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Christian—after life

Christian—after life

[Disclaimer: 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 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 the Christian 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 former God.) Hell is a pit of visible darkness where the damned are punished in fiery heat or intense cold. They may be lashed by horned demons, rolled over sharp stones, etc. 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.

Note: Indulgences, which can be gained through special prayers uttered either by the person before death (they can be stored up) or by people praying for the deceased can mitigate the taint of sin that sends souls to Purgatory. During the Middle Ages/Renaissance period in Europe, these indulgences could be bought for money from traveling priests, confessors, ministers, etc.

On the day of the Last Judgment, four angels standing at Earth’s four corners will sound trumpets to initiate cataclysmic events. Christ (the son of the God) will descend from Heaven in triumph to judge all people and nations in the presence of one another. In many versions, only Christians will share in the reign over Earth.


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