Glimpses of Heaven from the Jewish Bible

by Ruth Rosen | February 12 2023

Ask a Jewish friend, “If you were to die, on what basis would you be allowed into heaven?” and you might well receive a blank stare. Many Jewish people have only a “maybe” belief in any kind of life after death—if even that. Modern Judaism emphasizes doing good in this world, which is its own reward. Rather than a literal life after death, the hope is to live on through our accomplishments, our children, and in the memories of others. If there is a heaven, many reason, God will welcome those who have done their best. And yet there are hints of heaven in the Jewish Bible. Maybe that is why Jewish people who are more religious do hold a belief in life after death.1

People need to see that God is real, and that knowing Him is life changing and life giving.

The medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides included a statement about the resurrection as one of his “Principles of Faith,”2 which have become a kind of credo for Orthodox Jews. Even so, there isn’t really a unified Orthodox Jewish position on exactly what is required to enter into eternal life, or on what basis people would be excluded.

What Does This Mean for Sharing Our Faith with Jewish People?

Jewish people are no different from others, inasmuch as all people need to see that God is real, and that knowing Him is life changing and life giving. That’s a good place to start, as the thought of eternity with an unknown God is unlikely to ignite hope. But while the hope of heaven isn’t necessarily a good starting place, it becomes meaningful within the context of God’s reality, His goodness, our alienation from Him, and the lengths to which He went to restore a relationship with us.

While most Jewish people you are likely to meet probably do not rely on the Hebrew Scriptures for guidance, if a Jewish person wanted to consider the possibility of eternal life, it would make sense to explore it in a Jewish context. Each of the following passages shows that the belief in heaven—though more fully unpacked in the New Testament—has some basis in Jewish Scripture. This may come as a welcome surprise to many. The following passages are only a sample of the hopes and hints of eternal life offered in the Jewish Bible.

The Living Redeemer

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in
my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
(Job 19:25–27)

Many take this as a reference to resurrection, including key commentators in the history of the church. Others think Job is picturing his vindication during his own lifetime. One thing is clear: Job considers God his “Redeemer,” or in Hebrew, go’el. Commentator John Walton writes: “The job of the go’el is to recover losses and to salvage the dignity of one who has suffered loss.”3

Whether Job was thinking of this life or the next, this passage shows that the Jewish Bible supports the idea of a Redeemer who vindicates or justifies us because of what He has done, and who enables us to be received by God the Father. Job speaks of seeing God for himself, and the thought not only offers him hope in the midst of suffering, but creates great longing.

The Joy-Producing Presence

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let
your holy one see corruption. You make known to
me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of
joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:10–11)

David expected to be freed from the grave (Sheol). He trusted that God would not abandon him, and that death would not be the end of their relationship. This hope makes him “glad”; he “rejoices” (Psalm 16:9), has “life” and “joy,” and he looks forward to “pleasures forevermore”—all in the context of an intimate relationship with God.

The New Testament indicates that David was not speaking of himself, but of the coming Messiah (see Acts 2:22–39 and Acts 13:30–37). It seems that David had confidence in life beyond the grave because he had confidence in God and in God’s promised Redeemer.

The Glorious Forever

You guide me with your counsel, and afterward
you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides
you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the
strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:24–26)

This psalm by Asaph includes the hope of being with God beyond this lifetime. One commentator said, “This mounting experience of salvation, ‘grasped, guided, glorified,’ is a humble counterpart to the great theological sequence of Romans 8:29 [and following], which spans the work of God from its hidden beginning, ‘whom he foreknew,’ to the same consummation as here, ‘he also glorified.’”4

While we often think of salvation and eternal life as being spared from hell, it’s important to remember that the object of salvation is to forever enjoy God. The best way to look forward to heaven is to cultivate an ever-deepening love for, and enjoyment of, God throughout our lives here and now. Let your Jewish friends know that you understand that the hope of heaven proves more genuine when it positively impacts us today—in an ever deepening, life-changing relationship with God.

The Purpose of Eternity

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart,
yet so that he cannot find out what
God has done from the beginning to the end.
(Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Ecclesiastes is a wonderful book because it lets people know that someone much wiser than we are understood just how we feel about the frustrations and temporary nature of life “under the sun.” However, the author (whom many believe to be King Solomon) also understood that life is more than what we see “under the sun.” He mentions God as maker, giver, and judge throughout the book. In chapter 3, verse 11, we have a clue as to what God wants for us, and why the experiences of life and death cause feelings of meaninglessness.

God has seen to it that we long for more than our mortal lives can offer.

People may differ about exactly what it means for God to put eternity in our hearts, but one thing is certain: God has seen to it that we long for more than our mortal lives can offer. The entire book of Ecclesiastes shows that no matter what we do to try to create some kind of heaven on earth, it will never work. The above passage makes sense of people’s fear of death as far more than a survival instinct. At our core, we sense that we were meant for eternity.

The question then becomes, “Do we want eternity with or without God?” The countless ways that we say “no” to God’s rightful rule in our lives make us unfit to spend eternity with Him—because heaven is where we find eternal purpose in enjoying Him as the wonderful, rightful King that He is. If your friend can see that we all desire to co-opt His place in our lives, you can explain that this is what separates us from God. That’s why Jesus came—and through Him, the hope of heaven, hinted at in the Jewish Bible, can be ours.

Portions of this article, including the footnoted quotes, were taken from Rich Robinson’s article, “Hopes, Hints, and Historical Examples of God’s Power Over Death,” published in our newsletter in March 2016.



  1. For more on this topic, see Louis Jacobs, n.d., “Jewish Resurrection of the Dead,” My Jewish Learning, accessed January 10, 2023,
  2. Moses Maimonides, “Thirteen Principles of the Faith” (12th century),
  3. John H. Walton, “Job,” in NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012).
  4. Derek Kidner, “Psalm 73–150” in Tyndale Old Testament Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2014), 292.