Can Jewish people be saved without accepting Yeshua as their Messiah? Some people think so. But the Bible is very clear that there is only one way to be saved. The Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, has paid for the sins of the Jewish people too. There is only one way to receive eternal life, and that is to accept his redeeming sacrifice.
By being deceived into thinking that Jewish people are eternally saved just because of their ethnicity, we can prevent people from hearing the truth that is necessary for salvation. Here we will look at what Jewish tradition teaches about the next life, and what the Bible tells us.
What does the Bible say?
In John 14:6, when one of Yeshua’s (Jewish) disciples, Thomas, asked Him, “Lord, how can we know the way?”, Yeshua said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”. No one! All of us have sinned, all of us need a Messiah, and only Yeshua is the Messiah who has paid for our sins and can bring us into a right relationship with God. In Romans 1:16 Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
In Romans 10 Paul emphasizes that regarding salvation and eternal life, “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek”, and “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Everything that Yeshua said and taught was as relevant to the Jewish people as it is relevant to all other nations. We need to give serious consideration to all of His statements on faith and salvation, judgment and punishment.
The Jewish tradition contains a variety of opinions on the subjects of heaven and hell. The sages say that only truly righteous souls ascend directly to Gan Eden. The average person descends to a place of punishment or purification, generally referred to as Gehinnom. The name is taken from a valley (Gei Hinnom), just south of Jerusalem that was once used for child sacrifice by the Canaanites (II Kings 23:10). Some view Gehinnom as a place of torture and punishment, fire and brimstone. Others imagine it less harshly, as a place where one reviews the actions of his past life and repents for sins.
The soul’s sentence in Gehinnom is usually limited to a twelve-month period of purgation before the souls goes up to the Olam Ha-Ba (Mishnah Eduyot 2:9, Shabbat 33a). This twelve-month limit is reflected in the yearlong mourning cycle and the recitation of the Kaddish (the memorial prayer for the dead). Only the utterly wicked do not ascend to Gan Eden at the end of this year. Sources differ on what happens to these souls at the end of their initial time of purgation. Some say that the wicked are utterly destroyed and cease to exist, while others believe in eternal damnation (Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Law of Repentance, 3:5-6).
Many Jewish people put their hope in this tradition that implies that even the worst of us will suffer only 11 months of punishment after death. But where does the Scripture teach such a thing? The fact is there is nothing in the Hebrew Bible that may support this belief in any way.
The truth about judgement
The truth is the truth and to deny it does not change it. Often times people choose their religious beliefs to comfort themselves after the death of a loved one and to avoid the finality of death. But changing our beliefs does not change the facts of the Scripture that does speak of judgment after death. Daniel 12:2 – “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” How long is everlasting? Can it possibly be interpreted as something temporary that will end after 11 months?
We must keep in mind that Tanach suggests that judgment, unfortunately, has been the norm in God’s dealings with the Jewish people. The Hebrew Bible speaks of sinners and the wicked, the ungodly and the unrighteous hundreds of times. By God’s standards, most human beings (including the Jewish people) are not righteous but sinful. David was crying out to God when he realized how sinful he was. “Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no one living is righteous.” (Ps. 143:2). Eccl. 7:20 – “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin”. No one living is righteous according to God’s standards. The people of Israel are no different. It wasn’t only Yeshua, but also Moses and the Prophets who warned the Jewish nation about upcoming judgments.
What happened to Jews who disobeyed the Torah? Israelis were blessed or cursed in this life according to God’s laws and commandments. If they have suffered punishment in this world because of sin, what does this indicate for the world to come?
Some believe that we only suffer for our sins in this world, but this is only a speculation without clear Biblical support. Surely, as God judged the Jewish people in the past for their sins, he will judge them in the future for breaking His laws and commandments. No one can fulfill the Law completely; therefore we are all under the curse of the Law unless we have been redeemed by the blood of the Messiah. Lev. 17:11 clearly states – “for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.” God has never changed His Word and there is no verse in the Hebrew Bible that may prove that today prayer, fasting, and “tzadaka” (acts of righteousness) are enough to make atonement for a Jewish soul. Isaiah says,- “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Is. 64:6).
God wants all to be saved
Romans 10:1-4 – Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Yeshua is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
God wants all men to be saved. He wants all of Israel to be saved. In order for this to happen He has sent His Son, Yeshua the Messiah, to atone for the sins of all men, Jews and Gentiles, so we can have eternal life with Him in heaven. We are saved by His grace and our faith in the Messiah, the only One who can wipe away our sin and guilt and allow us to have an eternal personal relationship with the Holy God of Israel.