Christian Views on Life After Death

Christians have mant different views on life after death. We can divide these into three broad types:

EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANITY

Evangelical Christians believe in the RESURRECTION OF THE BODY, that is coming back to life in the same body. They believe that at death the soul waits for a Last Day, when God will end the world and resurrect all people. Good Christians will go to Heaven, bad Christians and those of other or no faith will go to Hell.

They believe this because:

  • Jesus himself was bodily resurrected. The story of Thomas poking his fingers into Jesus’ wounds suggest that this was a physical resurrection and that it was the body he had died in.
  • St. Paul suggests, in 1 Corinthians 15, that the body will be raised by God for another life.
  • The Parable of the Sheep and Goats says that God will separate the good from the bad (as a shepherd separates his sheep from his goats) on the last day.
  • Jesus said ‘I am the way and the truth and the life, no-one comes to the Father except through me.’ – John 14:6.
  • The Book of Revelation promises and end to the world and ‘new heaven and a new earth’ will be created (Chapter 21).

PROTESTANT CHRISTIAN VIEWS

The majority of Protestants do not believe in the physical resurrection of the body. They do believe in the Immortality of the Soul (that the soul survives the death of the body). They believe that when you die your soul will go straight to heaven. Many Protestants do not believe in Hell as God is a forgiving God. Heaven is a spiritual place, not a physical place.

They believe this because:

  • When Jesus is crucified he promises one of criminals next to him that he will be with him in heaven today – so no waiting period like in evangelical Christianity.
  • They interpret 1 Corinthians 15 (St. Paul’s teachings on life after death) differently to the evangelicals. Paul talks of a ‘spiritual body’, different from the one they had on earth.
  • Jesus taught that we should forgive all sins (for those who repent). In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of a repentant sinner returning to his father and asking forgiveness. His father ‘kills the fatted calf’ for him and has a feast to celebrate his return. For this reason God will accept all who are sorry for their sins.

ROMAN CATHOLICS

Most Christians are Roman Catholic, so this is most popular view! Catholics believe that when you die your soul will be judged and sent to Heaven or somewhere else! Traditionally the ‘other place’ was PURGATORY, a place of suffering where you had to pay for the sins you had committed in life, though this is no longer the official teaching of the Church.

There will then be a Last Day or Day of Judgement when God will end the world and resurrect all people. Souls will be reunited with bodies and God will create a new heaven and a new earth. Those who have been good or paid for their sins will go to Heaven. The unrepentant will go to Hell. However, not all Catholics believe in Hell. Many believe all will repent and so, eventually, all will get to Heaven.

Thus Catholics believe in the IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL and the RESURRECTION OF THE BODY.

They believe this because:

  • Jesus himself was bodily resurrected. The story of Thomas poking his fingers into Jesus’ wounds suggest that this was a physical resurrection and that it was the body he had died in.
  • St. Paul suggests, in 1 Corinthians 15, that the body will be raised by God for another life, but that this will not be identical with the body you had in life.
  • The Parable of the Sheep and Goats says that God will separate the good from the bad (as a shepherd separates his sheep from his goats) on the last day.
  • When Jesus is crucified he promises one of criminals next to him that he will be with him in heaven today.
  • Jesus taught that we should forgive all sins (for those who repent). In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells the story of a repentant sinner returning to his father and asking forgiveness. His father ‘kills the fatted calf’ for him and has a feast to celebrate his return. For this reason God will accept all who are sorry for their sins.
  • The Book of Revelation promises and end to the world and ‘new heaven and a new earth’ will be created (Chapter 21).

Podcast on Christian Views on Life After Death

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