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Religion

Heaven and Hell: A Baha’i Perspective

Duane Troxel | Jul 31, 2016

PART 2 IN SERIES Moving to the Next World

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Duane Troxel | Jul 31, 2016

PART 2 IN SERIES Moving to the Next World

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

We are forever. As spiritual, non-material beings we continue to exist for eternity. It’s a concept that’s hard to get your head around. Everything we know on this earth has both a beginning and an ending—and yet we are forever. Let’s look at the prospect of eternal life.

The So-Called Fires of Hell

When I was a child our minister warned us about doing evil. Evil acts, or even evil thoughts could result in a trip to hell. We might literally wind up in a pit of fire… forever. It scared me, but not enough to keep me totally out mischief.

The Baha’i teachings explain that no one burns in hell forever—or even for a moment. There is no physical suffering in a spiritual world, because there is no life of the flesh in the next world. The Bible declares that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” Baha’i scripture explains that heaven is nearness to God, while hell is distance from Him. There is no devil or Satan. So what does the term “devil” really mean? It is, the Baha’i teachings say, the “insistent self.” Our lower nature, our animal side keeps us—in this life—in a constant metaphysical tug of war between our true nature and our animal nature. We can no longer put off our bad choices on a non-existent being by saying, “the devil made me do it.” So what, then, is God?

How We Experience God

The Baha’i writings say that “God is an unknowable Essence.” This is another way of saying, “No one will ever meet or comprehend God.” After all, the three qualities of God most agreed upon are: He is all-Knowing, all-Powerful and omnipresent—simultaneously everywhere and nowhere. You can’t meet Him if He’s not to be found anywhere! Or, as Christ put it: “No man hath seen God at any time”. –John 4:12. How then do we get close enough to meet Him?

Baha’is believe that the presence of God’s messenger is the closest we can get to the presence of God. That messenger—a prophet and the founder of a true Faith—acts as the mediator between God and His creation. As Christ said, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” – John 14:9. Or, “I and my Father are one.” – John 10:30.  

The Baha’i teachings say:

…in the kingdoms of earth and heaven there must needs be manifested a Being, an Essence Who shall act as a Manifestation and Vehicle for the transmission of the grace of the Divinity Itself, the Sovereign Lord of all. Through the Teachings of this Day Star of Truth every man will advance and develop until he attaineth the station at which he can manifest all the potential forces with which his inmost true self hath been endowed. It is for this very purpose that in every age and dispensation the Prophets of God and His chosen Ones have appeared amongst men, and have evinced such power as is born of God and such might as only the Eternal can reveal. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 67-68.

Baha’is believe that God’s messenger in this day is Baha’u’llah.

The Rewards of Heaven

The Baha’i teachings say:

…the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe… – Ibid., p. 171.

Feelings of ecstasy, peace, joy and love are constant companions of the heavenly realm. There will never be a negative experience, and only positive qualities survive. This explains why evil has no positive existence—it can only describe what is not. Weakness is the absence of strength. Ignorance is the absence of knowledge. Poverty is the absence of wealth. Darkness is the absence of light. For example, no one can say, “I’m coming over to your house and I’ll bring all my poverty with me.”

So meeting “God” in the next world and being close to Him is heaven, while distance from Him is hell:

‘Where is Paradise, and where is Hell?’… The one is reunion with Me; the other thine own self. – Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 132.

All Will Meet God… Eventually

The Baha’i teachings reassure everyone that we all will progress toward God in the next life:

Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 155-156.

What Will We Do In Heaven?

We will all have useful service to perform in the next existence:

Those who have passed on through death, have a sphere of their own. It is not removed from ours; their work… is ours; but it is sanctified from what we call “time and place.” – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 96.

What About Meeting Those We Knew?

The Baha’i teachings say we will “find all the friends of God, both those of the former and recent times, present in the heavenly assemblage.” In the near-death experience we find many accounts of those who pass over, meeting relatives and other loved ones on the other side. Abdu’l-Baha assures us that we can welcome death:

At first it is very difficult to welcome death, but after attaining its new condition the soul is grateful, for it has been released from the bondage of the limited to enjoy the liberties of the unlimited. It has been freed from a world of sorrow, grief and trials to live in a world of unending bliss and joy. The phenomenal and physical have been abandoned in order that it may attain the opportunities of the ideal and spiritual. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 48.

What about Reincarnation?

No, we won’t return to another womb or another earthly existence. We won’t ever again have a physical life. Reincarnation is a popular idea in many religions, but the Baha’i writings explain that qualities and attributes return, but not the same soul in another body.

Can We Influence the Progress of the Dead?

Absolutely—the Baha’i teachings support the idea of intercession. We can pray on behalf of someone and perform acts of charity in their name—and if the prayers and acts are accepted by God, that soul will progress in the next world.

Next: Fate, Free-Will and Predestination

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Comments

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  • Charles Boyle
    Aug 2, 2017
    -
    Questions from the "Elevate" project:
    Why does our eternal spiritual life dependent so greatly on such a short and volatile material existence?
    Does it matter whether there is a life after this life or simply that you believe it?
    Discuss any evidence you may have to support the idea of a life after this life...
    To what extent does a belief in a life after death influence the way you live your life?
    If they all hold beliefs in a life after this life, why then is there so much disagreement between the different traditions of faith regarding the nature ...of a life after this life?
    Do you have to be religious to believe in a life after this life?
    Read more...
  • Charles Boyle
    Aug 2, 2017
    -
    Questions from "Elevate"
    (elevatedconversation@gmail.com):
    Why does our eternal spiritual life dependent so greatly on such a short and volatile material existence?
    Does it matter whether there is a life after this life or simply that you believe it?
    Discuss any evidence you may have to support the idea of a life after this life...
    To what extent does a belief in a life after death influence the way you live your life?
    If they all hold beliefs in a life after this life, why then is there so much disagreement between the different traditions of faith regarding the nature ...of a life after this life?
    Do you have to be religious to believe in a life after this life?
    Read more...
  • Carl Brehmer
    Aug 7, 2016
    -
    I view heaven and hell not as a question of “where you are”, but rather “who you are with”. Even as Baha’u’llah said, “He [the true seeker] should treasure the companionship of them that have renounced the world, and regard avoidance of boastful and worldly people a precious benefit.” Gleanings p. 265
    Haven’t we all experienced feeling great joy while being around certain people or certain groups of people, and also feeling great angst when in the presence of certain other people or groups? Perhaps a ...more important question is: How do others feel when they are around me? Do I induce in others feelings of joy when I interact with them or does my presence induce in others feelings of angst? Am I other people's heaven or am I other people's hell? "‘Abdu’l-Bahá wisheth no one’s heart to feel hurt, nor will he be a source of grief to any one; for there is no greater satisfaction than being a source of joy to the hearts. I ask God that ye may become like angels of heaven, sources of happiness to souls." (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 23)
    Read more...
  • Aug 2, 2016
    -
    Lovely article and gives relief especially to those of us brought up to believe in hell.
  • Jay C. O'Brien
    Aug 2, 2016
    -
    From article, "We are forever. As spiritual, non-material beings we continue to exist for eternity. It’s a concept that’s hard to get your head around."
    From Reflections on Life after Life 1977 by Raymond A. Moody, Jr. M.D. Moody studied hundreds of near death cases for over a year to compile his book.
    Most of the individuals interviewed did Not experience any reward/punishment crisis, the traditional model of being reviewed.
    Again and again, my near death subjects have described a panoramic, wrap around, full color, three dimensional vision of the events of their lives. Some people say that ...during this vision they saw only the major events of their lives. Others go so far as to say that in the course of this panorama every single thing that they had ever done or thought was there for them so see. All the good things and all the bad were portrayed there at once, instantaneously. It will be remembered also that this panorama was quite frequently said to have taken place in the presence of a “being of light,” whom some Christians identified as Christ, and that this being asked them a question, in effect, “What have you done with your life?” P. 31-32
    In being pressed to explain as precisely as they can what the point of this question was, most people come up with something like the formulation of one man who put it to me most succinctly when he said that he was asked whether he had done the things he did because he loved others, that is, from the motivation of love.
    At this point one might say, a kind of judgment took place, for in this state of heightened awareness, when people saw any selfish acts which they had done they felt extremely repentant. Likewise, when gazing upon those events in which they had shown love and kindness they felt satisfaction. P. 32
    It is interesting to note that the judgment in the cases I studied came not from the being of light, who seemed to love and accept these people anyway, but rather from within the individual being judged.
    Read more...
  • Rodney Richards
    Aug 2, 2016
    -
    "We are forever." Duane, mass produce this line on wood plaques and sell 'em for $10 bucks each and you'll become a millionaire. Wonderful! What a fantastic memorable thought and realization!
    great article, explanation... can't wait for part 2
    best
    rod
  • Ashkan Taheri
    Aug 1, 2016
    -
    Thank you very much for sharing Baha'i perspective on such a important topics! I found it very useful.
  • Maryann Atem Ebako
    Jul 31, 2016
    -
    Thank you !!!
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