The Hebrew word Olam Ha-Ba ("the world to come") is used for both the messianic age and the afterlife . The world to come is important and something to look forward to. A Mishnah passage says, "This world is like a lobby before the Olam Ha-Ba. Prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall." The tractate Moed Katan teaches, "This world is only like a hotel. The world to come is like a home."
Yet it is also emphasized that this world provides the ability and privilege of doing good works and performing the mitzvot: "Rabbi Yaakov also used to say, 'Better one hour in repentance and good deeds in this world than all the life in the world to come. And better one hour of tranquility of spirit in the world to come than all the life of this world.'" (Pirkei Avos, Chapters of the Fathers)
For the most part, the Torah describes the afterlife in vague terms, many of which may simply be figurative ways of speaking about death as it is observed by the living.
An early common theme is that death means rejoining one's ancestors. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and other patriarchs are "gathered to their people" after death (see Gen. 25:8, 25:17, 35:29, 49:33; Deut. 42:50; 2 Ki. 22:20). In contrast, the wicked are "cut off (kareit) from their people" (Gen. 17:14; Ex. 31:14). Other imagery emphasizes the finality of death: the dead are like dust returning to dust (Genesis; Ecc. 3:19-20) or water poured out on the ground (2 Samuel 14:14).
Another recurring biblical image of the afterlife is as a shadowy place called Sheol. It is a place of darkness (Psalm 88:13, Job 10:21, 22) and silence (Psalm 115:17), located in low places (Numbers 16:30, Ezekiel 31:14, Psalm 88:7, Lamentations 3:55; Jonah 2:7, Job 26:5). In 1 Samuel 2:6, God puts people in She'ol. In Isaiah 14:9-10, the departed in Sheol rise up to greet leaders who have now been brought low as they are. The author of Psalm 88 laments his impending death with these words:
I am sated with misfortune; I am at the brink of Sheol.
I am numbered with those who go down to the Pit;
I am a helpless man
abandoned among the dead,
like bodies lying in the grave
of whom You are mindful no more,
and who are cut off from Your care.
You have put me at the bottom of the Pit,
in the darkest places, in the depths.
Taken together, these early biblical descriptions of death seem to indicate that the soul continues to exist in some way after death, but not consciously. Later in the Torah, the concept of conscious life after death begins to develop. Daniel 12:2 declares, "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence." Neh. 9:5.
The messianic age is a period in human history that will be initiated when the messiah comes. At that time the righteous dead will be resurrected, but the wicked will not. The messianic age will be a time of peace and the restoration of the land and organizations of Israel.
This realm of the dead is in the earth ("erẓitu" = ; comp. Job, x. 21, 22), the gateway being in the west. It is the "land without return." It is a dark place filled with dust; but it contains a palace for the divine ruler of this shadow-realm (comp. Job xviii. 13, 14). Seven gates guard successively the approach to this land, at the first of which is a watchman. A stream of water flows through Sheol.
1. Genesis 37:35
2. Genesis 42:38
But [Jacob] said, My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead and he alone is left [of his mother's children]; if harm or accident should befall him on the journey you are to take, you would bring my hoary head down to Sheol (the place of the dead) with grief.
3. Genesis 44:29
And if you take this son also from me, and harm or accident should befall him, you will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow and evil to Sheol (the place of the dead).
4. Genesis 44:31
When he sees that the lad is not with us, he will die; and your servants will be responsible for his death and will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol.
5. Numbers 16:30
But if the Lord causes a new thing [to happen], and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up, with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol (the place of the dead), then you shall understand that these men have provoked (spurned, despised) the Lord!
6. Numbers 16:33
They and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol (the place of the dead); and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the assembly.
7. Deuteronomy 32:22
For a fire is kindled by My anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth with its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
8. 1 Samuel 2:6
The Lord slays and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.
9. 2 Samuel 22:6
The cords of Sheol were entangling me; I encountered the snares of death.
10. 1 Kings 2:6
Do therefore according to your wisdom, but let not his hoary head go down to Sheol (the place of the dead) in peace.
11. Job 7:9
As the cloud is consumed and vanishes away, so he who goes down to Sheol (the place of the dead) shall come up no more.
12. Job 11:8
His wisdom is as high as the heights of heaven! What can you do? It is deeper than Sheol (the place of the dead)! What can you know?
13. Job 14:13
Oh, that You would hide me in Sheol (the unseen state), that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, that You would set a definite time and then remember me earnestly [and imprint me on your heart]!
14. Job 17:13
But if I look to Sheol (the unseen state) as my abode, if I spread my couch in the darkness,
15. Job 17:16
[My hope] shall go down to the bars of Sheol (the unseen state) when once there is rest in the dust.
16. Job 21:13
They spend their days in prosperity and go down to Sheol (the unseen state) in a moment and peacefully.
17. Job 24:19
Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so does Sheol (the place of the dead) those who have sinned.
18. Job 26:6
Sheol (the place of the dead) is naked before God, and Abaddon (the place of destruction) has no covering [from His eyes].
19. Psalm 6:5
For in death there is no remembrance of You; in Sheol (the place of the dead) who will give You thanks?
20. Psalm 9:17
The wicked shall be turned back [headlong into premature death] into Sheol (the place of the departed spirits of the wicked), even all the nations that forget or are forgetful of God.
21. Psalm 16:10
For You will not abandon me to Sheol (the place of the dead), neither will You suffer Your holy one [Holy One] to see corruption.
22. Psalm 18:5
The cords of Sheol (the place of the dead) surrounded me; the snares of death confronted and came upon me.
23. Psalm 30:3
O Lord, You have brought my life up from Sheol (the place of the dead); You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit (the grave).
24. Psalm 31:17
Let me not be put to shame, O Lord, or disappointed, for I am calling upon You; let the wicked be put to shame, let them be silent in Sheol (the place of the dead).
25. Psalm 49:14
Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol (the place of the dead); death shall be their shepherd. And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their form and beauty shall be consumed, for Sheol shall be their dwelling.
26. Psalm 49:15
But God will redeem me from the power of Sheol (the place of the dead); for He will receive me. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
27. Psalm 55:15
Let desolations and death come suddenly upon them; let them go down alive to Sheol (the place of the dead), for evils are in their habitations, in their hearts, and their inmost part.
28. Psalm 86:13
For great is Your mercy and loving-kindness toward me; and You have delivered me from the depths of Sheol [from the exceeding depths of affliction].
29. Psalm 88:3
For I am full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol (the place of the dead).
30. Psalm 88:11
Shall Your steadfast love be declared in the grave? Or Your faithfulness in Abaddon (Sheol, as a place of ruin and destruction)?
31. Psalm 89:48
What man can live and shall not see death, or can deliver himself from the [powerful] hand of Sheol (the place of the dead)? Selah [pause, and calmly consider that]!
32. Psalm 116:3
The cords and sorrows of death were around me, and the terrors of Sheol (the place of the dead) had laid hold of me; I suffered anguish and grief (trouble and sorrow).
33. Psalm 139:8
If I ascend up into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (the place of the dead), behold, You are there.
34. Psalm 141:7
The unburied bones [of slaughtered rulers] shall lie scattered at the mouth of Sheol, [as unregarded] as the lumps of soil behind the plowman when he breaks open the ground.
35. Proverbs 1:12
Let us swallow them up alive as does Sheol (the place of the dead), and whole, as those who go down into the pit [of the dead];
36. Proverbs 5:5
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold of Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead).
37. Proverbs 7:27
Her house is the way to Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead), going down to the chambers of death.
38. Proverbs 9:18
But he knows not that the shades of the dead are there [specters haunting the scene of past transgressions], and that her invited guests are [already sunk] in the depths of Sheol (the lower world, Hades, the place of the dead).
39. Proverbs 15:11
Sheol (the place of the dead) and Abaddon (the abyss, the final place of the accuser Satan) are both before the Lord--how much more, then, the hearts of the children of men?
40. Proverbs 15:24
The path of the wise leads upward to life, that he may avoid [the gloom] in the depths of Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead).
41. Proverbs 23:14
You shall whip him with the rod and deliver his life from Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead).
42. Proverbs 27:20
Sheol (the place of the dead) and Abaddon (the place of destruction) are never satisfied; so [the lust of] the eyes of man is never satisfied.
43. Proverbs 30:16
Sheol (the place of the dead), the barren womb, the earth that is not satisfied with water, and the fire that says not, It is enough.
44. Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol (the place of the dead), where you are going.
45. Song of Solomon 8:6
Set me like a seal upon your heart, like a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy is as hard and cruel as Sheol (the place of the dead). Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame [the very flame of the Lord]!
46. Isaiah 5:14
Therefore Sheol (the unseen state, the realm of the dead) has enlarged its appetite and opened its mouth without measure; and [Jerusalem's] nobility and her multitude and her pomp and tumult and [the drunken reveler] who exults in her descend into it.
47. Isaiah 7:11
Ask for yourself a sign (a token or proof) of the Lord your God [one that will convince you that God has spoken and will keep His word]; ask it either in the depth below or in the height above [let it be as deep as Sheol or as high as heaven].
48. Isaiah 14:9
Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead) below is stirred up to meet you at your coming [O tyrant Babylonian rulers]; it stirs up the shades of the dead to greet you--even all the chief ones of the earth; it raises from their thrones [in astonishment at your humbled condition] all the kings of the nations.
49. Isaiah 14:11
Your pomp and magnificence are brought down to Sheol (the underworld), along with the sound of your harps; the maggots [which prey upon dead bodies] are spread out under you and worms cover you [O Babylonian rulers].
50. Isaiah 14:15
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol (Hades), to the innermost recesses of the pit (the region of the dead).
51. Isaiah 28:15
Because you have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol (the place of the dead) we have an agreement--when the overflowing scourge passes through, it will not come to us, for we have made lies our refuge, and in falsehood we have taken shelter.
52. Isaiah 28:18
And your covenant with death shall be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol (the place of the dead) shall not stand; when the overwhelming scourge passes through, then you will be trodden down by it.
53. Isaiah 38:10
I said, In the noontide and tranquillity of my days I must depart; I am to pass through the gates of Sheol (the place of the dead), deprived of the remainder of my years.
54. Isaiah 38:18
For Sheol (the place of the dead) cannot confess and reach out the hand to You, death cannot praise and rejoice in You; they who go down to the pit cannot hope for Your faithfulness [to Your promises; their probation is at an end, their destiny is sealed].
55. Isaiah 57:9
And you went to the king [of foreign lands with gifts] or to Molech [the god] with oil and increased your perfumes and ointments; you sent your messengers far off and debased yourself even to Sheol (Hades) [symbol of an abysmal depth of degradation].
56. Ezekiel 31:15
Thus says the Lord God: When [Assyria] goes down to Sheol (the place of the dead), I will cause a mourning; I will cover the deep for it and I will restrain its floods, and the many waters [that contributed to its prosperity] will be stayed; and I will cause Lebanon to be in black gloom and to mourn for it, and all the trees of the field, dismayed, will faint because of it.
57. Ezekiel 31:16
I will make the nations quake at the sound of its fall when I cast it down to Sheol with those who descend into the pit, and all the trees of Eden, the choice and best of Lebanon, all [the trees] that drink water, will be comforted in the netherworld [at Assyria's downfall].
58. Ezekiel 31:17
They also shall go down into Sheol with it to those who were slain by the sword--yes, those who were its arm, who dwelt under its shadow in the midst of the nations.
59. Ezekiel 32:21
The strong among the mighty shall speak of [Pharaoh] out of the midst of Sheol (the place of the dead, the netherworld) with those who helped him; they are gone down; they lie still, even the uncircumcised (the heathen) slain by the sword.
60. Ezekiel 32:27
And they shall not lie with the mighty who have fallen of the uncircumcised [and] who have gone down to Sheol (the place of the dead, the netherworld) with their weapons of war, whose swords were laid [with honors] under their heads and whose iniquities are upon their bones, for they caused their terror to spread in the land of the living.
61. Hosea 13:14
Should I ransom them from the power of Sheol (the place of the dead)? Should I redeem them from death? O death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your destruction? Relenting and compassion are hidden from My eyes.
62. Amos 9:2
Though they dig into Sheol (Hades, the dark abode of the gathered dead), from there shall My hand take them; though they climb up to heaven [the abode of light], from there will I bring them down;
63. Jonah 2:2
And said, I cried out of my distress to the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of Sheol cried I, and You heard my voice.
64. Habakkuk 2:5
Moreover, wine and wealth are treacherous; the proud man [the Chaldean invader] is restless and cannot stay at home. His appetite is large like that of Sheol and [his greed] is like death and cannot be satisfied; he gathers to himself all nations and collects all people as if he owned them.