Q. (Luke 16: 19.31).. Is the “story” about Lazarus and the rich man a parable or not? Can we assume from that’s what happens to believers and unbelievers after death or not? Some people make this passage out to be “just another parable”. What is your opinion?
A. I don’t believe the story of Lazarus is a parable because in parables Jesus never named his characters, instead calling them “a certain man” for instance. Also the story is consistent with Jewish belief regarding life after death in Biblical times.
I think the Lord was explaining to us what he would be referring to when from the cross He promised one of those beside Him, “Today you’ll be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). In Jewish tradition, Paradise is called “Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22), and was the place where those who believed that a Redeemer would come to save them went to await Him. It was in Hades.
By the way, after Jesus returned from the dead He went to Heaven to sprinkle His blood on the altar there (Hebrews 9:11-12). This opened Heaven’s gates for the first time and since then every believer goes straight to Heaven upon dying. (Phil. 1:23-24)
He took everyone in Paradise to Heaven too, so Paradise is empty today. Only the other side of Hades where the rich man went, is still occupied. It will be emptied at the end of the Millennium. (Rev. 20:11-15)