When a family member or friend dies, we often find ourselves thinking about the question “Where are they now?” As mortals, this has the ultimate meaning for each of us.
Different cultural groups and individuals among them have made many (usually contradictory) answers to questions about life after death. For many people, these problems are rooted in the notion of rewards for good (heaven) and punishment for the wicked (hell). In this world, the injustices in the land are finally corrected.
However, these common roots cannot guarantee contemporary consensus on the nature or even existence of hell and heaven. Some of Pope Francis’ own comments on heaven attracted the attention of the Catholic Church. He recently told a little boy that his late father, an atheist, was with God in heaven because of his careful nurturing “he has a kind heart.”
So, what is the Christian concept of “heaven”?
Beliefs about what will happen to death
The earliest Christians believed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead after being crucified, and will return soon to complete what he began by preaching: building the kingdom of heaven. The second coming of Christ will end the efforts of all mankind to unite in Christ, and will eventually resurrect the death and moral judgment of all mankind.
By the middle of the first century AD, Christians began to worry about the fate of church members who had died before the second advent.
Some of the earliest documents in the Christian New Testament, letters or letters written by the apostle Paul provide answers. They explained that the deceased was just asleep. When Christ returns, the dead will also be resurrected and be judged by Christ himself. After that, they will always be united with him.
Some theologians in the early Christian century agreed. However, more and more consensus shows that the souls of the dead are in a state of waiting until the end of the world, when they will reunite with their bodies again and be resurrected in a more complete form.
The promise of eternal life
After the Roman Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity at the beginning of the fourth century, the number of Christians greatly increased. Millions of people converteded to the entire empire, and by the end of the century, the ancient Roman state religion was banned.
On the basis of the Gospels, bishops and theologians emphasized that the promise of eternal life in heaven is only open to those who are baptized, that is, those who are immersed in water during the ceremony wash their souls from sin and mark their entrance into the church. All others are cursed for eternal separation from God and punished for their sins.
In this new Christian empire, more and more babies are being baptized. Some theologians have challenged this approach because babies cannot yet sin. But in the Christian West, belief in “primitive sin” (that is, the sin of Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God’s command in the Garden of Eden (“Autumn”)) dominated.
Following the teaching of St. Augustine in the fourth century, Western theologians in the fifth century AD believed that even babies were born because of Adam and Eve’s sins, which harmed their spirit and will.
However, this doctrine raises a troubling question: Which of those babies who can die before being baptized can receive treatment?
At first, theologians taught that their souls went to hell, but the pain they suffered was minimal.
The concept of Limbo was developed from this idea. Popes and theologians in the thirteenth century taught that the souls of unbaptized infants or toddlers enjoyed a natural state of happiness on the “edge” of hell, but, like those who received harsher punishments in hell, they Deprived of the happiness of being in hell. God.
During the wars or plagues of ancient and medieval times, Western Christians often interpreted social chaos as a sign of the end of the world. However, as the centuries passed, the resurrection of Christ has usually become a more distant event for most Christians. They are still waiting, but they are put into an uncertain future. On the contrary, Christian theology focuses more on the moment of personal death.
The trial, the assessment of everyone’s moral state, is no longer postponed until the end of the world. Immediately after death (“special” judgment) and at the second coming (final or general judgment), Christ will judge each soul separately.
The bed ritual or “last ritual” is developed from the earlier rituals of sickness and the repentance. Most people have the opportunity to confess their sins to the priest, are anointed as a plaster, and accepted before the last breath The “last” communion.
Christians in the Middle Ages prayed to protect them from sudden or accidental death because they feared that without these last rituals, baptism alone would not be enough to enter heaven directly.
Another theory developed. Some deceased people still commit minor or minor sins, such as ordinary gossip, petty theft or minor lies. These lies do not completely deplete the grace of the human soul. After death, these souls will first be “purged” of any remaining sins or guilt in a state of mind called purgatory. After this mental cleansing (usually visualized as fire), they will be pure enough to enter heaven.
Only those who are extremely virtuous, such as saints or those who have accepted the final courtesy, can directly enter heaven and the presence of God.
Images of heaven
In ancient times, the first century of ordinary times, the Christian paradise and the religious ideas of Judaism and Greek culture shared certain characteristics in the afterlife of the sage. One of them is almost physical rest and relaxation after traveling in the desert, often accompanied by descriptions of banquets, fountains or rivers. In the Bible’s Revelation, this is a symbolic description of the end of the world, and the river flowing through God’s New Jerusalem is called the “water of life”. However, in the Gospel of Luke, the damned person is tortured by desire.
The other is the image of light. The Romans and Jews believed that the residence of the wicked was a place of darkness and shadow, but the sacred residence was full of bright light. Heaven is also full of positive emotions: peace, joy, love, and happiness of spiritual satisfaction. Christians call this the “Holy Vision”, that is, the presence of God.
Visionaries and poets used various additional images: flowering meadows, indescribable colors, lush fruits of trees, companionship, and conversations with family or people in white robes. Bright angels stand behind the dazzling throne of God and sing praises with beautiful melody.
The Protestant Reformation that began in 1517 will break sharply with the Roman Catholic Church in Western Europe in the 16th century. Both parties will argue about the existence of purgatory, or whether there are only some people destined to enter heaven by God, but the existence and universal nature of heaven itself is not a problem.
Heaven is the place of god
Today, theologians have put forward various opinions on the nature of heaven. Lewis of the Anglican Church wrote that even pets of the owner can be accepted, and they fall in love with their owner because the owner is united in Christ through baptism.
After Pope Pius IX in the 19th century, Jesuit Karl Rahner taught that if non-Christians and non-believers live according to similar values, they can still be saved through Christ. This is in the Catholic Church. Has been found.
The Catholic Church itself abandoned Limbaugh’s idea and left the fate of the unbaptized baby to “God’s mercy.” However, one theme remains the same: Heaven is the existence of God, together with others who respond to God’s call in their lives.
This article is republished from The Conversation, a non-profit news site dedicated to sharing the ideas of academic experts.
Joanne M. Pierce (Joanne M. Pierce) is a Roman Catholic member of the Anglican Roman Catholic Church in the United States, a national universal dialogue group sponsored by the American Catholic Bishops Conference and the Anglican Church.