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Christians often find themselves wrestling with the question, what is Heaven like?

Lucifer used to reside in Heaven before he was cast out and condemned to rule Hell for eternity by his father. Not much is known about Heaven's history, other than it was created by God as a dwelling place for him, his angels and, later on, the souls of the deceased good people. It is usually associated with the upwards direction from Earth, the opposite of Hell. When a righteous soul reached Heaven, they would be greeted by Uriel.

He would welcome them with a speech that Lucifer described as "worse than Hell". When both God and Goddess started neglecting their family, Lucifer felt so forsaken that he rebelled against God and started a war in Heaven. On each side of the river there will be a tree of life, yielding twelve kinds of fruit every month. The streets will be pure gold, like transparent glass.

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The walls of the city will be adorned with every kind of jewel, emerald, onyx, amethyst, topaz, etc. There will be no need for a sun or moon, and no need for a temple or church. The presence of the Lord will be its light. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away I am making everything new. Heaven belongs to Jesus.

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He created it. Though Jesus initially came to the earth as a Savior, he will one day sit as Judge. All people will experience a bodily resurrection from the dead, and all will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. So it might be helpful to see what Jesus said about how a person gets to heaven. Many people think it's by living a commendable life, or at least trying to avoid extreme sins like murder.

Yet here's what Jesus said about getting to heaven. Buddhism began in the early 5th century bce in northeast India as a renunciant movement seeking liberation from samsara through knowledge and spiritual discipline. The Buddha Gotama, the founder of the religion , is the paradigm of an enlightened being who has entered parinibbana complete nibbana [Sanskrit nirvana ] , the state in which the causes of all future existence have been eliminated. Classical Buddhist cosmology describes six realms of rebirth within an incalculably vast system of worlds and eons.

One may be reborn as an animal, a human, a hungry ghost, a demigod, a denizen of one of the horrific hell realms, or a god in one of the pleasurable heaven realms. All of these births partake of the impermanence that characterizes samsara. Thus, heaven, in the sense of a celestial realm, is not the goal of spiritual practice. Yet Buddhist tradition speaks of celestial beings of limitless wisdom and compassion, such as Amitabha Buddha and the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara , who have dedicated their abundant merit to the cultivation of heavenlike Pure Lands for the salvation of sentient beings.

High Heavens

Devotees reborn in these paradisiacal realms find there the ideal conditions for attaining enlightenment. Most, if not all, cultures possess multiple images of heaven and paradise, which coexist in unsystematic profusion. In some traditions, heaven seems to recede into the background. Native American cultures, for example, are oriented toward the totality of earth, sky, and the four directions rather than toward heaven alone. Although heaven is not typically the abode of the blessed dead in Native American mythology, the stars, Sun, Moon, clouds, mountaintops, and sky-dwelling creators figure significantly.

The Christian-influenced prophetic visions characteristic of revitalization movements such as the 19th-century Ghost Dance and the religion of Handsome Lake are fervently millenarian, proclaiming the advent of an eschatological paradise to be accompanied by the return of the dead and the restoration of tribal life. New models of heaven in the modern West have been influenced by ideals of progress, evolution, social equality, and domestic tranquility. The 19th-century Spiritualist movement, adapting the doctrines of the Swedish scientist and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg and of the German physician Franz Anton Mesmer , mixed clairvoyance with science to describe heavenly spheres, radiant with luminiferous ether , where the spirits worked for causes such as abolition, temperance, feminism, and socialism and pursued opportunities for self-improvement.

Utopian communities sought to bring this progressive heaven to practical realization on earth. Belief in heaven persists despite age-old criticisms: that it is an irrational, wish-fulfilling fantasy, a symptom of alienation, and an evasion of responsibility for bettering the real world. Defenders of the doctrine insist, on the contrary, that belief in heaven has a morally invigorating effect, endowing life with meaning and direction and inspiring deeds of heroic self-sacrifice.

Much the same can be said for other cultures: in every historical period, depictions of heaven provide a revealing index of what a society regards as the highest good. Hence the study of heaven is, in its broadest application, the study of ultimate human ideals. You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

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    Written By: Carol Zaleski. Read More on This Topic. Heaven and earth, as personified powers of nature and thus worthy of worship, are evidently not of equal age.

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