Judgement (afterlife)

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The central panel portrays the Hindu god Yama judges the dead. Other panels depict various realms/hells of Naraka.

A central theme of many religions is what happens to people upon death. Almost all religions are greatly devoted to the afterlife, emphasizing that what you do in your current life effects what happens to you in the afterlife. This usually takes the form of judgement by a deity, in which ones deeds and characteristics in life determine either punishment or reward (when one has been mostly good).

Ancient religions[edit]

Ancient Egypt[edit]

A section of the Egyptian Book of the Dead written on papyrus showing the "Weighing of the Heart" in the Duat.

In Ancient Egypt, it was believed that upon death, ones fate in the afterlife was determined by the weighing of one’s heart. One’s heart was kept within the body during mummification so that it can travel with the deceased into the afterlife. Upon death, one entered the underworld (Duat), where Osiris, the God of the afterlife, weighed the persons heart on a scale against the feather of Ma’at, the goddess of order, truth, and righteousness. If the heart weighed more than the feather, meaning that the person was more wicked than good, then the heart would be devoured by Ammit, a demon with the head of a crocodile, the front half of the body of a leopards, and the back half of a hippopotamus, but with goat arms.[1] If a person's heart was devoured by Ammit, then he would die a second death and be completely annihilated from existence.[2]

Ancient Greece[edit]

Ancient Greeks believed that upon death, an individual would enter the realm of Hades, the Greek underworld, and be judged by King Minos, Aeacus, and Radamanthus. Depending on one's actions in life, an individual would be sent to one of three different planes: Elysium, the Asphodel Fields, or Tartarus. Elysium is for those who were righteous in life and is reserved for good people and legendary heroes.[3] In Elysium people relax and enjoy a life of everlasting joy in a beautiful and comfortable field with trees and sun.[4][5] The Ashpodel Fields is the land of neutrality, where those who were either neutral, or whose good and bad deeds are about equal reside. It is a bland place symbolizing their lack of notability in life. The final realm, Tartarus, is the realm of the wicked. It is the deepest realm of Hades, and those who have performed wicked deeds are punished here for eternity.[6] Punishment here reflects the wicked deeds committed in one's life (e.g., Tantalus killed and fed his son to the Gods, so he was punished by being made to stand in a pool surrounded by trees with fruit, but is unable to attain either one[7]). Mortals shared this realm with non-mortals.


Hinduism was extremely influential, with aspects and gods from Hinduism being borrowed into other religions not only in India, but also in China, Korea, and Japan. As such, many of the Asian religions have similarities in myths, deities, and concepts.


In Hinduism, people are judged by Yama, the God of Death, in accordance with Karma. Depending on whether or not and how closely one adhered to one's duties in life, as well as one's deeds, they would be either punished or rewarded in their next life after reincarnation.[8] Those who performed their duties and performed good deeds would reincarnate into a higher class, spending some time between lives in bliss in heaven, whereas those who did not follow the rules of their caste and performed bad deeds in life were either reincarnated into lower classes or lower lifeforms, such as animals, as well as sent to Naraka (the equivalent of Hell) and tortured by various means between lives.[9] There are several layers to Naraka, and people are sent to different ones for different punishments based on the severity and nature of their misdeeds in life.


In Buddhism there is no God that passes down judgement on individuals to either determine their future life or to reward or punish them for their current one. In such cases, humans, as well as all other beings except for the Buddhas who have reached Nirvana, simply follow the cycle of rebirth based on Karma until they can reach Nirvana.

Chinese Religion[edit]

Chinese religion borrows heavily form Hinduism and Buddhism, including Yama and Naraka (Diyu). However, Karma and the Caste system is not employed; thus reincarnation, as well as rewards and punishment between lives and in Diyu, are based solely on good or bad deeds in life. The wicked are tortured in Diyu, which contains different levels with different punishments, just like in Hinduism, and are reincarnated either into humans with bad luck and conditions or into animals. Those who are righteous and good are either reincarnated into humans with good fortune and status or are accepted into heaven

Abrahamic religions[edit]


In Judaism, judgement occurs by God during the transition from the current earthly world "Olam HaZeh" to the world to come "Olam Ha-Ba", which is roughly the equivalent of paradise or Eden. Those who followed all of the seven laws given to Moses, including non-Jews, would be considered righteous gentiles and allowed to enter Olam Ha-Ba. In contrast, those who did not obey the rules and were wicked would spend time in Gehenna for spiritual purification. Gehenna was a fiery place similar to common conceptions of Hell, where the wicked would be tortured for a maximum of one year's time in order to purify them for Olam Ha-Ba. Those who were too wicked would instead be completely destroyed after being tortured in Gehenna.

The Catholic Church[edit]

Catholics believe that all men, women, and children whether just or unjust will be resurrected, and shall come to The Day of Judgment both in body and soul.[10] Humans are judged according to their deeds.[11] Those found pure are saved and welcomed into the kingdom, for nothing impure shall pass through the gates of God's Kingdom, but those found wanting enter everlasting damnation.[12] Catholics believe that while salvation is by and through the grace of God, that human cooperation with grace is necessary as evidenced by the Parable of The Talents.[13] They believe that the works done to merit salvation are not merited in virtue of the human's own being, who is a sinner, but as a servant and friend who acts well with the graces given them freely; thus faith without works is deemed Solo Fides and is rejected by Catholics, but so too works without Faith is rejected as Pelagianism by Catholics.[14] Judgment Day is thus considered to require both Faith as a gift from above, but also the works of the human are judged, just as a branch of a vine is judged by its fruits.[15] Catholics also believe in Purgatory, but as a place that is pre-Judgment Day, a purifying locale for those preparing for The Day of Judgment. If souls are purifed before Judgment Day they are released where they join the Saints who are spirits without bodies, enjoying an intellectual vision of The Father who is without body, known as The Beautific Vision. There the Saints await The Day of Judgment knowing they will be resurrected to receive their bodies and will be judged pure by The Trinity, confirmed by the Apostles and Patriarchs.[16] Not only are humans judged on That Day, but so too are other creatures like angels,.[17]

The Catholic Church differs from other World beliefs in that it maintains God cannot be a Higher Power, for this claims God is in time and space as one of many powers, but is necessarily outside all Creation. The Catholic God is thus transcendent in The Godhead, yet immanent in The Incarnation and present in Baptism. Most importantly, this God is said to be Three Persons in One Essence. Salvation is by good deeds worked through, by, and in the grace of God. The Ordo Salutis is thus: The Father calls one to Baptism in Christ, through The Holy Spirit, and then the believer cultivates the virtues of Fatih, Hope, and Love through work to merit salvation through the grace given them in the sacraments, and continuously fed by the sacraments.[18] Christ's place in The Godhead is as Logos incarnate, as both the lamb of God given for the sins of the world and the High Priest, making him both the one sacrificing and the sacrifice, which still require human response and agency to God's first act of call and action.[19]


Protestants believe that the deceased leave their bodies and their spirit faces judgement for sin by God. Since all humans sin, the only way into Heaven is faith in Jesus Christ,[20] who is both God's Son[21] and God in human form.[22] Good deeds in this life store up treasures in heaven - entering into Heaven (the true life) is worth far more than earthly riches and honor.[23] All others go to Hell.[24] Once in Hell, people will suffer to varying degrees depending on their deeds in life.[25] This punishment is eternal.[26] When the world ends all of the dead will come back to life for their permanent judgement and placed in a new Heaven, Earth and Hell.[27] Protestantism differs from other World beliefs in that while it allows a distinct avenue for judgement by a Higher Power, passage into a comfortable eternal life cannot be earned, but happens due to the self-sacrifice of that Higher Power by Solo Fides.[28]


In Islam, there are two general paths after death: the first is Jannah, roughly the equivalent of paradise, and the second is Jahannam, the equivalent to Hell. One's assignment to Jannah or Jahannam are determined by one's deeds in life. Those who believe in and follow the rules laid out, as well as who perform good deeds, are allowed to enter Jannah, whereas those who do not believe in Islam or are unfaithful to it are punished in Jahannam. Jannah is a garden of perpetual bliss; its inhabitants live in a state of happiness and satisfaction with no worries or problems. They live in beautiful conditions in which they get everything they desire: beautiful clothes, servants, surroundings, food, etc.; all of the things indicative of a perfect life in the current world. In addition, they are brought close to God. Those in Jahannam are tortured, primarily by methods relating to fire, for eternity, or until Allah wills for it to stop.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.touregypt.net/godsofegypt/ammit.htm
  2. ^ http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/dead.htm
  3. ^ "ELYSIUM, ISLAND OF THE BLESSED : Greek Mythology". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Pindar, Olympian, Olympian 2 For Theron of Acragas, Chariot Race, 476 B. C.". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneid, Book 6, line 535". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  6. ^ "TARTARUS, DUNGEON OF DAMNED : Greek mythology". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  7. ^ "Apollodorus, Epitome, book E, chapter 2". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "karma - Indian philosophy". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  9. ^ "The Garuda Purana". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  10. ^ 1 Thess 4:16, Rev. 20:4-5, 1 Cor 15:52
  11. ^ Rev. 20:12, Eccl. 12:14, Rom 2:6
  12. ^ Rev 21:27, Matt. 5:8, Matt. 25:45, Catholic Catechism paragraphs 1020-1065
  13. ^ Matt. 25:14-30
  14. ^ James 2:14-26, Council of Diospolis
  15. ^ John 15:15, Luke 3:9
  16. ^ Rev. 4:4
  17. ^ 1 Cor 6:3
  18. ^ John 6:44, John 14:6
  19. ^ John 1:29, Rev. 5:6, Heb. 4:14-16
  20. ^ John 14:6, Solo Fides
  21. ^ 1 John 4:15
  22. ^ John 1:1
  23. ^ Matthew 6:20
  24. ^ Romans 3:23
  25. ^ Revelation 20:11–15
  26. ^ Mark 9:48
  27. ^ 1 Corinthians 15:36-58
  28. ^ John 3:16-17
  29. ^ "The Meaning of the Glorious Qur'ân, Index". Retrieved 30 January 2015. 


  • Illustrated Dictionary of Mythology: Heroes, heroines, gods, and goddesses from around the world, Philip Wilkinson, DK Publishing