From the beginning of recorded history, people from all over the world have believed in an Afterlife. In the West, the powerful images of Heaven and Hell--with its fire and brimstone, harps and halos--have shaped Western thought for thousands of years.
Heaven was originally spelled heofon in Old English. It referred to the sky or the area above the earth where the "Heavenly bodies" are placed.
This is the first meaning of the word in the Bible (shemayim, Gen. 1:1). It was also considered the dwelling place of God and his angels. However, the term is also commonly used to translate other words meaning the abode of the righteous at some point after death, such as Paradise (see below for other terms). Hell, on the other hand, is believed to be an afterlife of suffering where the wicked or unrighteous souls are punished, in most beliefs, by Satan and his many minions and is almost always depicted as underground.
Within Islam and Christianity, hell is traditionally depicted as fiery. Some other traditions, however, portray Hell as cold and gloomy.
In Judaism, Hell is portrayed as a state of neutrality and an eternal existence in nothingness. Join the History Channel explore the eternal questions of the Afterlife and the mysteries of Heaven and Hell.
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