Jehovah`s Witness/Luke chapter 16


Hello again Derrick.

Thought I'd pass on an interesting story I had.One day before work i was browsing the search engine of a bible app and wanted to see if Abraham was in heaven. One of the verses that came up was Luke chapter 16 vs. 23. I read it and instantly saw the disconnect of what the jws teach about the condition of the dead. I was in a rain delay at work so I asked my jw co-worker if he could explain what these verses meant. He read them as I watched his expression.He seemed bewildered and said it was only a parable and not an actual event. I then looked up the word parable and asked if he knew that it was based on a basic truth. He eventually became irate and shunned me for the rest of the day.Well, the next day he was off to the convention in N.Y. I was working by myself and trying to listen to a local radio station, but the signal was weak and a religious station kept bleeding through. So at nine o'clock I tried to find this station and behold it was the moody bible institutes network. Not more than ten minutes passed when a preacher gave a sermon on the rich man and the beggar.Unfortunatly the bit ended before the part about after they died. Coincidence?
Take care.  Kevin

Good morning, Kevin.  How are you?  Its been awhile since I have heard from you.  I want to begin by apologizing for taking 5 days to get back to you.  This has been one more week, I'll tell you what. I have been working almost non-stop, plus had a couple of weddings to attend, and have been working on this answer in segments.  It is going to be a little bit lengthy, because I want to address your question, and also since it is on the same subject that both Sister T and another JW expert here have been talking about, I wanted to address his explanation of this passage as well.  It has been a couple weeks since his explanation posted, so if its okay with you, I would like to address just a few points from it.  

I have followed somewhat, your discussions with Sister T, about Luke 16.  The thing you have to remember with her and DW, and any other JW who would comment on this passage of Scripture, is this....Every portion of Scripture MUST be made to fit with Watchtower teaching.  If that means placing an interpretation upon it that NOBODY would get in 10,000,000 years reading the Bible on their own, then so be it.  In fact, that in itself, would be seen by the average JW, as proof that the WT Society is God's channel....Basically, odd interpretations and inexplicable understandings, would only (in their minds) prove that a person NEEDS the WT to show them the true understanding of Scripture.  Whereas you and I can see immediately that a particular understanding is completely ridiculous because you couldn't derive that meaning out of the text in a million years, they will see it as proof that the WT has some great insight that no one else has.

Personally, I thought about addressing her answer where she made a completely clueless statement about "God having the devil to do His work of torturing for Him, even after the devil being the one who led people astray in the first place" (paraphrasing), or some nonsense like that, but then I thought...."Why bother"?  Most anyone reading would see what a complete misrepresentation, and downright ridiculous statement that is.  

I've said it before....Its okay to be completely clueless about something, but its NOT okay to presume to talk about the subject that you are completely clueless about, as though you were knowledgable on it.  Some of these JWs need to figure that out, so as not to look silly.

There are several flaws in the JW teaching on Luke 16.  First, let's start with the word "parable".  Basically, a parable is a story, used to convey and illustration or lesson, or Bible truth.  Now, there is absolutely NOTHING in the definition of "parable", that would automatically mean that it could not be a TRUE story of an actual event.  Now, that isn't to say that it can't be fictional, either.  It can, and many are.  But I have often used real-life stories/analogies to my sons, in order to teach them something.  There is nothing in the nature of a parable, that would automatically eliminate it from being a true story.

However, that is all a moot point, because I personally see nothing in Luke 16:19-31, that would convince me that this even is a parable.  I know many Christians disagree on that, but even if it is a parable, it is teaching a truth....the truth about what happens to a man at death, who ignored God and His Word.  Jesus nowhere said..."Hey, now I know this is a hard concept to swallow, so if you don't like it, then please feel free to add your own ideas to this account and make it mean whatever your religion tells you it means"  

No, He spoke a simple truth.  Furthermore, if this is a parable, it is the ONLY one where Jesus ever used the real names of real people.  It is never stated that this story is a parable, and I see no reason for making it one.

Now, DW says that this "parable" represents a "change of condition".  I'll say!  It represents a very abrupt change of condition, in that the man who was previously rich and enjoyed the best life had to offer, after death, is reduced to nothing due to his rejection of God.  Whereas, the man who had nothing material in this life, has now found comfort after death.  Now, we could go into a very long drawn out discussion about Paradise (before the cross), and Heaven being the home of the saved after Jesus' death, but that is another discussion altogether.  But yes, I'll agree that both of these men experienced a "change of condition".

However, I completely reject his notion that the "change of condition" refers to the Jewish religions leaders, vs the common people.  Just where in the context, does he get that from?  Anyone reading this passage LOGICALLY, would believe that it is speaking of 2 people....A rich man who was decked out in royalty and wealth, and a beggar who had nothing material, but had faith in God, whereas the rich man had no time for God, nor saw any need for Him.  

But hey, we have a doctrine to defend here, so let's just make it mean whatever we need it to mean.  The fact is, not only does THIS passage teach a literal Hell, but so do many others.  I would be very happy in another post if need be, to lay out the massive amounts of Scripture that shows the reality of Hell, verses any argument they can come up with, that would make Hell nothing more than the common "grave".

It doesn't surprise me much, that your JW co-worker was unable to give you a coherent response to your logical question.  They are pretty much conditioned to repeat what they have been taught, and once you get them off their memorized script, then there normally isn't much else they can offer.  Its funny to me that your co-worker basically went from bewilderment to anger, all because you actually made him THINK and read the passage on his own, without a WT explanation conveniently at hand.  Its odd how he feels that ANYTHING that goes against Watchtower teaching, can automatically be dismissed as a "parable" or fictitious story.  

But like you said....Just a simple reading of the story, makes it obvious to anyone, that this story, parable or not, is speaking about the condition of the dead.  

Now in the recent discussions of this passage of Scripture that we have witnessed on the board, I have noticed something.  We have been told to think "logically", and that every Scripture in the Bible has a meaning that can be understood by human logic (despite many being listed that cannot), yet we are then given what amounts to an illogical absurdity, as the "proper interpretation".  

Think about it...I can take almost ANY passage of Scripture or any story, and claim that "This is the correct understanding".  Its one thing to SAY it, and its another thing to PROVE it. But saying it, simply does not make it the correct understanding.  We have been asked to be "logical".  Okay, let's....

We have been told in a recent post....."" But a beggar named Laz′a·rus used to be put at his gate, covered with ulcers  and desiring to be filled with the things dropping from the table of the rich man. Yes, even the dogs would come and lick his ulcers"

Lazarus is the common people who the religious leaders are supposed to feed spiritually but they look down on them with contempt. Jesus denunciation of them such as here makes that clear

Matt 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you travel over sea and dry land to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him a subject for Ge·hen′na twice as much so as yourselves"

The pharisees are not properly nourishing the common people spiritually just giving them what drops of off their table.

Notice the bait and switch, and jumping from scenario to scenario?  We are told that "Lazarus" represents the common people who are looked down upon with contempt, by the religious leaders (The rich man).  And we are then given a reference from a completely different Scripture (supposedly supporting this assertion), which speaks of the Pharisees going to great lengths to make a convert, only to make that convert as bad as they are. (Matthew 23:15).  

Its clear from the passage listed, that the Pharisees went to great lengths to make this convert, so what connection does that have to the account of the rich man and Lazarus?  Does this account in Luke 16:19-31, indicate to you that the rich man went to great lengths to make a convert out of Lazarus, or does it speak more of him basically all but IGNORING Lazarus altogether, and having no interest in him at all?  I will leave the reader to figure that one out for themselves, but I think its pretty obvious.

But if its the latter, then what is the possible connection?  I mean, its easy enough to just throw an interpretation out there and say "Well, the rich man is actually not a rich man, but the religious leaders, and Lazarus is not really Lazarus, but represents the common people" ...But its another thing to prove it, and contextually, there is no parallel here and nothing to indicate this is what they represent.  Again, the Scripture listed as support, seems to indicate the opposite....That Lazarus was right there at the rich man's gate, yet was all but ignored, except maybe for being given a crumb or two every now and then.  No medical treatment for his sores, no compassion, no interest at all.  Doesn't sound like the rich man "travelled over sea and dry land", to show ANY interest at all in converting Lazarus, does it?  Rather, it seems he wouldn't even go to the gate of his OWN house, to see that Lazarus was cared for or converted.

So, I do not think the first part of the "explanation" given, was very logical, despite being told by this expert to use "logic".  Let's examine another point or two.....

We are told..."22" Now in the course of time, the beggar died and was carried off by the angels to Abraham’s side“Also, the rich man died and was buried"

Death denotes a spiritual change

Eph 2 "Furthermore, God made you alive, though you were dead in your trespasses and sins"

There was about to be a spiritual change Jesus had just literally said it to the pharisees before he told this parallel. This was the verse I just said was vitally important to remember

16 "The Law and the Prophets were until John. From then on, the Kingdom of God is being declared as good news, and every sort of person is pressing forward toward it. 17 Indeed, it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to go unfulfilled"

The misuse of Scripture here and in the entirety of this "explanation", is appalling and disappointing.  Such misuse of Scripture and taking it out of context, can prove almost ANY point that the person wants to "prove".  But I would simply suggest READING the Scriptures listed to see if they actually support the point being made, rather than just assuming that they do, or else the person wouldn't have listed them.

For instance, we are told as a fact, that "Death denotes a spiritual change" , and we are given Ephesians 2:1, which states....

"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;"

But wait a minute....Doesn't this verse actually state the OPPOSITE of what was implied in the statement "Death denotes a spiritual change" ?  

The statement implies that the spiritual change occurs AT death, but the verse teaches that we are ALREADY spiritually dead in our sins, and coming to Christ makes us ALIVE.  We see this clearly, if we merely read on down a few verses....

Ephesians 2:5-6-  "Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:"

I don't know how much clearer it can be.  Our initial spiritual state is death, and the CHANGE comes when we are made ALIVE in Christ!  So, how does this correspond with the statement that "death denotes a spiritual change" ?  We were already dead to begin with.  It is becoming alive, that causes the spiritual change.

ALWAYS read carefully the verse that someone uses in support of their point....ESPECIALLY when they are doing so, to defend a pre-conceived idea that they already are determined to believe.

So again, I think we clearly see that the JW doctrine depends on connecting passages of Scripture that are either unrelated, or say the opposite of the point being made.

Then there was this statement, in the JW explanation of this passage...."So God say's my judgement are unchangeable they are so far apart from what you view as righteous judgements, just like a huge chasm."

So now, the "great gulf" mentioned in Luke 16, is merely the contrast between God's viewpoints on righteous judgment, and the views of certain religous people?  That is quite interesting, because this is the very same guy who has been denying plain statements from the Bible on the teaching of Hell, because he doesn't think its "logical".  Then, he turns right around and argues the VERY SAME point that we have been making....Absolutely amazing!  Maybe he himself needs to consider that his "viewpoints" on what constitutes righteous judgment, just might differ from God's.

But I find his explanation to be quite interesting, in that he claims the "great gulf/chasm" merely represents a difference of viewpoints between man and God.  If this is the case, then WHY does the passage state, concerning this "gulf/chasm".....

"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."

If this "gulf" merely represents differing viewpoints, then WHY does Abraham say that no one can "pass over" the gulf?  Can a man not ADJUST his viewpoint to that of God's viewpoint?  Can he not change his view, or "cross over".  I would sure hope so, or nobody would ever be converted.  And furthermore, why would anyone from Abraham (whom DW thinks represents God) or that side, even WANT to "pass over" to the rich man's viewpoint?  And why would he state that no one from the rich man, the "dead" religious leaders (in the JW view), could pass over to God's viewpoint?

Does that even make sense?  Or let me ask it this way...Is it LOGICAL?

No, what we have here, is a classic case of a guy making up a bunch of nonsense out of the clear blue.  There is NOTHING in Scripture, or in the context, to support the JW explanation of this passage of Scripture.

But here is the kicker, and probably the MOST ILLOGICAL point of the entire JW explanation for the Rich Man and Lazarus account.....

It is vital to remember, that we have already been told as if were a fact, that the rich man represents the religious leaders who were "tormented" by the preaching message of the Kingdom.  In other words....It was the message of truth, that caused the torment, according to the JW explanation.  I'll give you the exact quote.....

"This newly dead spiritual state brings torment to the Jewish religious leaders this is where they weep and gnash their teeth they ask for the JUDGEMENT MESSAGE from God to be cooled down to cool their tongue from the weeping and teeth gnashing."

So, the torment is a "newly dead spiritual state", increased by the message from God, of their judgment?  Really?  Then we have a slight problem, and it is a problem that can be clearly seen by simply using a little "logic", which is what the very guy who wrote this explanation, asked us to do.  And that problem is this.....

If the message is what is causing the torment, and the rich man wants relief from the torment/message, then what of this Scripture?.........

v. 27- "Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:

v. 28- For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment."

Now, let me see if I can get this straight....The rich man is tormented by the MESSAGE that is preached, yet he wants his 5 brethren who are still living, to be TORMENTED by this same message, so that they can AVOID TORMENT??  

SAY WHAT??  Right there it is....He asks that Lazarus be sent from the dead, to PREACH the truth to his brethren, so that they can AVOID torment??  Yet, it is the message itself, that is supposed to be CAUSING the torment!  If that isn't enough to make one's head spin!

JWs, do any of you EVER actually stop and THINK about what you are being taught, or do you just blindly accept every single thing you are told by the "Slave", whoever that happens to be this week?  This is a blatant contradiction in your own explanation, yet I wonder how many of you have ever even noticed it.  

There are so many more problems with the JW interpretation of this passage, that I could go on and on.  These are just a few.

Kevin, once again I want to apologize for taking so long in this reply, but I really wanted to devote some time to addressing the "answer" given from the JW side.  I want to thank you for your understanding and patience.

The thing to remember is, NEVER accept anything that anybody tells you, unless it has solid foundation in the Word of God....especially when they already have a bias, and a doctrine they want to defend.  People can always attempt to make the Bible teach what they want it to, but if their explanation isn't founded solidly on the Scriptures, then it is to be rejected.

The simple fact is, this passage teaches a clear contrast between 2 men, and what happens after they died.  One who had his lavish lifestyle here, but forgot about God, and another who had nothing here on earth, but trusted in God.  The meaning is obvious to anyone who is content to just let the Bible speak TO them, instead of trying to speak FOR it.

Take care, my Brother, and God bless!  

Jehovah`s Witness

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Derrick Holland


I was raised in the religion known as Jehovah`s Witnesses for 13 years. Since becoming a born-again Christian, I have researched extensively this religion, especially their doctrines and their history. I can answer questions about their doctrines from the perspective of Biblical Christianity. To be clear: Jehovahs Witnesses is the religion of my upbringing, though I myself was never baptized into the religion, nor have I ever been considered as a Jehovahs Witness.


29 years of Biblical research into the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, and how they differ from the teachings of the Watchtower.

I would advise each questioner to this forum, to carefully READ the profiles of the various volunteers. There are several such as myself, who are not practicing JWs, but will provide you with an accurate and honest answer, regarding JW teaching. If we don't know the answer, we will try to research and get it for you. There are also some excellent practicing JWs here, who also endeavor to give you a factual and honest answer, based on their point of view. I believe by getting both points of view, the questioner can weigh the evidence for themselves, and make an informed decision. Unfortunately, there are also 3 here who claim to be JWs, but do NOT give honest, or well-researched answers. They will tell you only what they want you to believe, and they often hide facts about the history of their religion, as well as print untruths about other people's beliefs. This is done in an attempt to deceive the unsuspecting reader. It can be easily seen who these 3 are, simply by reading the public posts and "answers" which they write. Their posts will normally be filled with personal attacks, and if you question them about some teaching or aspect of the Watchtower that makes them uncomfortable, they will often reject your question, question your motives for asking it, tell you that you have been reading "apostate" sites, or turn the conversation into an attack on another expert. These ones are better avoided, as there is nothing to be gained by way of positive discussion, as they are not interested in intelligent conversation, or honest dialogue. If after reading the forum, you still have any questions as to who they are, just ask me, and I will be happy to tell you. And I can also provide documentation of their willful dishonesty. One thing is for a forum where people from both sides claim to be "Christians", there should never be any willful lying. Such ones only create a distraction in the forum, and provide nothing of any real value.

High School, some college. Studies of God's Word, the Bible, and how it compares to JW theology. I have found my own personal study and experiences to be far more valuable than any formal education or training. The Bible message is clear...Salvation is ONLY through and by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and no religious organization has a thing to do with it. While attendance at a Bible-preaching, Bible-believing church is a must for spiritual growth and fellowship, no church can grant salvation to its members. Nor is joining a particular group a prerequisite for being saved.

©2017 All rights reserved.