and as it were a day’s journey on the other side, round about the camp, and as it were two cubits high upon the face of the earth.
And the people stood up all that day, and all that night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quails: he that gathered least gathered ten homers: and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp.
And while the flesh was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the wrath of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord smote the people with a great plague.
And He called the name of that place Kibrothhattaavah (literally Graves of Craving): because there they buried the people that lusted (yielded to craving). Numbers 11:31-34
And not one of those Israelites who lusted after the flesh food entered the Promised Land. They ALL eventually died in the wilderness.
How prophetic it is for those longing to go to the “Promised Land” of heaven. Everyone must get rid of his appetite for meat, poultry and fish while here on earth! God is not going to wave a magic wand when you die in order to remove your desire for flesh food. That is a habit you will have to develop during your life on earth.
All Flesh Food is Filthy Today
Flesh food, including fish, was clean 2,000 years ago, compared to today.
Can you imagine the following being stated about the fish in Jesus’ time?
“The FDA has issued warnings to pregnant women, nursing women and children, to limit their intake of fish. They are warned not to eat ANY fish of these four types: swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and shark, because they could contain enough mercury to damage an unborn baby’s developing brain.”
Tuna is also a problem because of its mercury content.
Generally, the bigger the fish, the more contaminated they are because the little fish eat (contaminated) algae, the larger fish eat the little fish, and the biggest fish eat the moderate size fish. The fish, like other animals, concentrate the metals, pesticides, and other contaminants in their muscle, therefore, a fish can be a thousand times more contaminated than the water from which it is taken.
Farmed fish are also dangerous. Salmon raised on “farms” can contain up to 10 times more pesticides and chemicals than are usually found in wild salmon. Toxins discovered in farmed fish include PCB’s that can attack the nervous system causing learning disabilities in children and suppression of the immune system in all ages.
The problem is thought to lie in the food fed to salmon which is made from fish trawled from the ocean and concentrated into pellets, multiplying the toxins in ocean fish into more significant, concentrated doses. The oceans and rivers are grossly contaminated from the dumping of industrial waste and human sewage. The human sewage contains huge amounts of prescription drugs that are causing disease and death in the fish.
None of these problems existed in the fish from the Sea of Galilee when Jesus was on earth.
Sheep have a disease called Scrapie, which is “Mad sheep disease,” because they are being fed pellets formed from ground up animals who died from disease. Sheep and cows are vegetarians. When they are fed meat ground-up animals they become sick! Vegetarian animals get sick when they eat flesh food!
The sheep in the time of Jesus were grazing in the field. Sheep, NOW, are factory farmed, mass-produced in close quarters in barns, fed huge amounts of hormones to make them grow abnormally fast, antibiotics, because they’re all sick, and ground-up dead animals, even though sheep are created by God to be vegetarians.
This is why they are sick with Scrapie, a fatal disease that can be transmitted to other animals and to human beings.
Then the diseased, dead sheep are ground up and fed to cattle - - - giving them Mad Cow Disease!
Chickens are no better. Here is a quote from a newspaper, the Atlanta Constitution, on 5/26/91, given by a USDA Chicken Inspector:
“Every week millions of chickens leaking yellow pus, stained by green feces, contaminated by harmful bacteria, or marred by lung and heart infections, cancerous tumors or skin conditions are shipped for sale to consumers, instead of being condemned or destroyed.”
If a reasonable person cannot understand the difference between the condition of fish and meat in Christ’s time, compared to the condition of fish and meat today, - - - - - - - they need our fervent prayers!
5. Doesn’t the story Jesus told of the Rich Man and Lazarus Prove that there is a Hell?
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man goes immediately to hell and Lazarus goes to heaven. How does one explain this story told by Jesus if the dead are sleeping in the grave and NOT alive in heaven? (Luke 16:19-31)
The story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a parable. Jesus identifies it as a parable in Luke 15:3. Remember that the Bible was not written with chapters and verses. Chapters and verses were added many centuries later.
Luke 15: 3 begins by stating, regarding Jesus:
“And He spake this parable unto them, saying. . .”
Then Jesus proceeds to tell one parable consisting of the following five parts.
In Luke, Chapter 15:
a) The lost sheep
b) The lost coin
c) The lost son (the Prodigal son)
In Luke, Chapter 16:
d) The unjust steward
e) The rich man and Lazarus
In addition, it is obvious that the story of the Rich man and Lazarus is part of the parable (and not to be taken literally), because,
a) the previous four stories are all part of the same parable,
b) if a person were really consumed in flames in hell, the water on the tip of a finger would do nothing to cool his tongue (Luke 16:24), and
c) the word translated hell in verse 23 is the word hades that means the grave or the unseen. It has nothing to do with burning.
This parable is the fifth in a series of five parts beginning with the parable of the lost sheep, Luke 15:3, where this is clearly identified as a parable. (Remember, verses and chapters were added hundreds of years AFTER the Bible was written, and they were designated by uninspired translators, not by inspired Bible writers.)
The five parts of this parable are: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the lost boy (prodigal son), the unjust steward and the rich man and Lazarus. Each part of the parable is designed to teach a different aspect of the same theme.
Two groups of individuals are the objects of this 5 part parable. On one hand are the Pharisaic aristocrats. On the other hand are the "tribute collectors and sinners", downtrodden and despised, the objects of contempt and loathing from the Pharisees.
In the first part of the parable, the "tribute collector and sinner" are the principal subjects. In the second, the sinner alone is seen. The fourth section parallels the second inasmuch as there the Pharisaic class is also seen by itself without any reference to their group. As the lost piece of silver demonstrated the utter helplessness of the sinner, so in the case of the Unjust Steward, the true character of the Pharisee is vividly portrayed.
The third and fifth sections of the parable group together both of the classes mentioned, and bring to a climax the great disparity which existed between them.
Jesus was using stories familiar to many in His audience. They were stories, parables, illustrations only. The story of the Rich man and Lazarus demonstrates clearly that it is a story only, and not fact. People do not actually have conversations between heaven and hell. Abraham must have had a very large bosom to contain all the individuals who go there. Do people from heaven actually visit people in hell? How could a finger tip, dipped in water, cool the tongue of a person who was being tormented in the middle of a fire?
6. Don’t We Go Directly to Heaven When We Die?
Jesus said to the thief on the Cross, “TODAY, you will be with Me in Paradise.”
When Jesus said to the thief on the Cross, who was being crucified along with Jesus, "Verily, verily I say unto you TODAY thou shalt be with Me in Paradise," did Jesus mean that the thief would be with Jesus in heaven that day? That is certainly how the majority of Christians interpret Jesus' words, which would mean that a person goes to heaven immediately when they die.
However, there are some Christians who believe that, since the original Scriptures in Hebrew and Greek had NO punctuation, then it depends on where the comma is placed in the sentence as to the meaning. If the comma is placed BEFORE the word "Today", then that would suggest that, indeed, a person goes immediately to heaven when he dies.
If, however, the comma is placed AFTER the word "Today", then the sentence has a whole different meaning. That would mean that Jesus is just telling the thief on the Cross that He is telling him this information TODAY.
But would Jesus have to tell the thief that? Wouldn't the thief KNOW that Jesus was talking to Him "TODAY"? That's pretty elementary. A three year old would know that!
Or was that a figure of speech that Jesus frequently used when He spoke?
To find out the answer to that question, we looked at EVERY TIME Jesus used the phrase "Verily, verily" or "Verily, verily, I say unto you" to see if Jesus followed the phrase with the word "today." There are 78 instances of "Verily, Verily, I say unto you" but only one time, did Jesus add the word "Today", and that is in Luke 23:43 when Jesus said to the thief, "Verily, verily I say unto you, Today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Jesus was telling the thief something that would happen today, NOT that Jesus was just speaking to the thief today. THAT would be self-explanatory.
So, then, was Jesus really telling the thief that he (the thief) would be in heaven with Jesus that very day?
Jesus could NOT have meant that, because even Jesus, Himself, wasn’t in heaven that day, so He couldn't be there with the thief that day. Jesus didn't go to heaven until after He was resurrected. We know that because He told Mary after His resurrection "Do not detain me ("Touch Me not" in the KJV), I have not yet ascended to My Father."
So since Jesus wasn't going to be in heaven that day, the word Paradise cannot mean "heaven." In fact, the Bible will show us that the word Paradise is NOT a Physical Location, but a Spiritual Condition.
Jesus did NOT say "Today you shall be with Me in Heaven," He said, "Today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
So, what does the word "Paradise" actually mean?
The word "Paradise" is used ONLY 3 times in the entire Bible:
1) Luke 23:43 as we have just quoted, "Verily, verily I say unto you, TODAY thou shalt be with Me in PARADISE."
2) Rev 2:7 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the PARADISE of God."
3) 2 Cor 12:1-5: Paul says, "It is not profitable for me doubtless to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
“I knew a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, (whether out of the body, I do not know: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven.
“And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I do not know: God knoweth;)
“How that he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such an one will I boast; yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.”
The Rev 2:7 quotation says that "the tree of life. . . is in the midst of the Paradise of God." The tree of life was, of course, FIRST found in the Garden of Eden. So it is reasonable to assume that Paradise is referring in some way to the Garden of Eden, or Adam and Eve's spiritual relationship to God when they were IN the Garden of Eden.
When Adam and Eve were IN the Garden of Eden, they were ONE with God - they were in Paradise. As soon as they decided to make their own decisions without God, they were NO longer “one” with God and therefore - NO longer in Paradise.
Paradise describes the condition that prevailed in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were "one with God."
Jesus was telling the Thief on the cross, you are at this moment “Today” - “One with Me” and when you are resurrected at My Second Coming, you WILL be with Me forever.