There is a fundamental difference of opinion between two of the greatest medieval scholars, Maimonides (Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon) and Nachmanides (Ramban, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman), regarding the duration of the Messianic Era.

Maimonides contends that the ultimate reward for our good deeds will be in the spiritual Gan Eden ("Paradise"), to be experienced by souls alone. The finite physical body, he explains, is an impediment to the soul's infinitely larger capacity to experience unimaginable spiritual delights. As such, the Resurrection Era will be temporary. Eventually all those created from dust will return to dust, and all souls will return to Gan Eden where they will remain for eternity.

Gan Eden is merely a "holding block" for souls until their ultimate reward, the Messianic Era, arrives(Although it is not the ultimate reward, the resurrection is still necessary—and Maimonides himself lists the belief in the resurrection as one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith. Apparently this is because the body and soul are partners in all good deeds performed. They must both be rewarded accordingly.)

Nachmanides strongly disagrees. Armed with various Talmudic proofs, he argues that – despite its loftiness and the intensity of the pleasure it affords the souls it houses — Gan Eden is merely a "holding block" for souls until their ultimate reward, the Messianic Era, arrives. At that time all souls will be reunited with their bodies, never again to be parted.

The kabbalistic and chassidic masters have concurred with Nachmanides' view. The reasoning is as follows:

The divine energy that emanates from G‑d (euphemistically referred to as G‑d's "Light") is more manifest and revealed in the higher spiritual worlds (such as Gan Eden). Yet G‑d is referred to as "hidden from all who are hidden," because His essence transcends the highest and lowest creations equally, for all are naught in His presence.

Nevertheless, it is the very essence of G‑d that will be revealed in this physical world during the Messianic Era. Due to His omnipotence, He can be revealed or hidden at will: and it is His choice to reveal Himself specifically in the realm wherein His nation lovingly toiled and sacrificed for thousands of years to create a dwelling place for their Creator.