Did the People in the Old Testament Believe in an Afterlife?

Angels Leading Little Souls to Abraham’s Bosom 
Reims Cathedral
Yesterday, after the post on “Hell in the Bible,” some began to imply that the Jews of the Old Covenant did not have a doctrine of the afterlife. This is certainly not the case. The very first biblical reference to a “life after death” is revealed by Moses in the book of Genesis:

“And all his children being gathered together to comfort their father [Jacob] in his sorrow, he would not receive comfort, but said: I will go down to my son into hell [sheol], mourning. And whilst he continued weeping,” (Genesis 37:35, D-R)

In the Hebrew, the word used here for Hell is Sheol. In the Greek Septuagint version of Genesis, the word is Hades. In the Latin Vulgate, it reads infernum.
Sheol = Hades = Infernum = Hell
Before the death of Christ, the gates of Heaven were closed to all human on account of original sin. The righteous descended to what the Patriarch Jacob called “Sheol.” Sheol was the netherworld where all went to await the coming of the Messiah. 
King David knew that one day the Messiah would liberate the righteous from Sheol or Hell:

“But God will redeem my soul from the hand of hell [sheol], when he shall receive me.” (Psalm 48:16, D-R)

Hell, we learn from Saint Thomas Aquinas, is divided into four abodes:
  1. Abraham’s Bosom (Limbus of the Fathers)
  2. Natural Paradise (Limbus of the Children)
  3. Purgatory
  4. Gehenna (Fires of Hell for the Damned)
Abraham and the righteous of the Old Law lived in paradise far away from the fires of Gehenna.

And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom: And he cried and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, nor from thence come hither.” (Luke 16:22–26, D-R)

When Christ died on the cross, He then “descended into Hell.” There the soul of Christ liberated Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, David, Isaiah, even John the Baptist and Saint Joseph His foster-father.

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