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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Jonathan Bernis » Jonathan Bernis - What Happens When You Die

Jonathan Bernis - What Happens When You Die

Jonathan Bernis - What Happens When You Die
TOPICS: Afterlife

Jonathan Bernis: Shalom, and welcome to Jewish Voice. I'm Jonathan Bernis and I'm joined once again by my co-host, Ezra Benjamin. Today on the program, we're gonna be talking about the topic, "Life After Death". It's something that's become really popular over the last few years and it's because when things get difficult, we start asking tough questions. Like, is there something more beyond this life? Ezra, the good news is, the answer is, yes, there is. The Bible has so much to say about the afterlife. And I really sum up the Bible in two words, there's two topics that I find talked about from the beginning of scripture to the end, and it's destiny and it's the afterlife. And I can't think of a better time to deal with those questions than when life gets difficult.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: Have you found that as things have gotten harder that people are more open to these questions?

Ezra Benjamin: Sure. You know, very practically, the last few years, all of us have walked through a worldwide pandemic. And it's amazing the things you start thinking of and the questions you start asking or the questions you realize you don't have clear answers to, when people very close to you are suddenly dying at a much faster rate than any of us had experienced in our lifetime. It's really shocking.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah, I've lost over a dozen friends. Also, when you're sitting at home week after week and you're asking the question, "Isn't there more? Are we ever going to see life like we knew it, restored"? Now, we work in places like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe and other nations that are used to hardship, but I think this is new for the western world.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: And I'm glad that people are asking these tougher questions again. I think it's time. ****. I'm also glad that people are saying, "Show me in the Bible, what I can know according to God's word," which is truth and living inactive, "About this whole idea of what happens when we die". Jonathan, I've heard kind of this false dichotomy, maybe between Christian thinking and Jewish thinking. People say, "Christians believe in heaven and hell, and the Jewish people don't". I think that's an oversimplification when you look at the scriptures.

Jonathan Bernis: Very oversimplified.

Ezra Benjamin: And I know we wanna spend a few minutes today, actually digging in from both an Old Testament and a New Testament perspective, because it's not two separate stories, it's a continuation of one story, God's story. So, maybe we can start in the Old Testament and just talk about this idea of, what happened when people who followed God, who had faith in God died or passed away?

Jonathan Bernis: Let me begin with a story.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: Because people love stories. I always, we've talked about this before, always believed that there must be something more to this life.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: I've always believed that. And I've told you, it goes back to the death of my grandfather suddenly, when I was six, and we were all shielded from the funeral. It was something unhappy and don't shield the kids from this. And it just drew me to wanna know more, "What is this all about? People being put in the ground, right, that you never see again". And the other thing, the other question was, "Why am I here"? And those two questions are connected, why am I here and what's going to happen to me after I die? And the Bible answers both questions. The Old Testament answers both questions, the New Testament answers both questions, but there's no monolithic view. No one has a monolithic view.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: So, I went to the rabbi as a young teen, I was probably 11 or 12 preparing for my bar mitzvah at 13. And I sat down, it was "Ask the rabbi" day and I'm in this comfortable leather chair, and I said, "So, rabbi, what happens after you die"?

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah.

Jonathan Bernis: And the rabbi is the great sage of Judaism, right. You got to the rabbi when you have a question. You don't go to the scriptures, you go to the rabbi.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: And the rabbi told me a story of a man climbing a mountain, who's not able to see over the other side of the mountain. That's all I remember about the story. He's climbing, he's getting closer to the tree line, but he never gets to see over the other side. Only God who created the mountain, is able to see over the other side of the mountain, so he's the only one that knows what's on the other side of the mountain.

Ezra Benjamin: Which is very poetic.

Jonathan Bernis: Very.

Ezra Benjamin: But I imagine, not very satisfying.

Jonathan Bernis: Very rabbinic.

Ezra Benjamin: Very rabbinic.

Jonathan Bernis: Right. ***.Because what the rabbi was saying was, "I have no idea, Jonathan".

Jonathan Bernis: Right. He just couldn't say that 'cause he was the rabbi. He had no idea and so, he came up with the story of only God knows. That's pretty typical of the Jewish people and it's typical of most people. Most people believe that there's something after this life, they simply don't know what it is. And we run the danger, I think, I kind of creating God in our own image by determining what happens after this life ourself.

Ezra Benjamin: Sure.

Jonathan Bernis: We make the decision. Or we say, "I'm a good person," this is the scale mentality, "And the good that I've done outweighs the bad, maybe. Maybe. Maybe I've given away more than I've stolen in life, and so I'm going to a good place".

Ezra Benjamin: Right. And this is...

Jonathan Bernis: I'm going to a better place.

Ezra Benjamin: It's the Jewish dilemma every fall, every autumn when we go through Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. And then, this holiest of holy days on the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. And the idea is that in essence, God seals the book of life on the... At the end of that day of atonement, and you're either written in it or you're not. But we know, you know, Jonathan, we're from Jewish families, we're part of the Jewish community, that if you ask the average Jewish person, "Are you sure your name's written in that book? Are you sure that you have an eternity with God"? The answer is often, "Who can know"?

Jonathan Bernis: They don't know, what it does illustrate, what Yom Kippur, the day of atonement does illustrate, Ezra, is that it matters in Judaism. That there is a concept of another life, a life after death, a book of life and that's important to Jewish people. Important enough to go to synagogue or to go to temple and to ask God to forgive us of our sins, to implore God to make us right with him, however that process works, in hopes that we'll be written in the book of life, and it will be sealed for another year.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. And that's the challenge, right. There is the felt need in the Jewish community, there's the felt need in any community to know what happens after I die, but there's no assurance.

Jonathan Bernis: There is no assurance. Now, that changes in the New Testament, but it exists in the old. There's verses in the old that are pretty clear, and there's also verses that are very unclear, over 60 that speak of beyond the grave of something that's going on after this life.

Ezra Benjamin: As you said, Jonathan, 66 times in the Old Testament, there is this word in Hebrew, sheol. And it's not hell, it's not this idea of separation from God, there's another word for that, Gehenna. And it's not paradise, there's other terms used for that, and it's also ambiguous. But this idea used over and over again that the forefathers of Israel understood and it's sheol. It's in essence, "When I die, I'm going to this realm of the dead". Whatever you wanna call it, a waiting room. This place where the dead go when they die. And you know, the proof for that is, as one example, Genesis 42:38. You know this story. Jacob finds out, you know, he's already lost Joseph, one of his beloved sons. And he finds out that Benjamin's life is now in danger. Benjamin's, in essence, held hostage in Egypt. And Jacob says, "My son will not go down there with you. His brother is dead and he's the only one left. If harm comes to Benjamin on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to sheol in sorrow". So, Jacob knew, sheol isn't hell. Jacob was a man, you know, who followed God. He worships the God of Israel. But he said, "I know what's happening. When I die, I'm going to sheol. And am I gonna go in sorrow or am I gonna go in peace"?

Jonathan Bernis: So, here's what they knew. They knew that there was something beyond this life.

Ezra Benjamin: Right, this realm after life.

Jonathan Bernis: But beyond that, there's ambiguity. And by the way, you see that ambiguity expressed between the Sadducees and pharisees. There's almost a comical story where Yeshua gets them fighting between each other over the resurrection.

Ezra Benjamin: Because the pharisees believed there was a resurrection. Sheol isn't the end, you're coming back. The Lord's doing something with you in eternity. And the Sadducees said, "No, no, no, when you die maybe you go to the realm of the dead, but that's the end of the story".

Jonathan Bernis: Right. So, what is established in the scriptures, in the Old Testament scriptures, the Tanakh, the Torah, the prophets, the writings, is there's something beyond this life.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That the body, although it decomposes, the soul lives on.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That's clear. But there is a very, very clear scripture that we'll talk about in a little while that lays out two options.

Ezra Benjamin: Okay.

Jonathan Bernis: But let me give another example, Psalm 103, "Bless the Lord o my soul. Forget not all his benefits who forgives all of my iniquities, who heals all of my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit".

Ezra Benjamin: From the pit.

Jonathan Bernis: Okay. So, there's a redemption still that has some kind of connection to eternity.

Ezra Benjamin: Interesting.

Jonathan Bernis: Right. It is interesting. It doesn't come into clear focus though what happens, until the New Testament.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: Which we'll get to in the next segment.

Ezra Benjamin: Can't wait.

Jonathan Bernis: There's so much that we need to cover, and we have so little time. Now, there's so many around the world, many of you may even know, who don't know what their afterlife will look like. We want to equip you with resources about the afterlife and also give you the opportunity to change the afterlife of many Jewish communities around the world. In other words, there is a solution, there is a hope, and his name is Yeshua, Jesus. Take a look at this footage.

Jonathan Bernis: Welcome back. We wanna thank you, by the way, for your support of this ministry, and considering the difference you can make transforming lives and impacting the eternities of people around the world. Well, Ezra, we'd been talking about the afterlife.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: At a time when people are open to talking about what happens after this life.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: That's the good thing about facing adversity.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. And as you were mentioning a few minutes ago, Jonathan, this word sheol or almost the realm of the dead, is a Jewish concept found 66 times, believe it or not, in the Old Testament scriptures. And yet, throughout that period of time into the days when Jesus was alive, ministering on earth, there was great disagreement in the Jewish community about what comes after sheol. Is there a resurrection? If there is, is there a place where you can be with God? Is there a place where you might be punished apart from him? Is there no resurrection at all? And we actually see that addressed in the book, the old and the New Testament.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. What was very clear was that there's a life beyond this life. That was very clear. And it's not so clear in Judaism today, it's not monolithic. There's those that, especially post-holocaust, that primarily because they can't answer the question, "Why would a loving God allow 6 million Jews to perish"? That there possibly could be a loving God. And so, there's been a shift in Judaism. But for the most part as a people, as a faith, and according to scripture, there's been a clarity that there is something beyond the grave. There's something beyond this life. Now, Daniel 12 is a unique scripture because it makes it clear what options there are. And this is a nugget that I'm gonna have put on the screen so you can see it. "The Bible doesn't talk about hell in the Old Testament," wrong. "The Bible doesn't talk about heaven in the Old Testament". Eh, wrong! Daniel 12 is one of the few verses that's very, very clear. Listen to this and you'll think it's from the new, but it's not, it's from the book of Daniel. It's in Daniel 12, beginning in verse 2. It says this, "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth," that is death. They're sleeping in the dust of the earth. It's the dust of the earth, right. "Will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the star for ever and ever". That's incredible.

Ezra Benjamin: So, there's this idea.

Jonathan Bernis: That's clear.

Ezra Benjamin: Very clear. Hundreds of years, hundreds of years before Jesus is born of a woman and lives and ministries on earth, this idea that there's something after the sleep of death. There's something after sheol and it's everlasting life or everlasting condemnation.

Jonathan Bernis: So, think of it, you have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Enoch, Elijah, Elisha, there's... All the greats and the people of Israel are sleeping in the earth. They're still alive, right, in some form, but Daniel makes it clear, "These multitudes who sleep in the dust will awake".

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: "They will come forth again, some to everlasting life, others to everlasting shame and contempt". What I see twice is everlasting. This life is eternal. Your life is eternal. You live in a body, but what makes up you, your soul, your spirit, however you understand that, is eternal. Daniel is very clear. This verse in Daniel, "Some will live to everlasting life," I believe that's paradise, "Others to shame and everlasting contempt," that's Gehenna.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: That's separation from God.

Ezra Benjamin: And so, Jonathan, to me, I mean, in Jesus' day you have this debate between the pharisees who said there is a resurrection, there is waking up after death, and then, the Sadducees are saying, "No, there's no such thing. Sheol is it. The realm of the dead is the best you can hope for. Who knows what happens after that". To me, Daniel's very clear here in chapter 12, that the pharisees were right, there is a resurrection of the dead. But the two questions that come into New Testament times are, "How and when are people resurrected? And how do I know whether I'm headed for everlasting life or everlasting contempt"? And those are the questions Jesus answers.

Jonathan Bernis: And answers them very clearly.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: So, one example that you were pointing out and maybe if you could read that is, the story of Nicodemus.

Ezra Benjamin: Right. Nicodemus is a Jewish leader, right? He's a leader in Israel. I'm flipping to here and it's John 3. And many of you at home know by heart that classic Sunday school verse, right, John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life". Interesting there. Not perish, everlasting condemnation, but have everlasting life. It's Daniel 12 language.

Jonathan Bernis: It is.

Ezra Benjamin: But John 3 is this whole story of a Jewish leader secretly coming to Jesus. Why is he secretly coming by night? Because there was tremendous debate and hostility toward the idea that Jesus might be teaching truth. And even more so, that he might be the Messiah. And so, Nicodemus has to come privately and gets into this incredible dialogue with Yeshua, with Jesus about, what does it mean to live forever? And Jesus tells you, it's not just being born of water. And what he's saying is, the waters of your childbirth. You have to be born again by the spirit. Being born a second time is how you have everlasting life, and that's where we get the phrase, "Born again believers". Ever wonder where that comes from? It's from Jesus' words to a Jewish leader in John 3.

Jonathan Bernis: And he's rebuked, Nicodemus is rebuked by Jesus.

Ezra Benjamin: Right.

Jonathan Bernis: You're a teacher of the law, how could you not know this? But that's what we typically find when we share the gospel with Jewish people. They just don't know. It's not that they've rejected Yeshua, they just haven't heard. And the Bible's very clear, "How can they believe unless someone tell them? How shall they hear unless someone be sent? If you hear, you'll believe. When you believe, you'll confess unto salvation". And that's why we're here, that's why Jewish Voice exists.

Ezra Benjamin: Yeah. Jesus goes on, Jonathan, in John 3 and he says in verse 13, "No one," this is again to Nicodemus, a leader in Israel. A man responsible for teaching Jewish people the ways of God. He says, "No one's ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up". It's literally lifted up on a tree, crucified. The Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life in him. Daniel 12, "There is a resurrection, some unto everlasting life, so to everlasting condemnation. The one who believes in the son has everlasting life". Jesus is answering the Daniel 12 question for Nicodemus.

Jonathan Bernis: Yeah. And the big question that I often hear with Jewish people is, "Why do we even need Jesus"? And the answer's right there.

Ezra Benjamin: It's right there.

Jonathan Bernis: Why the Messiah? To provide atonement for sin and to bring people into this eternal relationship with God which was destined for Adam and Eve. Eternal relationship with God that's now restored through what people refer to Jesus as, the second Adam.

Ezra Benjamin: Exactly.

Jonathan Bernis: Right. The scriptures refer to him as the second Adam. He restores eternal life back to humans.

Ezra Benjamin: Amen. And not only is he the way to eternal life, he also answers that second Daniel 12 question about resurrection, right? I'm thinking of the story of Lazarus. It was understood in Jewish thought, that if someone had been dead three days and three nights, that's it. They're dead for, they're in sheol. They're not coming back. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. And remember what he says? "I am the resurrection and the life". He's answering the second part of Daniel 12 for the Jewish people who had eyes to see and ears to hear who he was. "I'm the resurrection. I'm the way that you get resurrected, and I'm the way you have eternal life".

Jonathan Bernis: And that's really, I wanna say it again, that's what Jewish Voice is about. That's our mandate.

Ezra Benjamin: That's right.

Jonathan Bernis: To proclaim the gospel to the Jew first. God loves everyone. We care about everyone, but it begins with going to the Jew first. The Jew first. God cares about the redemption of mankind, but he chose to do that through the people of Israel and has made a commitment to restore them. Well, Ezra and I are going to pray for your needs in just a minute. But first, our announcer will share an incredible opportunity to support Jewish Voice medical outreaches that will allows us to share the gospel, the good news with Jewish communities around the world. Wil you partner please listen and we'll pray with you right after this.

Jonathan Bernis: Ezra, we just have a minute left. I'd like to pray specifically today for people's families. For mothers, for fathers, for grandparents that have been praying for the salvation of their spouse, for the salvation of their siblings, for the salvation of their children, their grandchildren, maybe even their parents. Can we focus on that today? We wanna agree with you for salvation for your household. We declare it over your life. So, Ezra, go ahead and lead us. Salvation for your family.

Ezra Benjamin: Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Jesus, that you've said, you are the way, the truth and the life. Lord, we pray this season, even this week, this week in those watching, Lord, in their family's lives that you would visit them, that you would visit their household, generations up and generations down with salvation. Lord, that you would meet people in the palace where they are and reveal to them that you are the way, the truth, and the life. That you would use those watching today to proclaim the good news of Jesus, and even more than that, that you would use others in these family member's lives to proclaim that same good news to them. Thank you, Lord, that you are the one who visits with salvation, that those who are watching can trust you, that not only have you saved them, but that you would be found faithful to save their whole household through their faith in you. And we stand with them in faith and agreement, in Jesus' name.

Jonathan Bernis: Amen. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord". If you'd like more information about our ministry, you can log on to You can also send us your prayer request right on the website. Our team here at Jewish Voice is committed to reading your prayer request and praying for you by name. We believe in the power of prayer, and we care about you, more importantly, God cares about you. I wanna remind you to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Psalm 122: 6 says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem, may they prosper who love thee". Until next time, this is Jonathan Bernis, along with Ezra Benjamin, saying, shalom and God bless you.
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