Where Do We Go from Here?
Jewish Thoughts on Afterlife (2004)
My father, zikhrono liv’rakha [may his memory be for blessing], once said that no one dies anymore. We were probably watching some old movie at the time. He was simply noting that with film, video and audiotapes, people are preserved in eternity as living animate beings. Since the beginning of the twentieth century and the advent of the moving image, the concept of death has been subtly and irrevocably changed.
One result of this change has been an increasing interest in one’s personal experience after death. When I worked at the University of Buffalo, I could observe that courses in Thanotology (Death and Dying) were enormously popular. To this day, I rarely go more than a few months before someone (not necessarily Jewish) asks me what is the Jewish concept of life after death. Indeed, this essay is being written in response to a number of recent inquiries. So, what does Jewish thought have to say about afterlife?
Before proceeding, let me encourage you to read Neil Gillman’s The Death of Death [Jewish Lights, 1997]. In addition to being a recipient of the National Jewish Book Award, it is a clear, organized and very readable description of Jewish attitudes regarding afterlife from the Bible to his own very contemporary opinion. These comments at best provide some supplementary thoughts to Prof. Gillman’s fine work.
Jewish thinking on the post-death experience is muddy, and I think it is deliberately so. My comments will therefore point to just what Judaism says about afterlife, and perhaps why it says it in such an ambivalent and contradictory manner.
You Can Only Imagine…
What can we say about the afterlife? First ask: what can we say about this life? All statements in order to be considered true or false, right or wrong (or some elements of both) must be subjected to some method of evaluation. Normally, this method begins with perception. Here, I am using this term in the widest possible way. It is not only sense perception – what you can see, hear, touch, etc. – but also what fits rules of logic (actually often an extension of sense perception), or arises from intuition, gut feeling, mystical vision or the like. Where does afterlife fit in all these?
I think we can rule out sense perception. Not only has there not been anything that any of us have actually seen or heard that we reliably call the afterlife, but interestingly, we have no particularly reliable reports of the ‘great beyond’ either. Believers might object, with Hindus pointing to the doctrine of reincarnation, and Christians, of course, asserting the resurrection of Jesus. Reincarnation, however, provides no sense data that confirms an afterlife experience. As for Jesus, the resurrection would be a description of something post-death, if Jesus were merely human. What does it mean for the concrete incarnation of God to die and then rise?
There is nothing in the normal sensory world, either of our own direct experiences, or of sensory reports that we take to be reliable, that leads conclusively to the opinion that there is some continuity of personal existence after death. Although nobody can or has be able to point to anything and say, aha!, there is an indication of life after death, we nonetheless have numerous reports of its existence. Where do they come from?
The source is undoubtedly the unique capacity of human beings to perceive things through means other than our senses. In this case, I think, we use the faculty of imagination. First, we imagine a future. As children, we pictured what we were going to be when we grew up. As adults, we often make business or social decisions based on how we picture the way we want certain things to turn out. And at any age, we might imagine how things will be sometime in the unspecified future, but a future that is after our natural expectation of our own life span. We literally picture ourselves viewing events that will take place after our deaths.
Imagination, you can see, is an important – perhaps critical – component in our assertion of life after death. There is more to note about this faculty, however. First, it is perfectly natural. At least, it is an inextricable part of the fabric of the human mind. Second, it is by no means irrational, or even non-rational. In the case of decision-making, it is a fundamental, and a fundamentally reasonable way of making practical and ethical judgments. One more thing: there is some relationship, but hardly a direct corresponding relation, between imagination and truth. When we employ imagining a near-term future as part of our making judgments about how to proceed, we act accordingly and our image becomes truth.
Life after death, perceived as it is by imagination, therefore occupies a strange and elusive place in our picture of reality. It is, or it can be, rational. It may be, but it hardly must be, the truth. Let us move to Jewish thoughts about afterlife.
A Brief History of an Idea
All of Jewish thought begins with Torah. In traditional thought the Torah expresses directly the will of God as revealed to Moses. We need not evaluate this contention in order to assert that belief in the divine truth of the Torah is the basis for Jewish ideas and attitudes to this day. Thus, in the Torah we have the basic representation of a Jewish afterlife. It is given to us in two ways. One is “being gathered to one’s kin.” [As in Gen. 25:8 or 35:29] The other is going down to Sheol. [e.g. Gen. 37:35]
From these two expressions, we may learn that the afterlife is probably social; one is not alone in death. Second, the location of the post-death experience is down, somewhere below the earth, in a place that has been given the name Sheol. At first glance, this conception is thoroughly unexceptional. The universe is pictured as triple-decker: Heaven – the abode of God and the heavenly host – above, earth in the middle, and the abode of the dead below. In this fashion, Torah describes a system that is in accord with virtually all ancient cosmologies.
We can add one more feature of afterlife. In Genesis 35:20, upon Rachel’s death in childbirth, “over her grave, Jacob set up a pillar.” The person dies, but a memory survives. In setting up a gravestone, one assures that the memory might even survive those who had direct experience of the deceased. Once more, surviving death in memory is hardly a biblical innovation. The pyramids, mausoleums, books of the dead, and other similar marks have been employed by many ancient (and modern) cultures.
Overall, the Torah seems to borrow the familiar and well-established features of afterlife that had existed long before Abraham. Yet, the Torah is nothing in its outlook and conception of both cosmology and human life like other contemporary cultures. The material world, the Torah attests, is not eternal – always having existed and will continue to exist – but rather the creation of one God. Further, this creation is not like you and me making a clock or an automobile whose basic characteristics and purpose never change. God’s creation is unfolding. It had a beginning, and it is working in – an often-mysterious way – toward an end. Life, particularly human life, is therefore not just a sojourn on earth. It is, in the words of a familiar poem by Rabbi Alvin Fine, “a sacred journey.”
The tripartite model of the cosmos – heaven, earth and abode of the dead – however, is a static system. Heaven is reserved exclusively for God and the Heavenly Host. Earth is for the living. And the abode of the dead is for the dead: all of them: great and minor, saintly and wicked, short life spans and long. The veils between these three realms are thick but not completely impenetrable. If nothing else, one’s imagination (or should we use the term ‘insight’) allows for a general picture of Heaven (as in Isaiah 6) or Sheol (see Psalm 6), conversely, one might be visited by God or an angel, or even, as in the story of King Saul and the witch of En-dor (I Samuel 28) by the spirits of the dead. Yet, no one persists in any realm that is not their own. How, then, does this static system comport with the dynamic vision of God’s will?
If one reads through the Hebrew Bible in the order in which the Books are arranged, one can sense that for the first two-thirds (that is, the two sections Torah and Nevi’im [Prophets]) this question simply does not arise. For the most part, the fate of the individual is, if not quite ignored, set aside in favor of the community. The Torah, particularly Deuteronomy, promotes and the prophets confirm that, if Israel keeps God’s commandments they will reap the reward of national stability and material wealth. If they defy God’s will, they will pay the punishment of poverty, defeat at the hands of their enemies and exile. Reward and punishment are exclusively of this earth, and apparently are not experienced in either way once someone dies. Individual righteousness might not be enough to stem the punishment that will come to Israel if the nation as a whole acts wickedly. Thus, the prophets themselves had to endure exile.
Then, something changes with the last section of the Bible, K’tuvim [Writings]. From the start, in the Book of Psalms, the righteousness and wickedness of a single person is considered. While the nation may prosper due to its obedience to God’s will, what is to be said to the individual who acts in accord with Torah, yet struggles in poverty and deprivation? Over and again, the Psalmist cries out to God to relieve him from his pain.
The fate of individuals is then taken up most forthrightly in the Book of Job. From the first verse of the Book, we learn that Job was a wholly righteous person. In the course of the introductory chapters, however, he is stripped of his possessions, children and health. The story therefore lays out a set of choices for Job to make. He could follow the advice of comforters who suggest that his sudden turn of fortune must be due to sin, and that he should repent. Or he could, in the words of his wife, “curse God and die,” thus reject altogether that God has a benevolent will. Or, as he himself indicates, expect reward for a righteous life to come in the afterlife. He rejects all three, and at the end of the book, his health and material well-being are restored. Through this description of Job’s fate, the Book itself sought to press the theological point that 1) the travails of the righteous are not due to their sinfulness, 2) God’s benevolence and judgment cannot be challenged, and 3) there is no reward (or punishment, for that matter) in one’s experience after death. In the final analysis, God’s ways are thoroughly mysterious within the context of limited human understanding.
In the Book of Job, a debate is joined. On one side is the traditional cosmology, the unchanging Heaven, earth and Sheol. On the other, is the contention that God’s unfolding plan for Israel and humankind cannot be contained in such a static system. Job itself is a last gasp defense of the tradition. The challenge presented by Job – that personal righteousness must count for something, even if it is not during one’s lifetime – is made to be overwhelmed by the enormous and unbridgeable gap between human and divine.
The Bible, in its plain meaning, therefore resists the idea of a dynamic afterlife that would reflect the reward and punishment of God’s will. Yet, at the same time, the text creates a countercurrent, by which a reader might conclude that its intent is not quite the same as what it appears to say. By the last century before the Christian era, the Pharisees had made just that conclusion. The post-death experience of a righteous person, they determined, cannot possibly be the same as that of an unrepentant sinner. The otherwise innocuous expression, ‘world-to-come,’ an expression indicating no more than the future, was transformed into the reward for a righteous life. When the Pharisees became the dominant school of Jewish thought, and had developed into the classic rabbinic tradition, they formalized their position with this statement from the Mishna:
All Israelites have a share in the age to come, as it is said: [Isa. 60:21] “Your people also shall be all righteous, they shall inherit the land forever; the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified [emphasis added].” But these are the ones who have no portion: The one who says, ‘the resurrection of the dead is a teaching not derived from Torah,’ or ‘the Torah does not come from heaven,’ or an Epicurean. [Sanhedrin 10:1; more on this passage below.]
Crossing Over into…What
For two thousand years, Jewish thought has included a concept of a post-death experience that is related to the moral quality of one’s life. Concepts of an ethically attuned afterlife are found throughout modern religions. They usually fall into three distinct categories.
1. There is Heaven and Hell. When a person dies, one is transported instantly to a new place. Clearly, this is not a material move – the deceased body remains lying there before us – and the place one goes is not located on a map or chart. It is nevertheless someplace other than anywhere on this earth. If one merits it, the place one goes is a paradise. If not, then one is consigned to some form of eternal punishment. The ‘relocation’ might not be immediate. One might first go to a neutral area while some process determines whether Heaven or Hell will be one’s final destination.
2. Reincarnation. The soul or animating spirit of one’s life is placed upon death in the embryonic body of another. Depending on the merit of one’s life, the new body is either of a higher, lower or the same order as the old.
3. Resurrection. The experience of life after death does not take place immediately in some other location, but rather at a time in the future. The afterlife takes place on earth and in a material body form. One is either worthy of resurrection, or death is permanent.
The categories are not mutually exclusive. Some religious systems combine elements of them. Islam, for instance, posits that Heaven and Hell are themselves way-stations, representing the rewards and punishments of one’s life, but that God’s ultimate grace and judgment is reserved for resurrection at the end of days. Some who have been enjoying the benefits of paradise will be doomed, while others who have been enduring the vicissitudes of damnation will be elevated to life eternal.
What is the position of Jewish thought? In rabbinic, folklore and kabbalistic (mystical) writing, we can find all conceptions depicted. Heaven and Hell are normally characterized as gan ‘eden and ge-hinom, the primordial Garden of Eden and the Valley of Hinnom. The latter is derived from an actual place. Garbage from Jerusalem was dumped into a valley south of the city. The prophet Jeremiah makes reference to the constant plumes of smoke that arises from the burning trash. Before receiving one’s reward or punishment, the soul of the recently deceased goes before a Heavenly Court, where a prosecuting angel recounts the person’s sins, and a defending angel counters with one’s good deeds. This concept is reflected in the traditional Jewish practice of reciting a daily Kaddish for a loved one for only eleven months following death. The mourner’s prayer is supposed to provide korat ruah [spiritual comfort] for the deceased while he or she endures the heavenly trial. This trial, the tradition suggests, can last up to a year. We would prefer not to believe that it would take the entire year for the Court to decide on our loved one’s place in the Garden, so we stop our recitation a month early.
Reincarnation is expressed in Jewish thought as gilgul ha-nefashot, the recycling of souls. The notion is found mostly in mystical literature (kabbalah) and complementary folklore. There are only a limited number of souls fashioned on the sixth day of Creation. When a person dies, the soul returns to Heaven (that is, God’s abode) in order to be placed in a newborn child. Why do we not remember past lives? Just before birth, one is struck in the mouth by an administering angel, knocking all memory out of the head, and leaving that cleft we all have between our nose and lips. The memory-wipe is not always complete, so that occasionally one is able to retain the image of a past life. And sometimes a soul breaks free in order to lodge in body of a grown person; the instance of a dybbuk.
Finally, there is resurrection. As implied in the statement from the Mishna given above, it is a doctrine favored and promoted by the classic rabbis. The idea that all who will merit it will experience bodily resurrection at some future time, has been firmly established in traditional Jewish liturgy. The second blessing of the ‘Amida (the central sets of prayers of every daily worship service) begins: You are eternally powerful, Lord, the restorer of life to the dead through the greatness of Your salvation. The prayer ends: Blessed is the Eternal, Restorer of life to the dead.
That and Fifty cents Gets You a Cup of Coffee
Resurrection is therefore the “official” Jewish position on afterlife, and yet the concepts of reincarnation and abodes for the dead persist in Jewish literature. Jewish thought is decentralized and non-hierarchical. The classic rabbis might have sought to establish a specific understanding of what comprises life after death, but had neither the power nor the interest to stifle alternative visions. There are, however, two further serious reasons for the variety of Jewish concepts.
First, the reality of the afterlife remains fully shrouded. When it comes to talking about the experience following death, the rabbis can only resort to hints provided by the sacred text. There is no other perception of it. I will discuss the notion of faith in a world-to-come a little later.
Second, we must ask about the relative importance of the afterlife. A story is told about the Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic Movement. At the Shabbat afternoon meal, as he was engaged in teaching a lesson to his students, the Baal Shem Tov suddenly stopped, pondered a thought for a moment and then broke out in laughter. He then composed himself, and continued his lesson. When the Sabbath was over, the students asked him why he had laughed. The rebbe reported that he was seized by a vision in which the heavens opened up to reveal the Heavenly Court, and pronouncement was made that the place reserved in the world-to-come for Rabbi Israel, the Baal Shem Tov, had been assigned to someone else. The students were confused. Why was losing one’s place in the world-to-come an occasion for laughter? Don’t you see, the rebbe explained, now I know that all the mitzvahs I do are purely for the sake of God’s Name.
The story bespeaks a fundamental ambivalence regarding afterlife in Jewish thought. The possibility of meriting reward in the world-to-come is affirmed, and yet, at the same time the value of knowing this information is questioned. Judaism, as one of my teachers would often say, is a life-affirming religion. One is taught to seek fulfillment, satisfaction and peace of mind through one’s attitude and deeds on earth.
The medieval philosopher, Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides) might have described the Jewish position best. First, he affirmed as a matter of faith and belief, the truth of a world-to-come for those who merit it. He then, however, suggested, that we must frame our understanding of that world as a carrot. In the spirit of the contemporary adage that the difference between a boy and a man is the price of his toys, he noted that as small children we might have been enticed to do the right thing with the reward of a cookie. As we became older, however, the inducement tended to get more elaborate. As adults, no material reward might be enough, and doing good required the reward of the next life. Yes, Maimonides concluded, the world-to-come exists, but clearly subordinate to this world.
The Afterlife and the Modern Jew
Just what are we to make of the concept of a life after death today? How should we deal with conventional Jewish thought and tradition in determining our own attitude? Let us recap briefly. Formally, Judaism affirms the concept of bodily resurrection; that the world-to-come will consist of one’s revival on this earth at some point of time in the future. Ideas of heaven (gan eden), hell (ge-hinom) or reincarnation (gilgul nefashot) are to be found in Jewish thought. They probably fulfill certain human needs, not the least of which is that of immediate gratification. The afterlife experience begins right after death. They are nonetheless secondary to resurrection.
The primacy of resurrection is due to a number of considerations. First, Jewish thought resists a complete break between body and soul. The soul is clearly not material, but one can ask the question whether it can have an existence independent of a material source. The soul is not just the animating spirit of a human being, it is the self-animating spirit. It is self-awareness, imagination, consciousness. Can there be consciousness without being aware of some material thing? For Jews, this condition can only exist within God, Who might be described as pure spiritual consciousness. For human beings, such awareness is necessarily attached to a material existence. Resurrection maintains the connection between body and soul while the other concepts do not.
Resurrection further reinforces the connection between this world and the next. In essence, they are one and the same, distinguished not in space, but rather in time. A central focus in Jewish thought, from biblical times to this day, has been the redemption of the world. The redeemed world is, indeed, gan eden, and the merit of a good life is that one will have the opportunity to live in just such a paradise. Judaism is therefore not just life-affirming, but world-affirming as well. Engaging in good stewardship of the earth, and participating in acts of social justice are more than points one racks up on the cosmic salvation scale. These are the ways in which this world is prepared in order to become the world-to-come.
Afterlife as bodily resurrection in a world-to-come is thus fully consistent with traditional Jewish thought. The principal question that one asks today is: is it consistent with what we know and believe as modern human beings? Belief in an afterlife-any sort of afterlife-does not appear to be warranted within the context of modern scientific thought.
Modernity, in our minds, is associated with scientific accuracy. We choose not to assert anything regarding the material world that does not comport with the claims of science. The body, for instance, has been examined down to the sub-atomic level. There is no function connected with it-both involuntary and voluntary functions, such as thought, will, and feelings-for which a material (biological) explanation is not possible, or at least pointed to. In modern scientific terms, there simply is no room for the soul. Thus, upon death there is simply nothing left that can survive.
Modernity has also increased a natural human trait toward doubt and skepticism. Take the concept of resurrection. The body decomposes over time, particularly, as is central to Jewish practice, when there is no effort at embalming. (“From dust to dust.”) Moreover, some people die violent deaths with parts of their bodies ripped away. And if you have the blessing of a long life, then at death, your body is much weaker and infirmed when compared to your youth. Just, at what age, in what condition, and-perhaps most important-through what process of reassembly does resurrection occur? We can ask pertinent and difficult questions regarding all of the concepts of afterlife. In doing so, none of them appear to make sense.
Finally, I think there is a fundamental modern discomfort with afterlife. It is just too supernatural, too romantic, and too much in accord with what we might wish, rather than what we can know. Acquiescing to a belief in the world-to-come seems to us as being soft-headed, leading with our hearts rather than our heads.
There are modern philosophical, if not scientific, arguments that counter these objections. Before presenting some of them, let us return to the statement from the Mishna quoted before. “All Israelites have a share in the age to come…But these are the ones who have no portion: The one who says, ‘the resurrection of the dead is a teaching not derived from Torah,’ or ‘the Torah does not come from heaven,’ or an Epicurean.” There are two components to this teaching. First, by virtue of their basic acceptance of God’s will, Jews are presumed to merit the reward of afterlife. There are, however, exceptions. Three seem to be given, but in reality, they are one. All three are different ways by which Jews might assert that they do not believe in a world-to-come. The first two-that resurrection is not taught in Torah or that the Torah is not divine-represents a straightforward denial that God’s will includes the reward of afterlife. The third-being an Epicurean-refers to holding a philosophic position that would make afterlife logically impossible.
Examining the teaching further, we realize that it really is not teaching us anything. The mishna seems to be an adjuration, a declaration that certain people will be punished by not receiving a share in the world-to-come. What, however, is the force of punishment when one is denied something they do not want or expect in the first place? In the final analysis, the mishna states that a place in the world-to-come is only a possibility for those who actually believe in it. You are obligated to believe, but, of course, in denying its existence you also forfeit any share in it. Thus, today, you can accommodate yourself to arguments in favor of the concept of an afterlife, or not.
Now, I will continue. If we wish to assert the existence of an afterlife, we have to be able to solve at least two fundamental problems. They are: the persistence of some sort of existence after death, and the issue of identity. Let me take up the latter first. The question of identity can be posed this way: Jane Roe dies. Her body is buried, cremated or entombed. How can whatever it is that survives, know itself to be and be recognized by others as Jane Roe?
The nub of this question is whether there is anything that establishes identity outside of the material elements of one’s body? How do we recognize anybody? It is either the physical features, usually of the face, or the peculiarities of the voice. We know that if you are really good at a disguise, you can become literally unidentifiable. So, what is left to recognize once one is bereft of one’s body? I frankly do not know what it is, but I am confident that the identification can be made.
Consider a commuter rail line, such as Metro North from Poughkeepsie to New York. The train schedule lists the 6:03, weekday train to Grand Central. If you live, as I do, close enough to the tracks that you can hear trains pass by, then you can know the 6:03. But, by what? Over time, every car, the engineer, conductors and all the passengers could change completely, and yet we will still know that the train is the 6:03. Identity can indeed be established without a single element of material continuity. (I could have done the same exercise with Vassar Temple, for whom even its principal name has changed, and yet we have little trouble identifying the congregation as the one first established in 1848.) The elements of identity might not be obvious, but they can be discerned, if not immediately, then over time.
The first problem raised-what can persist after death-must be answered in the same way. We cannot know what it is that persists, but rather must ask, can it make any meaningful sense in modern times to talk about it. Here, an appropriate answer is: it depends. It depends on what you want to believe about yourself and the world about you.
Let me ask what appears to be a dumb question: How do we (you or I) know there is a world? There is, after all, the philosophical concept of solipsism; all that I can be certain about is that I exist. All I know is I, and thus, everything-absolutely everything-else is simply a projection out of the working of my own mind. (“Merrily, merrily, merrily/Life is but a dream!”)
Now, let me turn the question on its head: What does it mean when one employs the term “I?” Perhaps, with proper scientific investigation and analysis, every element of what I consider makes up me-my thoughts, memories, emotions, aspirations, etc.-is replaced by electronic chips to such an extent that no one (including myself) can tell the difference. If this is possible-certainly not with today’s technology, but in some conceivable future-then “I” is completely replicable from bits of material; that is, from the world. “I” therefore would not exist apart from the material world.
Here we have the two logical extremes: either I exist and the world does not, or the world exists and I do not. The third choice is, of course, that both the world and I, as something independent of the material world, exist. I know of no compelling argument that would force an individual to feel obligated to choose any one of these three stances. The choice is totally up to ourselves. Now, if only “I” exist, then with my own demise, the so-call ‘world’ dies as well. Afterlife becomes meaningless. If only the world exists, then afterlife is impossible. If, however, both exist, afterlife becomes probable.
Briefly summarized, both traditional Jewish thought and modern philosophical analysis suggest that acceptance of afterlife as a reward for a meritorious life is Scripturally grounded and logically possible. Judaism prefers to imagine afterlife as resurrection in the world-to-come, and yet, while it promotes this concept, it does not press very hard to assert that afterlife is an obligatory belief. Indeed, there is a hint of embarrassment in having to discuss the matter at all. With these notions in mind, why should we, as modern scientifically inclined individuals, believe in some form of life after death?
I can give two answers. Neither of them, I will readily admit, is conclusive. Ultimately, the choice of believing or rejecting is up to each of us. One answer is to concede that the word ‘believe,’ is too strong. I am not religiously or philosophically constrained from asserting the possibility of being able to survive my own death. Given that there are people I love, for whom the span of a single lifetime together seems arbitrarily short, I prefer to trust in the world-to-come. It eases pain, and provides hope.
The second answer actually rises up to belief. Believing in something, I think, implies that the object of one’s belief can have a real effect on your decision-making and actions. By believing that the brakes on my car are in good working order, I do not hesitate to drive down a steep hill. Thus, the issue at hand is whether believing in a world-to-come will change one’s choices in life.
Some believers would therefore say that by asserting the possibility of reward after death they are pressed into acting more ethically in their lives. This is a very weak source of belief. Neither historic Jewish thought (consider, in particular, the Bible where reward in afterlife is substantially denied) nor contemporary ideas on morality would suggest that doing the right thing should be based on one’s place in the world-to-come. A more compelling assertion of belief, however, would be that the world-to-come may only be attained-not only for oneself, but for anyone-by proper stewardship of the world in which we live.
Speaking for myself, I trust and prefer to believe in a world-to-come. The reason for this is no reason at all. I feel I am not constrained by scientific insight to deny the possibility of continued experience after death, and the belief both lessens my fears and reinforces my sense of purpose in life. In the final analysis, I believe because I see no reason why not. And if I am wrong, just what has been lost by my belief?
The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no hurt shall befall them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure is regarded as misfortune, their going from us as destruction.
But they are at peace, and their hope is full of immortality.
Having been chastened a little, they shall receive great good, for God has tested them and found them worthy of divine favor.
Those who trust in God will understand the truth, and the faithful shall abide with God in love, for God’s chosen shall have grace and mercy.
May it be God’s will.