What is Abraham’s bosom? (Luke 16:22)


What is the meaning of the passage in Luke 16:22 that speaks of Abraham’s bosom?

In order to better understand the meaning of this verse and what Jesus had in mind, we need to take a look at it in its context.

19 “Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. 20 “And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, 21 and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table ; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. 22 “Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom ; and the rich man also died and was buried. 23 “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. 24 “And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ 25 “But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things ; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 ‘And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ 27 “And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house – 28 for I have five brothers -in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ 29 “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets ; let them hear them.’ 30 “But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent !’ 31 “But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16)

From this passage in which Jesus Christ is teaching we learn the following things about Abraham’s bosom:

  • It is a physical location where righteous people go after physical death.
  • It is a place of comfort for those who believed in and obeyed the Word of God during their lifetimes.
  • It is a place that could be seen by the people who are in hell and it is a place that they would like to be in.
  • It is a place where those who are in hell cannot come because they rejected God during their lifetimes.

The word that we have translated in English as “bosom” comes from the Greek word κολπος and it (the Greek word) is used in the following New Testament passages:

18 No one has seen God at any time ; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1)

23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13)

38 “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure -pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6)

39 When day came, they could not recognize the land ; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. (Acts 27)

As you can see from the last passage, the Greek word “κολπος” is translated as “bay” (a haven, a safe place, a quiet place). The bay is a place of refuge when there is a storm at sea.

When we hear the word bosom, we usually think of the chest or breast yet when Jesus used the phrase “Abraham’s bosom” He had in mind the place of refuge from the pain and torture in hell. Abraham’s bosom is the bay of refuge and comfort for the righteous people who died before Christ’s ascension. From that time on (after Christ’s ascension) all the believers who receive the Holy Spirit and then “sleep” (the is the New Testament terminology for the physical death of a Christian) go directly to the presence of the Lord. Paul teaches this in his letter to the Philippian Church:

21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better ; (Philippians 1)

I would recommend that you study the following Inductive Bible study course written by Kay Arthur via Precept Ministries International, “Philippians – How to have joy“. There is an entire lesson in this course dedicated to what the Bible teaches about life after death.

I must ask dear reader, in which direction are you going? Where will you end up after you die? I pray that the Lord will allow you to have a long and happy life but keep in mind, no matter how long you may live on this earth, it is nothing when compared to eternity. When a long life is compared to eternity, it like “a vapor which is hear for a little while and then vanishes”. Where will you spend eternity? There is only one way to be saved from the punishment and torture of hell and that is through Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can get to the Father (God) except through Jesus Christ. Hurry up and believe in Jesus Christ with all of your heart. Repent and demonstrate that belief through baptism. Join a local church where you will be taught the Word of God and encouraged to live according to the Savior’s teachings, daily, so that at the end of your life, you will receive an eternal reward with the rest of the saints. May the Lord bless you.

Translation by: Erik Brewer