Death and 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.
For a Muslim there is life after death. Life can be divided into two. A short earthly life which is viewed as a test to see whether a person is worthy of Paradise or deserves to be punished in Hell.
Each human being has a life to live on Earth. Allah has given humans freewill and it is up to them to use that wisely and make moral choices.
When a person dies, their soul is taken by the Angel of Death, called Azra’il. The soul hovers around the corpse, seeing everything. It watches the burial. The angels Munkar and Nakir ask the soul three questions. If answered correctly the soul will be allowed to rest easy until the Day of Judgment. If answered incorrectly the soul will be tortured in the grave. Waiting for the Day of Judgment is called Barzakh meaning ‘barrier’. The barrier between death and judgment.
The Qur’an explains what will happen when the Day of Judgment happens:
- The Angel Israfil will sound the trumpet, there will be a blinding light and the sky will be cut
- The Earth will be destroyed and the dead raised from the grave. The living will die instantly
- The Mahdi will return to Earth with Isa (Jesus) to fight injustice
- Forty days after the first trumpet a second blast will be given and the dead will be raised to await judgment
How does a belief in judgment and resurrection influence the life of a Muslim?
- Belief in Akhirah will make a Muslim think carefully about their behaviour. A good record will secure a place in paradise whilst a bad record will result in Hell. As such, Muslims will try to follow the core teachings of Islam such as the Five Pillars etc
- Belief in Akhirah also gives a Muslim hope. For some Muslims who experience extreme hardship or terrible illness the knowledge that this life is just a test that will be rewarded if lived correctly gives them hope
- Muslims also believe that as the dead will be raised they are never cremated, as the physical body must be buried complete. For this reason many Muslims are against organ transplantation/donation and would often argue against post mortems to try and find the cause of death.
Paradise (Jannah) & Hell (Jahannam)
“No soul knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden from them of joy, as reward for what they did” (Qur’an 32)
Jannah is the Arabic term for paradise. It is described as a beautiful garden with flowing rivers. There is no fear, death or illness and is viewed as a reward for a life well lived. No one will be alone.
- People will be invited into paradise, ‘Enter among my servants! Enter my paradise’ (Qur’an 89)
- People will arrive over the As- Sirat Bridge
- There are eight gates. People are called to a gate, each one representing a good action. You will be called to the gate that represents the good action you did the best
- Two angels will welcome you, ‘Peace be upon you’
- There are seven levels of Jannah; those with the most reward gain the higher levels.
Jahannam is the Arabic word for hell. It is described as a place seventy times hotter than any flame on Earth that they cannot escape from. They will experience terrible pain and torture.
- Jahannam is the punishment for a wicked life where no forgiveness has been requested or rejecting the teachings of the Qur’an
- The fire will burn off skin. There are seven levels of hell and different punishments will be given for different sins eg people who have gossiped will have their lips cut off and those who have been arrogant will reduced to the size of an ant.
Exam Tip – Look at the 12 mark Q below. Can you answer it? If not, please ask your teacher in class or via e mail.
‘What happens in the next life depends upon how this life is lived’ (12)