Christianity: beliefs and teachings 5 – SALVATION AND AFTERLIFE

Salvation through law, grace and the spirit                                 

Following Jesus’ death the way was now open for mankind to rebuild their relationship with God. The ultimate aim is to be ‘at one’ with God and secure a place in heaven. Christians vary on how this can be achieved.

Salvation through law

This approach is also known as salvation through good works. In other words, a relationship with God has to be earned. Throughout history there have been many Christian groups who felt that salvation depended upon keeping all of the rules. A number of Christians would reject this as they would point to the fact that Jesus himself criticised a rigid rule based approach to life.


Salvation through grace

  • God’s grace is freely given to mankind in order to rebuild the broken relationship and allow humans to come back to him. It is a gift that is not deserved as humans have been disobedient. God’s greatest gift is Jesus.


Salvation through the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is active in the daily lives of mankind. It is the Holy Spirit, which encourages mankind to accept God’s grace or gift.


Beliefs about the afterlife

In simple terms, Christians would say that when you die, your soul leaves the body, is judged and then goes to heaven or hell. Christianity teaches that death is not the end or something to be feared. Death simply separates life on earth from life with God. Many would say that you will be reunited with lost loved ones


The importance of belief in the resurrection for Christians

 Most Christians believe in resurrection – the idea that the dead will be raised and restored to life. This is linked to Jesus’ resurrection. A belief in resurrection means that the physical body is an important part of what it is to be human. The body is ‘A temple of the Holy Spirit’.

 Christians vary as to whether the resurrection would be bodily or spiritual. Those who believe it will be a physical resurrection would object to the cremation of a body and possibly autopsies or even organ donation as the physical body must remain whole.

 The transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly is often used to represent the idea of resurrection in that there is continuity between a person’s earthly life and the afterlife but the appearance and form may be different. The caterpillar and butterfly may look completely different but it is the same organism. Some Christians would say that it is a spiritual resurrection rather than a physical one. It is the soul which lives on.


  •  Christianity teaches that there will be a Day of Judgment when they will be judged according to their behaviour
  • Jesus will come again to deliver this judgment ‘Will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead’
  • Roman Catholics believe there are two judgments. The particular judgment happens straight after death. The second and final judgment will happen with the Second Coming, which is when many Christians believe Jesus will return and bring space and time to an end.


The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”


Key Teaching: Some will be rewarded with heaven, whilst others are sent to hell.



 For Christians, heaven may be understood as a state of eternal peace in the presence of God. A place of peace, joy and love and where a believer will be reunited with friends or family who have already died. In pictures and in text it is often described in physical terms although many Christians would view it as a spiritual rather than physical place.

For Christians, there is disagreement over who will be with God eternally in heaven. Some would say only those who believe in Jesus will be with God in heaven. Others think that heaven will be reserved for Christians and perhaps followers of other faiths who have lived a good life.

The Bible describes heaven as a new Jerusalem; a sparkling city of jewels and gold with twelve gates and twelve angels.



Hell is essentially understood as an existence without God. It is shown in paintings to be a place of eternal pain, suffering and terror. As with the concept of heaven, Christians would disagree over whether hell is a physical place ruled by Satan or simply a spiritual state.

Disagreement will also occur as to whether non-Christians would go to Hell. This raises questions over whether or not God is all loving and fair.



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