Heaven

Heaven, or the heavens, is a common religious, cosmological, or transcendent place where beings such as gods, angels, spirits, saints, or venerated ancestors are said to originate, be enthroned, or live. According to the beliefs of some religions, heavenly beings can descend to earth or incarnate, and earthly beings can ascend to heaven in the afterlife, or in exceptional cases enter heaven alive.

Heaven is often described as a "higher place", the holiest place, a Paradise, in contrast to hell or the Underworld or the "low places", and universally or conditionally accessible by earthly beings according to various standards of divinity, goodness, piety, faith, or other virtues or right beliefs or simply the will of God. Some believe in the possibility of a heaven on Earth in a world to come.

Another belief is in an axis mundi or world tree which connects the heavens, the terrestrial world, and the underworld. In Indian religions, heaven is considered as Svarga loka,[1] and the soul is again subjected to rebirth in different living forms according to its karma. This cycle can be broken after a soul achieves Moksha or Nirvana. Any place of existence, either of humans, souls or deities, outside the tangible world (heaven, hell, or other) is referred to as otherworld.

Paradiso Canto 31
Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest heavens; from Gustave Doré's illustrations to the Divine Comedy.

Etymology

Beowulf - heofones
"heofones," an ancient Anglo-Saxon word for heavens in the Beowulf

The modern English word heaven is derived from the earlier (Middle English) heven (attested 1159); this in turn was developed from the previous Old English form heofon. By about 1000, heofon was being used in reference to the Christianized "place where God dwells", but originally, it had signified "sky, firmament"[2] (e.g. in Beowulf, c. 725). The English term has cognates in the other Germanic languages: Old Saxon heƀan "sky, heaven" (hence also Middle Low German heven "sky"), Old Icelandic himinn, Gothic himins; and those with a variant final -l: Old Frisian himel, himul "sky, heaven", Old Saxon and Old High German himil, Old Saxon and Middle Low German hemmel, Old Dutch and Dutch hemel, and modern German Himmel. All of these have been derived from a reconstructed Proto-Germanic form *hemina-.[3] or *hemō.[4]

The further derivation of this form is uncertain. A connection to Proto-Indo-European *ḱem- "cover, shroud", via a reconstructed *k̑emen- or *k̑ōmen- "stone, heaven", has been proposed.[5] Others endorse the derivation from a Proto-Indo-European root *h₂éḱmō "stone" and, possibly, "heavenly vault" at the origin of this word, which then would have as cognates Ancient Greek ἄκμων (ákmōn "anvil, pestle; meteorite"), Persian آسمان‎ (âsemân, âsmân "stone, sling-stone; sky, heaven") and Sanskrit अश्मन् (aśman "stone, rock, sling-stone; thunderbolt; the firmament").[4] In the latter case English hammer would be another cognate to the word.

Ancient Near East

Mesopotamia

Ruins from a temple in Naffur
Ruins of the Ekur temple in Nippur, believed by the ancient Mesopotamians to be the "Dur-an-ki", the "mooring-rope" of heaven and earth.[6][7]

The ancient Mesopotamians regarded the sky as a series of domes (usually three, but sometimes seven) covering the flat earth.[8] Each dome was made of a different kind of precious stone.[9] The lowest dome of heaven was made of jasper and was the home of the stars.[10][11] The middle dome of heaven was made of saggilmut stone and was the abode of the Igigi.[10][11] The highest and outermost dome of heaven was made of luludānītu stone and was personified as An, the god of the sky.[12][10][11] The celestial bodies were equated with specific deities as well.[9] The planet Venus was believed to be Inanna, the goddess of love, sex, and war.[13][9] The sun was her brother Utu, the god of justice, and the moon was their father Nanna.[9]

In ancient Near Eastern cultures in general and in Mesopotamia in particular, humans had little to no access to the divine realm.[14][15] Heaven and earth were separated by their very nature;[11] humans could see and be affected by elements of the lower heaven, such as stars and storms,[11] but ordinary mortals could not go to heaven because it was the abode of the gods alone.[15][16][11] In the Epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh says to Enkidu, "Who can go up to heaven, my friend? Only the gods dwell with Shamash forever."[16] Instead, after a person died, his or her soul went to Kur (later known as Irkalla), a dark shadowy underworld, located deep below the surface of the earth.[15][17]

All souls went to the same afterlife,[15][17] and a person's actions during life had no impact on how he would be treated in the world to come.[15][17] Nonetheless, funerary evidence indicates that some people believed that Inanna had the power to bestow special favors upon her devotees in the afterlife.[17][18] Despite the separation between heaven and earth, humans sought access to the gods through oracles and omens.[6] The gods were believed to live in heaven,[6][19] but also in their temples, which were seen as the channels of communication between earth and heaven, which allowed mortal access to the gods.[6][20] The Ekur temple in Nippur was known as the "Dur-an-ki", the "mooring-rope" of heaven and earth.[21] It was widely thought to have been built and established by Enlil himself.[7]

Canaanites and Phoenicians

Almost nothing is known of Bronze Age (pre-1200 BC) Canaanite views of heaven, and the archaeological findings at Ugarit (destroyed c. 1200 BC) have not provided information. The 1st century Greek author Philo of Byblos may preserve elements of Iron Age Phoenician religion in his Sanchuniathon.[22]

Hurrians and Hittites

The ancient Hittites believed that some deities lived in Heaven, while others lived in remote places on earth, such as mountains, where humans had little access.[14] In the Middle Hittite myths, heaven is the abode of the gods. In the Song of Kumarbi, Alalu was king in heaven for nine years before giving birth to his son, Anu. Anu was himself overthrown by his son, Kumarbi.[23] [24][25][26]

Abrahamic religions

Hebrew Bible

As in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, in the Hebrew Bible, the universe is commonly divided into two realms: heaven (šāmayim) and earth (’ereṣ).[6] Sometimes a third realm is added: either "sea" (Exodus 20:11, Genesis 1:10), "water under the earth" (Exodus 20:4, Deuteronomy 5:8), or sometimes a vague "land of the dead" that is never described in depth (Job 26:5, Psalm 139:8, Amos 9:2).[6] The structure of heaven itself is never fully described in the Hebrew Bible,[27] but the fact that the Hebrew word šāmayim is plural has been interpreted by scholars as an indication that the ancient Israelites envisioned the heavens as having multiple layers, much like the ancient Mesopotamians.[27] This reading is also supported by the use of the phrase "heaven of heavens" in verses such as Deteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, and 2 Chronicles 2:6 and 6:18.[27]

In line with the typical view of most Near Eastern cultures, the Hebrew Bible depicts heaven as a place that is inaccessible to humans.[28] Although some prophets are occasionally granted temporary visionary access to heaven, such as in 1 Kings 22:19–23, Job 1:6–12 and 2:1–6, and Isaiah 6, they hear only God's deliberations concerning the earth and learn nothing of what heaven is like.[27] There is almost no mention in the Hebrew Bible of heaven as a possible afterlife destination for human beings, who are instead described as "resting" in Sheol (Genesis 25:7–9, Deuteronomy 34:6, 1 Kings 2:10).[29] The only two possible exceptions to this are Enoch, who is described in Genesis 5:24 as having been "taken" by God, and the prophet Elijah, who is described in 2 Kings 2:11 as having ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.[27] According to Michael B. Hundley, the text in both of these instances is ambiguous regarding the significance of the actions being described[27] and in neither of these cases does the text explain what happened to the subject afterwards.[27]

The God of the Israelites is described as ruling both heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19 22 24:3, Psalm 146:6).[27] Other passages, such as 1 Kings 8:27 state that even the vastness of heaven cannot contain God's majesty.[27] A number of passages throughout the Hebrew Bible indicate that heaven and earth will one day come to an end (Psalm 102:26–27, Isaiah 13:5, 14:26, 24:18, 51:6, Jeremiah 4:23–28, and Zephaniah 1:2–3 and 18).[27] This view is paralleled in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, which also regarded heaven and earth as vulnerable and subject to dissolution.[27] However, the Hebrew Bible differs from other ancient Near Eastern cultures in that it portrays the God of Israel as independent of creation and unthreatened by its potential destruction.[27] Because most of the Hebrew Bible concerns the God of Israel's relationship with his people, most of the events described in it take place on earth, not in heaven.[30] The Deuteronomistic source, Deuteronomistic History, and Priestly source all portray the Temple in Jerusalem as the sole channel of communication between earth and heaven.[31]

Second Temple Judaism

During the period of the Second Temple (c. 515 BC – 70 AD), the Hebrew people lived under the rule of first the Persian Achaemenid Empire, then the Greek kingdoms of the Diadochi, and finally the Roman Empire.[32] Their culture was profoundly influenced by those of the peoples who ruled them.[32] Consequently, their views on existence after death were profoundly shaped by the ideas of the Persians, Greeks, and Romans.[33][34] The idea of the immortality of the soul is derived from Greek philosophy[34] and the idea of the resurrection of the dead is derived from Persian cosmology.[34] By the early first century AD, these two seemingly incompatible ideas were often conflated by Hebrew thinkers.[34] The Hebrews also inherited from the Persians, Greeks, and Romans the idea that the human soul originates in the divine realm and seeks to return there.[32] The idea that a human soul belongs in heaven and that the earth is merely a temporary abode in which the soul is tested to prove its worthiness became increasingly popular during the Hellenistic period (323 – 31 BC).[29] Gradually, some Hebrews began to adopt the idea of heaven as the eternal home of the righteous dead.[29]

New Testament and early Christianity

Francesco Botticini - The Assumption of the Virgin
The Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Botticini at the National Gallery London, shows three hierarchies and nine orders of angels, each with different characteristics.

Descriptions of heaven in the New Testament are more fully developed than those in the Old Testament, but are still generally vague.[35] As in the Old Testament, in the New Testament God is described as the ruler of heaven and earth, but his power over the earth is challenged by Satan.[29] Sayings of Jesus recorded in the Gospels of Mark and Luke speak of the "Kingdom of God" (Greek: βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ; basileía tou theou), while the Gospel of Matthew more commonly uses the term "Kingdom of Heaven" (Greek: βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν; basileía tōn ouranōn).[36][37][38][29] Both phrases have exactly the same meaning,[39] but the author of the Gospel of Matthew changed the name "Kingdom of God" to "Kingdom of Heaven" in most instances because it was the more acceptable phrase in his own cultural and religious context in the late first century.[40]

Modern scholars agree that the Kingdom of God was an essential part of the teachings of the historical Jesus.[41][42] In spite of this, none of the gospels ever record Jesus as having explained exactly what the phrase "Kingdom of God" means.[42] The most likely explanation for this apparent omission is that the Kingdom of God was a commonly understood concept that required no explanation.[42] Jews in Judea during the early first century believed that God reigns eternally in Heaven,[41][43] but many also believed that God would eventually establish his kingdom on earth as well.[41][44] This belief is referenced in the first petition of the Lord's Prayer, taught by Jesus to his disciples and recorded in both Matthew 6:10 and Luke 11:2: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."[45][46]

Because God's Kingdom was believed to be superior to any human kingdom, this meant that God would necessarily drive out the Romans, who ruled Judea, and establish his own direct rule over the Jewish people.[36][44] In the teachings of the historical Jesus, people are expected to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God by living moral lives.[47] Jesus's commands for his followers to adopt lifestyles of moral perfectionism are found in many passages throughout the Synoptic Gospels, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7.[48] Jesus also taught that, in the Kingdom of Heaven, there would be a reversal of roles in which "the last will be first and the first will be last" (Mark 10:31, Matthew 19:30, Matthew 20:16, and Luke 13:30).[49] This teaching recurs throughout the recorded teachings of Jesus, including in the admonition to be like a child in Mark 10:13–16, Matthew 19:30, and Luke 18:15–17, the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31, the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1–16, the Parable of the Great Banquet in Matthew 22:1–10, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11–32.[50]

Traditionally, Christianity has taught that heaven is the location of the throne of God as well as the holy angels,[51][52] although this is in varying degrees considered metaphorical. In traditional Christianity, it is considered a state or condition of existence (rather than a particular place somewhere in the cosmos) of the supreme fulfillment of theosis in the beatific vision of the Godhead. In most forms of Christianity, heaven is also understood as the abode for the redeemed dead in the afterlife, usually a temporary stage before the resurrection of the dead and the saints' return to the New Earth.

The resurrected Jesus is said to have ascended to heaven where he now sits at the Right Hand of God and will return to earth in the Second Coming. Various people have been said to have entered heaven while still alive, including Enoch, Elijah and Jesus himself, after his resurrection. According to Roman Catholic teaching, Mary, mother of Jesus, is also said to have been assumed into heaven and is titled the Queen of Heaven.

In the 2nd century AD, Irenaeus of Lyons recorded a belief that, in accordance with John 14:2, those who in the afterlife see the Saviour are in different mansions, some dwelling in the heavens, others in paradise and others in "the city".[53]

While the word used in all these writings, in particular the New Testament Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos), applies primarily to the sky, it is also used metaphorically of the dwelling place of God and the blessed.[54][55] Similarly, though the English word "heaven" still keeps its original physical meaning when used, for instance, in allusions to the stars as "lights shining through from heaven", and in phrases such as heavenly body to mean an astronomical object, the heaven or happiness that Christianity looks forward to is, according to Pope John Paul II, "neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity. It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit."[51]

Rabbinical Judaism

While the concept of heaven (malkuth hashamaim מלכות השמים, the Kingdom of Heaven) is much discussed in Christian thought, the Jewish concept of the afterlife, sometimes known as olam haba, the World-to-come, is not discussed so often. The Torah has little to say on the subject of survival after death, but by the time of the rabbis two ideas had made inroads among the Jews: one, which is probably derived from Greek thought,[56] is that of the immortal soul which returns to its creator after death; the other, which is thought to be of Persian origin,[56] is that of resurrection of the dead.

Jewish writings refer to a "new earth" as the abode of mankind following the resurrection of the dead. Originally, the two ideas of immortality and resurrection were different but in rabbinic thought they are combined: the soul departs from the body at death but is returned to it at the resurrection. This idea is linked to another rabbinic teaching, that men's good and bad actions are rewarded and punished not in this life but after death, whether immediately or at the subsequent resurrection.[56] Around 1 CE, the Pharisees are said to have maintained belief in resurrection but the Sadducees are said to have denied it (Matt. 22:23).

The Mishnah has many sayings about the World to Come, for example, "Rabbi Yaakov said: This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall."[57]

Judaism holds that the righteous of all nations have a share in the World-to-come.[58]

According to Nicholas de Lange, Judaism offers no clear teaching about the destiny which lies in wait for the individual after death and its attitude to life after death has been expressed as follows: "For the future is inscrutable, and the accepted sources of knowledge, whether experience, or reason, or revelation, offer no clear guidance about what is to come. The only certainty is that each man must die – beyond that we can only guess."[56]

According to Tracey R. Rich of the website "Judaism 101", Judaism, unlike other world-religions, is not focused on the quest of getting into heaven but on life and how to live it.[59]

Islam

Mohammed´s Paradise
Persian miniature depicting the artist's impression of heaven

Similar to Jewish traditions such as the Talmud, the Qur'an and Hadith frequently mention the existence of seven samāwāt (سماوات), the plural of samāʾ (سماء), meaning 'heaven, sky, celestial sphere', and cognate with Hebrew shamāyim (שמים). Some of the verses in the Qur'an mentioning the samaawat [60] are Quran 41:12, Quran 65:12, Quran 71:15. Sidrat al-Muntaha, a large enigmatic Lote tree, marks the end of the seventh heaven and the utmost extremity for all of God's creatures and heavenly knowledge.[61]

One interpretation of "heavens" is that all the stars and galaxies (including the Milky Way) are all part of the "first heaven", and "beyond that six still bigger worlds are there," which have yet to be discovered by scientists.[62]

According to Shi'ite sources, Ali mentioned the names of the seven heavens as below:[63]

  1. Rafi' (رفیع) the least heaven (سماء الدنیا)
  2. Qaydum (قیدوم)
  3. Marum (ماروم)
  4. Arfalun (أرفلون)
  5. Hay'oun (هيعون)
  6. Arous (عروس)
  7. Ajma' (عجماء)

Still an afterlife destination of the righteous is conceived in Islam as Jannah (Arabic: جنة‎ "Garden [of Eden]" translated as "paradise"). Regarding Eden or paradise the Quran says, "The parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: Beneath it flow rivers; perpetual is the fruits thereof and the shade therein. Such is the end of the righteous; and the end of the unbelievers is the Hellfire."[Quran 13:35] Islam rejects the concept of original sin, and Muslims believe that all human beings are born pure. Children automatically go to paradise when they die, regardless of the religion of their parents.

Paradise is described primarily in physical terms as a place where every wish is immediately fulfilled when asked. Islamic texts describe immortal life in Jannah as happy, without negative emotions. Those who dwell in Jannah are said to wear costly apparel, partake in exquisite banquets, and recline on couches inlaid with gold or precious stones. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their parents, spouses, and children. In Islam if one's good deeds outweigh one's sins then one may gain entrance to paradise. Conversely, if one's sins outweigh their good deeds they are sent to hell. The more good deeds one has performed the higher the level of Jannah one is directed to.

Verses which describe paradise include: Quran 13:35, Quran 18:31, Quran 38:49–54, Quran 35:33–35, Quran 52:17–27.

The Quran refer to Jannah with different names: Al-Firdaws, Jannātu-′Adn ("Garden of Eden" or "Everlasting Gardens"), Jannatu-n-Na'īm ("Garden of Delight"), Jannatu-l-Ma'wa ("Garden of Refuge"), Dāru-s-Salām ("Abode of Peace"), Dāru-l-Muqāma ("Abode of Permanent Stay"), al-Muqāmu-l-Amin ("The Secure Station") and Jannātu-l-Khuld ("Garden of Immortality"). In the Hadiths, these are the different regions in paradise.[64]

Ahmadiyya

According to the Ahmadiyya view, much of the imagery presented in the Quran regarding heaven, but also hell, is in fact metaphorical. They propound the verse which describes, according to them how the life to come after death is very different from the life here on earth. The Quran says: "From bringing in your place others like you, and from developing you into a form which at present you know not."[Quran 56:62] According to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of Ahmadiyya sect in Islam, the soul will give birth to another rarer entity and will resemble the life on this earth in the sense that this entity will bear a similar relationship to the soul, as the soul bears relationship with the human existence on earth. On earth, if a person leads a righteous life and submits to the will of God, his or her tastes become attuned to enjoying spiritual pleasures as opposed to carnal desires. With this, an "embryonic soul" begins to take shape. Different tastes are said to be born which a person given to carnal passions finds no enjoyment. For example, sacrifice of one's own's rights over that of other's becomes enjoyable, or that forgiveness becomes second nature. In such a state a person finds contentment and Peace at heart and at this stage, according to Ahmadiyya beliefs, it can be said that a soul within the soul has begun to take shape.[65]

Bahá'í Faith

The Bahá'í Faith regards the conventional description of heaven (and hell) as a specific place as symbolic. The Bahá'í writings describe heaven as a "spiritual condition" where closeness to God is defined as heaven; conversely hell is seen as a state of remoteness from God. Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, has stated that the nature of the life of the soul in the afterlife is beyond comprehension in the physical plane, but has stated that the soul will retain its consciousness and individuality and remember its physical life; the soul will be able to recognize other souls and communicate with them.[66]

For Bahá'ís, entry into the next life has the potential to bring great joy.[66] Bahá'u'lláh likened death to the process of birth. He explains: "The world beyond is as different from this world as this world is different from that of the child while still in the womb of its mother."[67] The analogy to the womb in many ways summarizes the Bahá'í view of earthly existence: just as the womb constitutes an important place for a person's initial physical development, the physical world provides for the development of the individual soul. Accordingly, Bahá'ís view life as a preparatory stage, where one can develop and perfect those qualities which will be needed in the next life.[66] The key to spiritual progress is to follow the path outlined by the current Manifestation of God, which Bahá'ís believe is currently Bahá'u'lláh. Bahá'u'lláh wrote, "Know thou, of a truth, that if the soul of man hath walked in the ways of God, it will, assuredly return and be gathered to the glory of the Beloved."[68]

The Bahá'í teachings state that there exists a hierarchy of souls in the afterlife, where the merits of each soul determines their place in the hierarchy, and that souls lower in the hierarchy cannot completely understand the station of those above. Each soul can continue to progress in the afterlife, but the soul's development is not entirely dependent on its own conscious efforts, the nature of which we are not aware, but also augmented by the grace of God, the prayers of others, and good deeds performed by others on Earth in the name of that person.[66]

Chinese religions

天-oracle
Chinese Zhou Dynasty Oracle script for tian, the character for "heaven" or "sky".

In the native Chinese Confucian traditions, heaven (Tian) is an important concept, where the ancestors reside and from which emperors drew their mandate to rule in their dynastic propaganda, for example.

Heaven is a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophies and religions, and is on one end of the spectrum a synonym of Shangdi ("Supreme Deity") and on the other naturalistic end, a synonym for nature and the sky. The Chinese term for "heaven", Tian (天), derives from the name of the supreme deity of the Zhou Dynasty. After their conquest of the Shang Dynasty in 1122 BC, the Zhou people considered their supreme deity Tian to be identical with the Shang supreme deity Shangdi.[69] The Zhou people attributed heaven with anthropomorphic attributes, evidenced in the etymology of the Chinese character for heaven or sky, which originally depicted a person with a large cranium. heaven is said to see, hear and watch over all men. heaven is affected by man's doings, and having personality, is happy and angry with them. Heaven blesses those who please it and sends calamities upon those who offend it.[70] Heaven was also believed to transcend all other spirits and gods, with Confucius asserting, "He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray."[70]

Other philosophers born around the time of Confucius such as Mozi took an even more theistic view of heaven, believing that heaven is the divine ruler, just as the Son of Heaven (the King of Zhou) is the earthly ruler. Mozi believed that spirits and minor gods exist, but their function is merely to carry out the will of heaven, watching for evil-doers and punishing them. Thus they function as angels of heaven and do not detract from its monotheistic government of the world. With such a high monotheism, it is not surprising that Mohism championed a concept called "universal love" (jian'ai, 兼愛), which taught that heaven loves all people equally and that each person should similarly love all human beings without distinguishing between his own relatives and those of others.[71] In Mozi's Will of Heaven (天志), he writes:

Mozi criticized the Confucians of his own time for not following the teachings of Confucius. By the time of the later Han Dynasty, however, under the influence of Xunzi, the Chinese concept of heaven and Confucianism itself had become mostly naturalistic, though some Confucians argued that heaven was where ancestors reside. Worship of heaven in China continued with the erection of shrines, the last and greatest being the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and the offering of prayers. The ruler of China in every Chinese dynasty would perform annual sacrificial rituals to heaven, usually by slaughtering two healthy bulls as a sacrifice.

Indic religions

Buddhism

018 Devas in Heaven (9174314518) (2)
Devas sporting in heaven. Mural in Wat Bowonniwet

In Buddhism there are several heavens, all of which are still part of samsara (illusionary reality). Those who accumulate good karma may be reborn[72] in one of them. However, their stay in heaven is not eternal—eventually they will use up their good karma and will undergo rebirth into another realm, as a human, animal or other being. Because heaven is temporary and part of samsara, Buddhists focus more on escaping the cycle of rebirth and reaching enlightenment (nirvana). Nirvana is not a heaven but a mental state.

According to Buddhist cosmology the universe is impermanent and beings transmigrate through a number of existential "planes" in which this human world is only one "realm" or "path".[73] These are traditionally envisioned as a vertical continuum with the heavens existing above the human realm, and the realms of the animals, hungry ghosts and hell beings existing beneath it. According to Jan Chozen Bays in her book, Jizo: Guardian of Children, Travelers, and Other Voyagers, the realm of the asura is a later refinement of the heavenly realm and was inserted between the human realm and the heavens. One important Buddhist heaven is the Trāyastriṃśa, which resembles Olympus of Greek mythology.

In the Mahayana world view, there are also pure lands which lie outside this continuum and are created by the Buddhas upon attaining enlightenment. Rebirth in the pure land of Amitabha is seen as an assurance of Buddhahood, for once reborn there, beings do not fall back into cyclical existence unless they choose to do so to save other beings, the goal of Buddhism being the obtainment of enlightenment and freeing oneself and others from the birth–death cycle.

The Tibetan word Bardo means literally "intermediate state". In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva.

According to Anguttara Nikaya

Brahmāloka

Here the denizens are Brahmās, and the ruler is Mahābrahmā

After developing the four Brahmavihāras, King Makhādeva rebirths here after death. The monk Tissa and Brāhmana Jānussoni were also reborn here.

For a monk, the next best thing to Nirvana is to be reborn in this Brahmāloka.

The lifespan of a Brahmās is not stated but is not eternal.

Parinirmita-vaśavartin or Paranimmita-vasavatti

The heaven of devas "with power over (others') creations". These devas do not create pleasing forms that they desire for themselves, but their desires are fulfilled by the acts of other devas who wish for their favor. The ruler of this world is called Vaśavartin (Pāli: Vasavatti), who has longer life, greater beauty, more power and happiness and more delightful sense-objects than the other devas of his world. This world is also the home of the devaputra (being of divine race) called Māra, who endeavors to keep all beings of the Kāmadhātu in the grip of sensual pleasures. Māra is also sometimes called Vaśavartin, but in general these two dwellers in this world are kept distinct. The beings of this world are 4,500 feet (1,400 m) tall and live for 9,216,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition).

Nimmānarati

The world of devas "delighting in their creations". The devas of this world are capable of making any appearance to please themselves. The lord of this world is called Sunirmita (Pāli Sunimmita); his wife is the rebirth of Visākhā, formerly the chief upāsikā (female lay devotee) of the Buddha. The beings of this world are 3,750 feet (1,140 m) tall and live for 2,304,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition).

Tuṣita

The world of the "joyful" devas. This world is best known for being the world in which a Bodhisattva lives before being reborn in the world of humans. Until a few thousand years ago, the Bodhisattva of this world was Śvetaketu (Pāli: Setaketu), who was reborn as Siddhārtha, who would become the Buddha Śākyamuni; since then the Bodhisattva has been Nātha (or Nāthadeva) who will be reborn as Ajita and will become the Buddha Maitreya (Pāli Metteyya). While this Bodhisattva is the foremost of the dwellers in Tuṣita, the ruler of this world is another deva called Santuṣita (Pāli: Santusita). The beings of this world are 3,000 feet (910 m) tall and live for 576,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition). Anāthapindika, a Kosālan householder and benefactor to the Buddha's order was reborn here.

Yāma

The denizens here have a lifespan of 144,000,000 years.

Tāvatimsa

The ruler of this heaven is Indra or Shakra, and the realm is also called Trayatrimia.

Each denizen addresses other denizens as the title "mārisa".

The governing hall of this heaven is called Sudhamma Hall.

This heaven has a garden Nandanavana with damsels, as its most magnificent sight.

Ajita the Licchavi army general was reborn here. Gopika the Sākyan girl was reborn as a male god in this realm.

Any Buddhist reborn in this realm can outshine any of the previously dwelling denizens because of the extra merit acquired for following the Buddha's teachings.

The denizens here have a lifespan of 36,000,000 years.

Cātummahārājika

The heaven "of the Four Great Kings". Its rulers are the four Great Kings of the name, Virūḍhaka विरुद्धक, Dhṛtarāṣṭra धृतराष्ट्र, Virūpākṣa विरुपाक्ष, and their leader Vaiśravaṇa वैश्यवर्ण. The devas who guide the Sun and Moon are also considered part of this world, as are the retinues of the four kings, composed of Kumbhāṇḍas कुम्भाण्ड (dwarfs), Gandharva गन्धर्वs (fairies), Nāgas (snakes) and Yakṣas यक्ष (goblins). The beings of this world are 750 feet (230 m) tall and live for 9,000,000 years (Sarvāstivāda tradition) or 90,000 years (Vibhajyavāda tradition).

Tibetan Buddhism

There are 5 major types of heavens.

  1. Akanishtha or Ghanavyiiha
    This is the most supreme heaven wherein beings that have achieved Nirvana live for eternity.
  2. Heaven of the Jinas
  3. Heavens of Formless Spirits
    These are 4 in number.
  4. Brahmaloka
    These are 16 in number, and are free from sensuality.
  5. Devaloka
    These are 6 in number, and contain sensuality.

According to the Shurangama Sutra

[74]

The Six Desire Heaven The cause for birth in the Six Desire Heavens are the 10 good conducts.[75]

1. The Heaven of the Four Kings Those with no interest in deviant sexual activity and so develop a purity and produce light. When their life ends, they draw near the sun and moon and are among those born in the Heaven of the Four Kings. Master Ou Yi Zhixu [75] explains that the Shurangama sutra only emphasized on avoiding deviant sexual desire, but one would naturally also need to avoid killing and abide by the 10 good conducts to be born in this heaven.

2. The Trayastrimsha Heaven Those whose sexual love for their wives is slight, but who have not yet obtained the entire flavor of dwelling in purity, transcend the light of sun and moon at the end of their lives, and reside at the summit of the human realm. They are among those born in the Trayastrimsha Heaven

3. The Suyama Heaven ”Those who become temporarily involved when they meet with desire but who forget about it when it is finished, and who, while in the human realm, are active less and quiet more, abide at the end of their lives in light and emptiness where the illumination of sun and moon does not reach. These beings have their own light, and they are among those born in the Suyama Heaven.

4. The Tushita Heaven Those who are quiet all the time, but who are not yet able to resist when stimulated by contact, ascend at the end of their lives to a subtle and ethereal place; they will not be drawn into the lower realms. The destruction of the realms of humans and gods and the obliteration of kalpas by the three disasters will not reach them, for they are among those born in the Tushita Heaven.

5. The Heaven of Bliss by Transformation Those who are devoid of desire, but who will engage in it for the sake of their partner, even though the flavor of doing so is like the flavor of chewing wax, are born at the end of their lives in a place of transcending transformations. They are among those born in the Heaven of Bliss by Transformation.

6. The Heaven of the Comfort from Others’ Transformations Those who have no kind of worldly thoughts while doing what worldly people do, who are lucid and beyond such activity while involved in it, are capable at the end of their lives of entirely transcending states where transformations may be present and may be lacking. They are among those born in the Heaven of the Comfort from Others’ Transformations.

The Form Realm The First Dhyana, the Second Dhyana, the Third Dhyana and the Fourth Dhyana.

The First Dhyana

Those who flow to these levels will not be oppressed by any suffering or affliction. Although they have not developed proper samadhi, their minds are pure to the point that they are not moved by outflows.

1. The Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma

Those in the world who cultivate their minds but do not avail themselves of dhyana and so have no wisdom, can only control their bodies so as to not engage in sexual desire. Whether walking or sitting, or in their thoughts, they are totally devoid of it. Since they do not give rise to defiling love, they do not remain in the realm of desire. These people can, in response to their thought, take on the bodies of Brahma beings. They are among those in the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma.

2. The Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma

Those whose hearts of desire have already been cast aside, the mind apart from desire manifests. They have a fond regard for the rules of discipline and delight in being in accord with them. These people can practice the Brahma virtue at all times, and they are among those in the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma.

3. The Great Brahma Heaven

Those whose bodies and minds are wonderfully perfect, and whose awesome deportment is not in the least deficient, are pure in the prohibitive precepts and have a thorough understanding of them as well. At all times these people can govern the Brahma multitudes as great Brahma lords, and they are among those in the Great Brahma Heaven.

The Second Dhyana

Those who flow to these levels will not be oppressed by worries or vexations. Although they have not developed proper samadhi, their minds are pure to the point that they have subdued their coarser outflows

1. The Heaven of Lesser Light

Those beyond the Brahma heavens gather in and govern the Brahma beings, for their Brahma conduct is perfect and fulfilled. Unmoving and with settled minds, they produce light in profound stillness, and they are among those in the Heaven of Lesser Light.

2. The Heaven of Limitless Light

Those whose lights illumine each other in an endless dazzling blaze shine throughout the realms of the ten directions so that everything becomes like crystal. They are among those in the Heaven of Limitless Light.

3. The Light-Sound Heaven

Those who take in and hold the light to perfection accomplish the substance of the teaching. Creating and transforming the purity into endless responses and functions, they are among those in the Light-Sound Heaven.

The Third Dhyana

1. The Heaven of Lesser Purity

The heavenly beings for whom the perfection of light has become sound and who further open out the sound to disclose its wonder discover a subtler level of practice. They penetrate to the bliss of still extinction and are among those in the Heaven of Lesser Purity.

2. The Heaven of Limitless Purity

Those in whom the emptiness of purity manifests are led to discover its boundlessness. Their bodies and minds experience light ease, and they accomplish the bliss of still extinction. They are among those in the Heaven of Limitless Purity.

3. The Heaven of Pervasive Purity

Those for whom the world, the body, and the mind are all perfectly pure have accomplished the virtue of purity, and a superior level emerges. They return to the bliss of still extinction, and they are among those in the Heaven of Pervasive Purity.

Hinduism

Attaining heaven is not the final pursuit in Hinduism as heaven itself is ephemeral and related to physical body. Only being tied by the bhoot-tatvas, heaven cannot be perfect either and is just another name for pleasurable and mundane material life. According to Hindu cosmology, above the earthly plane, are other planes: (1) Bhuva Loka, (2) Swarga Loka, meaning Good Kingdom, is the general name for heaven in Hinduism, a heavenly paradise of pleasure, where most of the Hindu Devatas (Deva) reside along with the king of Devas, Indra, and beatified mortals. Some other planes are Mahar Loka, Jana Loka, Tapa Loka and Satya Loka. Since heavenly abodes are also tied to the cycle of birth and death, any dweller of heaven or hell will again be recycled to a different plane and in a different form per the karma and "maya" i.e. the illusion of Samsara. This cycle is broken only by self-realization by the Jivatma. This self-realization is Moksha (Turiya, Kaivalya).

The concept of moksha is unique to Hinduism and is unparalleled. Moksha stands for liberation from the cycle of birth and death and final communion with Brahman. With moksha, a liberated soul attains the stature and oneness with Brahman or Paramatma. Different schools such as Vedanta, Mimansa, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, and Yoga offer subtle differences in the concept of Brahman, obvious Universe, its genesis and regular destruction, Jivatma, Nature (Prakriti) and also the right way in attaining perfect bliss or moksha.

In the Vaishnava traditions the highest heaven is Vaikuntha, which exists above the six heavenly lokas and outside of the mahat-tattva or mundane world. It's where eternally liberated souls who have attained moksha reside in eternal sublime beauty with Lakshmi and Narayana (a manifestation of Vishnu).

In the Nasadiya Sukta, the heavens/sky Vyoman is mentioned as a place from which an overseeing entity surveys what has been created. However, the Nasadiya Sukta questions the omniscience of this overseer.

Jainism

Jain Universe
Structure of Universe per the Jain Scriptures.

The shape of the Universe as described in Jainism is shown alongside. Unlike the current convention of using North direction as the top of map, this uses South as the top. The shape is similar to a part of human form standing upright.

The Deva Loka (heavens) are at the symbolic "chest", where all souls enjoying the positive karmic effects reside. The heavenly beings are referred to as devas (masculine form) and devis (feminine form). According to Jainism, there is not one heavenly abode, but several layers to reward appropriately the souls of varying degree of karmic merits. Similarly, beneath the "waist" are the Narka Loka (hell). Human, animal, insect, plant and microscopic life forms reside on the middle.

The pure souls (who reached Siddha status) reside at the very south end (top) of the Universe. They are referred to in Tamil literature as தென்புலத்தார் (Kural 43).

Sikh Religion

As per Sikh thought, heaven and hell are not places for living hereafter, they are part of spiritual topography of man and do not exist otherwise. They refer to good and evil stages of life respectively and can be lived now and here during our earthly existence.[76] For example, Bhagat Kabir rejects the otherworldly heaven in Guru Granth Sahib and says that one can experience heaven on this Earth by doing company of holy people.

He claims to know the Lord, who is beyond measure and beyond thought; By mere words, he plans to enter heaven. I do not know where heaven is. Everyone claims that he plans to go there. By mere talk, the mind is not appeased. The mind is only appeased, when egotism is conquered. As long as the mind is filled with the desire for heaven, He does not dwell at the Lord's Feet. Says Kabeer, unto whom should I tell this? The Company of the Holy is heaven.

— Bhagat Kabir, Guru Granth Sahib 325, [77]

Mesoamerican religions

The Nahua people such as the Aztecs, Chichimecs and the Toltecs believed that the heavens were constructed and separated into 13 levels. Each level had from one to many Lords living in and ruling these heavens. Most important of these heavens was Omeyocan (Place of Two). The Thirteen Heavens were ruled by Ometeotl, the dual Lord, creator of the Dual-Genesis who, as male, takes the name Ometecuhtli (Two Lord), and as female is named Omecihuatl (Two Lady).

Polynesia

In the creation myths of Polynesian mythology are found various concepts of the heavens and the underworld. These differ from one island to another. What they share is the view of the universe as an egg or coconut that is divided between the world of humans (earth), the upper world of heavenly gods, and the underworld. Each of these is subdivided in a manner reminiscent of Dante's Divine Comedy, but the number of divisions and their names differs from one Polynesian culture to another.[78]

Māori

In Māori mythology, the heavens are divided into a number of realms. Different tribes number the heaven differently, with as few as two and as many as fourteen levels. One of the more common versions divides heaven thus:

  1. Kiko-rangi, presided over by the gods Toumau
  2. Waka-maru, the heaven of sunshine and rain
  3. Nga-roto, the heaven of lakes where the god Maru rules
  4. Hauora, where the spirits of newborn children originate
  5. Nga-Tauira, home of the servant gods
  6. Nga-atua, which is ruled over by the hero Tawhaki
  7. Autoia, where human souls are created
  8. Aukumea, where spirits live
  9. Wairua, where spirit gods live while waiting on those in
  10. Naherangi or Tuwarea, where the great gods live presided over by Rehua

The Māori believe these heavens are supported by pillars. Other Polynesian peoples see them being supported by gods (as in Hawaii). In one Tahitian legend, heaven is supported by an octopus.

Paumotu, Tuamotus

Paumotuheavens
An 1869 illustration by a Tuomatuan chief portraying nine heavens.

The Polynesian conception of the universe and its division is nicely illustrated by a famous drawing made by a Tuomotuan chief in 1869. Here, the nine heavens are further divided into left and right, and each stage is associated with a stage in the evolution of the earth that is portrayed below. The lowest division represents a period when the heavens hung low over the earth, which was inhabited by animals that were not known to the islanders. In the third division is shown the first murder, the first burials, and the first canoes, built by Rata. In the fourth division, the first coconut tree and other significant plants are born.[79]

Theosophy

It is believed in Theosophy of Helena Blavatsky that each religion (including Theosophy) has its own individual heaven in various regions of the upper astral plane that fits the description of that heaven that is given in each religion, which a soul that has been good in their previous life on Earth will go to. The area of the upper astral plane of Earth in the upper atmosphere where the various heavens are located is called Summerland (Theosophists believe hell is located in the lower astral plane of Earth which extends downward from the surface of the earth down to its center). However, Theosophists believe that the soul is recalled back to Earth after an average of about 1400 years by the Lords of Karma to incarnate again. The final heaven that souls go to billions of years in the future after they finish their cycle of incarnations is called Devachan.[80]

Criticism of the belief in heaven

Anarchist Emma Goldman expressed this view when she wrote, "Consciously or unconsciously, most theists see in gods and devils, heaven and hell; reward and punishment, a whip to lash the people into obedience, meekness and contentment."[81]

Many people consider George Orwell's use of Sugarcandy Mountain in his novel Animal Farm to be a literary expression of this view. In the book, the animals were told that after their miserable lives were over they would go to a place in which "it was Sunday seven days a week, clover was in season all the year round, and lump sugar and linseed cake grew on the hedges".[82][83]

Some have argued that a belief in a reward after death is poor motivation for moral behavior while alive.[84][85] Sam Harris wrote, "It is rather more noble to help people purely out of concern for their suffering than it is to help them because you think the Creator of the Universe wants you to do it, or will reward you for doing it, or will punish you for not doing it. The problem with this linkage between religion and morality is that it gives people bad reasons to help other human beings when good reasons are available."[86]

Neuroscience

In Inside the Neolithic Mind (2005), Lewis-Williams and Pearce argue that many cultures around the world and through history neurally perceive a tiered structure of heaven, along with similarly structured circles of hell. The reports match so similarly across time and space that Lewis-Williams and Pearce argue for a neuroscientific explanation, accepting the percepts as real neural activations and subjective percepts during particular altered states of consciousness.

Many people who come close to death and have near-death experiences report meeting relatives or entering "the Light" in an otherworldly dimension, which shares similarities with the religious concept of heaven. Even though there are also reports of distressing experiences and negative life-reviews, which share some similarities with the concept of hell, the positive experience of meeting or entering "the Light" is reported as an immensely intense feeling of a state of love, peace and joy beyond human comprehension. Together with this intensely positive-feeling state, people who have near-death experiences also report that consciousness or a heightened state of awareness seems as if it is at the heart of experiencing a taste of "heaven".[87]

Representations in arts

Works of fiction have included numerous different conceptions of heaven and hell. The two most famous descriptions of heaven are given in Dante Alighieri's Paradiso (of the Divine Comedy) and John Milton's Paradise Lost.

See also

References

  1. ^ "Life After Death Revealed – What Really Happens in the Afterlife". SSRF English. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  2. ^ The Anglo-Saxons knew the concept of Paradise, which they expressed with words such as neorxnawang.
  3. ^ Barnhart (1995:357).
  4. ^ a b Guus Kroonen: Etymological Dictionary of Proto-Germanic (= Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series, vol. 11). Brill, Leiden and Boston 2009, s. v. "Hemina- ~ *Hemna-". First published online: October 2010.
  5. ^ Gerhard Köbler, Altenglisches Wörterbuch. Fourth edition, online 2014, s. v. "heofon".
  6. ^ a b c d e f Hundley 2015, p. 452.
  7. ^ a b Black & Green 1992, p. 74.
  8. ^ Nemet-Nejat 1998, p. 180.
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  11. ^ a b c d e f Hundley 2015, p. 451.
  12. ^ Stephens 2013.
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  14. ^ a b Hundley 2015, pp. 451–452.
  15. ^ a b c d e Wright 2000, p. 29.
  16. ^ a b Lange, Tov & Weigold 2011, p. 808.
  17. ^ a b c d Choksi 2014.
  18. ^ Barret 2007, pp. 7–65.
  19. ^ Black & Green 1992, p. 94.
  20. ^ Black & Green 1992, p. 174.
  21. ^ Black & Green 1992, pp. 53, 74.
  22. ^ Attridge, Harold. W., and R. A. Oden, Jr. (1981), Philo of Byblos: The Phoenician History: Introduction, Critical Text, Translation, Notes, CBQMS 9 (Washington: D. C.: The Catholic Biblical Association of America).
  23. ^ Harry A. Hoffner, Gary M. Beckman – 1990
  24. ^ Sabatino Moscati Face of the Ancient Orient 2001 Page 174 "The first, called 'Kingship in Heaven', tells how this kingship passes from Alalu to Anu, ... was king in heaven, Alalu was seated on the throne and the mighty Anu, first among the gods,"
  25. ^ Moscatti, Sabatino (1968), "The World of the Phoenicians" (Phoenix Giant)
  26. ^ Moscati, Sabatino (2001). The Phoenicians. ISBN 9781850435334.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Hundley 2015, p. 453.
  28. ^ Hundley 2015, pp. 452–453.
  29. ^ a b c d e Hundley 2015, p. 455.
  30. ^ Hundley 2015, pp. 453–454.
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  32. ^ a b c Wright 2000, pp. 98–138.
  33. ^ Wright 2000, pp. 115–117.
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  35. ^ Hundley 2015, pp. 455–456.
  36. ^ a b Sanders 1993, p. 169.
  37. ^ Casey 2010, pp. 212–226.
  38. ^ The Gospel of Matthew by R.T. France (21 Aug 2007) ISBN 080282501X pages 101–103
  39. ^ Casey 2010, p. 213.
  40. ^ Casey 2010, pp. 213–214.
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  42. ^ a b c Casey 2010, p. 212.
  43. ^ Casey 2010, p. 214.
  44. ^ a b Casey 2010, pp. 215–216.
  45. ^ Sanders 1993, p. 172.
  46. ^ Casey 2010, pp. 216–217.
  47. ^ Sanders 1993, pp. 170, 198–204.
  48. ^ Sanders 1993, pp. 198–204.
  49. ^ Sanders 1993, p. 196.
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  54. ^ "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon,οὐρα^νός".
  55. ^ "G3772 οὐρανός – Strong's Greek Lexicon".
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  57. ^ Pirkei Avot, 4:21
  58. ^ "Judaism 101: Olam Ha-Ba: The Afterlife".
  59. ^ "Some people look at these teachings and deduce that Jews try to "earn our way into heaven" by performing the mitzvot. This is a gross mischaracterization of our religion. It is important to remember that unlike some religions, Judaism is not focused on the question of how to get into heaven. Judaism is focused on life and how to live it." Olam Ha-Ba: The World to Come Judaism 101; websource 02-11-2010.
  60. ^ Pickthall, M.M.; Eliasi, M.A.H. (1999). The Holy Qur'an (Transliteration in Roman Script). Laurier Books Ltd. ISBN 81-87385-07-3.
  61. ^ Abdullah, Yusuf Ali (1946) The Holy Qur-an: Text, Translation and Commentary, Qatar National Printing Press. p.1139,n.3814
  62. ^ "What Is Meant By ‘Seven Heavens’?," Al-Islam.org
  63. ^ Al-Burhan fi Tafsir Al-Qur'an V.5 P.415
  64. ^ Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 5, Book 37, Hadith 4331
  65. ^ Mirza Tahir Ahmad (1997). An Elementary Study of Islam. Islam International Publications. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-85372-562-3.
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  74. ^ http://www.drbachinese.org/online_reading_simplified/sutra_explanation/Shu/volume8.htm
  75. ^ a b https://bookgb.bfnn.org/books/0888.htm
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Bibliography

External links

7th Heaven (TV series)

7th Heaven is an American television drama series created and produced by Brenda Hampton that centers on the Camden family and their lives in the fictional town of Glenoak, California. The series debuted on August 26, 1996, on The WB, where it aired for ten seasons. Following the shutdown of The WB and its merger with UPN to form The CW, the series aired on the new network on September 25, 2006, for its eleventh and final season, airing its final episode on May 13, 2007. 7th Heaven was the last series to be produced by Spelling Television (later produced by CBS Paramount Network Television for the eleventh and final season) before it was shut down and became an in-name-only unit of CBS Television Studios.

Angel

An angel is generally a supernatural being found in various religions and mythologies. Abrahamic religions often depict angels as benevolent celestial beings who act as intermediaries between God (or Heaven) and humanity. Other roles of angels include protecting and guiding human beings, and carrying out tasks on behalf of God. Abrahamic religions often organize angels into hierarchies, although such rankings may vary between sects in each religion. Such angels may receive specific names (such as Gabriel or Michael) or titles (such as seraph or archangel). People have also extended the use of the term "angel" to various notions of spirits or figures found in other religious traditions. The theological study of angels is known as "angelology". Angels expelled from Heaven are referred to as fallen angels as distinct from the heavenly host.

In fine art angels are usually depicted as having the shape of human beings of extraordinary beauty but no gender (until the 19th century at least). They are often identified In Christian artwork with bird wings, halos,

and light.

Ascension of Jesus

The ascension of Jesus (anglicized from the Vulgate Latin Acts 1:9-11 section title: Ascensio Iesu) is the departure of Christ from Earth into the presence of God.

The biblical narrative in Chapter 1 of the Acts of the Apostles takes place 40 days after the resurrection: Jesus is taken up from the disciples in their sight, a cloud hides him from view, and two men in white appear to tell them that he will return "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." In the Christian tradition, reflected in the major Christian creeds and confessional statements, the ascension is connected with the exaltation of Jesus, meaning that through his ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." In modern times the Ascension is seen less as the climax of the mystery of Christ than as "something of an embarrassment", in the words of McGill University's Douglas Farrow.In Christian art, the ascending Jesus is often shown blessing an earthly group below him, signifying the entire Church. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the 40th day of Easter, always a Thursday; the Orthodox tradition has a different calendar up to a month later than in the Western tradition, and while the Anglican communion continues to observe the feast, most Protestant churches have abandoned the observance.

Assumption of Mary

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven (often shortened to the Assumption) is, according to the beliefs of the Catholic Church, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy, the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her earthly life.

The Catholic Church teaches as dogma that the Virgin Mary "having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory". This doctrine was dogmatically defined by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950, in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus by exercising papal infallibility. While the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church believe in the Dormition of the Mother of God (Dormition of the Theotokos or "the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God"), whether Mary had a physical death has not been dogmatically defined. In Munificentissimus Deus (item 39) Pope Pius XII pointed to the Book of Genesis (3:15) as scriptural support for the dogma in terms of Mary's victory over sin and death through her intimate association with "the new Adam" (Christ) as also reflected in 1 Corinthians 15:54: "then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory".The New Testament contains no explicit narrative about the death or Dormition, nor of the Assumption of Mary, but several scriptural passages have been theologically interpreted to describe the ultimate fate in this and the afterworld of the Mother of Jesus (see below).In the churches that observe it, the Assumption is a major feast day, commonly celebrated on 15 August. In many countries, the feast is also marked as a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church.

Dennis Quaid

Dennis William Quaid (born April 9, 1954) is an American actor known for a wide variety of dramatic and comedic roles. First gaining widespread attention in the 1980s, some of his notable credits include Breaking Away (1979), Great Balls of Fire! (1989), The Right Stuff (1983), The Big Easy (1986), Innerspace (1987), The Parent Trap (1998), Frequency (2000), Traffic (2000), The Rookie (2002), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Vantage Point (2008), Footloose (2011), Soul Surfer (2011), and The Intruder (2019). For his role in Far from Heaven (2002), he won the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor among other accolades.

Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia [diˈviːna komˈmɛːdja]) is an Italian long narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed in 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered to be the preeminent work in Italian literature and one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative vision of the afterlife is representative of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church by the 14th century. It helped establish the Tuscan language, in which it is written (also in most present-day Italian-market editions), as the standardized Italian language. It is divided into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

The narrative describes Dante's travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise or Heaven, while allegorically the poem represents the soul's journey towards God. Dante draws on medieval Christian theology and philosophy, especially Thomistic philosophy and the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas. Consequently, the Divine Comedy has been called "the Summa in verse". In Dante's work, Virgil is presented as human reason and Beatrice is presented as divine knowledge.The work was originally simply titled Comedìa (pronounced [komeˈdiːa]; so also in the first printed edition, published in 1472), Tuscan for "Comedy", later adjusted to the modern Italian Commedia. The adjective Divina was added by Giovanni Boccaccio, and the first edition to name the poem Divina Comedia in the title was that of the Venetian humanist Lodovico Dolce, published in 1555 by Gabriele Giolito de' Ferrari.

Emperor of China

The Chinese emperor was considered the Son of Heaven and the autocrat of All under Heaven. Under the Han dynasty, Confucianism replaced Legalism as the official political theory and succession theoretically followed Salic primogeniture. The Chinese emperors who shared the same family were classified into historical periods known as dynasties. The absolute authority of the emperor was notionally bound with various duties and obligations; failure to uphold these was thought to remove the dynasty's Mandate of Heaven and to justify its replacement. In practice, emperors and heirs sometimes avoided the strict rules of succession and dynasties' ostensible "failures" were detailed in official histories written by their successful replacements. The power of the emperor was also often limited by the imperial bureaucracy staffed by scholar-officials and eunuchs and by filial obligations to surviving parents and to dynastic traditions, such as those detailed in the Ming dynasty's Ancestral Instructions.

His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials is an epic trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman consisting of Northern Lights (1995) (published as The Golden Compass in North America), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It follows the coming of age of two children, Lyra Belacqua and Will Parry, as they wander through a series of parallel universes. The novels have won a number of awards, including the Carnegie Medal in 1995 for Northern Lights and the 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year for The Amber Spyglass.

His Dark Materials has been marketed to young adults, though Pullman wrote with no target audience in mind. The fantasy elements include witches and armoured polar bears; the trilogy also alludes to concepts from physics, philosophy and theology. It functions in part as a retelling and inversion of John Milton's epic Paradise Lost, with Pullman commending humanity for what Milton saw as its most tragic failing, original sin. The series has attracted controversy for its criticism of religion.

The London Royal National Theatre staged a two-part adaptation of the series in 2003–2004. New Line Cinema released a film adaptation of Northern Lights, The Golden Compass, in 2007. Pullman followed the trilogy with two shorter books set in the same universe, Lyra's Oxford (2003) and Once Upon a Time in the North (2008). La Belle Sauvage, the first book in a new trilogy, The Book of Dust, was published on 19 October 2017.

Jannah

In Islam, Jannah (Arabic: جنّة‎ Jannah; plural: Jannat), lit. "garden", is the final abode of the righteous and the Islamic believers, but also the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Hawwa dwelt. Firdaws (Arabic: فردوس) is the literal term meaning paradise, but the Quran generally uses the term Jannah symbolically referring to paradise. However "Firdaus" also designates the highest layer of heaven.In contrast to Jannah, the words Jahannam and Nār are used to refer to the concept of hell. There are many words in the Arabic language for both Heaven and Hell and those words also appear in the Quran and hadith. Most of them have become part of the Islamic traditions.Jannah is often compared to Christian concepts of Heaven.

Jesus

Jesus (c. 4 BC – c. AD 30 / 33), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity, and is widely described as the most influential person in history. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was baptized by John the Baptist and began his own ministry. He preached orally and was often referred to as "rabbi". Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how to best follow God, engaged in healings, taught in parables and gathered followers. He was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities, turned over to the Roman government, and crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, and the community they formed eventually became the early Church.Christian doctrines include the beliefs that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born of a virgin named Mary, performed miracles, founded the Christian Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement for sin, rose from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, from where he will return. Most Christians believe Jesus enables people to be reconciled to God. The Nicene Creed asserts that Jesus will judge the living and the dead either before or after their bodily resurrection, an event tied to the Second Coming of Jesus in Christian eschatology. The great majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, the second of three persons of the Trinity. A minority of Christian denominations reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural. The birth of Jesus is celebrated annually on December 25 (or various dates in January by some eastern churches) as Christmas. His crucifixion is honored on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter. The widely used calendar era "AD", from the Latin anno Domini ("in the year of the Lord"), and the equivalent alternative "CE", are based on the approximate birthdate of Jesus.Jesus also figures in non-Christian religions. In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God's important prophets and the Messiah. Muslims believe Jesus was a bringer of scripture and was born of a virgin, but was not the son of God. The Quran states that Jesus never claimed divinity. Most Muslims do not believe that he was crucified, but that he was physically raised into Heaven by God. In contrast, Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill Messianic prophecies, and was neither divine nor resurrected.

Kingdom of Heaven (film)

Kingdom of Heaven is a 2005 epic historical drama film directed and produced by Ridley Scott and written by William Monahan. It stars Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Ghassan Massoud, Jeremy Irons, David Thewlis, Brendan Gleeson, Iain Glen, Marton Csokas, Liam Neeson, Edward Norton, Michael Sheen, Velibor Topic and Alexander Siddig.

The story is set during the Crusades of the 12th century. A French village blacksmith goes to the aid of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in its defence against the Ayyubid Muslim Sultan, Saladin, who is fighting to claim the city from the Christians; this leads to the Battle of Hattin. The film script is a heavily fictionalised portrayal of the life of Balian of Ibelin (ca. 1143–93).

Filming took place in Ouarzazate, Morocco, where Scott had previously filmed Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, and in Spain, at the Loarre Castle (Huesca), Segovia, Ávila, Palma del Río, and Seville's Casa de Pilatos and Alcázar. The film received mixed reviews upon theatrical release. On 23 December 2005, Scott released a director's cut, which received critical acclaim, with many reviewers calling it the definitive version of the film.

Kingship and kingdom of God

The concept of the kingship of God appears in all Abrahamic religions, where in some cases the terms Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are also used. The notion of God's kingship goes back to the Hebrew Bible, which refers to "his kingdom" but does not include the term "Kingdom of God".The "Kingdom of God" and its equivalent form "Kingdom of Heaven" in the Gospel of Matthew is one of the key elements of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark indicates that the gospel is the good news about the Kingdom of God. The term pertains to the kingship of Christ over all creation. Kingdom of "heaven" appears in Matthew's gospel due primarily to Jewish sensibilities about uttering the "name" (God). Jesus did not teach the kingdom of God per se so much as the return of that kingdom. The notion of God's kingdom (as it had been under Moses) returning became an agitation in Palestine 60 years before Jesus was born, and continued to be a force for nearly a hundred years after his death. Drawing on Old Testament teachings, the Christian characterization of the relationship between God and humanity inherently involves the notion of the "Kingship of God".Bahá'í writings also use the term "kingdom of God". The Quran does not include the term "kingdom of God", but refers to Abraham seeing the "Kingdom of the heavens".

Lord's Prayer

The Lord's Prayer, also called the Our Father (Latin, Pater Noster), is a venerated Christian prayer which, according to the New Testament, Jesus taught as the way to pray:

Pray then in this way ... (Matthew 6:9 NRSV)

When you pray, say ... (Luke 11:2 NRSV)Two versions of this prayer are recorded in the gospels: a longer form within the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, and a shorter form in the Gospel of Luke when "one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.'" Lutheran theologian Harold Buls suggested that both were original, the Matthaen version spoken by Jesus early in his ministry in Galilee, and the Lucan version one year later, "very likely in Judea".The first three of the seven petitions in Matthew address God; the other four are related to human needs and concerns. The Matthew account alone includes the "Your will be done" and the "Rescue us from the evil one" (or "Deliver us from evil") petitions. Both original Greek texts contain the adjective epiousios, which does not appear in any other classical or Koine Greek literature; while controversial, "daily" has been the most common English-language translation of this word. Protestants usually, conclude the prayer with a doxology, a later addendum appearing in some manuscripts of Matthew.

Initial words on the topic from the Catechism of the Catholic Church teach that it "is truly the summary of the whole gospel". The prayer is used by most Christian churches in their worship; with few exceptions, the liturgical form is the Matthean. Although theological differences and various modes of worship divide Christians, according to Fuller Seminary professor Clayton Schmit, "there is a sense of solidarity in knowing that Christians around the globe are praying together ... and these words always unite us."In biblical criticism, the prayer's absence in the Gospel of Mark together with its occurrence in Matthew and Luke has caused scholars who accept the two-source hypothesis (against other document hypotheses) to conclude that it is probably a logion original to Q.

Mandate of Heaven

The Mandate of Heaven or Tian Ming (Chinese: 天命; pinyin: Tiānmìng; Wade–Giles: T'ien-ming) is a Chinese political and religious doctrine used since ancient times to justify the rule of the King or Emperor of China. According to this belief, heaven (天, Tian)—which embodies the natural order and will of the universe—bestows the mandate on a just ruler of China, the "Son of Heaven" of the "Celestial Empire". If a ruler was overthrown, this was interpreted as an indication that the ruler was unworthy, and had lost the mandate. It was also a common belief among citizens that natural disasters such as famine and flood were signs of heaven's displeasure with the ruler, so there would often be revolts following major disasters as citizens saw these as signs that the Mandate of Heaven had been withdrawn.

The Mandate of Heaven does not require a legitimate ruler to be of noble birth, depending instead on the just and able performance of the rulers and their heirs. Dynasties such as the Han and Ming dynasties were founded by men of common origins. The concept is in some ways similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings; however, unlike the European concept, it does not in theory confer an unconditional right to rule, despite this being exactly the case in practicality. The Mandate would in theory be a preoccupation in a ruler's lifetime, when he would hold onto the Mandate and live according to Heavens. Intrinsic to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven was the right of rebellion against an unjust ruler. Chinese historians interpreted a successful revolt as evidence that Heaven had withdrawn its mandate from the ruler. Throughout Chinese history, times of poverty and natural disasters were often taken as signs that heaven considered the incumbent ruler unjust and thus in need of replacement. The Mandate of Heaven was often invoked by philosophers and scholars in China as a way to curtail the abuse of power by the ruler. While each dynasty was not the same, they each had a lineage that passed on the prospective ruler by order of generational descent or their priority of birth. Many emperors during the imperial times would optimize to have many sons who could be candidates to fill the position after the current ruler has died. In addition Heaven was thought to be of how a ruler's works and performance was, which reflected upon how favorable they would be to Heaven.

Mencius, a great philosopher who many thought was the successor to Confucius, said:The people are of supreme importance; the altars of the gods of earth and grain come next; last comes the ruler. That is why he who gains the confidence of the multitudinous people will be Emperor... When a feudal lord endangers the altars of the gods of earth and grain, he should be replaced. When the sacrificial animals are sleek, the offerings are clean and the sacrifices are observed at due times, and yet floods and droughts come [by the agency of heaven], then the altars should be replaced.

The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was first used to support the rule of the kings of the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BCE), and legitimize their overthrow of the earlier Shang dynasty (1600–1069 BCE). It was used throughout the history of China to legitimize the successful overthrow and installation of new emperors, including non-Han ethnic monarchs such as the Qing dynasty (1636–1912).

Robert Jordan

James Oliver Rigney Jr. (October 17, 1948 – September 16, 2007), better known by his pen name Robert Jordan, was an American author of epic fantasy. He is best known for the Wheel of Time series, which comprises 14 books and a prequel novel. He is one of several writers to have written original Conan the Barbarian novels; his are highly acclaimed to this day. Rigney also wrote historical fiction under his pseudonym Reagan O'Neal, a western as Jackson O'Reilly, and dance criticism as Chang Lung. Additionally, he ghostwrote an "international thriller" that is still believed to have been written by someone else.

Ronnie James Dio

Ronald James Padavona (July 10, 1942 – May 16, 2010) known professionally as Ronnie James Dio or simply Dio, was an American heavy metal singer-songwriter and composer. He fronted or founded numerous groups throughout his career, including Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio, and Heaven & Hell.

Dio was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where his family resided for his father's service in the U.S. Army during World War II; they soon relocated to Cortland, New York. His music career began there in 1957 as part of the Vegas Kings (later Ronnie and the Rumblers). In 1967, he formed the rock band Elf, which became a regular opening act for Deep Purple. In 1975, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore founded the band Rainbow along with Dio, where he began a successful career releasing albums such as "Rising" (1976) and "Long Live Rock N' Roll" (1978). In 1979, Dio joined Black Sabbath as lead singer. He appeared in two studio albums of the band which met with success: "Heaven & Hell" (1980) and "Mob Rules" (1981). In 1982 he left the band to pursue a solo career, having two albums certified platinum by RIAA. In 2006 he founded the band Heaven & Hell with ex-bandmate Tony Iommi. Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2009, from which he died the following year.

Dio is regarded as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal artists of all time. He is known for popularizing the "Metal Horns" hand gesture in metal culture and his medieval-themed song lyrics. Dio had a powerful, versatile vocal range and was capable of singing both hard rock and lighter ballads. He was awarded the "Metal Guru Award" by Classic Rock Magazine in 2006. He was also named the "Best Metal singer" at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards in 2010.

Stairway to Heaven

"Stairway to Heaven" is a song by the English rock band Led Zeppelin, released in late 1971. It was composed by guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant for the band's untitled fourth studio album (often called Led Zeppelin IV). It is often referred to as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.The song has three sections, each one progressively increasing in tempo and volume. The song begins in a slow tempo with acoustic instruments (guitar and recorders) before introducing electric instruments. The final section is an uptempo hard rock arrangement highlighted by Page's intricate guitar solo (considered by many to be one of the greatest ever) accompanying Plant's vocals that end with the plaintive a cappella line: "And she's buying a stairway to heaven."

"Stairway to Heaven" was voted number three in 2000 by VH1 on its list of the 100 Greatest Rock Songs, and was placed at number 31 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was the most requested song on FM radio stations in the United States in the 1970s, despite never having been commercially released as a single there. In November 2007, through download sales promoting Led Zeppelin's Mothership release, "Stairway to Heaven" hit number 37 on the UK Singles Chart.

Tears in Heaven

"Tears in Heaven" is a song by Eric Clapton and Will Jennings. Its lyrics were inspired by the death of Clapton's four-year-old son, Conor, who fell from a New York apartment building on March 20, 1991 (1991-03-20). It appeared on the 1991 Rush film soundtrack.

The song was Clapton's best-selling single in the United States and reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It won three Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked "Tears in Heaven" 362nd on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time".

War in Heaven

The Book of Revelation describes a war in heaven between angels led by the Archangel Michael against those led by "the dragon", identified as the devil or Satan, who are defeated and thrown down to the earth. Revelation's war in heaven is related to the idea of fallen angels, and possible parallels have been proposed in the Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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