Last Sunday I heard a preacher talk on the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). I have heard several sermons on this story. I believe that Lazarus refers to the Jews. They rejected Christ and have been persecuted for centuries.
In verse 31, Jesus makes the point that they had Moses and the Prophets, but would not listen to them; neither did they accept Christ who rose from the dead.
God has given us life and breath. We cannot see either of them, but when the breath leaves the body, it dies immediately. Smith’s Bible Dictionary defines ‘life‘ as follows: ‘Being alive, breath, spirit existence, living, breath, air, wind.‘ Neither life nor breath are separate entities that live on after our decease. Am I correct?
Jesus taught many things by parables. Sometimes He explained in great detail the exact meaning of the parable, such as the Parable of the Sower, or the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. At other times, as with the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, He gave no explanation whatever. So we must draw our conclusions by studying His other teachings, keeping in mind the overall teaching of the Bible.
Your application of Lazarus to the Jewish people in this parable has some facts to support it. The Jews were a persecuted people, and as a nation they rejected Christ. But this information seems contradictory to the point of the parable, as Jesus makes Lazarus His “hero” after the Rich Man and Lazarus die, Lazarus receives “good things,” such as acceptance in the Father’s house, and a place in Abraham’s bosom (a symbol of happiness and ecstasy). Meanwhile, the Rich Man is in “torments.” In Jesus’ words, Abraham says to the Rich Man, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and you are tormented” (Luke 16:25). If Lazarus was a representation of the Jewish nation, Jesus would seem to be approving their rejection of Him, which we know He did not.
The Jews did have Moses and the Prophets; so did all other believers at the time. The concluding statement of the parable is made concerning the five brethren of the Rich Man, that if they did not listen to Moses and the Prophets, “neither will they be persuaded, though one rise from the dead” (verse 31).
It seems more in line with Scripture teaching to take the Rich Man as representing the unfaithful covenant makers, who accept what they wish of the law of God and reject the rest, and Lazarus as the faithful believers who are eager to hear and obey every law of God. Then the conclusions of the parable are parallel with the rest of Scripture teaching: The faithful, awake after the resurrection to enjoy eternal bliss; the unfaithful awake to receive the reward of their faithlessness: disappointment and anguish and ultimately eternal death.
Contrary to the belief of most people, this parable does not teach that we are conscious after death. You are correct in your statement that “when the breath leaves the body, the body dies immediately.” You are also correct in your statement that “neither life nor breath are a separate entity that lives on after our decease.” When the body ceases to breathe and perform the functions of life, it dies, and no separate part of it lives on or leaves the body at death. The Psalmist says that when a man dies, “his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146:4 KJV).