What does the afterlife of Judaism look like?

As Christians we profess that because of Christ, we can have eternal life. So Christ changed the idea of the afterlife. I have heard that in Judaism there is no “hell”, which would be another thing changed by Christ? In Judaism, what does it mean to be saved, in terms of the afterlife? And what does it mean to be lost?

While I am not Jewish, I am joining in to follow this thread. Great topic!

Shalom and ICXC NIKA!

Me too!

Me three…

I think Heaven and Hell are in the promises God made in the Covenant.
For the one who believed and died fighting for the promised land, it is reasonable that God keeps his promise by resurrecting him in the Heavens.
For the one who was a cheat and took advantage of everything with no real regard for God, it is reasonable that God keeps his promise by resurrecting him in Hell.

Not a Jew but did ask a Jewish friend if Jews believed in heaven and he said they do. I believe they leave it up to the mercy of God as to whom shall attain the afterlife. Attain the afterlife to be united with God is probably the reason why a good Jew tries to keep God’s commandments. What other reason would there be?

Certain they believe in hell too. Supposedly, in ancient times, the huge ever burning garbage pit outside the city served as a reminder to the Jews as to what hell is like.

Don’t believe Jews think of the Messiah as saving them except to be a leader here on earth who will once again raise their nation to great glory.

Elijah was taken bodily into heaven. Every Passover a place at the table is set for him in anticipation of his return which will herald the coming of the Messiah. I’m sure they believe Elijah as been with God in heaven all this time. So if they believe in God and in Elijah who is with God, they must believe in heaven too. :slight_smile:


I wouldn’t be so sure that there is no afterlife in Judaism. Daniel seems to strongly suggest the existence of a place of eternal, conscious torment.

THANKS!! :thumbsup:

The Jewish idea of the afterlife has evolved over time, I tried looking up what they believe on the internet but couldn’t find it. So then I turned to a friend of mine who is a Rabbi and this is what he told me.

He said that anyone can get to heaven as long as they have more good works over their bad works. So a atheist can get to heaven, a Muslim, Christian, Hindu etc. can get to heaven. They call Heaven, “Sheol.” They teach that it’s where the presence of God is and a waiting place for when the, “coming” messiah shall resurrect the dead.

So what about the people who have more bad works then good works? Oh, they get to go to heaven too. Everyone goes to go to heaven. But before they go to heaven they have to go through Gahanna, basically what Catholics would call Purgatory. They believe they are purged there for about 11 months, sometimes 12 to 13 months, but usually it takes about 11 months for them to be purged according to them. They say the presence of God is what purges us.

They believe when the promised messiah “comes” he will resurrect all the dead and every human will live on earth peacefully with the messiah.

To conclude, there is no hell in modern Judaism. Heaven (Sheol) and Gahanna (Purgatory) are the only two places in the Jewish afterlife.

(BTW, some Jews say that some people maybe reincarnated if they did not complete something in their life’s before entering into heaven. And some Jews will say there is no afterlife at all, just a resurrection.)

Sad they don’t recognize as Jesus being the messiah.
With love.
Catholic Christian.

I’m pretty sure that the Sadducees didn’t believe in any sort of afterlife at all.

Well, we do get that from the NT.

Judaism at that time seemed not to hold to a “human afterlife” of the “out of body travel” type. To them, there was no “soul” to go travelling; the person was the live body. In fact, Hebrew still has no word for “body” per se. Without the body there was --nobody.

But by NT times, the teaching of bodily resurrection had appeared, although rejected by the Sadduccees, who controlled the temple, and championed by the Pharisees, who controlled the rest of religious life.

We also know that at least one famous Jew born in 6BC definitely taught a human afterlife!:):slight_smile:


The question of the afterlife is somewhat vague in Judaism which is a very ‘here and now’ religion, here a few links to help here -

Judaism 101

My Jewish Learning

Jewish Virtual Library

By the way, if you want Jewish involvement in a thread, posting it on Friday or Saturday isn’t a good idea. :slight_smile:

The view you cite as being that of “modern” Judaism is actually that of “liberal Judaism,” although I’m not sure that rabbi speaks for all followers of Reform and/or Conservative Judaism.

In the view of classic Rabbinic Judaism, it is certainly not true that atheists and idolaters will go to “heaven” if they have more “good works.” In fact, their works are not considered wholly “good” because their actions are not derived from a desire to follow God’s will. If an atheist gives charity because he wants to live in a pleasant and orderly society, that’s actually self-serving. Or, he’s massaging and quieting his God-given conscience without admitting that it derives from a divine source - also self-serving. Of course, I’m oversimplifying, but you get the drift. However, there is also a principle that “The Holy One, blessed is He, does not withhold the reward of any creature.” Since God is good and just, no good deed goes unrewarded, no matter who does it - even an evildoer. BUT - that person is materially rewarded in this world, not the next. Anyway, why should he be admitted into the reward in the next world that he didn’t even believe in when he was alive?

Non-Jews can also be rewarded in the next world if they are moral and good people and believe in God. It doesn’t work with “percentages,” you don’t need 50.1% good works to get a heaven entry-pass. Rather, God forgets nothing and rewards every single good deed according to its level of goodness, and punishes every single bad deed, unless a person repents for it while he is alive.

Judaism has a punishment in the afterlife, Gehennom, which includes both a concept of “purgatory” so to speak, as well as everlasting torment for those really evil people who sin especially grievously. Ask your rabbi if he believes Hitler is still there. Unfortunately, I’m afraid he might say no.

The JewFAQ website seems to have a pretty good synopsis of the real deal.

By the way, another error is that the “messiah” will resurrect the dead. He will do no such thing. As the classic poem “Yigdal,” found in the beginning of every traditional prayer book, says: “Meitim yechayye El” - “God will revive the dead”.

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