Heaven vs hell: How are they different?

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of heaven. Truth be told, I thought a lot about hell too. I decided to join bible school in my early 20s to understand the mysticism of heaven and hell. I spent three years learning more about the afterlife and various other spiritual theories. In my final year, I spoke to each of my theology professors and two church ministers about the afterlife. They gave me several different perspectives of heaven and hell. I even got to learn about the afterlife theories of various religions outside of Christianity. Last week during bible study, we decided to analyze the book of Revelations. A young man brought up the topic of heaven and hell as described in Revelations. He wanted to know if heaven and hell are the same for different religions, particularly those closely linked to Christianity. Having done research with the input of experienced theologians and ordained ministers, I was ready to shed some light on the differences between heaven vs. hell.

Theology scholars suggest that heaven is a high place full of positivity, where Christians experience the glory of God up close. Its ruler is a divine entity whose character is rooted in good things such as love, peace, and joy. On the other hand, hell is seen as a low place of negativity and pain. An entity full of hate and torment rules hell. Various religions have their unique perceptions of heaven and hell. Some even propose that heaven and hell are states of consciousness that one can achieve.

In this article, we will discuss the various characteristics of heaven and hell. We will also look at various religions and study their concepts of heaven and hell. Keeping reading to find out the main differences between heaven and hell.

Heaven vs. hell: Difference in Definition

Heaven vs hell
Heaven vs. hell: Difference in Definition. Image source: Pixabay

Humanity has pondered the mystery of heaven for centuries. Many consider heaven a place of perfect bliss. It is a place where all your dreams come true, and the idea of suffering is foreign. When we die and go to heaven, we hope to find our loved ones waiting for us. For many religious cultures, going to heaven is not automatic. You have to meet certain moral standards to enter heaven.

Some philosophers propose that you can achieve heaven within yourself through self-awareness. They argue that a happy family creates can be a sort of heaven on earth. Essentially, heaven is an ideal place where the pain is nonexistent, and happiness is endless. In John 14:2-3, the Bible describes heaven as a place with many mansions. Since heaven is a spiritual place, believers trust that it contains divine creatures such as angels.

Hell is the direct opposite of heaven. Talking about it evokes macabre feelings of hopelessness and eternal struggle. Many people trust that hell is the ultimate end for evil people. The definition of evil varies across religions. In the Bible, hell is described as a lake of fire in Revelations 20:14. Scripture teaches that hell is the home of demons and other perverse spirits. Philosophers also propose that you can experience hell on earth based on your mindset.

How does the Concept of heaven and hell compare in different religious cultures?

Many world religions have theories of the afterlife as part of their doctrines. The following is a summary of the heaven and hell theories in various religious cultures.





  • Heaven is a place of eternal joy.
  • Only believers in Christ will enter heaven.
  • Christians who do good on earth can expect rewards in heaven, as written in James 1:12.
  • It is filled with happy people singing praises to God.
  • God’s presence is always there.
  • God lights up heaven with His glory.
  • There are spiritual beings in heaven known as angels.
  • In heaven, all things are made new, as it is written in 2nd Corinthians 5:17.
  • That means God has forgiven you and forgotten all your past transgressions.
  • Hell is a place of eternal pain.
  • Sinners who die without repenting will go to hell.
  • There are no rewards for sinners in hell. They are condemned to a life of suffering, as illustrated in Mark 9:43.
  • The people in hell are always wailing and gnashing their teeth.
  • The place is desolate and away from the presence of God.
  • Hell is dark and miserable.
  • Apart from the Devil, hell has spiritual beings known as demons.
  • In hell, sinners spend a lifetime of regret, thinking about everything they could have done right but didn’t. Jesus gives a great example of this in Luke 16:19-23.


  • Judaism views heaven as God’s home.
  • Jews do not believe that good people necessarily go to heaven. Instead, Judaism teaches about the “new earth,” a place meant for good people after the resurrection. They also call it Eden.
  • According to Jewish mysticism, there are seven heavens governed by various angels.
  • The seven heavens include Shamayim, Raquia, Shehaqim, Machonon, Zebul, and Araboth.
  • Instead of hell, Jews have Gehenna, which is their version of purgatory.
  • After death, people go to Gehenna. This is where their souls are judged and purified.
  • Another Jewish concept that is close to hell is “Gehinom .”This is when a person’s life is very far from the will of God.
  • A sect of Jews known as the Samaritans believe in Sheol.


  • Hindus do not focus on heaven that much.
  • Hindus refer to heaven as Swarga loka, and their God is Lord Ishwara.
  • However, Lord Ishwara is not the ruler of heaven. Hindus teach that Indra.
  • For the afterlife, Hindus subscribe to the theory of reincarnation.
  • Instead of heaven, they aspire to achieve Moksha, which is the emancipation of the soul from the sequence of life and death.
  • They propose that there is a lord of death known as Yama, who determines if one goes to Swarga Loka or not.
  • This being is aided by an accountant known as Chitragupta. This being is responsible for recording the good and bad things that people do in throughout their lives.
  • In Hinduism, you can enter heaven based on your actions, regardless of your religion.
  • Hindus believe that good people will enjoy the fruits of their actions in Swarga loka.
  • Hindus call hell Narak.
  • The Hindu religion is vast, and not all groups agree on the notion of hell.
  • Some believe that hell is a state of consciousness, as explained earlier.
  • The Mahabharat teaches that hell is a place where sinners are punished.
  • According to Garuda, Purana gives vivid descriptions of hell and the different punishments that sinners can expect.
  • Since Yama is the God of death, he is the king of hell.
  • Hindu doctrine teaches that sinners gather in Yama’s court, and Chitragupta reads their sins out loud.
  • Yama then shells out the punishments as he sees fit.
  • Some punishments in Hindu hell include physical torture, being tossed in boiling oil, and burning in fire.
  • Hindus believe that once a person finishes their allocated punishment, they are reborn based on their karma.


  • Islam doctrine teaches that heaven is a garden where good people will spend eternity. They call this heavenly garden Jannah.
  • According to Islam doctrine, Janna, or heaven, has 8 gates.
  • These include Baab As-Salaat, Baab Al-Jihad, Baab As Sadaqah, Baab Ar-Rayyaan, Baab AI-Hajj,Baab AI-Kaazimeen Ai-Ghiz Wal Aafina Anin Naas, Baab Al-Maan and Baab Ai-Dhikr.
  • The righteous enter these gates based on their deeds when they were alive. For example, Baab As-Sadaqah is the gate for generous people who participated in charity work.
  • The Quran teaches that heaven is the eternal home of righteous people.
  • Muslims do not subscribe to the idea of original sin. They teach that it is human nature for every person to turn to God.
  • Therefore, small children go to heaven regardless of their parent’s religion.
  • Muslims teach that the highest level of heaven is known as Firdaws.
  • This is the home of saints, martyrs, and prophets.
  • In heaven, rivers are flowing and bringing good things to the righteous.
  • Islam theology talks about Jahannam, which is their version of hell.
  • The Quran describes hell as a fiery place full of pain.
  • There are different levels of hell in Islam. Each level represents a different level of sin and subsequent punishment.
  • Hell is mentioned in the exact number of times heaven is mentioned in the Quran.
  • Muslims do not believe that the Devil is the ruler of hell. They teach that Satan is merely one of the souls suffering in Jahannam.
  • According to Islam,
  • Maalik or Zabaaniyah is the being responsible for manning the gates of hell.
  • Muslims are taught that hell uses the bodies of sinners and rocks to fuel the fire.
  • Islam has many other names that mean hell. The names are based on Quranic Hadith.
  • These names include Jaim, Hutamah, Jahannam, Lazda, Hawiah, Saqor, Sae’er, Sijin and Zamhareer.


  • Buddhist believe in many heavens where the gods live with other celestial beings.
  • This religion teaches that Buddha went to the heavens to liaise with the gods.
  • Buddhists suggest that gods and other heavenly creatures are not immortal.
  • Buddhist gods are subject to change. The religion trusts that gods can transition from one heaven to another.
  • Buddhist trust that the heavens are the homes of 33 gods.
  • Opinions on hell or Naraka vary among different sects of Buddhism.
  • The Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana subscribe to the theory of several hells,
  • Evil people go to these hells based on the degree of their sins.
  • Examples of Buddhist hells include hot hells and unbearably cold hells.
  • If you have bad karma, you will end up in Naraka.
  • One may also be reborn in other versions of hell in the realms of animals, devas, Asuras, or the world of hungry ghosts.
  • Contemporary Buddhist propose that hell can occur mentally. For instance, if you are going through severe depression, that is a form of hell.

Comparison between heaven and hell

Below is a summary of the key differences between heaven and hell.



  • It is bright and lively.
  • Heaven is located above the earth, beyond the sky.
  • In heaven, there are angels.
  • Heaven is governed by God, Jesus, or Allah.
  • There is peace and joy.
  • The environment is balanced and comfortable for every creature.
  • It is dark and desolate.
  • Located below the earth.
  • Hell has demons.
  • Hell is ruled by the Devil.
  • There is punishment and pain.
  • The Environment is hot, dark, and uncomfortable.

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