Bible Question:

In the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Jesus said the rich man asked Lazarus to drop some water on his tongue because he was tormented in the flame. So are we to take this literally, even though it is just a parable? Can a spirit be tormented in the flame?

Bible Answer:

The question that is answered in this study is, “Do spirits have bodies which will feel pain in hell?” That is, can spirits feel the torment of the flames in hell? Luke 16:19-31 tells us that the beggar Lazarus was in Abraham’s bosom, and a rich man was in Hades. Since the rich man felt pain while he was in the fire in Hades, is it possible this is proof spirits have bodies that feel pain?

Do spirits have bodies which will feel pain in hell?

Lazarus and the Rich Man Is a Parable

The story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 is a parable.There are a number of reasons why we should believe it is a parable. First, Jesus introduces five previous parables with the Greek word tis (Luke 13:6; 14:16; 15:3-4, 8, 11; 16:1). It can be translated as “certain,” “what,” and “a.” This same Greek word is used to introduce the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Since Jesus introduced His parables with this word, this reveals the story is a parable. Second, the expression “Abraham’s bosom” appears only in Luke 16:22, and in no other place in the Bible.. It is a symbolic term for heaven. Third, people in the real hell (lake of fire) and the real heaven will not be able to see one another. Revelation 21:4-8 and 22:14-15 tell us that those in the eternal heaven will never be sad and hell will be outside. That seems to imply that those in heaven will never see or hear those in hell.  Is it possible that those in hell can see those who are in heaven? Revelation 22:15 seems to say no. These points strongly indicate Luke 16:19-31 is a parable, and not a true life event.

This is important since parts of a parable are often fictional. Various parts of a parable are created to teach a biblical principle.  The principle will be truth, but not every part of the parable’s story will be true. Maybe none of the parts will be from real life. So, we cannot use the parable to answer the question, “Do spirits have bodies which will feel pain in hell?”  So, we must discover what the Bible teaches about spirits.

Angels or Spirits Will Feel Pain In Hell

First, the Bible teaches us that angels are usually invisible to humans, but they can become visible. Genesis 3:22-24 reveals that God placed cherubim and the flaming sword to prevent Adam and Eve from eating of the tree of life. This would mean the cherubim could be seen, and looked like cherubim. Ezekiel 1 describes a vision that was given to the prophet Ezekiel. In the vision, Ezekiel saw cherubim as they truly appear in the invisible world. Ezekiel 1:4-21 also reveals they have bodies that can be seen in the invisible world. Daniel 10:13-20 and Revelation 12:7-12 reveal that angels can fight with one another. This helps us understand that angels, while invisible, do have a body of some kind.

Second, it is important to notice that Hebrews 1:13-14 reveals holy angels are spirits.

But to which of the angels has He ever said, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:13-14 (NASB)

This means that holy angels are spirits and have bodies of some kind. Evil angels are also spirits (Revelation 16:14), and they have bodies of some kind.

Revelation 20:10 reveals that Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet will suffer in the lake of fire forever. Matthew 25:41 indicates that Satan and his angels will suffer torment in the flames of hell. This means that spirits can feel pain in hell, but they do not have our physical bodies. That is, they do not need to have flesh and blood bodies to feel pain in hell.

Spirits of Humans Will Feel Pain In Hell

The Bible also teaches that humans have a spirit. Ecclesiastes 12:7 reveals that  a person has a spirit, and that God created it. James 2:26 also reveals that humans have spirits. In this life, we can see and touch our bodies but we cannot see our spirits. When we die, our bodies cease to exist, but our spirits live forever (Mathew 25:46). This is true for both believers and unbelievers.

1 Corinthians 15:53 tells us that our bodies are perishable; but after we die, we are given imperishable bodies. These bodies will never die. That is, our spirits are given new bodies that do not perish. They are not flesh and blood bodies. We do not know  the details of the bodies we will have, but they will be different from the physical bodies we have in this life.

Revelation 21:8 reveals that the unbelievers will be in the lake of fire which burns with fire and brimstone. The verse reveals the spirits of the unbelievers will feel pain in the lake of fire, just as the evil angels do.


We have discovered that the angels, or spirits, and the spirits of unbelieving humans will suffer pain in the lake of fire forever. This means that the parable of Lazarus and the rich man accurately states that dead humans will feel pain in hell or the lake of fire. This means that all of the evil angels and all of the unbelieving dead will suffer forever in the fire and brimstone of the lake of fire. What a horrible mistake it is to not believe in Jesus Christ.

Suggested Links:

Angels – Good and Evil
Are evil spirits present with us here on earth?
Can angels or evil spirits come and stay in one’s house?