The Biblical Doctrines Surrounding Death
What goes on when you die and after you die;
Is there an "afterlife?"
The Resurrection and "Life in the age to come"
Disclaimer: This page is strictly based on the view points of the Jewish Bible itself, not on any tradition or belief outside the biblical texts. Therefore, one should not expect to find or read anything from any rabbinical teaching or source here. This is said because many people do not know the biblical texts, but instead accept or know a Rabbinical tradition. If a Christian should stumble upon this webpage he/she should not expect to find any Christian source here as well. This is mentioned because Christians have taken the Jewish Bible and added it to their own writings, and they are infamously known for tainting and distorting the doctrines and teachings of the Tanakh (the Jewish Bible, commonly called the "Old Testament" among them.) This organization, "Ancient Judaism.org," encourages the complete rejection of any teaching that goes against the biblical texts.
Talking about what goes on "after life" can be a touchy subject when a loved one has just passed away, or when talking about a loved one that has died some time ago. This is especially the case when we religious folks talk about the day of judgement. Now if you are an atheist there really isn't a mental dilemma about death and the afterlife. This is because according to atheists, when a person dies, that is it, nothing is left, nothing shall ever be done again by that person for he ceases to exist forever and ever.
However, is this really the case? Did ancient people really have it right about some afterlife when one dies? Or, was the teaching about some afterlife the ancient's way of easing the pain of realizing that their loved one will cease to exist forever once they have died?
Almost every culture, modern or ancient dealt with this question: What goes on when the body dies? Is there a "spirit" in the human body, and does that spirit move on to something else or....?
Different cultures teach different things on this subject. Some teach that life carries on as before; yet, without the natural body. While others teach far different things than what the ancient Israelites taught; such as, reincarnation where one comes back as another human or animal or some other life form. Christians and Muslims also teach things that are opposed to biblical Judaism, or the teachings of ancient Judaism and the Israelites of long ago. These two groups believe that if you have the right belief and actions, then one will enter into heaven itself and be with the God of heaven. Whereas, if you have done wrong you will immediately enter into the flames of hell and remain there forever and ever. Some Christian groups don't believe this, however, when it comes to hell or what goes on after death. In fact, some have quite a good grasp on what the prophets of Israel really taught and what the Holy Tanakh teaches.
Rabbinical Judaism, also, has a wide range of beliefs when it come to this subject, totally departing from what our ancestors taught in the Tanakh. To my utter horror, the Chasidic Sect "Chabad" has adopted the Hindu "Eastern" belief of "reincarnation," departing from the teachings of the prophets.
So, what did the ancient people of Israel and the prophets of Israel teach on these subjects?
Interestingly enough, the teaching of death and what goes on after one dies is the second largest teaching in all of the Tanakh. It is talked about more than the belief in the future "son of David," the moshiach, who must come to rule the nations and whose world government will be a holy theocracy. The moshiach's theocracy will be governed by the Torah and the laws of the prophets. He will be a prophet in his own right as well.
The one belief that outranks the teaching of death and the afterlife is the famous belief that Judaism is known for, the belief that there is only One God in all of existence, and His name is YHWH OF HOSTS.
By what is recorded in the Tanakh, the ancient Israelites did teach something quite unique, something somewhat different than all the cultures around them did and even different from
the cultures and beliefs you see today.
According to "biblical" Judaism, not Rabbinical Judaism (let me make that perfectly clear,) when a man dies, that person's body rots as we all know. However, on a spiritual level, biblical Judaism also teaches that your spirit is merely asleep, due to your dead body. So, the ancient Jews did teach that you have a spirit, but it is totally connected to the physical body.
While the spirit sleeps, no matter how long it might be (even if it is for thousands of years,) the person will not experience anything, not even dreams or visions. In fact, according to the biblical texts the person will not even know they exist. Therefore, unlike many Christian groups and Islam, one is not judged upon death. Likewise, you are definitely not reincarnated into some other person or some other life form, nor does your spirit wander around as some ghost or... No, your spirit remains with your body.
You will remain this way until a certain time comes. When this time comes, the God of Israel will restore your body that has been rotting for so long or that is mere bones. At that time, He will cause you to live again and so you will be resurrected and you will live forever and ever; whether you are good or whether you are evil. You will be resurrected with a normal physical body.
What is not clear in the biblical texts is whether or not the God of Israel will outright do this Himself, or if the moshiach will do a grand miracle for those who are alive at the time when he is revealed or some time shortly after he is revealed.
Nonetheless, when this resurrection takes place, the moshaich (who will be king over the whole earth) will judge every person according to the laws of the prophets. If a person wasn't Torah compliant, that person will have been resurrected to an existence of "shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2)." If, however, the person that has been resurrected kept the Torah and the laws of the prophets during his lifetime, the prophet Daniel writes that he will enjoy "everlasting life." Likewise, this is also what Daniel writes, "And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn the many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:2-3)."
Now, let's see the whole passage in Daniel 12:2-3...
"And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame [and] everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever."
As you can see by this little passage, there is no hint of having "shame," nor "contempt" before the resurrection takes place. This tells us that no type of judgment befalls the individual until the resurrection takes place.
"Everlasting life" in this passage does not merely mean "to live." Why? This is because according to this passage, the sinners are also living as well. So let's look at the passage in a different way...
In Hebrew, the two words in Daniel 12:2 are, "לְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם" or l'chaiyai 'olam (le-chai-yai 'oh-lam). These two words are typically "everlasting life" but by the context of the passage "chaiyai" doesn't mean life, but "prosperity." Similarly, "Chai" is associated with evergreen trees, because evergreen trees don't ever go dormant or give the appearance of dying. Thus, such trees are always "prosperous" or "living."
So, what is Daniel 12 speaking about? Daniel basically says that those that are righteous before the God of Israel shall be forever prosperous and blessed before Him in the age to come, but the wicked will be contemptible and have their fill of shame.
Again, none of this occurs during the days we are dead, but only after we shall all awaken. That is, for those that have died.
Now, let us prove our case further by looking at other passages in the Tanakh...
This is what Solomon says in Ecclesiastes or Kohelet 9:10
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might; for [there is] no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."
If Solomon learned from David his father and from the prophets that were in David's court and the other prophets before him, like Samuel, why would Solomon say such things if you went to heaven when you die or to some fiery place of torment? For if "hell" was hot you would "know" it; yet, Solomon says the dead know nothing. Again, if heaven was wonderful and beautiful, wouldn't the holy person know it? Yes, of course. So, what does this passage teach? It teaches that when you die your spirit sleeps and you don't experience any dreams whatsoever, thus, you don't even know you exist, even though you still do.
The ancient Israelites believed that the spirit continues, unlike what atheists believe. However, the ancient Israelites believed that the spirit goes dormant like many trees do during the winter months. Thus, like Spring, when the trees come back "to life" so too will the body and spirit and so the person will live again. These are great, great hopes and this is what "biblical Judaism" teaches. Therefore, the Jewish person should not fear death, maybe how they die, but not death itself. People should not fear death because all people will live again, whether they be Torah observant or not.
Now let us look at some other passages in the Tanakh.
In Psalm 6, this is what the Psalmist wrote, "Return, YHWH, deliver my soul: oh save me for Thy mercies' sake. For in death [there is] no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?"
Again, why would David say such things if there was some immediate "afterlife?" For even if you were in some place like "purgatory," like Catholics and Mormons (to an extent) believe you would still be able to praise HaShem. Obviously, if you are praising YHWH, then you are also remembering Him. So, it is quite clear that the Psalmist denied the belief in an immediate "afterlife" or some "life" after death transpired.
Let us look at another Psalm...
This time we will look at Psalm 115:17, "The dead praise not YHWH, neither any that go down into silence. "
How can this be if there really is some immediate afterlife upon death? It is clear that the ancient Judeans and Israelites didn't believe in a "life after death" experience so that one would have some sort of afterlife.
I like using one particular story in the Torah that really proves this biblical fact about the Tanakh. This story is found at the latter part of Deuteronomy / Devarim when speaking about Moses. When Moses was about 120 years old, this is what we find in Deuteronomy 31:14-16...
"And YHWH said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation... And YHWH said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers..."
Now why would YHWH Himself say, "You will sleep with your fathers" if Moses was going to be with YHWH after he dies? HaShem said this because Moses wasn't going to be with YHWH at all. Rather, Moses was going to die and be asleep, spiritually, until the day of the resurrection. HaShem was telling Moses the truth then, in that Moses was in fact going to "sleep" with his ancestors. Not only that, but Moses' ancestors were buried in Egypt, not on Mt. Nebo in the land of Moab. So, again, this proves that the phrase "sleep with thy fathers" is a term simply meaning he is going to be dead like everyone else, and be spiritually asleep in the earth.
Let's look at the prayer of Hezekiah as well, this is found in Isaiah 38. Before we do, however, let us get a backdrop to what is going on. According to the Tanakh the King of Assyria came down to Judah and took several cities, even Lachish, a royal city that is situated to the West of Jerusalem. This fact is even found in archeological evidence by the things found in the palace of Sennacherib in Nineveh, which is in modern day Mosul, Iraq. Well, when Sennacherib and his military were at some other place, Sennacherib sent his cup-bearer to Jerusalem in order to suade them to surrender to the Assyrians. If the Judeans did so they would live, yet pay a tribute. While the servants of Sennacherib were outside the city walls of Jerusalem, they reckoned the God of Jerusalem like the man-made gods of the nations, being unable to defeat the Assyrians. They likened YHWH to the idols of the nations. Hezekiah and his servants tore their clothes and sought YHWH's council. Because of this YHWH gave His servant Isaiah a message and Isaiah told everyone not to fear. Soon enough though, wherever Sennacherib was at, probably Libnah, YHWH's wrath lashed out upon Sennacherib's army and 185,000 men died in one night. To that Sennacherib went home and then was assassinated by his sons. Afterwards, however, Hezekiah got undue glory from his neighbors for this massive death toll, as if he had something to do with it. Because of this YHWH was jealous and struck Hezekiah with sickness. He also told Isaiah that Hezekiah was going to die, because of how Hezekiah acted. When Hezekiah heard about this from Isaiah he was horrified and prayed to YWHW and asked for His mercy. After YHWH listened to Hezekiah and granted him mercy and added 15 years to his life, Hezekiah said these words in Isaiah 38:18-19, "For the grave cannot praise Thee, death can [not] celebrate Thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for Thy truth. The living, the living, he shall praise Thee, as I [do] this day: the father to the children shall make known Thy truth."
With that being said, why would Hezekiah say such things if he knew he was going to be with YHWH is some "afterlife," especially if there were prophets around in Hezekiah's day? Hezekiah said such things because the prophets never taught that there was some sort of "life" on the other side of the grave. The prophets taught that there is only "life" after the resurrection, not anytime before the resurrection.
Upon death the spirit sleeps and so the dead person does not experience anything more, not until the God of Israel or His servant, the moshaich, should miraculously raise all the dead from their resting places.
Let's look at some other passages, this time we will look at the Book of Job...
In Job's distress and misery this is what he said in Job 14
1. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.
2. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and
3. And dost Thou open thine eyes upon such an one, and bringest me into judgment
4. Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.
5. Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with Thee, Thou hast
appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;
6. Turn from him, that he may rest, till he shall accomplish, as an hireling, his day.
7. For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender
branch thereof will not cease.
8. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
9. Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.
10. But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?
11. As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up:
12. So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake,
nor be raised out of their sleep.
13. O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy
wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!
14. If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my
Here Job makes it clear that there is a resurrection, yet, at the same time he is also clear that there is no "afterlife," nor some "life" beyond the grave. He also uses the word "sleep" for that is what the spirit is doing, sleeping.
One last interesting story in the Tanahk I care to share is a story surrounding King Saul. This story concerns the eve of his death, which occurs the following day.
King Saul and Israel were at war with the Philistines. David, however, was not with Saul, because Saul was still trying to kill David. For Saul was jealous over David, because Samuel the prophet anointed David to be ruler of all Israel and Saul knew this fact. David was anointed because Saul did not carry out HaShem's demands exactly the way Samuel said regarding Amalek. Saul did other things as well. Well, because HaShem rejected Saul, HaShem refused to answer Saul by dreams or by a prophet or by the famous Urim that was held in the breastplate of the High Priest. The problem was that Saul wanted to hear from HaShem desperately concerning the Philistines. So what was Saul to do?
Saul ended up doing even more sin than what he had already committed, this time he would end up commiting necromancy by going to a medium. HaShem told Moses that the Israelites were to stone anyone that committed necromancy and all mediums and psychics. Yet, Saul knew that this form of witchcraft worked, that is why HaShem gave the commandment in the first place, "Do not be a medium or commit necromancy, lest you be defiled by such." King Saul found a witch in the town of Endor and here is the story...
3. Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him in Ramah, even in
his own city. And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of
4. And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem: and
Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa.
5. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled.
6. And when Saul inquired of YHWH, YHWH answered him not, neither by dreams nor by
Urim, nor by prophets.
7. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go
to her, and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that hath
a familiar spirit at Endor.
8. And Saul disguised himself, and put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him,
and they came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me by the
familiar spirit, and bring me him up, whom I shall name unto thee.
9. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul hath done, how he hath cut
off those that have familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest
thou a snare for my life, to cause me to die?
10. And Saul sware to her by YHWH, saying, As YHWH liveth, there shall no punishment
occur to you for this thing.
11. Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up for you? And he said, Bring me up Samuel.
12. And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to
Saul, saying, Why have you deceived me? for you are Saul.
13. And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what did you see? And the woman said unto
Saul, I saw "ELOHIM" ascending out of the earth.
14. And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh up; and he is
covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his
face to the ground, and bowed himself.
15. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up? And Saul
answered, I am sore distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and "ELOHIM" is
departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams:
therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me what I shall do.
16. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing YHWH is departed from
thee, and is become thine enemy?
17. And YHWH hath done to him, as he spake by me: for YHWH hath rent the kingdom out of
thine hand, and given it to thy neighbour, even to David:
18. Because thou obeyedst not the voice of YHWH, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon
Amalek, therefore hath YHWH done this thing unto thee this day.
19. Moreover YHWH will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines: and
tomorrow you and your sons will be with me: YHWH also shall deliver the host of Israel into
the hand of the Philistines.
Now look at all the parts that I underlined. First, we see that Samuel rises from the earth, his spirit that is, not that it comes down from heaven - which is important to point out. Second, Samuel then asks Saul why he "disquieted" him, meaning: Why did he interrupt his spiritual sleep through witchcraft? Necromancy, by the way, is the only way to awaken a sleeping spirit of a human being after he/she has died, which is very evil to do in the sight of HaShem. Even praying or "talking" to a loved one is forbidden after their death, for that is tinkering with necromancy, yet, without doing the full onslought of the witchcraft of necromancy.
Third, we must realize that Samuel was extremely holy, yet, King Saul wasn't, but Samuel says that Saul would be with him tomorrow. Well, if we went to heaven when we die then why is Samuel telling a wicked man that he (Saul) will be with him? He is saying this because Samuel's spirit sleeps in his grave and so Saul will be joining him "tomorrow" in that rest and sleep until the resurrection. At the resurrection Samuel will have "everlasting life" while Saul, on the other hand, will have "everlasting shame and comtempt."
Therefore, let us all observe the literal words of the Torah and of the prophets, lest we find ourselves on the wrong side of the judgment. Keep in mind, that rabbinical Judaism is a far cry from biblical Judaism. Likewise, as we can see with King Saul, just because we might be children of Abraham does not mean this will benefit us in the long run. Especially when it comes to the day of judgment. It is our observance to His laws that matter, not what one's race is. HaShem doesn't respect men for "who" they are, but He respects and honors them based on their holy and righteous conduct according to His mitzvot.
Biblical Judaism teaches these things:
1. When one dies, their spirit sleeps, they do not go to heaven, nor to some fiery place
of torment. They sleep without dreams and they do not know anything, they don't even
know they exist.
2. After a long period of time (for most) a resurrection will take place and after this point the
moshiach will judge us according to HaShem's laws, for the moshiach will be ruler, king and
judge over the whole earth, sitting on David's throne.
3. Necromancy is a real form of magic or witchcraft where a medium can talk to the ghost of
someone that has died. They do so by "channeling" and then waking up the spirit of the
4. Hell is not mentioned anywhere in all of the Tanakh, in fact, there is no mention of any kind
of torment after the resurrection takes place.
5. The only way for a person to enter into heaven itself in order to be with YHWH is if that
person is a complete Tzedek or righteous fellow and only if they are alive and remain alive,
not if they die. There are only two people in all of the Tanach that never died, Enoch and
EliYahu (Elijah). Let us read about EliYahu in 2 Kings 2....
1. And it came about when YHWH was about to take up Elijah by a
whirlwind to heaven, that Elijah went with Elisha from Gilgal.
2. Elijah said to Elisha, "Stay here please, for YHWH has sent me as far
as Bethel." But Elisha said, "As YHWH lives and as you yourself live,
I will not leave you." So they went down to Bethel.
3. Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him,
"Do you know that YHWH will take away your master from over you today?" And
he said, "Yes, I know; be still."
4. Elijah said to him, "Elisha, please stay here, for YHWH has sent me to Jericho." But
he said, "As YHWH lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So they
came to Jericho.
5. The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, "Do
you know that YHWH will take away your master from over you today?" And he
answered, "Yes, I know; be still."
6. Then Elijah said to him, "Please stay here, for YHWH has sent me to the Jordan."
And he said, "AsYHWH lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the
two of them went on.
7. Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance,
while the two of them stood by the Jordan.
8. Elijah took his mantle and folded it together and struck the waters, and they were
divided here and there, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9. When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you before I
am taken from you." And Elisha said, "Please, let a double portion of your spirit be
10. He said, "You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken
from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so."
11. As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and
horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to
12. Elisha saw it and cried out, "My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its
horsemen!" And he saw Elijah no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and
tore them in two pieces.
13. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and returned and stood by the
bank of the Jordan.
14. He took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him and struck the waters and said, "Where
is YHWH, the God of Elijah?" And when he also had struck the waters, they were
divided here and there; and Elisha crossed over.
Let me end this article with the words of Solomon in Kohelet, the very last words, "The end of the matter, all having been heard: fear God ("ELOHIM"), and keep His commandments; for this is the whole man. For God ("ELOHIM") shall bring every work into the judgment concerning every hidden thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil."
COMMENTS AND ANSWERS
FROM OUR READERS....
I don't know. This is what I learned:
Ecc 12:7, " And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God, Who
Good comment and it forces us to study a little deeper. So, let's look at things a little deeper.
In Christian bibles the wording for this verse is typically worded exactly like you quoted, even in the JPS for that matter.
However, the Hebrew word for "spirit" in Ecc 12:7 is "Ruach," and in the context of the passage and what other passages of the Tanakh have to say, "spirit" doesn't fit here doctrinally.
In the JPS the verse says, "And the dust returneth to the earth as it was, and the spirit returneth unto God who gave it."
The reason why this translation doesn't work doctrinally is because the verse gives the illusion that the "spirit" pre-existed before the person was conceived, for it says, "it returns."
Thus, what are other definitions for "ruach" in the Tanakh?
Well, for beginners it is "breath," "wind," or "air."
So let's look at Psalm 33:6, there it says,
"By the word of YHWH were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth."
It wouldn't fit to say, "by the spirit of His mouth."
Therefore, we can make the solid or concrete conclusion that "ruach" in Ecc 12:7 is "breath," not "spirit."
For HaShem gives us our first breath when we come out of the womb and then He takes it away later on, so we die.
"The Spirit YHWH hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life," Job 33:4.
"Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled: Thou takest away their breath (ru-cham (it is plural here)), they die, and return to their dust," Psalm 104:29.
*** The God of Israel is a spirit, therefore it is not too proper to say, "the Spirit of YHWH." It is better to say, doctrinally, "The Spirit - YHWH." I am dropping the "of."