Many groups deny the doctrine of eternal punishment, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, followers of Herbert Armstrong, some ultra-dispensationalists, etc. They 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, nor did Luke. 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 with which man is familiar, such as birds, seed, fields, pearls, wheat, barns, leaven, fish, etc. This passage is different because it talks about what happens to two men after death, and this is a realm with which 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; the beggar is named Lazarus.
3. It would be the only parable in the Bible that makes repeated mention 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. It is called Hades, and it is divided in two sections: Abraham's bosom, and 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, and 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!
As I have shown in other posts, Jesus descended into Paradise accompanied by the "good thief." When He arose three days later, I believe He "led captivity captive," and those souls had their part in the first Resurrection. Jesus, the First Fruits from the grave, then those souls mentioned in Matthew 27:52-53. Today, there is no need for a place called Paradise, because when believers die, they are immediately present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8). Amen!