The Heaven reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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The heavens are the sky, the celestial sphere, or outer space. Indeed, sky is the original meaning of the word "heaven."
Heaven, often capitalized, is an afterlife concept found in many world religions or spiritual philosophies.

Those who believe in heaven generally hold that it (or hell) is the final afterlife destination of many or all humans. In unusual instances humans have had, according to the claims of innumerable testimonies and traditions, personal knowledge of heaven, presumably for the purpose of teaching the rest of humanity about life, heaven, and God.

Table of contents
1 Conceptions of heaven
2 Getting into heaven
3 Heaven in Christianity
4 Heaven in Judaism
5 See also
6 External links

Conceptions of heaven

While there are abundant and varied sources for conceptions of heaven, of varying degrees of authority, the typical believer's view appears to depend largely on his particular religious tradition. Various religions have described Heaven as being populated by angels, demons, gods and goddesses, and/or heroes. Heaven is generally construed as a place of eternal happiness. The relationship between this concept and the celestial sphere is generally believed to have been first proposed by the ancient astronomer-priests (see also: astrologer).

In Eastern religions (and some Western traditions), with their emphasis on reincarnation, the concept of heaven is not as prominent. But it still is present: for example, in Buddhism there are several heavens, and those who accumulate good karma will be reborn in a heaven; however their stay in the heaven is not eternal—eventually they will use up all their good karma and be reincarnated as a human.

Getting into heaven

Religions which have a heaven differ on how one gets into it. Some (e.g., followers of universalism) provide that everyone will go to heaven, no matter what they have done on earth. In others, entrance to heaven is conditional on having lived a "good life" (within the terms of the spiritual system): those who do not meet the criteria go to a place of punishment, hell. Other religions (e.g., many Christian denominations) make entrance to heaven conditional not on good works, but on having believed and trusted in the deity, and accepting the deity's offer of salvation. In yet other religions (e.g., Calvinism, a Protestant form of Christianity), those who go to heaven go, not because of anything they have done or independently chosen, but because God has chosen to favour them by predestining them to go there. Testimonies over the past 50 years (by those who claim to have temporarily entered the afterlife in near-death experiences) indicate that one's capacity and enjoyment in Heaven are an extension of self-forsaking and love practiced on earth. They also indicate that while enjoyment and fulfillment in heaven are unexpectedly grand, so is anguish and suffering for misspent life moments.

Heaven in Christianity

Heaven is an especially interesting doctrine in Christian thought, which has the resurrection of the body dominating the concept of afterlife. While the intermediate state (between death and the resurrection) is unclear, the final state of believers is in an incorruptible, resurrected body, living in the "New Jerusalem" in the "New Earth." The person was never meant to be disembodied. Death is an enemy, not a friend who frees the soul. The Greek "hĂȘ basileia tous ouranous", usually translated as "the kingdom of heaven", is indeed more literally "the rule of the skies", with "the skies" a codeword for God. Thus it describes a state, not a place.

The present Roman Catholic teaching regarding Heaven is found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever... This perfect life with [God] called heaven. [It] is the ultimate end and fulfilment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness." Pope John Paul II has said (see link below), "[Heaven] is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with [God]."

The Eastern Orthodox teaching is that heaven and hell are the same "place"—the "New Jerusalem" and "New Earth", but the individual's perception of the place will determine whether or not one experiences it as Paradise or agony. This perception will be determined by one's relationship to God.

Jehovah's Witnesses reject the idea of heaven as the final hope and home for humanity; in their view only a few people including the Apostles (John 14:1-3; Rev. 5:9,10; 14:1-5) will go to heaven to rule the remainder of good people (including David), who will inherit the earth to live forever (Matt. 5:5; Acts 2:34; Rev. 21:3-5).

Heaven in Judaism

While the concept of heaven is well-defined within the Christian and Islamic religions, the Jewish concept of the afterlife, sometimes known as "olam haba", the world to come, was never set forth in a systematic or official fashion as was done in Christianity and Islam.

See also

External links

Heaven is also 2002 motion picture.

Heaven is also a gay nightclub in New York.