What Happens to You When You Die?

Restoration of Truth Series: The State of the Dead

by Nathan Lawrence
Hoshana Rabbah Biblical Resources at www.HoshanaRabbah.org

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Yeshua the Messiah, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which Elohim has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19–21, emphasis added)

It has been the common belief among nearly all Christians universally for nineteen hundred years that upon physical death a person’s soul immediately separates from their body and lives immortally either in heaven or in hellfire. In this brief study we will show incontrovertible proof that this cornerstone of Christian orthodoxy needs to be reexamined, and that the idea of the soul being immortal is of non-biblical (even Satanic) origination. Admittedly, this is not a salvational issue, but this belief is detrimental to one’s biblical understanding, since it leads to a skewed view of several other key biblical truths. This belief also hinders the advancement of YHVH’s kingdom as we will also demonstrate below. If you are a bold truth seeker, and not timid about questioning sacred cow beliefs then read on.

Does Man Possess an Immortal Soul?

This question of the immortality of the human soul should not be passed over quickly. Why? Because nearly all of the world’s false, non-biblical religions believe that each person possesses an immortal soul that lives on after death. To the questioning mind, shouldn’t the universality of this idea be suspect? Therefore, shouldn’t it behoove the assiduous truth-seeker to know the origination of this belief? Is it biblical or from some other source? These are excellent questions that we will answer below. The answers affects everyone! 

The Source Is Not Elohim!

The first place in the Bible that the immortality of the soul concept is mentioned is in Genesis chapter three—literally at the beginning of man’s existence on earth, and the source of this idea was not YHVH Elohim, the Creator of man. Rather it was from the spiritual entity Yeshua the Messiah labeled as “the father of all lies” (John 8:44), Satan the devil, the serpent (Rev 12:9). 

We pick up the story of how the immortal soul idea come into man’s initial awareness way back in the Garden of Eden at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where the serpent (i.e., Satan the devil; Rev 12:9), in enticing the woman to eat from the forbidden tree, told her that “you shall not surely die” even though YHVH had told Adam and Eve that they would die if they ate of it (Gen 2:8–9; 3:1–6). Was the serpent the originator of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, According to the Bible, the answer is yes! As we shall now discover, this concept was not even an aspect of Old Testament theology.

An Analysis of the Hebrew Word Nephesh

Upon a careful analysis of all the Bible scriptures on this subject from both the Tanakh (i.e., Old Testament or OT) and Testimony of Yeshua (i.e., New Testament or NT), a truth becomes clear. Man possesses a soul, but nowhere does Scripture state that his soul is immortal. An understanding of how Scripture uses the Hebrew word nephesh (in the OT) and the Greek word psuche (in the nT)—both translated as “soul” in our Bibles—reveals that notion that the soul of man is immortal is to overlay the Word of Elohim with a concept that is foreign to biblical truth. This is because neither the OT nor the NT indicate that the soul is immortal, but rather that it is simply that part of a human that defines who one is. That is, it is merely one’s personality, character, emotional make-up, mental capabilities and the volitional or will part of a person.

Let’s now examine the actual meanings of the words nephesh and psuche. According to The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (volume 9, p. 617ff), Scripture equated nephesh with the breath of man, the blood of man and the person of man. In the latter, it is used as a term for the total nature of man, for what he is, not just what he has. The same cannot be said of the spirit, heart or flesh part of man. The classical text in Genesis 2:7 clearly expresses this truth when it calls man in his totality a nephesh hai-yah or “a living being” (NKJV) or “a living soul” (KJV). The nephesh has no existence apart from the body. Hence the best translation in many instances is “person”comprised in corporeal (relating to the physical body, as opposed to one’s spirit) reality. Nephsesh can denote what is most individual in human nature, namely, the ego (ibid. p. 620).

Nephesh as used in the OT can also be an expression of the will. The nepheshis manifest in orientation to an object, whether this be the elemental realities of hunger and thirst on the one side (Deut 12:15,20; 1 Sam 2:16, etc.) or the lofty aspiration of yearning for Elohim on the other (Ps 103:1). Nephesh can refer to the sex drive (Gen 34:3; Jer 2:24), to hatred (Ps 27:12), to pain and sorrow (1 Sam 1:10; 30:6), to the will (Gen 23:8), and the supreme striving of man for Elohim (Isa 26:9; Ps 63:1; 84:2, etc.) (ibid., pp. 621–622).

Based on these definitions of the word nephesh as used in the OT, we see that the Bible refers to the soul of man as the mind, the will and emotions. It refers to who one is as a person or one’s personality. It is in this Hebraic sense that the writers of the NT would be using the term soul (e.g., 1 Thess 5:23). There is no reason to assume that the apostolic writers referred to man’s soul in anything other than Hebraic terms to the exclusion of any Hellenistic (pagan Greek) concepts of the immortal soul.

Further Study of the Hebrew word Nephesh/Soul from Various Lexicons

The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament is not the only expert lexical source that reveals the meaning of the word soul as used in the Scriptures and debunks the notion that it is immortal. The following is a list of several other notable lexicons that contain similar information.

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What happens to you when you die?

Mark 12:27, The Elohim of the living. Some people have used this passage in an attempt to prove the immortality of the soul—that when a person dies, their soul immediately leaves their body and goes to heaven. After all, if Elohim is the God of the living, not of the dead then this must mean that the patriarchs are still be alive—in heaven. What is the real truth behind this verse from a whole Bible perspective?

This verse can actually be explained in several ways without subscribing to the non-biblical, non-Hebraic, pagan concept of the immortality of the soul. 

In truth, the Bible clearly teaches that the soul that sins dies (Ezek 18:4); it doesn’t go to heaven. When we understand what the soul really is from a biblical perspective, we will see that it is a man’s soul (his mind, will and emotions) that sins, for out of the heart proceeds all sorts of evil things (Matt 15:19), and the heart of man is desperately wicked (Jer 17:9). Because a man sins through his soul, this is why Yeshua’s sinless soul had to become an offering for man’s sin (Isa 53:10). 

Moreover, when Yeshua died, his body and soul went into the grave, and his spirit went to heaven (Luke 23:46). The same thing happens to a man when he dies, except that those who have died in Messiah are awaiting the resurrection of their bodies at the second coming of Yeshua (1 Thess 4:16) where their spirits will be rejoined with their resurrected souls and bodies. Therefore, when Yeshua states that YHVH isn’t the Elohim of the dead, but the living, he could have meant that in the mind of Elohim, a righteous person isn’t technically dead, since his name is written in the Book of Life and legally he has inherited eternal life, and the body and soul are merely sleeping in the grave awaiting the resurrection. 

What happens to our spirit when we die? After all, the Bible teaches that human’s are composed of spirit, soul and body (1 Thess 5:23)?

When a person dies, their spirit goes to heaven, even as Yeshua’s spirit did (Eccl 12:7; Acts 7:59; Luke 23:46). Now whether or not one’s spirit is conscious when it is in heaven, the Scriptures don’t say. So we won’s speculate about this.

So what is Elohim’s perspective on the death of a saint? Simply this. Even though a person may be physically dead or “sleeping” in the grave (in numerous places, the Scriptures call death “sleep”) for years, in the mind of Elohim, which isn’t bound by the limitations of time, and where a thousands years is like a day and vice versa, when a righteous person dies, to Elohim that person is still alive, for his name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and he will be resurrected the next day, so to speak. Moreover, a person’s spirit waits in heaven to be reunited with their physical body at the resurrection of the saints at Yeshua’s second coming.

By viewing Yeshua’s statement in Mark 12:27 from this more expanded, whole Bible, Hebraic perspective, we are able to reconcile the Bible’s various statements about what happens to a person after they die without having to interject into Scripture the unbiblical and pagan concept of the immortality of the soul. 


Dear Natan: Is the soul immortal?

Here is an email letter I recently received from M—. Perhaps my response will help answer some of your questions some as you’re trying to understand the Bible from a more Hebraic perspective, and separate out the truth from the error that the mainstream church teaches. If you already understand the truths presented below, perhaps this information will help you to answer those who come to you with the same questions.

Hello Natan,
I have read with a great interest your article “How the Church Divorced Itself From Its Jewish Roots” on your blog but I am a but puzzled by the following passage:

“Here is a partial list (along with the approximate dates) of several major unbiblical and anti-Torah and non-biblical doctrines crept into the post-apostolic church.

The Human Soul Is Immortal”

Is the immortality of the soul unbiblical and anti-Torah? If it is, do you have any scriptural proof to support that? What is the point of the coming of Yeshua if once the person dies, their souls also vanishes?

Hello M—,
Thank you for your inquiry about my thoughts pertaining to what happens to humans after they die. There are a plethora of opinions on this subject. Even though the Bible talks about this subject, understanding exactly what happens to us when we die is not a salvation issue. Having faith in and obeying Yeshua the Messiah and his word is a salvation issue however. Knowing exactly what happens to us after we die will not guarantee anyone eternal life; on the other hand, knowing Yeshua will. It must be said, though, that an improper understanding about what happens to us after we die can affect our understanding of some basic and important biblical truths. But we’ll save this for another discussion.
Now to answer your questions.
I have not written and published exhaustively on the subject of the state of the dead, since many have gone before me and competently addressed these issues already. Life is short and time is valuable, and so why reinvent the wheel? I have, however, written and published a brief article on this subject, which will answer some of your questions, and which is available on our ministry website at https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/state_of_dead.pdf. Perhaps you’ll find this helpful.
I will now answer your questions below in the briefest manner possible interlinearly and in bold type. 

“Here is a partial list (along with the approximate dates) of several major unbiblical and anti-Torah and non-biblical doctrines crept into the post-apostolic church.

The Human Soul Is Immortal”

Is the immortality of the soul unbiblical and anti-Torah? If it is, do you have any scriptural proof to support that? What is the point of the coming of Yeshua if once the person dies, their souls also vanishes?

What about verses like Matt. 10:28 “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” ???

The Bible teaches that humans have a spirit, soul and body (1 Thes 5:23). There are many other Scriptures that talk about the spirit in man. They are too numerous to mention here. (I have teachings elsewhere on this subject.) Do a word search in your favorite Bible search program and you’ll find them. The Bible also teaches that the soul is mortal and dies with the body (e.g. Ezek 18:3). Briefly, the soul is who you are: your mind, your will and your emotions. It defines you. It’s what makes you unique from every other human. It is housed in your body and cannot exist without a body. It is not immortal. The immortality of the soul is a pagan concept as I document in my referenced article above. It is also promoted by those who don’t know the difference between the soul and spirit of a man. The Bible in a number of places makes this differentiation, even though, admittedly, in the Tanakh (OT) some ancient biblical writers used the terms soul (nephesh) and spirit (ruach) interchangeably. However, a more refined view of the soul and spirit as taught in the Bible by other biblical authors shows us that our spirit was given to us at conception; it comes from Elohim. The Bible also states that it returns to Elohim when we die, as I note in my article. The Bible is silent, however, on whether the spirit is conscious or not after the cessation of physical life. So it’s not wise to speculate on this. 

Matt.22:32 “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”???

The Bible defines the word life in a couple of different ways. There is physical life and there is spiritual life. Which life is Yeshua talking about here: physical or spiritual life? If physical life, then he contradicts what Scripture says elsewhere about the soul dying, about no man having ascending to heaven yet, about no man seeing the Father yet , about men’s thoughts ceasing when they die and so on. If however Yeshua meant spiritual life, then this is statement makes perfect sense, since Abraham had salvation because of his faith in Elohim, and even though he is dead and awaits the resurrection, his next waking moment will be in the presence of YHVH Yeshua. Moreover, in the mind of Elohim who inhabits eternity and who exists outside of time and space, Abraham is still alive spiritually (after all his spirit is in heaven), even though his body and soul are dead physically and await the resurrection of his body. Moreover, anyone whose name is written in the Book of Life, though he may be dead physically awaiting the resurrection and glorification of his body, again, in the mind of Elohim and in the scope of eternity, it’s as if he is alive. Death is but a split second in the mind of one who inhabits eternity.

Luke 23:43 “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.””???

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False Teachings and Destructive Heresies in the Early Church

Who goes there?

Thief sneaking through door2 Peter 2:1, False teachers…destructive heresies. When did several prominent but destructive, non-biblical heresies creep into the early church, which are now major doctrines in mainstream Christianity? Here is a partial list along with the approximate times the early church fathers began teaching these doctrines.

The Human Soul Is Immortal

The immortality of the soul was not  a Hebraic concept, but originated from the ancient Greek philosophers. This pagan concept made its way into the church as Gentiles who were steeped in the thinking of the Greek philosophers gained control of the early church after the death of the last apostles.

A.D. 130— The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 6

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 18

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Two, ch. 34

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Five, chaps. 7.1; 31.1

Teachings Against the Sabbath and Biblical Feasts

There is no record in the Bible of the early New Testament believers replacing the seventh-day Sabbath with Sunday. To say so is wishful thinking, a twisting of the Scriptures and biblical revisionism. It wasn’t until the fourth century at the Council of Nicea under Roman emperor Constantine that the Sunday officially replaced the Sabbath in the early church. Until that time, many Christian churches still observed the Sabbath throughout the Roman empire. The process of transitioning from Sabbath to Sunday observance was a slow one beginning in the early second century and had its roots largely in antisemitism.

A.D. 130—The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus, ch. 4. The author calls the Sabbath and biblical feasts “utterly ridiculous and unworthy of notice.”

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 2 (also ch. 14). The author says that the Sabbaths (weekly Sabbath and biblical feasts) are abolished.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians, ch. 14

Observance of the Lord’s Day (Sunday) Advocated Over Sabbath Observance

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 9. The author says to keep the Sabbath on Sunday.

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians, ch. 9

Ca. A.D. 130—Epistle of Barnabas, ch. 14

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 67

Teachings Against the Torah

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author declare, “If anyone preach the Jewish law, listen not to him.”

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, ch. 10

Ca. A.D. 155—The First Apology of Justin Martyr, ch. 47. The author states that out of “weak-mindedness,” some Christians observe the Mosaic law. Sabbath and feast days observance are optional, but not encouraged.

Anti-Semetic/Anti-Torah Theology

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesian, chaps. 8, 10

Ca. A.D. 180—Irenaeus’ Against Heresies, Book Four, ch. 16.4. The author declares that the Decalogue was not cancelled by the New Covenant, but the statues and judgments of the Torah were a bondage to the Israelites and are no longer binding on Christians.

Teachings Against the Biblical Dietary Laws of Clean and Unclean Meats

Early part of second century A.D.—Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians, ch. 6. The author states that one who adheres the biblical dietary laws “has the apostate dragon dwelling within him.”

Easter Celebration Established a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 150—The celebration of the resurrection within the early church began in the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, pp. 207–8, by Philip Schaff). The date of Easter and its formal establishment and disconnection from Passover occurred in A.D. 325 at the council of Nicea.

Sabbath Officially Changed to Sunday

A.D. 321—Sunday officially becomes the weekly day of worship (in place of the Sabbath) by a legal enactment of Emporer Constantine (History of the Christian Church, vol. 3, p. 378ff, by Philip Schaff; History of the Christianity, vol 1, p. 93, by Kenneth Scott Latourette)

Christmas Established as a Christian Holiday

Ca. A.D. 354—Christmas originated in the middle to the end of the fourth century as a Christian holiday as an outgrowth of a pagan festival celebrating the birth of the pagan sun god.


Immortal Soul Idea—Pagan, Not Biblical

Revelation 6:9, Under the altar…souls. In Hebraic biblical thought, the earth is the altar (see The ArtScroll Tehilim/Psalms Commentary on Ps 118:27), and at death, the soul is not immortal, but simply goes into the grave with the body awaiting the resurrection (Ps 49:15; Ezek 18:4).

Immortal Soul 24316181

Below is a brief discussion on the origins of the idea of the immortality of the soul.

The Idea of an Immortal Soul Comes from the Pagans, Not the Bible

In his book, Judaism, by Harvard professor, George Foot Moore, the author asserts that in ancient Israel there was no concept of the afterlife. The abode of the dead was the grave (sheol). The only hope of life after death was expressed in the notion of the resurrection of the righteous sometime in the future. (vol. 2, pp 287–292)

The Greek thinkers postulated the dual nature of man where it was believed the man’s true self was an imperishable soul, which during what we call life is the inmate of the mortal body. At death the soul leaves this tenement, while the body dissolves into its material elements and perishes. The soul then flits away to the realm of spiritual or noumenal existence to which by its essential nature it belongs. The ideas of immortal souls and of the happy lot to which the souls of the good go at death seemed to some Jews to fit in so well with their own religious conceptions as to belong to them (Ibid., pp. 292–293). Continue reading