When Jesus was teaching of eternal life (Rich man and Lazarus, also Martha and Mary's brother Lazarus being raised from death) the people listening didn't think it was a new and novel idea: your soul lasts forever and you shall be judged.

Where is this taught in the Old Testament? I find Jesus telling the Saducees that "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Issac, and the God of Jacob", which is suggesting that Abraham, Issac and Jacob are not dead and gone (I was the God of Abraham, etc.).

Are there other places where it's made plain?

  • Potential duplicate here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/112/… but I like the phrasing of this question more (I was tempted to ask something similar based on Job 7:21, it seems to indicate this idea of Eternal Life was not in the OT (at least during Job's time) Sep 6, 2011 at 1:27
  • 2
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is a very search type question, and necessarily based on disputable interpretations of those verses.
    – curiousdannii
    Mar 11, 2016 at 11:57
  • Also, whose Old Testament are you talking about? Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox? You must specify. Sep 22, 2018 at 20:08

6 Answers 6


Salvation is often mentioned, and Psalms 9 carries the idea that the soul lives on after death, but the most direct teaching I could find is in Daniel 12:2

Daniel 12:2

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Here are some of the more obvious teachings about the judgement:

Ps. 9:7

But the LORD shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment.

Ps. 50:4

He shall call to the heavens from above, And to the earth, that He may judge His people:

Eccl. 3:17

I said in my heart, “God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, For there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.”

Eccl. 11:9

... But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.

Eccl. 12:14

For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.


The fact that Job uses the term "sleep" infers the concept of awakening, resurrecting, or at least the opportunity to be made alive again. He speaks of death as final in chapter 9, but the next verse indicate life again. The true clue to eternal life, everlasting life is found in the book of beginning where it is clear man was originally created to live forever with God. Gen 3 enters the fall of man but also the foretaste of glory divine, the tree of life. Prior to the fall man was free to eat thereof. The restoration work of Jesus the Christ brings fallen man, now redeemed to a position of eternal life through Him. MATT, MRK, LU all speak of this life coming after death and John stresses its immediate availability.


From Wikipedia:

The early Hebrews had no notion of resurrection of the dead and thus no intermediate state. As with neighboring groups, they understood death to be the end. Their afterlife, sheol (the pit), was a dark place from which none return. By Jesus' time, however, the Book of Daniel (Daniel 12:1-4) and a prophecy in Isaiah (26:19) had made popular the idea that the dead in sheol would be raised for a last judgment.

Since the passage from Daniel has been included by a previous asker, I will cite the Isaiah Passage. Note that the Book of Isaiah was written around 200 years before the Book of Daniel, so this passage may constitute the earliest direct Revelation of resurrection and judgement:

(Isaiah 26:19-21 KJV) Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.

Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.

For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.

Contemporary with Daniel was Ezekiel, who had a vision of resurrection of a vast number of dead. A common interpretation of the vision is of spiritual resurrection (c.f. Romans 6 1:11), but the vision describes resurrection of these dead in two stages. Firstly, the bones are given flesh and skin, but they are not yet living because they do not have the breath of life. Only after the breath of life has entered them do the resurrected bodies rise to their feet.

(Ezekiel 37) The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,

And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.

Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.

Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:

And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.

Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.

So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.

Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.

Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves,

And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.


When read chronologically, I find the first reference to everlasting life in Psalm 133.

  • 1
    Hello Frank! Welcome to Christianity.SE. What that notice above means is that including a note as to why Psalm 133 is chronologically the first reference and citing the portion of Psalm 133 that answers the question would greatly improve your answer. Ideally, people shouldn't need to leave the site to understand your answer (this does unless they have Psalm 133 and the chronology of OT scripture memorized).
    – JBH
    Sep 26, 2018 at 16:44

The Book of Wisdom or Wisdom of Solomon deals with eternal life and judgment in chapters 3-5, and is considered part of the Old Testament canon by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches. Now, since the book was written in Greek in Alexandria shortly before Jesus' time, it is not clear to what extent it was known by the Jews in Galilee and Judea during Jesus' public ministry.

Considering now books that are not part of the Old Testament for any church (except for the Oriental Orthodox Tewahedo Church), but that might have circulated widely in Galilee and/or Judea by the time of Jesus' public ministry, the notions appear in the Book of Parables of Enoch (1 Enoch 37–71) (also called the Similitudes of Enoch), which in the Third Parable (ch. 58-71) deals with escatology. Ch. 58 mentions eternal life explicitely:

And the righteous shall be in the light of the sun. And the elect in the light of eternal life: The days of their life shall be unending, And the days of the holy without number. (1 Enoch 58:3)


In the present state of scholarly research on the Book of Parables, the position bearing the greatest weight is that the book was written in Galilee towards the end of the kingdom of Herod the Great (37 BC - 4 BC) or shortly after his death [1].

[1] Darrell L. Bock and James H. Charlesworth (ed.), Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift, Bloomsbury, 2013. https://books.google.com/books?id=PW3roOm3LG0C


Just a preliminary list..

Daniel 12:1-2 (DRB) But at that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people: and a time shall come such as never was from the time that nations began even until that time. And at that time shall thy people be saved, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always.

Tobit 12:9 (DRB) For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.

Sirach 24:31 (DRB) They that explain me [Wisdom] shall have life everlasting.

2 Maccabees 7:7-9 (DRB) So when the first was dead after this manner, they brought the next to make him a mocking stock: and when they had pulled off the skin of his head with the hair, they asked him if he would eat, before he were punished throughout the whole body in every limb. 8 But he answered in his own language, and said: I will not do it. Wherefore he also in the next place, received the torments of the first: 9 And when he was at the last gasp, he said thus: Thou indeed, O most wicked man, destroyest us out of this present life: but the King of the world will raise us up, who die for his laws, in the resurrection of eternal life.

Cf. 2 Macc 7:36.

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