What Happens When You Die in the Hebrew Roots?

What Happens When You Die in the Hebrew Roots?

(Scriptures against Soul Sleep for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, and Hebrew Roots Followers)


Newfound “Jews” in the Hebrew Roots Embracing Soul Sleep


There is a growing movement making inroads amongst Protestant churches and Christian homes called the “Hebrew Roots”. Akin to the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it teaches in fringe studies a salvation based on keeping the Torah where one sleeps through an afterlife until bodies are physically resurrected. The Hebrew Roots movement appeals to Christians who are drawn to studying Israel and the Jews, so much that they are swayed to believe they are Jewish! Taking Scriptures out of context, the movement bases itself on an array of unique interpretations for Scripture, making for a new “Jew”, one that was formerly known as “Christian.”



Hebrew Roots author and Christian rebel, Lew White, uses passages such as Daniel 12:1-4 (“…and many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…”) in the effort to propagate amongst misinformed, Sunday churchgoers the popular belief of the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Soul sleep” is the destiny of every Torah-keeping believer.


The following references were taken from Lew White on page 41 of his book, Fossilized Customs, a popular book against the Christian culture in the counter-culture world of the Hebrew Roots. The references represent how certain teachers, such as Lew, in the cultic amalgam of the Hebrew Roots Movement purport that the soul sleeps at death instead of going directly to be with the Lord.


Yet, the Old Testament is always interpreted in light of the New Testament in proper Scripture interpretation and never vice versa—the New Testament is the fulfillment and culmination of the Old. When Scripture interprets Scripture in proper hermeneutics, the heretical doctrine of soul sleep is easily disproved. And, the Sunday churchgoing Christians have not been believing pagan ideals after all as we have been living to see our Savior when we die.


[Caveat: There is an aversion for the name of “Jesus” in the Hebrew Roots Movement as well as the name of “Christ”, as both names are believed to be pagan.]


Lew White writes:


“The parable of the 10 virgins explains that as they waited for the Bridegroom, they all fell asleep. This means their bodies died.”


This is true, but Lew White plainly teaches the soul goes nowhere until the Lord returns and the dead in Christ are raised in their resurrected bodies:


“When we die, we fall asleep. No matter how much time passes, it will be as if we are reawakening immediately when we are reborn, clothed with immortality.” [italics mine].


He cites Acts 20:9, Mark 5, and John 11 to give examples of soul sleep. He asks, “Where did their spirits go? Nowhere!”


Lew takes John 3:13 out of context to suggest that no person is in heaven today except for Jesus. But what does the Bible teach? Jesus said to the thief dying on the cross, “Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). [italics mine].


Lew describes hell as God’s “garbage can”, emphasizing the Hebrew Roots’ counterfeit gospel, based solely on keeping the Law:


“You don’t want to get thrown into His garbage can. That’s the point, and this points us to the Torah. You cannot inherit eternal life without it…”


Insinuating that it is pagan for a Christian to believe that he or she dies and goes immediately to heaven, Mr. White writes:


“Pagans always believed they would go into the skies to live with their deities…Pagans taught about the spirits of the dead being transported into heaven. That is the heresy that has been accepted.”


He explains further that we will wake up only at the resurrection of the saints:


“At the time the dirt is being thrown on us, we have His seed in us, and He will clothe us in a new spiritual body at the resurrection of the saints.” [italics mine]


Yet, Paul writes “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8


Jesus prayed, “Father into Your hands I commit My spirit, and then He yielded up His spirit.” Luke 23:36. When Jesus died, his soul did not remain in his body but went to be with His Father. Jesus experienced no soul sleep at His death, and neither will we who are alive in Christ.


“And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7


Consider the following notes taken from Dr. Richard Bucher on what happens to a soul at death and compiled from Randy Alcorn on Heaven:


“Where Does the Soul Go After Death (Paradise or Soul Sleep)?”

Quoting Dr. Richard P. Bucher (Pastor of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

Lexington, KY)


1. According to the scripture, the soul leaves the body at death. The Gospels tell us that at the moment of his death, Jesus prayed, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” and then “he yielded up his spirit” (Luke 23:46; Mt..27:50). This text makes clear that Jesus’ soul did not remain in his dead body, but went into his Father’s hands.

2. The first Christian martyr (after Jesus) was Stephen. Acts 7:59-60 describes his death: “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Ecc. 12:7 describes death in these terms “and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Notice, that according to this definition, the body has one destination and the spirit/soul has another.

3. Several of the resurrection stories in the Bible describe the soul as returning to the body. This implies, of course, that the soul had left in the first place. First, there is the example of Elijah raising the widow’s son from the dead. “And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray Thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:21-22). A second example is Jesus’ raising of Jairus’s twelve year old daughter from the dead. “And they laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand, He called, saying, ‘Child, arise.’ And her spirit returned, and she got up at once (Luke 8:53-55).” At the final resurrection, the souls of those who have died will return to their bodies which will be raised to stand before Christ on Judgment Day.

4. The holy Scripture also contradicts soul sleep by showing that the souls of both unbelievers and believers go to a place after death but before Judgment Day. For unbelievers it is a place of punishment. In 2 Peter 2, Peter writes, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment . . then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Pet. 2: 4,9).

5. In Luke 16:19-20, notice that God’s Word says that the rich man “was

buried” – his body was laid in a grave of some kind. Nonetheless, there he is in Hades suffering torment in the flames. That this account depicts suffering in Hades before the final Judgment is shown when the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers who are still alive. This story gives a specific example of what 2 Peter taught us.

6. The Bible also teaches that the souls of believers go to another place after

death. They go to be with the Lord in Paradise. Paul speaks of this joyous event in his second letter to the Corinthians. “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-8). This “away from the body” can’t mean Paul’s being in heaven after Judgment Day. For after Judgment Day all Christians will not be away from their bodies, but will have resurrected bodies. This means that when a Christian dies, their soul leaves their body and goes to a new home with the Lord Himself. This is a conclusive argument against soul sleep.

7. Paul sounds a similar chord in his letter to the Philippians. He tells the

Christians at Philippi that he is torn between living and dying; “I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (Phil. 1:23-24). Note Paul’s definition of death: “to depart and be with Christ,” which is “far better” than living his life on Earth. Paul is obviously describing an imminent “being with Christ.”

8. In 2 Tim. 4:7-8, Paul writes ,” I have fought the good fight; I have finished

the race; I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day.” The “Day” to which Paul refers is the day of Christ’s coming on the last day. But in Philippians 1, Paul is describing “departing and being with Christ” before the resurrection, for there is no mention of the Last Day or the final resurrection in the immediate context.

9. Another example is the story of the rich man and Lazarus referred to earlier.

When he died, before the final resurrection, Lazarus was immediately “carried by the angels to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22). “Abraham’s side” was another name for heaven at the time. Of Lazarus, Abraham says, “He is being comforted here,” which describes heaven as a place of comfort.


Conclusion: It is certain that the souls of those who died, both Christian and non-Christian leave the body and go to another place. What do the souls of believers experience in Heaven? It will be a place of enjoyment and comfort and rest in the presence of God, where there is no death or sin or care. It is a place that is “far better” than our life here, where we will be “at home with the Lord.”


Concerning the Nature of the Present Heaven

Quoting author Randy Alcorn on Heaven (Chapters 5-7)


  1. Those who have died = “Those who fall asleep” (1 Thess.4:13)
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:7 “The dust returns to the ground it came from and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” At death the human spirit goes to either Heaven or Hell.
  3. Christ depicted Lazarus and the rich man as conscious in Heaven and Hell immediately after they died. (Luke 16:22-31).
  4. Jesus told the thief of the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  5. Paul said that to die was to be with Christ (Phil.1:23), and to be absent from the body was to be present with the Lord. (2 Cor.5:8)
  6. After their deaths, martyrs are pictured in Heaven, crying out to God to bring justice on Earth. (Rev 6:9-11) These passages make it clear that there is no such thing as “soul sleep,” or a long period of unconsciousness between life on Earth and life in Heaven. The phrase “fallen asleep” (1 Thess.4:13) is a euphemism for death, describing the body’s outward appearance. The spirit’s departing from the body ends our existence on Earth (Dan. 12:2-3, 2 Cor.5:8). The OT passages (Ecc.9:5, etc.) address outward appearances and do not reflect the NT revelation concerning relocation and consciousness after death.
  7. Every reference in Rev. to human beings talking and worshiping in Heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates that our spiritual beings are conscious, not sleeping, after death. (Nearly everyone who believes in soul sleep believes that souls are disembodied at death; it’s not clear how disembodied beings could sleep, because sleeping involves a physical body.)
  8. John 4:24 “God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Heaven is a place where God, angels, and humans dwell. Angels can exist in a physical world as well as in Heaven. They often take on human form (Heb. 13:2).
  9. Rev. 2:7 “To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” Now it is in the present heaven.
  10. 2 Cor.5:2-4 “Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Paul is longing to be with Christ. (Phil. 1:21) At death we are immediately clothed by a heavenly dwelling. The martyrs in Heaven are described as wearing clothes. (Rev. 6:9-11) Disembodied spirits don’t wear clothes. (The Ark of the Covenant had symbolic meaning but was also a real, physical object). The Greek word “psuche” = soul. These martyrs are called souls and here translated does not normally mean disembodied spirits. “Psuche” is typically used of a whole person who has both body and spirit. It is used in Rev. 12:11 to describe the martyrs who “did not love their lives (psuche) so much as to shrink from death.”
  11. The apostle John had a body when he visited Heaven, because he is said to have grasped, held, eaten, and tasted things. (Rev. 10:9-10) In 2 Cor. 12:3 Paul expresses uncertainty about whether he was in the body or not, but the fact that he thought he might have had a body is significant. Temporary bodies might be given – just as in OT times. We do not receive our resurrection (or true) bodies immediately after death.
  12. One resurrected, physical body is in heaven, Jesus! If Christ’s body has a physical form, it stands to reason that others in Heaven might have physical forms, even if only temporary ones. Acts 7:56 = Christ is standing at the right hand of God. He is actually standing on something not floating. He has not been floating for 2,000 years.
  13. Enoch and Elijah were taken in their physical bodies. (Gen. 5:24, Heb. 11:5, 2 Kings 2:11-12)
  14. Moses and Elijah appeared physically with Christ at the Transfiguration, (Luke 9:28-36) God creates intermediate bodies for people.
  15. Luke 16:19-31 When Lazarus died, angels carried him to Paradise. The rich man died and went to torment. Lazarus is with Abraham; the rich man is by himself. Heaven and Hell are separated by a fixed chasm. Both the rich man and Abraham reasoned and communicated. They had physical forms (tongue, a thirst, fingers, and water). The rich man remembers his brothers, which indicates consciousness after death and clear memory of Earth and people on the Earth.
  1. In Heaven or Hell, we will await the time Jesus foretold, “When all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out. (John 5:28-29) Until that time, Scripture teaches: Those who die will go to a real place, either Heaven or Hell as conscious human beings with memory of their lives and relationships on Earth. (Rev. 6:9-11) v. 9 = There is direct continuity between our identity on Earth and our identity in Heaven. (Heb. 12:23 = “righteous men made perfect”) v. 10 = “They called out.” They expressed themselves audibly. This suggests they exist in a physical form. They raised their voice. They called out in “a loud voice.” Heaven is a place of unity. They asked God to intervene on Earth and act on their behalf. (v. 10) People have an audience with God. They remember their life on Earth. They pray for judgment on their persecutors. They intercede for suffering saints on Earth. “Each of them was given a white robe. (v.11) Only a physical form can wear a robe. They are distinct individuals. God answers their question. There is communication in the present Heaven. They have a strong familial connection with those on Earth who are called “fellow servants and brothers.”
  1. What is true for the martyrs is true of our loved ones already there and will be of us when we die.
  1. Luke 16:25 = In Heaven those who endured bad things on Earth are comforted for them. If there was no memory of bad things, what would be the need for comfort? Our righteous deeds on Earth will not be forgotten but will follow us to Heaven. (Rev. 13:13) 2 Cor.5:10 = Our deeds on Earth are recorded in Heaven, and at the judgment seat of Christ, we will receive rewards.
  2. 1 Sam. 28:16-19 = God brings Samuel back from the after life. Samuel remembered what Saul had done before Samuel died and was aware of what had happened since he died.
  3. Luke 9:31 = Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus and spoke about his departure. They seemed fully aware of His situation and what was going to be accomplished.
  4. Heb. 12:1-2 “a great cloud of witnesses” refers to the saints who have gone before us and are watching us and cheering us on. They surround us. (Rev. 2-3)
  5. Christ watches us. The saints are watching, too. When a great war is transpiring, are those in the home country uninformed and unaware of it? If angels know what is happening on Earth, (1Cor. 4:9, 1Tim. 5:21) why not saints?
  6. Luke 15:7 “There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” It doesn’t say angels rejoice; it says in the presence of angels. Therefore, the saints rejoice, especially at the conversion of those they knew and loved on Earth. Obviously, they must be aware of what is happening on Earth. People can be in the present Heaven and be aware of bad things happening on Earth.
  7. (Rev. 21:4 refers to the New Heaven and New Earth where there will be no more sorrow. Happiness in the present Heaven is not based on ignorance but on perspective. Those who live in the presence of Christ find great joy in worshiping God and living as righteous beings in a sinless environment. They are looking forward to Christ’s return, their bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the New Earth being fashioned from the old.

Meanwhile, we on this dying Earth can relax and rejoice for our loved ones who are in the presence of Christ. As Paul states, though we naturally grieve, we are not “to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.” (1 Thess.4:13) Our parting is not the end of our relationship, only an interruption. We have not lost them because we know where they are. They are experiencing the joy of Christ’s presence in a place so wonderful that Christ called it Paradise (like the Garden of Eden). One day, we’re told, in a magnificent reunion, they and we “will be with the Lord forever. Wherefore, comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thess.4:17-18).



Dwayna Litz


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