The Hebraic Meaning of “Souls Under the Altar”

“Souls under the altar”—a reference to the immortal soul of man?

Revelation 6:9, Under the altar…souls. Souls under the altar, in biblical Hebraic thought, is another way of saying that when you die, your soul dies too and goes into the grave of the earth or ground along with your body awaiting the resurrection when your body and soul (i.e. your personality—your mind, will and emotions) will be reunited with your personal spirit or divine essence that goes back to heaven when you die. 

The altar is a poetic metaphor for the earth. Remember that the Bible says that heaven is Elohim’s throne and earth is his footstool (Isa 66:1; Matt 5:35; Acts 7:49). For example, the altar in the tabernacle was constructed of a pile of rocks placed on the bare earth and the blood of sacrificed animals was poured out on the earth. To me, the phrase “under the altar” (Rev 6:9) speaks of the human body being buried under or in the earth when they die where they await the resurrection. 

We know that souls are not immortal; they don’t go to heaven when a person dies, contrary to what the church teaches—a false teaching they picked up from the Greek philosophers, not from the Tanakh! 

On the contrary, the Tanakh tells us that the soul that sins dies (Ezek 18:4) and goes into the grave (Ps 16:10). Yeshua’s soul died when he went into he grave (Ps 16:10; Isa 53:12), but his spirit (his breath and his personal spirit) went up to heaven to be received of his Father (Luke 23:46) as did Stephen’s (Act 7:59). The same is true for all humans (Eccl 12:7). 

The idea that the altar is the earth is further corroborated in Jewish thought. The Jewish sages teach us that the four horns on the four corners of the altar of sacrifice in the tabernacle symbolically represent the four corners of the earth. “[T]he expanse of the earth is more than a huge altar, dedicated to God” (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 (Pss 16:10; 49:15; Ezek 18:4). 

Moreover, if the soul were immortal, than the lie the serpent told the first humans about not dying after going against Elohim’s instructions (i.e. committing sin) would be true wouldn’t it (Gen 3:4)?