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Christian Beliefs of the Afterlife



Beliefs include: Heaven, Hell, Limbo, Purgatory, Reincarnation, etc.



bullet "That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly, they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell." Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 CE), Summa Theologica.
bullet "How will you spend eternity -- Smoking or Nonsmoking?" A sign in front of a U.S. church.
bullet "If you are a [born-again] Christian, you will go to heaven; If you're following another religion, then by default you will go to Hell." Radio program "Life on the Edge," sponsored by Focus on the Family, and directed to teens, 2001-MAY-5.
bullet "If YOU believe in Evolution instead of Jesus, you'll end up in hell." Chick Publications' gospel tract "Apes, lies and Ms. Henn." (Emphasis in the original)
bullet "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten." Ecclesiastes 9:5 (KJV)
bullet "...we are asked to believe that God endlessly tortures sinners by the million, sinners who perish because the Father has decided not to elect them to salvation [while they were alive on earth], though he could have done so, and whose torments are supposed to gladden the hearts of believers in heaven. The problems with this doctrine are both extensive and profound." C.H. Pinnock 1
bullet "How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards, and by the gospel itself."  Clark H. Pinnock. 2
bullet "Neither the Christian Ministry, nor the Christian church, are responsible for the doctrine of eternal perdition. It is given in charge to the ministry, and to the Church, by the Lord Christ Himself, in His last commission, as a truth to be preached to every creature." William Shedd. 3
bullet "Christian theology firmly believes that if you do not believe in Jesus you are going to 'burn in Hell.'.... this is a crazy notion that man made up and contradicts what God says in the Jewish Bible." S.J. Greenstein,



What is our eventual condition after we die? Do we eventually land up in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory. Do we simply disappear and cease to exist in any form? Do we just sleep for a long time after death before waking up for a final judgment? Are we reincarnated into new bodies?

Different Judeo-Christian faith groups and writers over the past few thousand years have proposed a variety of scenarios, covering these options and more! All have based their beliefs on their interpretations of the Bible. Generally speaking:

bullet The Roman Catholic Church bases its belief on Heaven, Purgatory and Hell on some main biblical passages in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testaments) and the 14 books of the Apocrypha, supplemented by church wisdom.
bullet Conservative Protestant denominations tend to base their belief on the literal interpretation of certain passages of the Bible, and symbolic interpretations of others. They arrive at very different beliefs because they select different passages to read literally.
bullet Liberal Christians believe that the beliefs of the authors of the Bible evolved greatly over the approximately 850 years during which the Bible was written. Thus, there is little internal consistency in the Bible on the afterlife.
bullet Skeptics, Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, etc. generally accept that there is no afterlife. After death is annihilation.


Afterlife topics covered in this section:

bullet Beliefs of Christian Groups in Ancient Times including the mainline Christian church, and such early sects as the Gnostics, Marcionists, and Manichaests.
bullet Current Christian beliefs, including conservative Protestants, liberal Christians, and Roman Catholics.
bullet Disagreements about Hell by conservative Protestants
bullet Beliefs of specific denominations, including Christadelphians, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Twelve Tribes Communities, and Unity School of Christianity.


See also the "afterlife menu" for additional information on life after death.

References used:

  1. William Crockett, "Four views on Hell," Zondervan, (1992), Page 136. Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store has a 25% price reduction on this book. This is one of the Counterpoint series of books published by Zondervan. Each book presents conflicting views by Evangelical leaders on basic Christian beliefs. 
  2. "The Destruction of the Finally Impenitent," Criswell Theological Review 4 (1990-Spring), Pages 246-47.
  3. W. G. T. Shedd, "The Doctrine of Endless Punishment," Charles Scribner's Sons, (1886); reprinted by Klock and Klock, (1980), Page 92.
  4. S.J. Greenstein, "We are not going to burn in Hell: A Jewish response to Christianity," Biblically Speaking Publishing Company. See:



Is there life after death? What form does it take?

bullet Do we eventually land up in Heaven, Hell, Limbo, Purgatory, Sheol, or some other place, state, or condition?
bullet Do we simply disappear and cease to exist in any form? 
bullet Do we sleep for a long time after death before waking up for a final judgment? 
bullet Are we reincarnated into new bodies to live again on Earth? 
bullet What steps do we go through after death before we end up in our final destination?

Unfortunately, the Bible seems hopelessly ambiguous on matters related to life after death. This is proven by the variety of scenarios, covering the above options and more, which have been proposed by different Judeo-Christian faith groups and writers over the past almost two thousand years. They have all have based their beliefs on what they regard as true interpretations of key biblical passages.

Topics in this section:

bullet Introduction [This is important to read first, or the rest will not make much sense]
bullet The Bible and the afterlife:
bullet Conservative and liberal interpretations of Biblical passages
bullet Hell in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
bullet The temperature of Hell, and whether it is endothermic or exothermic
bullet Beliefs about the Heaven and Hell:
bullet Beliefs of specific denominations on Heaven and Hell
bullet The range of conservative Protestant beliefs about Hell
bullet Is punishment for all eternity? (Traditionalism vs. Annihilationism)
bullet Conflicts between secularism and conservative Christianity over Hell
bullet American beliefs about Hell according to public opinion polls
bullet What happens immediately after death?
bullet Beliefs unique to Roman Catholics:
bullet Purgatory
bullet Limbo



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