Spiritual Realms (Abraham’s Bosom)

This entry is part 8 of 20 in the series Spiritual Realms

Abraham’s Bosom

The Term

This term is found only in Luke 16, in Jesus story of Lazarus and the rich man.  The terms are Greek “kolpos Abraam.”  Kolpos (or kolpon) is rendered “bosom” by the KJV and “side” by the NIV.  “Bosom” is the most accurate term and the most historically known, thus the term “Abraham’s bosom” is familiar in theology.  The definition of kolpos is the area between the arms, or the chest.  While the English use of “bosom” frequently implies the mammary specifically, it is not intended such in Greek, but the chest area. 

The scene

Kolpos  is also used in John 13:23 of John reclining at Jesus side at the last supper, “One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.”  That phrase literally renders “reclined at Jesus’ bosom (kolpos)” or at Jesus’ chest.  In Jewish custom, people reclined at one another’s sides for meals.  Luke 16 painting a picture of Lazarus at Abraham’s bosom fits that description better than any other scenario in their custom.  It is the antithesis of Lazarus longing to fill his stomach with the crumbs from the rich man’s table.  Now, he reclines at Abraham’s side.  Also, to recline into one’s bosom indicates being at that one’s right side.  They reclined on their right arms and ate with their left.  The right side of the host is the most important seat in the house.  Thus, the picture of Lazarus reclining at Abraham’s chest, similar to how John reclined at Jesus’ chest, is probably the picture Jesus is portraying.  Lazarus has been the honored guest at Abraham’s table while the rich man is in torment; the polar opposite of their lives on earth.

The Text

Luke 16:19-31 (NIV)
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ 27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ 30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

The conclusions

·         Abraham’s Bosom is a place for the righteous

o   V22 notes “the angels carried him to Abraham’s side”

§  Jesus eludes (though does not formally teach nor confirm) to a Jewish tradition whereby angels carry away the righteous upon their deaths and demons carry away the unrighteous upon their deaths.  While he does not mention demons nor give credibility to that postulate, Jesus was fully aware of the tradition in which he lived and taught.  His adding the phrase “the angels carried him” was intentional, to let the hearer understand that Abraham’s Bosom was a place of righteousness.

o   The fact that he was carried to Abraham’s side

§  Abraham was the bearer of God’s covenant.  He was the patriarch of Israel.  His righteousness was understood and unchallenged.  Where Abraham is in the afterlife is unquestionably where the righteous are.

o   Also, from the fact that Lazarus and Abraham were separated from the obviously sinful rich man, who was in torment, gives clear understanding that they were of the other constituency; the righteous.

·         Abraham’s Bosom is a place of comfort.

o   Verse 25 notes “now he is comforted here,” referring to Lazarus’ condition at Abraham’s side.

§  This is in stark contrast to those on the other side of the great chasm.

o   The fact that the rich man asks Abraham to allow Lazarus to warn his brothers.

§  This demonstrates that the rich man desires Lazarus’ knowledge to be given to his brothers that they may be where Lazarus is instead of where the rich man is in the afterlife.  It is contrary to “this place of torment,” as the rich man describes his own predicament.

o   Water appears to be available to those at Abraham’s bosom, whereas it is not available to those in Abbadon.

·         Abraham’s Bosom is located adjacent to, but higher than Abbadon.

o   Clearly, there is a great chasm between the two.  Yet, the rich man is able to look “up” toward, see, and speak to Abraham across it.

·         One cannot pass from Abbadon to Abraham’s Bosom, nor from Abraham’s Bosom to Abbadon.

·         Overall conclusion:  Abraham’s Bosom is a name for the righteous side of Sheol/Hades.

Series Navigation<< Spiritual Realms (The Migration of Paradise)Spiritual Realms (The Lake of Fire) >>

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