Sky Links, 5-15-21

Is the story of the rich man and Lazarus, in Luke 16:19-31 an allegorical parable, not literal, that teaches us?  Or, is it a literal description of the experience of two men, after death?

Randy, at E Bible Answers, explains how this story is a parable:

The Rich Man and Lazarus – Is it Literal or Symbolic?

 Graham Harter wrote about what Tertullian said about the parable, how it teaches that we do have bodies in the afterlife and are not disembodied, as the gnostic teachers may have taught:

Is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus ‘literal’? Yes, according to Tertullian

Got Questions: Your questions, Bible answers; summarized:

The important thing is that whether the story is a true incident or a parable, the teaching behind it remains the same. Even if it is not a "real" story, it is realistic. Parable or not, Jesus plainly used this story to teach that after death the unrighteous are eternally separated from God, that they remember their rejection of the Gospel, that they are in torment, and that their condition cannot be remedied. In Luke 16:19-31, whether parable or literal account, Jesus clearly taught the existence of heaven and hell as well as the deceitfulness of riches to those who trust in material wealth.

Is the fig tree, symbolic of Israel, in the Bible?

David Maas wrote this:

In Scripture, the fig tree is not used consistently as a symbol for Israel in Scripture, and nowhere in the New Testament is the image of a budding fig tree used to symbolize the nation flourishing once again in the Promised Land,


Is the fig tree used consistently by Scripture to symbolize Israel? A cursory search demonstrates that the fig tree is not consistently or even frequently employed to symbolize Israel flourishing in the Promised Land.


Nowhere in his ‘Olivet Discourse’ did Jesus state that he was using the fig tree to symbolize the nation of Israel flourishing in Palestine. If there is a tree or plant used by Scripture to symbolize Israel, and frequently so, it is the grapevine, NOT the fig tree - (Psalm 80:15, Isaiah 5:1-7, 27:2, Jeremiah 12:10, Ezekiel 15:1-8, Hosea 10:1, Matthew 20:1-16, 21:33-46, John 15:1-11).

In a few passages, the olive tree symbolizes the people of God, but it does not follow that the fig tree is always a cipher for a restored Israel, let alone in the parable of Jesus (Compare - Zechariah 4:3-12, Romans 11:17-24, Revelation 11:4).

And he concludes with this:

The analogy of the budding fig tree was a pictorial warning about coming events that would signal the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. “This generation,” the one contemporary with Jesus, would see “these things” taking place, and that “generation” would not cease until “all these things” came to pass.

Jesus provided a list of things that would signal the approach of the Temple’s destruction - “these things.” Of special note is the warning about the “abomination of desolation.” When the disciples saw it, it was imperative that they fled Jerusalem in all haste.

The fig tree is not used consistently in Scripture to symbolize Israel or the nation flourishing in the Promised Land. Jesus used the image of a fruitless fig tree on at least two occasions to represent a rebellious nation that merited divine judgment.

The point of the analogy was that the predicted events would indicate the approach of “summer” - The judgment on Jerusalem and the Temple that the “generation” contemporary with Jesus would witness and experience. The parable was not about a restoration of national Israel but, instead, its judgment for rejecting the Messiah of Yahweh.


-Eric Hatfield
A lot of people are saying that, as the world slowly recovers from Covid, churches should NOT go back to what they were doing before. This break in normal church programs is too good an opportunity to lose.

A trending catchphrase is “table, not stage”.

  • Many of Jesus’ important conversations happened around meals.
  • Our model of leadership needs re-thinking. Jesus recommended servant leadership (Mark 9:35) and Paul recommended shared leadership according to gifts (Ephesians 4:11-12). The authority of a single, “presidential” senior pastor is too great a load for any human being to bear – Jesus is the one head of the church. 
  • Too much authority given to one person can lead to burnout, manipulation, ambition for power and wealth, the scandal of sexual abuse and poor decisions. And to the stifling of the rest of the body ….
  • These days in affluent western societies, many people are money rich and time poor, so the trend seems to be for churches to employ more staff and expect less of the rest of us. But this leads to congregations become more passive and less equipped and experienced in ministry. It robs the kingdom of God and the world of the ministry of so many people, and limits ministry to the few.
  • When we sit in rows facing a stage, we are robbed of fellowship and the contribution of the many – we become performers and audience. Sermonising tends to keep people passive, and we don’t learn well when we’re not engaged.
  • And our mission is robbed too, as time and resources are devoted to making the Sunday event as slick and attractive as possible, even though this does little to draw people into the kingdom of God or to serve them.
  •  Hospitality, fellowship and community are important values in the New Testament – talked about much more than sermons or sung worship if you check it out. Gathering in a circle or around a table are much more conducive to these values than sitting in rows listening. We can see each others’ faces and relate personally. Sharing a meal seems to build community. Hospitality is a great way to break down barriers and welcome new people.

Byzantine icon of the cursing of the fig tree