Is Luke 16:19-31 a Parable?
Many groups who deny the doctrine of eternal punishment (such as Jehovah's Witnesses, followers of Herbert Armstrong, some ultradispensationalists etc.) claim that this passage is a parable because they do not like what it teaches about Hades. This passage clearly teaches that Hades is a place of conscious torment and suffering for the wicked. They think that if this passage is only a parable then they do not have to accept what it teaches about the condition of men following death. You will notice that the Lord did not say that it was a parable. Even if it were a parable, it would indeed be a unique parable for the following reasons:
1. It would be the only parable in the Bible that describes certain things that are outside of the realm of human experience. All the other parables talk about things that we are familiar with such as birds, seed, fields, pearls, wheat, barns, leaven, fish, etc. (see Matthew 13, etc.). This passage is different because it talks about what happens to two men after death, and this is a realm where none of us have had any personal experience. A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly or spiritual significance but Luke 16 transcends the realm of the earthly.
2. It would be the only parable in the Bible that uses a proper name (Lazarus).
3. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes mention repeatedly of a historical person--Abraham. Moreover, this historical person actually carries on a dialogue with the rich man! Indeed, mention is also made in this parable of Moses, another historical character. What other parable speaks of real, historical persons?
4. It would be the only parable in the Bible that describes the places where the dead go (Hades, Abraham's bosom, a place of torment).
5. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes mention of angels. Compare Matthew 13 verses 24-30, 36-43, 47-49 where angels are mentioned in the explanation of the parable but not in the parable itself.
6. If Hades is not really a place of torment then this would be the only parable in the Bible where the Lord Jesus taught error instead of truth. GOD FORBID!
For a detailed study of this passage see The Poor Rich Man - A Detailed Study of Luke 16:19-31.