In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a story that seems to cause a few people some problems. It’s a story of a rich man and a poor man who both die. The poor man is in the presence of God and the rich man ended up in torments.
The problem is that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that anyone not right with God will just disappear. The soul ends. Therefore, they have a great problem with this story and call it a parable.
Let’s look at some definitions. This story in Luke has to be a parable, fable or a true story.
1. A parable is a principle explained through a true life happening. Of the other parables Jesus told, all could have happened. Could there have been a prodigal son? Could a woman have lost a coin? Can a farmer sow seed and it end up on four types of soil? Can a man sell everything he has to buy land that has treasure on it? Yes to all. Thus, a parable uses a real life situation, and we know that Jesus often spoke in parables.
2. A fable uses a story that can never happen in order to teach a principle such as Esops Fables. If this story in Luke is a fable this would be the only fable Jesus told. It would be totally out of character for Him. Fables were not His method.
3. Could this be a true story? For most parables which Jesus taught from was usually noted by Jesus or the author of that particular book as being a parable. If it was a series of parables the author would signify the first as a parable and the rest just fell into that category. This happens in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 15. The question is, does Luke 16:19-31 fall into the same parable list which began in chapter 15 since there is a break in 16:14-18? Just an interesting thought.
So, what is the conclusion? If it were a fable then it could not have happened, yet it would make those who claim it to be a fable prophets with spiritual insight, understanding it to be a fable when there is no record of Jesus telling fables. There is no evidence that Jesus ever associated Himself with anything false.
If it were a parable then it was told as if it really could have happened. If it were a true story, then we know that Jesus would have been the only one who could have known of this happening. Therefore, unless this is a fable it must have been a true happening or could really happened!
Could communication happen between the rich man and Abraham? It is the spirit world. What details do we have? Jesus would know better.
Was judgment passed on who was rich and who was poor? Nothing is mentioned about their spiritual state, righteous or evil. What we do know is that the heart of the rich man was not righteous but self-centered. They were not judged on what they had but what was in their heart that was revealed through their lives.
Is there a hell? If there was not then why would Jesus even mention it? What purpose did it serve? And, why would he associate with falsehood? He did not associate with falsehood nor would He. Therefore, Jesus gave us some insight as to what hell is like.