QUESTION: As a Messianic Jewish person, what do the Scriptures really teach regarding the soul of one who departs from planet Earth? Do they stay in the grave until Christ returns or does the soul go immediately to be with the Lord if the person is saved and knows Christ and is then reunited with his body upon the return of Christ? Thank you very much!
ANSWER: Shalom Rose,
Judaism varies on this topic. We place more stress on living a good living life now than on what comes next. Generally speaking we believe in the resurrection of the dead in the Olam Haba. This means that when a person dies he "sleeps" until Messiah comes and then is resurrected in the (Earthly) Kingdom. Heaven as meant by Christians is not a Jewish concept.
A substantial percentage of religious Jews also believe that God uses a process known as gilgul neshamot (i.e. "the rolling of souls") to purify people so they are fit to enter the kingdom. This process is essentially reincarnation (human to human only). We do not believe that God tortures people in the afterlife (a small number of Jews do, but only for a limited time duration and they are probably influenced by Christian teaching).
To be clear, religious Jews who believe Rebbe Y'shua will be the Messiah reject most of the Christian concepts about him (especially the trinity and his divinity). Most people who refer to themselves as Messianic Jews are actually Christians. I am Jewish.
I hope this has been useful to you.
Peace, Love and Light
~ Yochanan (John of AllFaith
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: When you say Rebbe Y'shua will be the Messiah - does that mean you are still waiting for Him to come?
Shalom again Rose,
According to the biblical prophets there are certain things Messiah will accomplish. Rebbe Y'shua (Torah teacher Jesus) did not accomplish the most important of these. For instance:
Isaiah 2, 11, 42; 59:20
Jeremiah 23, 30, 33; 48:47; 49:39
I believe that he will return and complete the tasks, and so by faith I sometimes reference him as Y'shua HaMoshiach ("Jesus the Messiah"), however that is by faith in what he will do. Thus far the role of Messiah has not yet been fulfilled. Therefore like all religious Jews we await the coming of Messiah.