Category: Heaven


While some believe that the Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are referring to different things, it is clear that both phrases are referring to the same thing. The phrase “kingdom of God” occurs 68 times in 10 different New Testament books, while “kingdom of heaven” occurs only 32 times, and only in the Gospel of Matthew. Based on Matthew’s exclusive use of the phrase and the Jewish nature of his Gospel, some interpreters have concluded that Matthew was writing concerning the millennial kingdom while the other New Testament authors were referring to the universal kingdom. However, a closer study of the use of the phrase reveals that this interpretation is in error.

For example, speaking to the rich young ruler, Christ uses “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” interchangeably. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 19:23). In the very next verse, Christ proclaims, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (verse 24). Jesus makes no distinction between the two terms but seems to consider them synonymous.

Mark and Luke used “kingdom of God” where Matthew used “kingdom of heaven” frequently in parallel accounts of the same parable Compare Matthew 11:11-12 with Luke 7:28; Matthew 13:11with Mark 4:11 and Luke 8:10; Matthew 13:24 with Mark 4:26; Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30 and Luke 13:18; Matthew 13:33 with Luke 13:20; Matthew 18:3 with Mark 10:14 and Luke 18:16; and Matthew 22:2 with Luke 13:29. In each instance, Matthew used the phrase “kingdom of heaven” while Mark and/or Luke used “kingdom of God.” Clearly, the two phrases refer to the same thing.

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  People have different ideas about heaven. Many have no understanding of God at all, but still like to think of heaven as the “better place” where we all go when we die. Ideas about heaven are often no more than vague hopes, on par with “maybe I’ll win the lottery some day.” Most people don’t give heaven much thought until they attend a funeral or a loved one dies. It is popular to refer to heaven as the place where “the good people go.” And of course, everyone they know and love is included in the category of “good people.”

But the Bible has a lot to say about life after death, and it contradicts popular opinion. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Then in verse 36, Jesus goes on to say, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.” According to these verses, everyone dies, but not everyone goes to heaven (Matthew 25:46; Romans 6:23; Luke 12:5; Mark 9:43). [See: Going to Heaven – how can I guarantee my eternal destination?]

God is holy and perfect. Heaven, His dwelling place, is holy and perfect, too (Psalm 68:5; Nehemiah 1:5; Revelation 11:19). According to Romans 3:10, “there is none righteous, no not one.” No human being is holy and perfect enough for heaven. The people we call “good” are not good at all compared to the sinless perfection of God. If God allowed sinful humans to enter the perfection of heaven, it would no longer be perfect. What standard should be used to determine who is “good enough?” God’s standard is the only one that counts, and He has already ruled. Romans 3:23 says that “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.” And the payment for that sin is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).

Sin has to be punished, or God is not just (2 Thessalonians 1:6). The judgment we face at death is simply God bringing our accounts up to date and passing sentence on our crimes against Him. We have no way to make our wrongs right. Our good does not outweigh our bad. One sin ruins perfection, just as one drop of arsenic in a glass of water poisons the whole glass.

So God became man and took our punishment upon Himself. Jesus was God in the flesh. He lived a sinless life of obedience to His Father (Hebrews 4:15). He had no sin, yet at the cross He took our sin and made it His own. Once He paid the price for our sin, we could be declared holy and perfect (2 Corinthians 5:21). When we confess our sin to Him and ask His forgiveness, He stamps “Paid in Full” over our life of selfishness, lust, and greed (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 1 Peter 3:18).

When we stand before God one day, we cannot beg entrance to heaven based on our own merit. We have none to offer. Compared to God’s standard of holiness, not one of us is good enough. But Jesus is, and it is by His merit we can enter heaven. First Corinthians 6:9-11 says, “Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” The sacrifice of Jesus covers it all.

The people who go to heaven are all alike in one way: they are sinners who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9). They have recognized their need for a Savior and humbly accepted God’s offer of forgiveness. They have repented of their old ways of living and set their course to follow Christ (Mark 8:34; John 15:14). They have not attempted to earn God’s forgiveness but have served him gladly from grateful hearts (Psalm 100:2). The kind of faith that saves a soul is one that transforms a life (James 2:26; 1 John 3:9-10) and rests fully on the grace of God.

How big is heaven?

The word for “heaven” in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word shameh or shamayim, which refers to the sky, the lofty arch above the world where clouds move, and beyond that the place where exist the planets and stars. In the New Testament, the word heaven is a translation of the Greek ouranos, which means “the sky” and “the abode of God” and, by extension, “an eternal realm of happiness and glory.” The sky in its vastness is a metaphor for the vastness and loftiness of God. It is the best earthly representation of the place where God lives.

How big is heaven—how big is the place where God lives? We know that God Himself is infinite. Heaven and earth cannot contain Him. In terms of time, there is no beginning or end to His years (Psalm 102:27); in terms of His kingdom, His reign will have no end (Luke 1:33); in terms of His character, He is unchanging (Hebrews 1:12; James 1:17). God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Of God’s creation of the stars, Isaiah says, “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

Scientists have not even been able to chart the size of the known physical universe. There is a photo called the XDF (eXtreme Deep Field) that was put together from images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over the course of ten years. It shows a vast number of galaxies, each comprising billions of stars like our sun. Our sun is 93 million miles away from the earth. And the galaxies are very, very far apart—Andromeda, the closest galaxy to our own, is 2.2 million light years away. To give an idea of how far that is, a shuttle traveling at 18,000 miles per hour would need 37,200 years to travel one light year. The universe is absolutely huge—and God created it all.

So, how big is heaven? We don’t know exactly. The Bible doesn’t give any linear measurements. When John had his vision of heaven, he wrote, “There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9). So heaven is at least big enough for the innumerable multitude—and we can assume that there will be no crowding in heaven.

What is Heaven like?

Heaven is a real place described in the Bible. The word “heaven” is found 276 times in the New Testament alone. Scripture refers to three heavens. The apostle Paul was “caught up to the third heaven,” but he was prohibited from revealing what he experienced there (2 Corinthians 12:1-9).

If a third heaven exists, there must also be two other heavens. The first is most frequently referred to in the Old Testament as the “sky” or the “firmament.” This is the heaven that contains clouds, the area that birds fly through. The second heaven is interstellar/outer space, which is the abode of the stars, planets, and other celestial objects (Genesis 1:14-18).

The third heaven, the location of which is not revealed, is the dwelling place of God. Jesus promised to prepare a place for true Christians in heaven (John 14:2). Heaven is also the destination of Old Testament saints who died trusting God’s promise of the Redeemer (Ephesians 4:8). Whoever believes in Christ shall never perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The apostle John was privileged to see and report on the heavenly city (Revelation 21:10-27). John witnessed that heaven (the new earth) possesses the “glory of God” (Revelation 21:11), the very presence of God. Because heaven has no night and the Lord Himself is the light, the sun and moon are no longer needed (Revelation 22:5).

The city is filled with the brilliance of costly stones and crystal clear jasper. Heaven has twelve gates (Revelation 21:12) and twelve foundations (Revelation 21:14). The paradise of the Garden of Eden is restored: the river of the water of life flows freely and the tree of life is available once again, yielding fruit monthly with leaves that “heal the nations” (Revelation 22:1-2). However eloquent John was in his description of heaven, the reality of heaven is beyond the ability of finite man to describe (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Heaven is a place of “no mores.” There will be no more tears, no more pain, and no more sorrow (Revelation 21:4). There will be no more separation, because death will be conquered (Revelation 20:6). The best thing about heaven is the presence of our Lord and Savior (1 John 3:2). We will be face to face with the Lamb of God who loved us and sacrificed Himself so that we can enjoy His presence in heaven for eternity.

Does heaven exist?

Few people object to the existence of heaven on moral grounds. The idea of a rewarding afterlife appeals to most people, particularly since most are convinced they’ll find themselves there (Matthew 7:13–14). Some disbelieve in heaven on spiritual grounds, believing instead in reincarnation or simply oblivion after death. The Bible describes a real, eternal, and aware eternity after death for all people. For those who have trusted in Christ, this state of being is without sickness, death, or pain in the presence of God (Revelation 21:1–4).

Objections to the existence of heaven, on spiritual or religious grounds, are best answered by comparing the truth claims of each faith. Such an effort is beyond the scope of this article.

A more common objection to heaven has less to do with spirituality and more to do with popular culture. Many people turn away from the idea of heaven as a land of fluffy clouds, harps, white robes, and so forth. Others dislike the idea of a never-ending church service. Neither of these views of heaven is a biblically supported concept, so correcting misconceptions is key to removing these particular objection to the existence of heaven.

The Bible affirms that heaven, defined as “the place where God dwells,” does indeed exist. In the Bible, the term heaven generally refers to areas beyond the earth. These areas can be the air, outer space, or the realm of God (often called the “highest heaven”). According to the Bible, after the return of Christ, believers will live with God in a New Jerusalem on a reformed Earth. The “heaven” Christians are promised is a restored garden of Eden, not a wispy cloud and a golden instrument.

While we don’t know exactly what heaven will be like, the Bible suggests that it won’t be static or boring (Revelation 21:23–24). Yes, heaven exists. And, according to the Bible, it will be the most glorious place imaginable.

Is Heaven real?

  A series on “Heaven.”

Heaven is indeed a real place. The Bible tells us that heaven is God’s throne (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:48-49; Matthew 5:34-35). After Jesus’ resurrection and appearance on earth to His disciples, “He was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19; Acts 7:55-56). “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence” (Hebrews 9:24). Jesus not only went before us, entering on our behalf, but He is alive and has a present ministry in heaven, serving as our high priest in the true tabernacle made by God (Hebrews 6:19-20; 8:1-2).

We are also told by Jesus Himself that there are many rooms in God’s house and that He has gone before us to prepare a place for us. We have the assurance of His word that He will one day come back to earth and take us to where He is in heaven (John 14:1-4). Our belief in an eternal home in heaven is based on an explicit promise of Jesus. Heaven is most definitely a real place. Heaven truly does exist.

When people deny the existence of heaven, they deny not only the written Word of God, but they also deny the innermost longings of their own hearts. Paul addressed this issue in his letter to the Corinthians, encouraging them to cling to the hope of heaven so that they would not lose heart. Although we “groan and sigh” in our earthly state, we have the hope of heaven always before us and are eager to get there (2 Corinthians 5:1-4). Paul urged the Corinthians to look forward to their eternal home in heaven, a perspective that would enable them to endure hardships and disappointments in this life. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Just as God has put in men’s hearts the knowledge that He exists (Romans 1:19-20), so are we “programmed” to desire heaven. It is the theme of countless books, songs, and works of art. Unfortunately, our sin has barred the way to heaven. Since heaven is the abode of a holy and perfect God, sin has no place there, nor can it be tolerated. Fortunately, God has provided for us the key to open the doors of heaven—Jesus Christ (John 14:6). All who believe in Him and seek forgiveness for sin will find the doors of heaven swung wide open for them. May the future glory of our eternal home motivate us all to serve God faithfully and wholeheartedly. “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart full of assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

Face it. The day that each of us will step into eternity may come sooner than we think. In preparation for that moment, we need to know this truth—not everyone is going to heaven. How can we know for sure that we are one of those who will spend eternity in heaven? Some 2,000 years ago, the apostles Peter and John were preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to a large crowd in Jerusalem. It was then that Peter made a profound statement that resonates even in our post-modern world: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even as it was then, in today’s “all ways lead to heaven” climate, this is not a politically correct message. There are many who think they can have heaven without having Jesus. They want the good promises of glory, but they don’t want to be bothered by the cross, much less the One who hung and died there for the sins of all who would believe in Him. Many don’t want to accept Jesus as the only way and are determined to find another path. But Jesus Himself warns us that no other path exists and the consequences for not accepting this truth are an eternity in hell. He has told us plainly that “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

Some will argue that it’s extremely narrow-minded of God to provide only one way to heaven. But, frankly, in light of mankind’s rebellious rejection of God, it’s extremely broad-minded for Him to provide us with any way to heaven. We deserve judgment, and instead He gives us the way of escape by sending His only begotten Son to die for our sins. Whether someone sees this as narrow or broad, it’s the truth, and Christians need to maintain the clear, untarnished message that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

Many people today have believed a watered-down gospel that does away with the message of repentance of their sins. They want to believe in a loving, nonjudgmental God who requires no repentance and no change in their lifestyle. They may say things like, “I believe in Jesus Christ, but my God is not judgmental. My God would never send a person to hell.” But we cannot have it both ways. If we profess to be Christians, we must recognize Christ for who He said He is—the one and only way to heaven. To deny that is to deny Jesus Himself, for it was He who declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The question still remains: who will actually enter into God’s kingdom? How can I guarantee my eternal destination? The answer to these questions is seen in the clearly drawn distinction between those who have eternal life and those who do not. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). Those who believe in Christ, who have accepted His sacrifice in payment of their sins, and who follow Him in obedience will spend eternity in heaven. Those who reject Him will not. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).

As awesome as heaven will be for those who choose Jesus Christ as Savior, hell will be that much more awful for those who reject Him. Our message to the lost would be delivered with more urgency if we understood what the holiness and righteousness of God will do to those who have rejected the full provision of forgiveness in His Son, Jesus Christ. One cannot read the Bible seriously without seeing it over and over again—the line is drawn. The Bible is very clear that there is one and only one way to heaven—through Jesus Christ. He has given us this warning: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

There is only one way to heaven and those who follow that way are guaranteed to get there. But not everyone is following that way. Are you?

There appear to be five major categories regarding how to get to heaven in the world’s religions. Most believe that hard work and wisdom will lead to ultimate fulfillment, whether that is unity with god (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Baha’i) or freedom and independence (Scientology, Jainism). Others, like Unitarianism and Wicca, teach the afterlife is whatever you want it to be, and salvation is a non-issue because the sin nature doesn’t exist. A few believe either the afterlife doesn’t exist or it’s too unknowable to consider.

Derivatives of the worship of the Christian-Judeo God generally hold that faith in God and/or Jesus and the accomplishment of various deeds, including baptism or door-to-door evangelism, will ensure the worshiper will go to heaven. Only Christianity teaches that salvation is a free gift of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9), and no amount of work or effort is necessary or possible to get to heaven.

Atheism: Most atheists believe there is no heaven—no afterlife at all. Upon death, people simply cease to exist. Others attempt to define the afterlife using quantum mechanics and other scientific methods.

Baha’i: Like many other religions, Baha’i doesn’t teach that man was born with a sin nature or that man needs saving from evil. Man simply needs saving from his erroneous beliefs of how the world works and how he is to interact with the world. God sent messengers to explain to people how to come to this knowledge: Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, and Baha’u’llah. These prophets progressively revealed the nature of God to the world. Upon death, a person’s soul continues its spiritual journey, perhaps through the states known as heaven and hell, until it comes to a final resting point, united with god.

Buddhism: Buddhism also believes that heaven, or “Nirvana,” is to be rejoined in spirit with god. Reaching Nirvana, a transcendental, blissful, spiritual state, requires following the Eightfold Path. This includes understanding the universe, and acting, speaking, and living in the right manner and with the right intentions. Mastering these and the other of the eight paths will return a worshipper’s spirit to god.

Chinese Religion: Chinese Religion is not an organized church, but an amalgamation of different religions and beliefs including Taoism and Buddhism. Upon death, worshipers are judged. The good are sent either to a Buddhist paradise or a Tao dwelling place. The bad are sent to hell for a period of time and then reincarnated.

Christianity: Christianity is the only religion that teaches man can do nothing to earn or pay his way into heaven. Man, a slave to the sin nature he was born with, must completely rely on the grace of God in applying Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to the sins of the believer. Upon death, the spirits of Christians go to a temporary paradise, while the spirits of unbelievers go to another temporary holding place. At the final judgment, Christians are given a new body and spend eternity with God in paradise, while unbelievers are separated from God for eternity in hell.

Confucianism: Confucianism concentrates on appropriate behavior in life, not a future heaven. The afterlife is unknowable, so all effort should be made to make this life the best it can be, to honor ancestors, and to respect elders.

Eastern Orthodox: Orthodoxy is a Christian-Judeo derivative that reinterprets key Scripture verses in such a way that works become essential to reach heaven. Orthodoxy teaches that faith in Jesus is necessary for salvation, but where Christianity teaches that becoming more Christlike is the result of Christ’s influence in a believer’s life, Orthodoxy teaches that it is a part of the salvation process. If that process (called theosis) is not performed appropriately, a worshiper can lose his/her salvation. After death, the devout live in an intermediate state where this theosis can be completed. Those who have belief but did not accomplish sufficient progress in theosis are sent to a temporary “direful condition” and will go to hell unless the living devout pray and complete acts of mercy on their behalf. After final judgment, the devout are sent to heaven and the others to hell. Heaven and hell are not locations, but reactions to being in the presence of God, as there is nowhere that He is not present. For Christ-followers, God’s presence is paradise, but for the unsaved, being with God is eternal torment.

Hinduism: Hinduism is similar to Buddhism in some ways. Salvation (or moksha) is reached when the worshiper is freed from the cycle of reincarnation, and his spirit becomes one with god. One becomes free by ridding oneself of bad karma—the effect of evil action or evil intent. This can be done in three different ways: through selfless devotion to and service of a particular god, through understanding the nature of the universe, or by mastering the actions needed to fully appease the gods.

In Hinduism, with over a million different gods, there are differences of opinion regarding the nature of salvation. The Advaita school teaches salvation occurs when one can strip away the false self and make the soul indistinguishable from that of god. The dualist insists that one’s soul always retains its own identity even as it is joined with god.

Islam: Islam is a take-off on the Christian/Judeo God. Muslims believe salvation comes to those who obey Allah sufficiently that good deeds outweigh the bad. Muslims hope that repeating what Muhammad did and said will be enough to get to heaven, but they also recite extra prayers, fast, go on pilgrimages, and perform good works in hope of tipping the scales. Martyrdom in service to Allah is the only work guaranteed to send a worshiper to paradise.

Jainism: Jainism came to be in India about the same time as Hinduism and is very similar. One must hold the right belief, have the right knowledge, and act in the right manner. Only then can a soul be cleansed of karma. But in Jainism, there is no creator. There is no higher god to reach or lend aid. Salvation is man as master of his own destiny, liberated and perfect, filled with infinite perception, knowledge, bliss, and power.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: The teachings of the Watchtower Society lead us to categorize the Jehovah’s Witnesses as a cult of Christianity that misinterprets the book of Revelation. Similar to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses teach different levels of heaven. The anointed are 144,000 who receive salvation by the blood of Christ and will rule with Him in paradise. They are the bride of Christ. For all others, Jesus’ sacrifice only freed them from Adam’s curse of original sin, and “faith” is merely the opportunity to earn their way to heaven. They must learn about Kingdom history, keep the laws of Jehovah, and be loyal to “God’s government”—the 144,000 leaders, 9,000 of whom are currently on the earth. They must also spread the news about the Kingdom, including door-to-door proselytizing. Upon death, they will be resurrected during the millennial kingdom where they must continue a devout life. Only afterwards are they given the opportunity to formally accept Christ and live for eternity under the rule of the 144,000.

Judaism: Jews believe that, as individuals and as a nation, they can be reconciled to God. Through sin (individually or collectively) they can lose their salvation, but they can also earn it back through repentance, good deeds, and a life of devotion.

Mormonism: Mormons believe their religion to be a derivative of Judeo/Christianity, but their reliance on extra-grace works belies this. They also have a different view of heaven. To reach the second heaven under “general salvation,” one must accept Christ (either in this life or the next) and be baptized or be baptized by proxy through a living relative. To reach the highest heaven, one must believe in God and Jesus, repent of sins, be baptized in the church, be a member of the LDS church, receive the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, obey the Mormon “Word of Wisdom” and all God’s commandments, and complete certain temple rituals including marriage. This “individual salvation” leads to the worshiper and his/her spouse becoming gods and giving birth to spirit children who return to Earth as the souls of the living.

Roman Catholicism: Roman Catholics originally believed only those in the Roman Catholic Church could be saved. Joining the church was a long process of classes, rituals, and baptism. People who had already been baptized but were not members of the Roman Catholic Church had different requirements and may even already be considered Christians. Baptism is “normatively” required for salvation, but this can include “baptism of blood” (i.e.: martyrdom) or “baptism of desire” (wanting to be baptized really badly). From the catechism: “Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, are saved even if they have not been baptized.” Despite the changes through the years, baptism (or the desire for baptism) is still required for salvation.

According to Catholicism, upon death, the souls of those who rejected Christ are sent to hell. The souls of those who accepted Christ and performed sufficient acts to be purified of sin go to heaven. Those who died in faith but did not complete the steps to be purified are sent to purgatory where they undergo temporary, painful punishment until their souls are cleansed. Purification by torment may be lessened by suffering during life and the offerings and prayers of others on the sinner’s behalf. Once purification is complete, the soul may go to heaven.

Scientology: Scientology is similar to Eastern religions in that salvation is achieved through knowledge of self and the universe. The “thetan” (Scientology’s answer to the soul) travels through several different lifetimes, attempting to expel painful and traumatic images that cause a person to act fearfully and irrationally. Once a Scientologist is “cleared” of these harmful images and becomes an “operating thetan,” he/she is able to control thought, life, matter, energy, space, and time.

Shinto: The afterlife in Shinto was originally a dire, Hades-like realm. Matters of the afterlife have now been transferred to Buddhism. This salvation is dependent on penance and avoiding impurity or pollution of the soul. Then one’s soul can join those of its ancestors.

Sikhism: Sikhism was created in reaction to the conflict between Hinduism and Islam, and carries on many of Hinduism’s influences—although Sikhs are monotheistic. “Evil” is merely human selfishness. Salvation is attained by living an honest life and meditating on god. If good works are performed sufficiently, the worshipper is released from the cycle of reincarnation and becomes one with god.

Taoism: Like several other Eastern religions (Shinto, Chinese folk religions, Sikhism), Taoism adopted many of its afterlife principles from Buddhism. Initially, Taoists didn’t concern themselves with worries of the afterlife and, instead, concentrated on creating a utopian society. Salvation was reached by aligning with the cosmos and receiving aid from supernatural immortals who resided on mountains, islands, and other places on Earth. The result was immortality. Eventually, Taoists abandoned the quest for immortality and took on the afterlife teachings of Buddhism.

Unitarian-Universalism: Unitarians are allowed to and encouraged to believe anything they like about the afterlife and how to get there. Although, in general, they believe people should seek enlightenment in this life and not worry too much about the afterlife.

Wicca: Wiccans believe many different things about the afterlife, but most seem to agree that there is no need for salvation. People either live in harmony with the Goddess by caring for her physical manifestation—the earth—or they don’t, and their bad karma is returned to them three-fold. Some believe souls are reincarnated until they learn all their life lessons and become one with the Goddess. Some are so committed to following one’s individual path that they believe individuals determine what will happen when they die; if worshippers think they’re going to be reincarnated or sent to hell or joined with the goddess, they will be. Others refuse to contemplate the afterlife at all. Either way, they don’t believe in sin or anything they need saving from.

Zoroastrianism: Zoroastrianism may be the first religion that stated that the afterlife was dependent upon one’s actions in life. There is no reincarnation, just a simple judgment four days after death. After a sufficient amount of time in hell, however, even the condemned can go to heaven. To be judged righteous, one can use knowledge or devotion, but the most effective way is through action.

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