Now let's look at a parable that people cite to say we do go to Hell and burn for eternity. This parable is of the rich man and Lazarus. We are going to examine the whole parable to put it into context. As you read it, try to take any preconceived ideas from your mind so that you don't read something into the parable that is not there.
Luke 16:19-31 "19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 And 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. 25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. 26 And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Now, was there anywhere in the parable in which it says that the rich man burnt for eternity? No. It does not say that. It says that Lazarus died and was carried by the Angles to Abraham's bosom. It says the rich man died and was in torment - that's all it says! It does not say that he burnt for eternity, and he was not burning as he spoke to Lazarus, but people read that into it because they have been told that we go to hell and burn eternally, but it does not say that.
So what is this parable trying to teach us? Well to begin with it's a parable - Jesus was trying to convey a very important message. The Jewish people believed that if you were a child of Abraham then you couldn't fail to get to Heaven. They also believed that if you were wealthy it was a sign that you had been blessed by God, and if you were poor it was a sign that you were cursed. They even referred to the gentiles as dogs. So to show them they were wrong, Jesus as He always did, told them a parable.
In His parable Jesus took a wealthy Jew and put him in hell, He then took a man where the dogs had licked his sores, and above all places put him in Abraham's bosom. That's the reason the rich man is crying out "Father Abraham have mercy on me", because as far as the rich Jew would have been concerned, he should not even have been there, and that's why he's crying out.
Jesus was trying to tell the Jews that just because they are children of Abraham it doesn't give them right to the Kingdom of Heaven. Also if that rich man had been in hell burning, he wouldn't have been asking Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue, he would have been asking for a whole bucket full of water! This was simply a parable in which Jesus was trying to get across to the Jews that just because they were children of Abraham it did not give them the right to the Kingdom of Heaven, and that being poor was not a curse from God. It was not teaching that people are going to burn in hell for eternity. In fact, it simply tells us this...
Matthew 25:46 "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
Again we see the contrast of life or death. Now you won't have any trouble with this subject if you do just one thing. When you come to this word of everlasting, realise that this word everlasting applies to punishment not to punishing Ė there is a very great difference there.
This verse does not say they will go away into everlasting punishing, it says that they will go to everlasting punishment. It means they are never coming back, they are going to be destroyed and that will be the end of them - as we read earlier, they will be burnt to ashes. When we read these verses correctly and compare scripture with scripture then we get a clear picture, we get the whole truth. We must never take just one verse and build a whole doctrine upon that one verse. The Bible clearly tells us in Isaiah 28...
Isaiah 28:10 "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:"
So we must always compare scripture with scripture, taking it as a whole, to see the complete picture of truth.