A choice is offered: an afterlife of unending bliss, or a chance to return to mortal life. The offer could come from a god, an angel, or the spirit of a deceased loved one. Often, it comes at the end of the hero's journey, or during a NearDeathExperience towards the climax.

There are many reasons why this offer might be refused. Perhaps the character has UnfinishedBusiness. Perhaps he feels it's his duty to return. The offer may have come at a time when the life of a loved one hangs in balance, or when the fight against the BigBad has reached a pivotal point. Maybe the character simply feels that life is worth living.

In most cases, refusing the offer is portrayed as a heroic action. After all, the hero is sacrificing infinite happiness so that he can do what is needed. The sacrifice might be mitigated if the character knows he can eventually enter the afterlife he has refused anyway.

This might be an element of some stories involving {{Lotus Eater Machine}}s, but there's a slightly different dynamic at play with a true afterlife. A character who figures out he's in a deceptive LotusEaterMachine might reject it on the basis that it's "not real," while a character rejecting a genuine BigGood certified Heaven knows that no truer happiness exists.

Compare HellSeeker, contrast HeavenSeeker.

This is often a DeathTrope and occasionally an EndingTrope, so expect spoilers.


[[folder: Anime and Manga]]
* After Goku's first death in ''Anime/DragonBallZ'', he chooses to head to be trained under King Kai and eventually return to Earth to fight the Saiyans, despite being [[http://mangafox.me/manga/dragon_ball/v18/c011/15.html all but guaranteed to go to Heaven.]]
* PlayedForLaughs in ''Anime/MagicalPokaan''. After making a lot of trouble, Yuuma is put into a stereotypical FluffyCloudHeaven. However, she begins to feel lonely, and begs to be returned to her friends on Earth. The PowersThatBe comply.
* In episode 21 of ''Anime/SpaceDandy'', Dandy refuses to accept death to enter a world where sadness doesn't exist, believing that happiness is impossible without sadness.
** Also, at the very end of the show, [[spoiler: when the narrator reveals Dandy's destiny of taking his place as God, Dandy nonchalantly blows him off so he can go to Boobie's.]]
* ''Anime/{{Voltron}}'' has an angelic being offer eternal paradise to our heroes, who all but immediately refuse. Internal monologues then confirm their unending devotion to the people of Arus.

* Happened in the comic ''ComicBook/{{Grimjack}}'' -- the title character died, but chose to leave Heaven and move into a cloned body to save a friend. And hunt down an old enemy. Consequences happen.
* One of the several deliberately-incompatible origin stories of ''ComicBook/ThePhantomStranger'' says that he's the original WanderingJew, who was doomed to walk the earth until Judgement Day after he was mean to Jesus at the crucifixion, and all his other powers were gained as he learned various kinds of magic in unsuccessful attempts to escape his doom. This origin story ends in the present day, where God tells him he's earned time off for good behavior and can go to heaven now, and he asks to stick around on Earth and keep helping people.
* There was a brief period for Comicbook/ThePunisher, starting with the ''[[Comicbook/ThePunisherPurgatory Purgatory]]'' miniseries, where he was killed and then resurrected as an agent of heaven killing demons. Frank ultimately opted to return to life as a human because he preferred killing human criminals to slaying demons. [[spoiler: Or re-uniting with his family.]]
* Done as a bit of a SadisticChoice early on to ''ComicBook/TheSpectre''; the Voice (implied to be God) says he's now earned the right to pass on to Heaven, a one time only offer... just as his love interest has a bullet speeding at her head.
* A forced--and thereby perhaps subverted--version of this happened in ''ComicBook/XMen''--Gambit had been speared through with a sword and was lying on the ground slowly bleeding to death, literally walking towards a 'beautiful' white light and reassuring Rogue that he was in a state of grace and could finally go to Heaven--she grabbed him and yanked him back into his body, refusing to let him leave her behind. Needless to say, he was not happy about this.
* In the ''ComicBook/GreenArrow'' story "Quiver", Ollie was already in heaven when his body was resurrected without a soul. The villain of the story wanted to possess the body as part of his , when the devil deliberately heals him to make sure he has another chance at messing up his salvation on earth.
* In ''Film/IdleHands'', after getting killed, Mick and Pnub refused to "come to the light" because it was too far. Anton blew off Heaven after accidentally getting crushed by a car in a hydraulic lift, because Molly taking care of him in bed "beats the shit out of Heaven."
* In ''Film/StarTrekGenerations'' Kirk is reluctant to leave the Nexus at first, but soon realizes that the ability to make a difference in the real world is more important to him than anything the Nexus could offer. The tipping point is when he jumps a ravine with his horse, one he jumped numerous times in the real world, only to realize here that the element of danger which made it feel exciting when it was real is absent since he knows he's in the Nexus.
** Picard's own experience with the Nexus is similar.
* In ''Film/WhatDreamsMayCome'', after escaping {{Hell}}, Chris and Annie have an opportunity to spend eternity in a literal house of their dreams in {{Heaven}}, but choose to be reincarnated in order to get a second chance at a successful ChildhoodFriendRomance.
* ''Film/{{Purgatory}}'': The single good-aligned bandit is dead and gets the chance to skip waiting in purgatory for ten years and go straight to heaven, but he decides to stay because the town needs a good sheriff.
* ''Film/Wishmaster4TheProphecyFulfilled'': In the climax the evil genie offers the heroine a perfect fantasy world where all her wishes can come true in an effort to win her to his side. She refuses his offer so she can save her boyfriend.

* In Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Literature/{{Nation}}'' Locaha, the god of death, offers Mau the chance to ascend to the "Perfect World". Mau refuses, preferring to make his own world a little more perfect. Locaha notes with pride that everyone he's chosen has made the same choice.
* At the end of ''Literature/TheChroniclesOfPrydain'', Taran is offered the chance to sail to the Summer Country. He stays to help rebuild after the war, and becomes the new High King. Eilonwy also decides to stay with him.
* The book version of ''Literature/TheSpiderwickChronicles'' plays it straight with Arthur Spiderwick now 120 years old due to living with the sylph for 80 years and after seeing his daughter (now 86 years old) one last time, he [[spoiler:steps onto Earth and turns to dust]].
** Subverted in the film where [[spoiler:Lucinda asks to go with Arthur and the sylph transform her back into her 6-year-old self so she can live with her father forever]].
* In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows'' Harry has a near death experience in which Dumbledore gives him the option to pass on to the next world. He returns to continue the fight against Voldemort.
* In L. Jagi Lamplighter's ''[[Literature/ProsperosDaughter Prospero Regained]]'', Cornelius dies in the final battle, and is found standing over his own corpse. Not only are angels ready to escort him to Heaven, he can now see. His brothers are unable to persuade him to stay, but Miranda comments on how he can retire as he wished, and he puts off the angels and has his father resurrect him.
* Percy Jackson of ''Literature/PercyJacksonAndTheOlympians'' refuses the offer to become lieutenant to his father, Poseidon, and gain eternal immortality. He refuses it on the grounds that he's about to enter high school and he doesn't want to lose the possibilities his mortal life gives him, but it's heavily implied it's so he can stay with Annabeth. Hardly surprising, since the series is published by Disney...
** There was also the fact that he was basically being given a chance to get ''anything'' from the gods, and he wanted to do something to improve the general lives of most demigods.
** There are a couple of other examples of this in the series. In the fourth book, Percy is given the choice to either stay on Calypso's island or return to his quest. In the seventh book/second book in the SequelSeries, he is given another choice to either live a long, peaceful life under the sea, or to jump into a new conflict, experience pain and suffering, and possibly die. While neither Calypso's island or the ocean were exactly ''paradise,'' they were both places Percy would have been very happy to live. It never takes him long to make the choice.
* In the Literature/GemmaDoyle books, Gemma is gravely injured. She has to chose between dying and passing into the afterlife, honored as a hero, or being restored to life, granted one wish, and forgotten by time. She chooses life, and wishes that her mentor/enemy be allowed into Heaven.
* In ''Literature/TheSilmarillion'', Lúthien is given the choice between staying in the Undying Lands but being separated from Beren forever, or returning to Middle-Earth with him as a mortal, and eventually dying a mortal death. Anyone who's familiar with Tolkien's Legendarium knows which choice she went with.
* Later, the half-Elven Elros chooses to live as a human and forfeit his trip to the Undying Lands whereas his brother Elrond chooses to live as an Elf and eventually makes the trip in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings''. Unfortunately for him, his daughter Arwen decides to live as a mortal.
* In Tamora Pierce's ''Literature/TheImmortals'' - a part of her Tortall universe - Daine makes this choice at the end of The Realms of The Gods, deciding to remain in the mortal realms rather than become a minor goddess and live with her parents, the God of the Hunt and the northern Goddess of childbirth. It's not an easy choice; she did promise her mother she would stay - but in the end her parents understand that she has a life in Tortall and that was where she belonged.
* ''Literature/JonathanLivingstonSeagull'': After Jonathan [[AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence Ascends to a Higher Plane of Existence]], he refuses to remain in the transcendent world because he laments the plight of his fellow seagulls and wants to help them realize the truth. The more advanced spirits tell him that he's wasting his time, but they understand that he has to make the attempt in order to advance in his own journey towards enlightenment.
* In the ''Literature/LastHeraldMageTrilogy'', Vanyel Ashkevron is given the offer by the Shadowlover after he is badly wounded in a fight. He refuses because he knows that his country needs him.
* In ''[[Recap/DoctorWhoNewAdventuresTimewyrmRevelation Timewyrm: Revelation]]'', following the Seventh Doctor's final confrontation with the Timewyrm, he has the opportunity to be one with the universe or return to the physical world. He opts to return.
* In ''Literature/TheBandsOfMourning'', Wax is killed and has a talk with [[PhysicalGod Harmony]], who offers him the chance to go on to the great adventure that is the cosmere's afterlife or to accept his allies' attempts to heal him and return to the mortal plane. Wax, naturally, chooses to return to life.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* At the end of ''Series/AshesToAshes'', Alex believes herself to still be alive and happily exclaims to Gene that she can now leave [[ItMakesSenseInContext his purgatory]] to go back to her daughter. Devastatingly, Alex reads from Gene's expression and through a hallucination that she is in fact dead and cannot go back.
** Even after this, Alex still refuses to go to heaven as she wants to stay and help Gene. Gene convinces Alex that she has to go in, but that [[ItMakesSenseInContext he cannot]].
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'': The episode "Normal Again" offers up a suggestion that Buffy's life in Sunnydale is all a hallucination and she's actually a normal girl in a mental hospital. The episode ends with her choosing her life in Sunnydale and giving up the possibility of a normal life.
* ''Series/StargateSG1'' has some examples with {{ascen|dToAHigherPlaneOfExistence}}sion. Daniel Jackson ascends and descends a couple of times for various reasons. It's not really heaven, but is an afterlife.
** As a result, SG-1 has even parodied Daniel's multiple deaths.
* Dean in the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' Season 4 finale (as well as generally throughout season 5). It's more of a practical than a heroic decision, as paradise would require letting Dean's brother, Sam drink gallons of demon blood to release [[ArchangelLucifer Lucifer]], starting the apocalypse and becoming inhuman in the process, and offering possession to [[ArchangelMichael Michael]] (which would essentially lobotomize him) to kill Lucifer in Sam's body, while wiping out half the earth's population in the process. It's also unclear exactly what would be so good about the paradise that would follow, as the angels only wanted it because they were dicks who were tired of ruling the world in ''God'''s absence.
* By the end of ''Series/LostGirl'''s Season 5 pilot episodes, Kenzi allows Bo to "rescue" her from Valhalla although she was really happy there, wanted for nothing and was hours away from marrying the man she loved and who was killed on Earth before they could tie the knot. Unsurprisingly, she comes to regret the decision in the very same episode and effectively [[PutOnABus leaves the cast]] for the rest of the series except for a brief appearance in the finale.

* Mentioned in the song "Luciforms" by Music/TheMarsVolta.
-->"if heaven breathes, then someone trade places with me /
-->'cause I don't wanna tear feathers instead of rags"
* "Sixteen Tons", first recorded by Merle Travis, has a [[BlackComedy twist to it]]:
-->Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, [[CompanyTown I owe my soul to the company store]].
* Subverted in "The Third Heaven" by Carman. The narrator has a fatal accident and Jesus offers him a chance to return to life, but he decides to stay in Heaven.
* Played with in Music/DreamTheater's song "The Ministry of Lost Souls". The lyrics sound like they fit this trope, but the song is actually about a woman with SurvivorGuilt.
* In ''Arms Tonite'' by Mother Mother, the [[NightmareFetishist singer]], having just [[DiedInYourArmsTonight died in the arms of their lover]], decides the romantic nature of the incident isn't worth being separated from their lover and fights to escape the afterlife and be reunited with them.

[[folder: Religion and Mythology]]
* In UsefulNotes/{{Buddhism}}, Bodhisattvas are enlightened souls who decide to reincarnate again to help others reach enlightenment.
* Often a story element in a NearDeathExperience tale.
** On many Website/YouTube videos featuring NearDeathExperience tales, the protagonist is permitted a glimpse of both {{Heaven}} and {{Hell}}, and is told it's {{God}}'s [[CallToAdventure will that they return to warn others]] [[EarnYourHappyEnding before they are permitted to enter]] {{Heaven}} on a more permanent basis.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* Seen in the Saints of TabletopGame/InNomine, humans who have died and gone to Heaven but volunteer to return to Earth to continue the fight against Hell. Likewise, every human soul has the opportunity to climb Jacob's Ladder to reach the Higher Heavens and their ultimate reward but many linger on the lowest level ... in some cases, to help plan and organize the War.

[[folder: Theater]]
* In Creator/ThorntonWilder's "Pullman Car Hiawatha", a one-act existential comedy, a woman named Harriet dies on the titular train and is visited by the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, but initially refuses to go to heaven, saying that she would rather remain on Earth and watch over her husband.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* In ''VideoGame/GodOfWarChainsOfOlympus'', Kratos, [[AntiHero of]] [[SociopathicHero all]] [[BloodKnight people]], gives up spending eternity in Elysium with his daughter to save the world from [[spoiler:Persephone.]]
* In ''VideoGame/HeroesOfMightAndMagic'' ''IV'', Tarnum from the ''Chronicles'' series finally redeems himself for the crimes of his first life and earns a place in the barbarian afterlife. He did this by guiding his foster son Waerjak (the player character in the Might campaign of ''IV'') into reuniting the scattered barbarian tribes and making a new home for them on Axeoth while avoiding the mistakes Tarnum himself made in the past. Tarnum ultimately chooses to stay with his people and his son, having found a new reason to live.
* There's a version of this trope in ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'', when the Warden is fighting through the mage tower and confronts a Sloth demon. The demon sends the Warden and their companions into a deep, deathlike sleep, and the Warden finds him/herself in a very altered reality where certain impossible things are taking place. Rather than accept the happiness offered in this altered state, the Warden insists that things are wrong, and proceeds to spend the next portion of the game fighting not only to escape their own dreams, but also to rescue their companions, who are trapped in similar situations.
* In ''VideoGame/BeyondTwoSouls'', the final chapter ends with Jodie hovering in a limbo between life and death where she is presented with a choice: join all the friends and family she lost in the Infraworld, or return to the world of the living. Opting for the latter embodies this trope to a T.
* In ''VideoGame/AsurasWrath'', [[spoiler:Chakravartin, The Creator declares Asura perfect and worthy of being his successor, effectively making Asura God, and returns his daughter to him.]] The offer is made with an extended hand, and Asura responds by extending his... [[TalkToTheFist except his is closed]].
* In ''VideoGame/SouthParkTheFracturedButWhole'', if Mysterion ([[TheyKilledKennyAgain Kenny]]) is killed in battle, he becomes a ghost with a completely different moveset. His new LimitBreak has him ascend to Heaven, where [[DirtyKid many attractive naked women await him]]. As much as he might want to go, he ultimately can't bring himself to abandon his allies in mid-battle, and returns to Earth, bringing himself back to life and healing the entire party.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* In ''Webcomic/{{Narbonic}}'' a party consisting of civilians, one BloodKnight, and one MadScientist is attacked by cherubim - [[OurAngelsAreDifferent mindless hungry feathery insect-things]] - and in apology Heaven sends them an ambassador to escort one of them directly to eternal bliss. Everyone has better things to do, apparently.
-->Eternity. Another concept mortals can't seem to wrap their minds around.
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'' [[spoiler:Roy]] enjoys a peaceful afterlife with his family in Celestia following his untimely demise in battle. However, upon realizing that his allies have failed to resurrect him on schedule, he rushes off to search for answers rather than keep waiting in paradise.
* Parodied in ''Webcomic/SaturdayMorningBreakfastCereal'', where the offeree waxes philosophical about why he would refuse paradise, then, upon being told that it's a real offer and not hypothetical, accepts instantly.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/{{Futurama}},'' Bender dies and spends most of the episode as a VirtualGhost. At the end he's offered the opportunity to go to Robot Heaven, but says "screw this!" and comes back to "life".
* At the end of the [[FollowTheLeader Star Wars ripoff]] 80s cartoon ''WesternAnimation/StarchaserTheLegendOfOrin'' the hero is offered the chance to AscendToAHigherPlaneOfExistence but turns it down out of love or friendship or ... something.
* A possible interpretation of Chapter 8 of ''WesternAnimation/OverTheGardenWall''. In a dream, Greg enters a magical sphere reminiscent of FluffyCloudHeaven and is offered the opportunity to return home. [[spoiler:Given that Wirt is too far gone in his despair to go too, Greg refuses the offer.]]