Sunday, March 11, 2012
Heaven is an afterlife concept found in many religions or spiritual philosophies.
Those who believe in heaven generally hold that it (or Hell) is the afterlife destination of many or all humans. In unusual instances, humans have had, according to many testimonies and traditions, personal knowledge of Heaven. They presume this is for the purpose of teaching the rest of humanity about life, Heaven, and God.The idea of Heaven as a physical place has existed since the dawn of religion and human civilization. In some early religions, Heaven was a physical place far above the Earth in a "dark area" of space where there were no stars, basically beyond the Universe. Departed souls would undergo a literal journey to reach Heaven, along the way to which there could exist hazards and other entities attempting to deny the reaching of Heaven.
One popular medieval view of Heaven was that it existed as a physical place above the clouds and that God and the Angels were physically above, watching over man. With the dawn of the Age of Reason, science began to challenge this notion; however Heaven as a physical place survived in the concept that it was located far out into space, and that the stars were "lights shining through from heaven".
In the modern age of science and space flight the idea that Heaven is a physical place in the observable universe has largely been abandoned. Religious views, however, still hold Heaven as having a dual status as a concept of mind or heart, but also possibly still physically existing in some way on another "plane of existence", or perhaps at a future time. According to science there are unobservable areas of the universe (everywhere beyond earth's Particle horizon), although by their very nature it is not possible to observe them.
While there are abundant and varied sources for conceptions of Heaven, the typical believer's view appears to depend largely on his particular religious tradition. Various religions have described Heaven as being populated by angels, demons, gods and goddesses and/or heroes (especially in Greek mythology). Heaven is generally construed as a place of happiness, sometimes eternal happiness.
In Christianity, heaven is a return to the pre-fallen state of humanity, a second and new Garden of Eden, in which humanity is reunited with God in a perfect and natural state of eternal existence. Christians believe this reunion is accomplished through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ in having died for the sins of humanity on the cross.
The popular belief of most faiths is that one enters heaven at the moment of death. This, however, is not part of the doctrine of all of Christianity. Some of Christianity along with other major religions maintain that entry into Heaven awaits such time as, "When the form of this world has passed away."
Two related and often confused concepts of heaven in Christianity are better described as the "resurrection of the body", which is exclusively of Biblical origin, as contrasted with "the immortality of the soul", which is also evident in the Greek tradition. In the first concept, the soul does not enter heaven until the last judgement or the "end of time" when it (along with the body) is resurrected and judged. In the second concept, the soul goes to a heaven on another plane immediately after death. These two concepts are generally combined in the doctrine of the double judgement where the soul is judged once at death and goes to a temporary heaven, while awaiting a second and final physical judgement at the end of the world.