What do Christians believe about the afterlife?
Each religion has its own take on what happens to us after death, those who are not religious will often believe that there is no such things as an “afterlife”. Meanwhile, Christians do believe in the concept of an afterlife, but what do they think about it?
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In this guide, we aim to explain what Christians believe about the afterlife and why they believe it, I.e which teachings explain which beliefs. Of course, Christianity has many different sects within it, such as Church of England, Catholicism or Methodist etc, however, this is talking in general in terms of the umbrella term “Christian”.
Christians believe in the concept of a “soul”. They believe that your earthly body dies and is buried or cremated, but your unique soul continues on and raises up to be with God.
Heaven, Hell and Purgatory
It is fundamentally believed in Christianity that God is all knowing, all loving, and all powerful – he is just and fair. In consequence, he is not able to let the evils perpetrated by humans to go unpunished in the afterlife. Thus, Christians believe in judgement at the hands of God after death, where you will be rewarded or punished accordingly for the actions they took in their life on earth. This is where the need for the concepts of Heaven, Hell and Purgatory come in.
Heaven is held as the end goal of all humans on earth, and many Christians believe the only way to get there is to live your life accordingly to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Heaven is often mentioned in the Bible, however, it isn’t really given a description at any point in the scriptures. Because of this, Christians often differ in their beliefs about what heaven is. Some believe that heaven is a physical place where you go after death, along with your body. Others believe that heaven is the unified state of their soul with God.
Some Christians do believe that non-believers who have lived a life which was free from sin can still go heaven, for they have still done the will of God without knowing it, but had been mislead in terms of following the wrong faith or following no faith at all.
When it comes to Hell, the place where God sends those who have lived in sin on earth, the bible is even less specific. The contemporary depiction of hell is often attributed to artists in the Dark Ages (as seen above) who were trying to communicate the difference between good and bad to the masses who could not read, and therefore they painted things such as fire to convey pain. Like with the concept of heaven, many Christians differ in their opinions on what hell is. Some believe that hell is a physical place of torment and suffering, whereas others believe that hell is the constant, spiritual state of the soul being separated from God. The latter is becoming the more common belief nowadays.
Christians, such as Roman Catholics, believe in the state of purgatory. This is an in-between state that the majority of people face which includes waiting to ascend to heaven, but first, they must go through some soul cleansing from any earthly sins which may be forgiven. If you commit a deadly sin, purgatory is not an option – you will be judged and sent directly to hell, however, less offensive sins may be forgiven after some time in purgatory.
The Second Coming of the Messiah
Many Christians believe in the Second Coming which is essentially when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, will return to earth. Then, he will establish the Kingdom of God on earth, where all those dead and in heaven will be resurrected to live in a state of perfection and bliss with God and Jesus.
The initial crucifixion and resurrection story of Jesus gives Christians hope that they too will be resected after death by the Second Coming, given that they follow the teachings of the Saviour (Jesus Christ).
The mere fact that Jesus was born a human, then died on the cross (crucifixion) then came back to life after three days, has made the idea of “life after death” possible for the followers of his religion. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” John 11:25-26. The belief is furthered by “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16.