History of Afterlife in Different Religions Christianity Part 1

About the views on life after death and the afterlife and history of the beliefs in the Christian religion.



Christian afterlife beliefs have never been precisely formulated. Doctrines accepted at various times and by different denominations allow wide variation in imagery and content. Probably at no time were all the elements here described accepted universally or uniformly interpreted.

When a person dies, the physical body is separated from the soul, and the soul must now be judged to be in a state of grace or a state of sin. This is the Immediate Judgment, which determines where the person will spend eternity. If the soul is in a state of grace, it goes to Heaven to await the Last Judgment. Heaven, the abode of God, is located beyond the skies. Here, amid choirs of angels, blissful souls enter gates of pearl and walk golden streets.

However, condemned souls await the Last Judgment in Hell, located in the Earth's center or--on a vaster scale--beneath the visible cosmos. Here the leader of the fallen angels, Satan, dwells in exile from Heaven, flapping vast bat wings. (Occasionally he visits Earth to attempt to seduce humankind in defiance of his Maker.) Hell is a pit of visible darkness where the damned are punished in fiery heat or intense cold. For purposes of torment, their spirits are as tangible as physical bodies. They may be lashed by horned demons, rolled over sharp stones, or made to lie naked beneath swarms of snowflakes. Above all, they suffer the "worm of conscience," which reminds them incessantly how easily in life they might have earned the eternal bliss of God's presence. In a special compartment of Hell called Limbo the souls of unbaptized children and morally righteous people who lived before Christ's coming are confined, not in torment, but forever excluded from bliss.

In a variation, some souls, probably the vast majority, who die in a state of grace but with some taint of sin as yet unpaid for, will be sentenced to a term in Purgatory, a place or state in which the soul can be purified until it is ready to dwell with God. In Purgatory suffering is intense; souls are deprived of God's presence and suffer the sensations of physical tortures. They may be steeped in mud, eaten by worms, immured in stone, seared by fire, or have their eyes sewn closed with iron thread.

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