Christian beliefs about life after death are based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection are part of God’s divine plan for humankind. Through his death on the cross, Jesus pays the penalty for humankind's sin and humankind's relationship with God is restored. This is called atonement. Christians believe that three days after the crucifixion, God raised Jesus from the dead and he once again appeared to his disciples. This is taken to mean that Jesus’ sacrifice was a victory over sin and death. Although physical death still happens, those who believe in Christ and live good lives will be given eternal life in Heaven.
Heaven is described as eternity in the presence of God.
Heaven is the ultimate aim for all Christians in order for their soul to be reunited with God and united with Christ.
In the Gospels, Christ often describes and teaches about Heaven using parables, such as the Mustard Seed and the Pearl.
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.Matthew 13:45-46
Jesus reiterates in John’s gospel that humanity is not to worry and to have faith. If there was no Heaven, then Christ would not have taught about it.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.John 14:1-4
Hell is very rarely mentioned in the Bible, so little is known about what it consists of. However, Hell has traditionally been depicted as a place of eternal fire that symbolises pain and suffering. This is seen as the result of the refusal to accept the happiness that God wants people to share with him.
Hell is the opposite of Heaven. It is eternity in the absence of God.
In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man describes Hell, which he refers to as Hades, as a place of torment.
The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented…Luke 16:22
The Catholic Church teaches that after death there is a state of Purgatory. This is a place where some people who have sinned are purified in a 'cleansing fire', after which they are accepted into Heaven.
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation: but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.Catechism of the Catholic Church para 1030, 1992
Most Christian churches do not accept the idea of Purgatory, believing instead that once judgement happens, people will either be in Heaven or Hell for all eternity.
The Christian creeds teach:
I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.Apostles Creed
There is no clear explanation of how this belief will come into practice. Some Christians say that at the end of time, everybody will be raised up in a physical state on a new Earth. Some people feel that this simply refers to the idea that the whole person will be present in Heaven.