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Important Christian themes and beliefs:
Who are saved and who are not?
What are the options in the afterlife?
Sadly, most Christians sincerely
that they know, but may
If you are a Christian and feel uncomfortable
about uncertainty, please do not read this section.
We would prefer to not contribute to other people's pain.
A review of different beliefs about salvation and the afterlife within Christianity:
Christian beliefs about life after death and salvation differ greatly:
Most Christian denominations teach the existence of both Heaven and Hell after death. People are sent to either state or location, depending upon their beliefs and/or actions while they were alive on earth.
- Some teach that Hell exists, but simply involves the person being isolated from God.
- The Catholic Church teaches that, after dying, most people are sent to Purgatory for a finite time interval. There, they are punished for their sins and purified in preparation for being later transferred to Heaven.
- Others teach that people who do not attain Heaven are continuously tortured in Hell for all eternity without relief, and without any hope of eventual relief.
- A few teach that when a person dies, they are judged. Those who do not attain Heaven will not be sent to Hell. Rather, they will be subject to annihilationism, (a.k.a. extinctionism or destructionism). They will be totally destroyed; their bodies rot and their souls will cease to exist. Nothing will remain, other than people's memories of them.
Meanwhile, there is little agreement among believers in Heaven and Hell about what criterion -- or multiple criteria -- will be used to judge who will be sent to which location for eternity. Some believe that salvation is determined only by one's actions while alive on Earth; others that it is dependent upon one's beliefs about Jesus; still others that it is determined by both factors. They also differ on whether annihilationism is a real option.
Unfortunately, there are many biblical passages about judgment, salvation, and people's end state after death -- with clear, conflicting, and sometimes mutually exclusive messages. Most Christians, congregations, and denominations select their favorite passages and ignore the rest. The multiple, contradicting teachings about the judgment, salvation, and afterlife seriously challenge many Christian's beliefs in the inerrancy of the Bible.
Different Bible passages also teach different beliefs about whether one can lose one's salvation while alive on Earth after one has attained it. One passage teaches that there is a sin that cannot be forgiven.
To further complicate matters, this web site once conducted a pilot survey of its visitors and appears to have found that one cannot reliably assess the will of God through prayer. So Christians may be stuck with uncertainty about the most important aspect of their lives -- their eventual location and treatment after death!
Finally, many people note that there is a problem with the whole concept of salvation because it involves some individuals being eternally punished in the torture chambers of Hell. Most religions, secular systems of philosophy, etc. consider torture to be profoundly immoral, and consider that long-term or eternal torture is even worse. Many countries have laws and regulations forbidding torture. Many Christians and other believers in God's existence feel that the presence of torture chambers in Hell is incompatible with a loving deity.
In spite of the great conflicts over the afterlife, most religious believers are certain that their specific belief system is the only correct one. There appears to be no forward path to resolve the matter. This uncertainty adds to many people's fear of dying and of being dead.
If you feel comfortable with the topic, we recommend that you read these four essays first:
||What must one do to be saved, according to:|
||Is salvation permanent, revocable, always
||Salvation for others:|
Some related topics:
How you may have arrived here:
Copyright © 2016 to 2018 by
Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2018-APR-20
Author: B.A. Robinson