Those who believe the story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16) is a parable are right. If they also believe it’s a parable about a rich man and a poor man, they’re wrong. Dressed in the royal color of purple (Judges 8:26) and having five brothers, the rich man, true to the character of a parable, symbolizes Judah: the (royal) tribe of Judah: the Jews of Judah. The story has the rich man in a tormenting fire, although it’s not even certain he is being actually tormented. He is being judged or chastised, though, and he doesn’t like it. That is, the Jews of Judah are being judged or chastised because they have violated the covenant of God. The same fate will befall the rich man’s five brothers—five tribes. All six of these Israelite tribes originated in the union of Jacob and Leah.
If the rich man is in Hell, as most Christians hold, it must be admitted that the Jews of Judah are in Hell, and that those of the other tribes will be too. Do we really want to believe that? One Jew after another goes to a place of everlasting torture?
In point of fact, where the rich man goes when he dies can be called “the invisible” or “the unseen” (hades), and there’s nothing in the text about the distress in this place being eternal. In my view, if the Greek word kolasis (“punishment” in Matthew 24:46) means correction, the Jews of Judah are being chastised in order to be corrected.
And what about Lazarus? Simple: he represents saved Gentiles. More on that later, perhaps.