Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 10.06.2022

Death and the Afterlife in Christianity

Death and the Afterlife in Christianity

Reviewed By: Joshua Siegel

Cross Checked By: William Prout

4 min read


Death in Christianity

If you are Christian and you find yourself burdened with the challenging task of planning a funeral for a loved one, you might also wonder about the concepts of the afterlife in Christianity. Christianity remains the world’s largest religion with about 31% of the world’s population practicing it as of a research study in 2015. However, there are many subgroups even within Christianity including but not limited to Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox. For this reason, rituals and customs around the death of a loved one can vary even among Christians.

In the process of death planning, Christians can find a lot of solace and support in these concepts of life after death as proclaimed in the Bible. Since Jesus Christ’s resurrection 2,000 years ago, Christians do not view death as the end of a person’s existence. They consider death to be the end of only the earthly body but a person’s soul carries forward into the afterlife, and what that afterlife is like depends on whether the person is a believer or a non-believer. The outcome is not based on one’s sole efforts to please God during their earthly life, and in fact, living a moral life only to get into Heaven is also considered a sin.

The Afterlife in Christianity

The most reliable source to find out about death in Christianity and life after death is the Bible, which is the religious scripture of Christians. According to the Old Testament and the New Testament, a person’s soul will ascend to Heaven to be with God once their earthly body dies, though there is some internal discrepancy about whether this ascension to Heaven happens immediately after death. But it is certain that the death of a person’s earthly body is not the end of the existence of their soul.

God has a plan for all of mankind and the death and resurrection of Jesus are a part of this plan. A person’s soul will be judged to determine the kind of afterlife they will experience. Some Christians, mostly those within the Catholic Church, also believe in the notion of purgatory. A person who has sins to wash off will be sentenced to purgatory where they can make reparations for wrongdoings. However after they have atoned for their sins, they too can ascend to Heaven.

Heaven and Hell

Those practicing Christianity have complete faith in God's unconditional love. According to the Bible, God sent his son Jesus to sacrifice for the sins of all humanity, and to be forgiven on behalf of the believers. Christians believe in Judgment Day where everyone’s lives including their actions and behaviors will be judged by God, and consequently, they will be sentenced to either Heaven (eternal life) or Hell (eternal damnation). However, all believers know that they are forgiven due to the sacrifice of Jesus and so they do not fear the Day of Judgment.

Being sent to Hell is not intended as a punishment but simply as a natural consequence to a person’s decision to live apart from God while on Earth, due to which they will be subjected to an afterlife away from God as well. If you ascend to Heaven with God, it is believed that you will be in a place of love and peace where God will not allow you to suffer. On the other hand, Hell is believed to be devoid of all the pleasures  and comforts that come with being in the presence of God.

Funeral Planning in Christianity

In Christianity, it is believed that during the Second Coming of Christ, Jesus will return to Earth and all those who are deemed righteous will ascend to Heaven to be with him. Due to these beliefs about resurrection, Christians generally prefer burials over cremations, and even in cases of cremations the ashes are usually buried. Christian funerals are usually held within a week of a person’s death and often include rites such as Bible readings and prayers. Despite the existence of an afterlife in Christianity, the death of a loved one is still understood to be a tragic time of loss and mourning.