JWs advise that we should not take this illustration as literal saying things such as heaven and hell are not in close proximity so that both the inmates can speak to each other, dipping the tip of one’s finger in water would not be enough to put off one’s thirst …etc.
Interestingly, Jesus himself did not want his listeners to take this illustration literally or figuratively because he mixed both, hence wanted to get the message typical of any story. If we were to take the illustration figuratively, who do “dogs that came and licked sores of Lazar” symbolize?
Also, the rich man in the story makes a powerful point when he says: ‘if someone from the dead is resurrected and speaks his surviving family members on earth, they will repent.’ (Luke 16:27-31) The powerful logic used in this argument is to be literal, can’t be figurative because it concerns about literal death of a person and his resurrection.
Those who are concerned about determining whether this illustration is literal or figurative miss the simple message of this story: God plays no role in the affairs of man and everyone can learn from experience (own or from others) that there is sowing and reaping, hence everyone is free to choose his destiny.