Methodism emerged in 18th-century England to become one of the most influential branches of Protestant Christianity in Europe, America, and around the world. Beliefs are important to Methodists and historically their doctrine has been based on the Bible’s teachings. Heaven is one of the Methodism’s most important beliefs.
Heaven, according to Methodism beliefs, is the dwelling place of God and where those who put their trust in Jesus Christ will spend eternity with him. In heaven, believers will see Christ face-to-face, worship and celebrate God, and experience freedom from sin and suffering.
What exactly do Methodists believe about heaven and hell? Do they believe in purgatory? Do Methodists believe a person has to be baptized to go to heaven? Do they believe in reincarnation? Keep reading to learn more.
What do Methodists believe about the afterlife?
The Methodist tradition has historically taught that life continues after physical death, though not everyone experiences the same destination. Where a person goes when their physical life is over – heaven or hell – depends on their faith in Jesus Christ, according to historic Methodist teachings.
In heaven a primary belief in Methodism? Yes. Methodists have strong beliefs about heaven because it’s clearly and frequently taught in the Bible. Heaven is the dwelling place of God in a fuller and richer way in comparison to his presence on the earth.
Methodists believe that the existence of heaven is taught throughout the Bible, yet the clearest picture of it is found in the New Testament. Verses that are important to their doctrine on heaven include,
- Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (ESV)
- John 14:2, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (ESV)
- Luke 23:43, “And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (ESV)
- 2 Peter 3:13, “But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (ESV)
- Hebrews 13:14, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (ESV)
How does a person go to heaven? How a person goes to heaven, according to Methodist beliefs, are by God’s grace and through putting their faith in Christ for salvation. In Methodism, overcoming sin and growing in spiritual maturity are signs of genuine salvation.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley (1703-1791), believed that preachers and evangelists should give invitations to people to repent of their sins and put their faith in Christ. Wesley once said,
“Give me one hundred preachers who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergymen or laymen, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon Earth.”
Do Methodists believe in hell? Historically, the Methodist tradition has held to the literal existence of hell, which is a place of eternal torment for those who didn’t put their faith in Christ for salvation. However, Methodists consider views other than eternal conscious torment to be within the bounds of orthodox theology. Important verses on hell for those who hold to the traditional view include:
- Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (ESV)
- 2 Thessalonians 1:9, “They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (ESV)
- Revelation 20:10, “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (ESV)
Do Methodists believe in purgatory? No. In Catholic theology, purgatory is a state between earth and heaven, in which believers are purged from sin in preparation for heaven. Methodists, like other Protestants, believe that sanctification is perfected at death because of the sufficiency of the atonement of Christ.
What do Methodists believe you have to be baptized to go to heaven?
Methodists don’t believe that a person must be baptized in order to go to heaven. However, baptism is an important event in the life of every Christian. While Methodist churches baptize adults if they put their faith in Christ later in life, churches and ministers encourage parents to have ministers baptize infants
While infant baptism extends grace to each child, it’s not a saving grace, but one that enables them to overcome sin and exercise faith in God.
What is prevenient grace? From a Latin word meaning “go beforehand,” prevenient grace is a characteristic of Arminian theology. It describes God’s work in the life of a person, including infants, which overcomes original sin and enables faith. Infant baptism reminds many Methodists that God is present and working in the life of every child.
Do Methodists believe in reincarnation?
According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, reincarnation refers to people being born into new bodies or life forms.  Methodists don’t believe in reincarnation according to the conventional definition of the word or the understanding of the concept commonly found in Eastern religions.
Does eternal judgment occur upon physical death? Yes. Methodists believe that God determines a person’s eternal destination after they die and that it’s final. This belief is based on verses like Hebrews 9:27, which reads, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
Do people receive new bodies in the afterlife? Yes. Methodist theology teaches that, according to the Bible, believers will receive new bodies. Unlike reincarnation, Methodists don’t receive a body that is new to them; it’s their own body, redeemed, perfected, and without the effects of sin. Methodists also reject the idea that people can be reborn into non-human life forms like animals. Wesley and his followers looked forward to this day,
“This earthly body is slow and heavy in all its motions, listless and soon tired with action. But our heavenly bodies shall be as fire; as active and as nimble as our thoughts are.”
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