The Ladder of Divine Ascent in Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai[1]

In Christianity, heaven is traditionally the location of the throne of God and the angels of God,[2][3] and in most forms of Christianity it is the abode of the righteous dead in the afterlife. In some Christian denominations it is understood as a temporary stage before the resurrection of the dead and the saints' return to the New Earth.

In the Book of Acts, the resurrected Jesus ascends to heaven where, as the Nicene Creed states, he now sits at the right hand of God and will return to earth in the Second Coming. According to Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox teaching, Mary, mother of Jesus, is said to have been assumed into heaven without the corruption of her earthly body; she is venerated as Queen of Heaven.

In the Christian Bible, concepts about Christian eschatology, the future "kingdom of heaven", and the resurrection of the dead are found, particularly in the book of Revelation and in 1 Corinthians 15.

Early Christianity

See also: Early Christianity and Heaven in Judaism

The 1st-century early Jewish-Christians, from whom Christianity developed as a Gentile religion, believed that the kingdom of God was coming to earth within their own lifetimes, and looked forward to a divine future on earth.[3] The earliest Christian writings on the topic are those by Paul, such as 1 Thessalonians 4–5, in which the dead are described as having fallen asleep. Paul says that the second coming will arrive without warning, like a "thief in the night," and that the sleeping faithful will be raised first, and then the living. Similarly, the earliest of the Apostolic Fathers, Pope Clement I, does not mention entry into heaven after death but instead expresses belief in the resurrection of the dead after a period of "slumber"[4] at the Second Coming.[5]

In the 2nd century AD, Irenaeus (a Greek bishop) quoted presbyters as saying that not all who are saved would merit an abode in heaven itself: "[T]hose who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; for everywhere the Saviour shall be seen according as they who see Him shall be worthy."[6]

Orthodox Christianity

Eastern Orthodox icon depicting Christ enthroned in heaven, surrounded by the ranks of angels and saints. At the bottom is paradise with the Bosom of Abraham (left), and the penitent thief (right).

Eastern Orthodox cosmology

Various saints have had visions of heaven (2 Corinthians 12:2–4). The Orthodox concept of life in heaven is described in one of the prayers for the dead: "…a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of repose, from whence all sickness, sorrow and sighing are fled away".[7] In the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox, only God has the final say on who enters heaven.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, heaven is the parcel of deification (theosis), meaning to acquire a divine nature and complete one's hypostasis via christlike behavior, due to Jesus having made human entry into heaven possible by his incarnation, hence evidence of one's divine nature is usually miracles akin to those of Christ.[8][9]

Vladimir Solovyov (1853-1900), a philosopher with a Russian Orthodox background, wrote of "the Creator's theandric aim, that earth may be oned with Heaven".[10]

Roman Catholicism

See also: Keys of Heaven

The Catholic Church teaches that "heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness".[11] In heaven one experiences the beatific vision.[12] The church holds that,

by his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has 'opened' heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ... Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.[13]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church indicates several images of heaven found in the Bible:

This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the New Jerusalem, paradise: 'no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him'.[14]

Those Christians who die still imperfectly purified must, according to Catholic teaching, pass through a state of purification known as purgatory before entering heaven.[15]

According to the Council of Trent, one does not sin when doing "good works with a view to an eternal recompense."[16]

Catholic authors have speculated about the nature of the "secondary joy of heaven", that is Church teaching reflected in the Councils of Florence and of Trent. For God "will repay according to each one's deeds" (Romans 2:6 ): ... "the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully" (2 Corinthians 9:6 ). Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins describes this joy as reflecting Christ to one another, each in our own personal way and to the extent that we have grown more Christlike in this life, for as Hopkins writes, "Christ plays in ten thousand places, lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his, to the Father through the features of men's faces." God means to share even this divine joy with us, the joy of rejoicing in making others happy.[17]

Protestant Christianity

See also: Intermediate state (Christianity), Christian mortalism, Arminianism, and Calvinism

Some denominations teach that one enters heaven at the moment of death, while others teach that this occurs at a later time (the Last Judgment).[citation needed] Some Christians maintain that entry into Heaven awaits such time as "When the form of this world has passed away."[18]

Two related, and often blended, concepts of heaven in Christianity are better described as the "resurrection of the body" as contrasted with "the immortality of the soul". In the first, the soul does not enter heaven until the Last Judgment or the "end of time" when it (along with the body) is resurrected and judged. In the second concept, the soul goes to a heaven on another plane immediately after death. These two concepts are generally combined in the doctrine of the double judgment where the soul is judged once at death and goes to a temporary heaven, while awaiting a second and final judgment at the end of the world.[18]

Some teach that death itself is not a natural part of life, but was allowed to happen after Adam and Eve disobeyed God so that mankind would not live forever in a state of sin and thus a state of separation from God.[19][20][21]


Methodism teaches that heaven is a state where the faithful will spend eternal bliss with God:[22]

Everyone that has a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord on departing from this life, goes to be in felicity with Him, and will share the eternal glories of His everlasting Kingdom; the fuller rewards and the greater glories, being reserved until the final Judgment. Matt. 25:34, 46; John 14:2, 3; II Cor. 5:6, 8, 19; Phil. 1:23, 24 —Evangelical Methodist Church Discipline (¶24)[22]

Seventh-day Adventist

Main articles: Heavenly sanctuary and Seventh-day Adventist eschatology

The Seventh-day Adventist understanding of heaven is:

Other denominations


Christadelphians do not believe that anyone will go to heaven upon death. Instead, they believe that only Jesus went to Heaven and resides there alongside Jehovah. Christadelphians instead believe that following death, the soul enters a state of unconsciousness, and will stay that way until the Last Judgment, where those saved will be resurrected and the damned will be annihilated. The Kingdom of God will be established on Earth, starting in the land of Israel, and Jesus will rule over the kingdom for a millennium.[27][28][29]

Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that heaven is the dwelling place of Jehovah and his spirit creatures. They believe that only 144,000 chosen faithful followers ("The Anointed") will be resurrected to heaven to rule with Christ over the majority of mankind who will live on Earth.[30]

Latter Day Saint movement

Main articles: Kolob, Spirit world (Latter Day Saints), Exaltation (Mormonism), and Degrees of glory

The view of heaven according to the Latter Day Saint movement is based on section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants as well as 1 Corinthians 15 in the King James Version of the Bible. The afterlife is divided first into two levels until the Last Judgment; afterwards it is divided into four levels, the upper three of which are referred to as "degrees of glory" that, for illustrative purposes, are compared to the brightness of heavenly bodies: the sun, moon, and stars.

Before the Last Judgment, spirits separated from their bodies at death go either to paradise or to spirit prison dependent on if they had been baptised and confirmed by the laying on of hands. Paradise is a place of rest while its inhabitants continue learning in preparation for the Last Judgment. Spirit prison is a place of learning for the wicked and unrepentant and those who were not baptised; however, missionary efforts done by spirits from paradise enable those in spirit prison to repent, accept the gospel and the atonement and receive baptism through the practice of baptism for the dead.[31]

After the resurrection and Last Judgment, people are sent to one of four levels:

See also


  1. ^ Festival icons for the Christian year by John Baggley 2000 ISBN 0-88141-201-5 pages 83-84 [1]
  2. ^ "21 July 1999 | John Paul II". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  3. ^ a b Ehrman, Bart. Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend. Oxford University Press, USA. 2006. ISBN 0-19-530013-0
  4. ^ 1 Clement 26:2: "For he saith in a certain place, And thou shalt raise me up, and I will give thanks unto thee; and again: I slumbered and slept; I arose up because thou art with me."
  5. ^ E. C. Dewick, Tutor and Dean of St. Aidan's College, Birkenhead, and Teacher in Ecclesiastical History in the University of Liverpool. Primitive Christian Eschatology: The Hulsean Prize Essay for 1908. 2007 reprint, p. 339 "resurrection is 'that which shall be hereafter'; and neither salvation nor resurrection will be accomplished till the Lord has come again".
  6. ^ Irenaeus of Lyons; Book 5, 36:1
  7. ^ Book for Commemoration of the Living and the Dead, trans. Father Lawrence (Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville NY), p. 77.
  8. ^ "CHURCH FATHERS: Against Heresies (St. Irenaeus)". Retrieved 2023-11-23.
  9. ^ Butler, Michael E (1994-01-01). "Hypostatic union and Monotheletism: The dyothelite christology of St. Maximus the Confessor". ETD Collection for Fordham University: 1–294.
  10. ^ Witte, John; Alexander, Frank S., eds. (2007). The Teachings of Modern Orthodox Christianity on Law, Politics, and Human Nature. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 78. ISBN 9780231142656. Retrieved 1 May 2024.
  11. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1024
  12. ^ CCC 1023
  13. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1026
  14. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1027
  15. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030
  16. ^ Council of Trent, Canon XXXI
  17. ^ Zupez, SJ, John (January 2020). "Our Good Deeds Follow Us: A Reflection on the Secondary Joy of Heaven". Emmanuel. 126: 4–6.
  18. ^ a b JPII
  19. ^ Moody, D.L. Heaven. Liskeard, Cornwall: Diggory Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84685-812-3.
  20. ^ Bunyan, John. The Strait Gate: Great Difficulty of Going to Heaven Liskeard, Cornwall: Diggory Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84685-671-6.
  21. ^ Bunyan, John. No Way to Heaven but By Jesus Christ Liskeard, Cornwall: Diggory Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-84685-780-5.
  22. ^ a b Evangelical Methodist Church Discipline. Evangelical Methodist Church Conference. 15 July 2017. p. 17.
  23. ^ General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, "Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, Fundamental Belief # 4: The Son". Archived from the original on 2006-03-10.
  24. ^ General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, Fundamental Belief # 26: Death and Resurrection ((Webarchive|url=
  25. ^ General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, Fundamental Belief # 27: Millennium and the End of Sin Archived 2006-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, 2006
  26. ^ General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Adventist Fundamental Beliefs, Fundamental Belief # 28: New Earth Archived 2006-03-10 at the Wayback Machine, 2006
  27. ^ Wilson, Sheila. The End of the World: Horror Story—or Bible Hope?. Birmingham, UK: CMPA.
  28. ^ Scott, Malcolm. Christ is Coming Again!. Hyderabad: Printland Publishers. ISBN 81-87409-34-7.
  29. ^ After Death – What?. Birmingham, UK: CMPA.
  30. ^ Reasoning From The Scriptures. Watchtower. 1989.
  31. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 128:18, standard works, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Further reading