Christian beliefs about life after death are based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christians believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection are part of God’s divine plan for humankind. Through his death on the cross, Jesus pays the penalty for mankind's sin and mankind's relationship with God is restored. This is called atonement. Christians believe that three days after the crucifixion, God raised Jesus from the dead and he once again appeared to his disciples. This is taken to mean that Jesus’ sacrifice was a victory over sin and death. Although physical death still happens, those who believe in Christ and live good lives will be given eternal life in Heaven.
Many Christians believe that after death, they will be taken into the presence of God and they will be judged for the deeds they have done or failed to do during their lifetime. Some of the guiding principles for what will happen upon death include:
Some Christians believe that this judgement will happen when they die. Others believe that there will be a Day of Judgement at the end of time, when everybody will be judged at the same time. Some believe that judgement will happen in two stages: an initial personal judgement when you die, followed by the definitive judgement at the end of time.
Hell has traditionally been depicted as a place of eternal fire that symbolises pain and suffering. This is seen as the result of the refusal to accept the happiness that God wants people to share with him.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that after death there is a state of Purgatory. This is a place where some people who have sinned are purified in a 'cleansing fire', after which they are accepted into Heaven.
All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation: but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of Heaven.Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church para 1030, 1992
Most Christian churches do not accept the idea of Purgatory, believing instead that once judgement happens, people will either be in Heaven or Hell for all eternity.
The Christian creeds teach:
I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.Apostles Creed
There is no clear explanation of how this belief will come into practice. Some Christians say that at the end of time, everybody will be raised up in a physical state on a new Earth. Some people feel that this simply refers to the idea that the whole person will be present in Heaven.