What Christians Believe About Life After Death
Given that Jesus Christ died on a cross and Christians believe he was resurrected, calling his death a victory, the topic of death plays a big part of the life of faith. While various Christian denominations have distinct doctrines that they ascribe to, when it comes to life after death those differences diminish. All Christians believe the soul lives on after the body dies, they believe Jesus will judge us following our death and they believe that the judgment will land each a place in heaven or hell.
During his teaching, Jesus challenged the belief of the Sadducees regarding the resurrection of the dead. He reminded them that God said he was the God of Isaac and Jacob. Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” Jesus not only confirmed a resurrection following bodily death but also hinted at a spiritual life after death because Isaac and Jacob’s bodies had not been resurrected (Matt 22:31-32, New International Version).
Another Biblical confirmation of a spiritual life following the death of the body is the Transfiguration. The disciplines claimed they saw Jesus with Elijah and Moses. These prophets had died before Jesus was born so how could this be, unless there is life apart from the body (Matt 17: 1-4, New International Version).
In the book of John Jesus said he was the resurrection and the life. “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” This implies a different type of life that what we know in the body.
One of the most widely touted verses from the Bible claims that those who believe in Jesus “will not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, New International Version)
Matt 10:28-the body can die but not the soul unless God does so.
The idea that there is judgment following death goes hand in hand with the idea of heaven and hell, which are believed to be the destinations of the souls following their judgment.
While there is a minority of Christians that believe all people will be forgiven their sins, the majority of Christians confess that unless one gives their life to Jesus and follows his example that person will go to hell.
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matt 25:46, New International Version) The apostles also confirmed the idea. “All people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” (Heb 9:27, New International Version) While most Christians believe the soul is destined for either heaven or hell, Catholics believe in a third, temporary option called purgatory. They see this as a place the soul remains until it has been purified from the sins committed on earth. However, the end destination of those in purgatory is never hell but heaven.
Heaven and Hell
While it is popular to believe that hell is for evil people, the Christian faith teaches that hell is actually a place for anyone who did not call on Jesus as their Saviour. So, in the Christian teaching, to be good is a noble pursuit it will not guarantee you a place at the table in heaven. For those who followed Jesus’ teachings, there will be great rewards in heaven, according to Matt 5:11-13.
There is a belief among Christians, including Catholics, that believers that persevere on earth will receive crowns in heaven. In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul mentioned his hope of being crowned. “I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8, New International Version) You can hear some of the belief of Christians’ in performer’s Flame’s We Gon’ Reign video.
“The kingdom of heaven in ours. He will crown us.” In the song, he also refers to the 21 Coptic Christians that were beheaded by ISIS fighters in 2015. “Soon as their blood hit the sea, they were then present with God. To be absent from the body means we are present with the King.” Another example of life after death is when Jesus told the thief on the cross beside him that they would be in paradise together that day. This implies that there is life for the soul after the body dies.
Thus while there remains distinct division in Christian denominations, when it comes to belief in life after death, they all believe the soul lives on and enters heaven or hell following a judgment by Jesus. It is best summed up in Revelation: “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will lie with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”