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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is Abraham's Bosom?

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Don Stewart
The Scripture speaks of a place for the dead called "Abraham's bosom" or "Abraham's side."

The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried in Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side (Luke 16:22,23).

Place Of Honor

Lazarus reclined at Abraham's bosom or side. This was a position for the guest of honor at a banquet. We read in the gospels that John had that position next to Jesus.

One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him (John 13:23).


Those who trusted in God's Word were promised to be with Abraham in God's kingdom. Jesus said.

I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11).

What Does It Mean?

Where is this place called Abraham's bosom, or Abraham's side?

1. Synonymous With Death

Abraham's side, or bosom, is seen by many as a term that is synonymous with death. Those who are in Abraham's bosom are those who have died. Therefore, it is a symbolic way of describing the dead.

2. Hades Or Sheol

There is also the view that Abraham's bosom is another way of describing the unseen realm of the dead known as Hades or Sheol. Those in Abraham's bosom are in a specific place - the realm of the dead.

3. Place Of Righteous Dead

Abraham's side, or bosom, is also thought to be the specific place where only the righteous dead lived. It is not to be equated with the general idea of death or the general realm of the dead, Hades or Sheol. When someone was in Abraham's bosom they were with the righteous dead, not in the general population of the dead. It is argued that Hades is only connected with the rich man while Lazarus is afar off in the another place - a compartment in Hades for the righteous.

4. Heaven

It is also believed that Abraham's bosom was simply another description of heaven. It has nothing to do with the unseen realm of the dead or some compartment in Hades. It is merely one of a number of terms the Bible uses for being in God's presence.

Hades Linked To Torment

In the New Testament, Hades seems to be linked to the grave or the place of torment. Never it is linked to the place where the righteous live. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Hades seems to be contrasted to the former state of the rich man with his extravagant living. Therefore it may refer to the place of the righteous dead or heaven itself.


Jesus spoke of the beggar Lazarus being in "Abraham's bosom" upon death. There are four possible ways in which it can be interpreted. They include:

1. A general term for being dead

2. A reference to Sheol or Hades, the unseen realm of the dead

3. A more specific term referring to the righteous dead

4. Another term for heaven

There is no way to be certain which is the case.
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