It is no wonder more and more people are doubting the existence of hell, or simply downplaying it, when even individuals such as John MacArthur falsely refer to the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 as "a parable." In John's latest book, Parables, on pages 157-174, he does precisely that.
What is a parable? A parable is a figure of speech using "like," "as," or "than" for comparison. A parable is a story designed to illustrate the truth of reality. Since a parable uses an illustration in order to convey a truth of reality, if the rich man and Lazarus is a parable, what truth of reality is it conveying for us?
Look at every one of Jesus' other parables and note how they illustrate something completely different from what He is actually saying. So, if this is a parable, what truth of reality is it revealing to us?
This story uses an actual person's name, which Jesus' parables never did. The story clearly says, "And in Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment" (v.23). If the Greek word "hades" (αδου) merely refers to the grave, how can an individual have consciousness, as is clearly demonstrated here, and also be "in torment"? If it is merely a grave, how does torment tie in with it? How is he able to lift up his eyes?
The parables Jesus told always referred to something else, to some spiritual form of reality. So, again, if this is a parable, what truth of reality is it revealing to us?