It seems to me that contemplating encountering God (as understood by most Christians), and one's life in Heaven, in the afterlife, could, in some cases, give rise to significant fear.

One might be, after all, in the direct presence of the creator of the universe, the sole almighty being, and one who knows every single thing about you; there is no apt analogue like that in earthly experience and just the unfathomable magnitude of that might be terrifying to consider. (And yes, even given the explicit belief that God is good).

Likewise, the thought of oneself in Heaven (leaving aside considerations of a New Earth), could be, if not exactly fearful, at very least difficult to consider given the, again, boundless degree of difference from our mortal life. The thought that our mortal life and all that went with it is irretrievably over might trouble us. Concerns about how human relationships (arguably the central aspect of human life), such as marriages and camaraderie, would work in Heaven might give us at least concerns--and in some cases deep sadness. There is the notion of identity, which in life is an amalgam of profession, family, interests, values, character, foibles, quirks, history, age, health, traumas, and other factors, and which, in Heaven, might be significantly altered, since many of the important factors will be obviated. And, of course, all physical considerations may be massively altered in a spiritual realm. Taken as a whole, and given that the saved are inevitably headed for just this place, these considerations might generate trepidation in addition to the "meeting God" fear.

To put it shortly: it's a very different being in a very different place--and that might be scary.

So, how, if at all, has Christianity, through authors, notable church leaders, or other key figures, addressed these types of concerns in the primary traditions, such as Catholicism or mainline Protestantism?

[Terminology associated with this gist, if it exists, would also be helpful. And note: I am not at all looking for SE user reassurance or Bible guarantees that the afterlife will not be frightful; I am looking for whether this theme has been addressed in the main traditions or not, and, if so, where and how.]


2 Answers 2


The Bible itself is replete with commands that we are to have a reverent fear of God that is to coexist with our love of God. The fear of God is a recurrent theme in Scripture, and it is commended and linked directly with holiness. Nave's Topical Bible, for example, shows several subtopics and a multitude of individual references for the topic "Fear of God." See also the prophet's experience in Isaiah, chapter six.

That being said, the short answer to your question is: yes, the fears that you list, and many others, seem plainly reasonable for sinful human beings -- that is to say, all human beings. Prior to entering heaven, however, the believer is changed so that those fears cease to be relevant. Here's why.

The Christian "ordo salutis," or "order of salvation," has been developed from a close study of the Scriptures. While different traditions have slightly different teachings about the number and order of the steps, a frequently offered summary includes the steps of:

  • Justification, which occurs when one receives faith in Christ and forgiveness of sins;
  • Sanctification, the ongoing process by which a Christian is brought into greater conformity with Christ over time; and
  • Glorification, the final perfecting of a believer which takes place after death and prior to entrance into heaven. The particular timing will vary according to one's eschatological views.

At glorification, the Christian is entirely cleansed of his "sin nature," and he no longer has any inclination towards sin whatsoever. Being perfectly free of sin enables him to delight wholly in God, and all other things become secondary and unimportant in the immediate presence of God's glory.

That's why nothing else matters in heaven. Man was originally designed to find satisfaction in God alone. When sin entered the picture, we became distracted and focused on the creation, instead of the Creator -- that is, we all became idolaters, to greater and lesser degrees. Glorification remedies that problem.

Here's a bit of further reading on glorification in Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, with several references to Scripture.

Here's a link to the "Order of Salvation" entry in volume three of The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge at CCEL.

Here are some links to related discussion from John Piper. Each video is about three minutes in duration, and he directly explains why Christians have no need to fear heaven. As always, he explains things much more clearly and simply than I ever could, and I recommend his teachings wholeheartedly: Video 1, Video 2

And for more on the idea of finding satisfaction in God alone, see Desiring God, the ministry of John Piper. He teaches about something called "Christian Hedonism."


The Catholic Church addresses this is in its Catechism, which I quote at some length below. Paragraph 1026 appears to answer the nub of your question:

The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ.

There is no room for doubt or regret.

Paragraph 1025 says that rather than giving up our name and identity, and worrying about that, we find our true identity in which we rejoice.

There is also the heavenly vision in Revelation, where the inhabitants of heaven spend eternity praising God. There is no greater pastime, and nothing more worthwhile — and surely we can do nothing else in his presence (see 1024 below).

1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face:596

By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment — and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven — have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.597

1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity — this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed — is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

1025 To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." the elect live "in Christ,"598 but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name.599

For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.600

1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.

1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."601

1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. the Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision":

How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.602

1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever."603

596 ⇒ 1 Jn 3:2; cf. ⇒ 1 Cor 13:12; ⇒ Rev 22:4.
597 Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS [Enchiridion Symbolorum] 1000; cf. Lumen Gentium 49.
598 ⇒ Phil 1:23; cf. ⇒ Jn 14:3; ⇒ 1 Thess 4:17.
599 Cf. ⇒ Rev 2:17.
600 St. Ambrose, In Luc., 10, 121: Patroligia Latina 15, 1834A.
601 ⇒ 1 Cor 2:9.
602 St. Cyprian, Ep. 58, 10, 1: Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum 3/2, 665.
603 ⇒ Rev 22:5; cf. ⇒ Mt 25:21, ⇒ 23.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .