He cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.'
In our study, "The Rich Man and Lazarus", we have demonstrated how that this story is a parody of Jewish Hellenistic philosophy, and that it is a parable. Many claim, however, that this story is not a parable, and one of the proofs they offer to support this conclusion is that Jesus speaks of a "certain man" and gives the name of that man as Lazarus (Luke 16:19,20), and thus because of this, they conclude that the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is literal, not figurative.
It would simply be an assumption to claim that because Jesus used a name in his words recorded at Luke 16:16-31, that the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus is not a parable. No scripture says that a specific name cannot be used in a parable.
Jesus words recorded in Luke 16:19 begin as "there was a certain rich man." Jesus used this same phrase in his previous parable (Luke 16:1), thus this phrase indicates that Jesus is beginning another parable as recorded in Luke 16:19. Jesus used the expression "certain" in many of his parables. (Matthew 18:23; 22:2; Luke 10:30,31,33; 12:6; 13:6; 14:16; 15:11; 18:2) Was he in all of those parables actually, literally, speaking of one certain individual? In saying that "there was a certain rich man," Jesus was not saying that there was actually one certain literal rich man that he had in mind in speaking those parables. If Jesus was simply relating about two individuals who actually existed in his day, and of their death, etc., then there is no symbolic application that could be laid upon this, and it would have no meaning as related to the context of Jesus' referenec to the Law and the Prophets being until John. The "rich man" would simply be the one man that Jesus spoke of. Lazarus would simply be the one "certain beggar" spoken of. (Luke 16:20) The only application to others would be by example of either being either literally rich or literally poor in the world's material things, and what would happen to us for being poor or rich after we die.
Nor should we think that by using the name "Lazarus" that Jesus was speaking of his friend Lazarus. Jesus' friend evidently had not died at the time that Jesus spoke the words recorded in Luke 16:1. In the case of Jesus' friend, Lazarus, when he died, Jesus temporarily raised him back from death. Lazarus did not relate about being alive somewhere while he was dead. -- John 11:1-44.
If the rich man were in literal flames in hades, this could contradict the entire testimony of the rest of the Bible, which shows that sheol/hades is nothingness, oblivion, silence, destruction. -- Ecclesiastes 9:10; Psalm 6:5; 115:17; 146:3,4; Isaiah 38:18; 63:16; Job 14:21; etc.
One has to conclude that Jesus was not speaking of a literal man named Lazarus who literally died and literally went to Abraham's physical bosom (which surely would have been totally decayed at the time Jesus spoke his words). It is evident from the whole setting of this passage that it is a parable. Otherwise, the logical lesson to be drawn from it is that unless we are poor beggars, full of sores, we will never enter eternal bliss; and that future torment will be our portion if we happen to wear fine linen and purple and fare sumptuously every day. And, if taken literally, those who are poor are taken, not to heaven, but into the grave where the fleshly body of Abraham is buried and are physically put into the bosom of Abraham's dead and buried body.
Jesus, of course, was surely aware of how many of the Pharisees had adopted and adapted heathen philosophies -- mythologies -- and mixed such philosophies into the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus, therefore, distorted their own Jewish fable (Titus 1:14) into a parody, not to condone their apostate mythology, but to illustrate the change he had just spoken of: "The law and the prophets were until John." (Luke 16:16) Jesus did not strictly adhere to the Jewish fable, since he distorted some things. His parody of the Jewish fable, however, served to deride the Pharisees to whom he was speaking.
As to why Jesus chose the name "Lazarus", the scriptures do not directly tell us. Evidently, it had something to do with the meaning of the name. The Greek form of that name is derived from the Hebrew form which is usually presented in English as "Eliezar". That name means "whom God helps". Lazarus, representing those who seek righteousness through faith in Jesus, do receive God's favor (grace) and thus assistance from God through Jesus. -- Romans 3:24; 5:15,17,21; 2 Corinthians 8:9; 12:9,10; Ephesians 2:7; 4:7; 6:10; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:9; 2:1; 2 Peter 3:18.