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Heaven
Flights of angels escorting a soul to Heaven

As it is written:
What eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
and what has not entered the human heart,
what God has prepared for those who love him,
this God has revealed to us through the Spirit.
— St. Paul, quoting Isaiah 64:3, 1 Corinthians 2:9-10a (New American Bible)

Describe Heaven here.

Actually, we can't.

The problem lies in Heaven being the pinnacle of perfection, the ultimate reward, so most authors and filmmakers end up feeling not quite up to the task of portraying it (not to mention, one person's heaven is another person's Hell). The easy way out is to use Fluffy Cloud Heaven, The Theme Park Version of Heaven.

When that doesn't fit the theme of the setting, the solution is to not show it at all, save perhaps as a tunnel of light for the departed to enter. Or an escalator. An older version was to have an angel show up as Psychopomp, perhaps after disputing with a devil trying to bear the soul off to Hell. In comic form, Winged Soul Flies Off at Death implies entry here.

A less simplistic and more dramatic approach is as a "nebula of lights", with each soul a star, each Angel a comet, and God the Quasar in the center. Another alternative is to use an allegorically benevolent 'purgatory' in the shape of your grandparent's house (complete with apple pie in the oven) or whatever place you were happiest. Even then, those "living" there will inform the new arrival that what they're seeing is a kid-friendly level so that they aren't blown away by the sheer awesome, or because they'll be resurrected shortly and it wouldn't be right for them to feel unhappy on Earth.

Still more forms of Heaven include reliving parts of your life, so you will be reunited with all your loved ones and experience your most fond memories over and over again. Heaven may also be one of glorious combat, where you can be a warrior for all eternity. However, it might also turn out that Heaven is a downright nightmare for one person.

Hell, of course, doesn't have this problem and is aaall about the visceral and gory Discretion Shots, so you'll see absolutely Dante-esque hellscapes to put Mordor to shame. The Underworld, being neither particularly pleasant or unpleasant, likewise doesn't have this problem, though if sections of it are equivalent to Heaven, we probably won't see the whole thing.

Frequently, those who've gone into heaven are revealed to have Died Happily Ever After via various means. However, you probably shouldn't try to get them to come back... you wouldn't like the results. See also/Compare A Form You Are Comfortable With.

Not be confused with that film with Cate Blanchett in it.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime 

    Comic Books 
  • Promethea portrays Heaven using the Tree of Life from the Kaballah. Heaven is also a mirror of the human soul, so in the different spheres of existence a traveler will meet different facets of his or her own personality. Some of the spheres are similar to standard depictions of Heaven (Chesed is a Van Gogh-esque cloudscape, Keter is basically pure light, etc.) while other spheres are... Different.

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fandom, Kalash93 and TheDescendant both mention something called The Well of Souls. All that's known is that it's some sort of afterlife, although the way it is used in their stories makes it roughly an analogy for heaven.
  • In the Pony POV Series this is the domain that the Father of All Alicorns is Dimension Lord over. It's apparently in his body and is described as paradise, but we never actually see it.
  • In Sonic X: Dark Chaos, Heaven is a massive gas giant with twelve planet-sized moons in orbit. It is the original Angel homeworld and main world of the Angel Federation. The Angel capitol city, New Jerusalem, is on top of a massive floating station hidden in the storm-ravaged mantle.

    Film 
  • The original Bedazzled (1967) uses the Royal Gardens at Kew as the location shot for Heaven.
  • Seen briefly at the end of Ghost as Sam Wheat is welcomed into the afterlife.
  • The film Gladiator has a scene depicting Elysium, which looks rather like Arcadia. The titular gladiator is met by his wife and young son while a pleasant but ultimately incomprehensibly-lyricked tune runs in the background.
  • It's a Wonderful Life uses the "nebula of lights" version in the opening, showing three stars flashing as the angels talk in a voice over.
  • Very, very thoroughly averted in The Prophecy. After thousands of years of war the rogue angel Gabriel and his faction, and the angels loyal to God led by Michael, who are fighting over letting humans into heaven and humanity's place in God's eyes/favor, things in heaven aren't so pleasant anymore.
  • Star Trek: Generations has The Nexus. It's not explicitly Heaven... but it is functionally. It's essentially a Happy Place in physical space that can give you your hearts deepest desire, free of any Aesoptinum fees.
    • Except that you probably kill a lot of people getting there. Notably, no one from the Enterprise is shown in the Nexus...only Picard and Guinan (who probably has superpowers, let's be honest).
      • There is no cost per se, you just need to be in a place that intersects with it. Unfortunately, one way to get it to intersect with you is to blow up stars so you can deflect it into your path.
      • Which is just one of the many things about that particular movie that highlights the Idiot Ball being carried by the villain. It says a lot about your mental state when your first thought isn't "steal a shuttlecraft" or "bribe some transporter operator" but instead "Maybe if I put out a sun ..."
  • Pretty much half of What Dreams May Come is a depiction of Heaven.
  • At the end of the 2012 Les Miserables, Valjean dies and is escorted to heaven by Fantine and the Bishop, where it is shown as a giant barricade where all the people of Paris have risen in freedom, and all those who died in the film stand on it and sing.
    We will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord/ We will walk behind the plowshare, we will put away the sword/ The chains will be broken and all men will have their reward!

    Literature 
  • The heaven of Dante's Divine Comedy is the "nebula of lights" version, with radiant souls flocking around in symbolic constellations like a rose, a cross and an eagle— although in illustrations, there's usually some fluffy clouds there as well.
  • The Five people you meet in Heaven
  • The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis has people visiting Heaven on a day pass from Hell—neither is quite the stereotypical place.
    • C.S. Lewis also has as a nontraditional heaven as part of the Chronicles of Narnia, which looks almost identical to the 'normal' world, or rather the 'normal' world is almost identical to Heaven; as Professor Digory Kirke puts it in The Last Battle:
    "And of course it's different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream. It's all in Plato, all in Plato: bless me, what do they teach them at these schools!"
  • What Dreams May Come
  • Oddly enough, despite the general belief of many Christians, The Bible DOES have fairly detailed descriptions of the Christian heaven from a physical point of view, including dimensions, structures, geographical features, and the normal attire its residents generally wear. Whats more, taking the descriptions literally makes more sense than strictly symbolically, which is unusual of John's visions.
    • In particular, the New Jerusalem, the "capital" of the post-Doomsday Heaven and Earth, is described in Revelation 21-22 as a cubical golden box several thousand miles on a side, its walls supported by foundation stones of precious minerals, twelve gates made from a single (titanically large) pearl each (the original "pearly gates"). Inside is Christ's throne, a golden thoroughfare down which flows a river of the water of life, and ever-bearing Trees of Life.
      • Some think the reference to height indicate that it's a city built on the slopes of a (very tall) mountain, or possibly a sort of ziggurat, rather than a titanic cube. It's still enormous.
    • Which heaven? The current version, or the finished product, aka 'New Earth'? Let's face it; while it may have its moments, our world is at least partially a Crapsack World, even if not to the extent often used for that image - but according to the beginning of the book, it wasn't meant to be that way. So why not a repaired version that's literally heaven on earth?
  • In The Lovely Bones, Heaven is unique to each person; he or she is given things they most deeply want (except, of course, to be alive again on Earth). For protagonist Susie Salmon, the setting for her Heaven is the high school she never got to attend.
  • In Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Match Girl", the eponymous girl dies, and her dead grandmother carries her soul to Heaven: "They both flew upwards in brightness and joy far above the earth, where there was neither cold nor hunger nor pain, for they were with God."
  • The Star Trek Novel Verse has quite a few alien takes on heaven. For the Nausicaans, there's Heart of the Sky; for Bolians, the Vein of Mystery; for Trill, Mak'Relle Dur; for Betazoids Great Fire; for Efrosians, Endless Sky; for Xenexians, Kaz'hera (a Warrior Heaven); for Cardassians, the Hall of Memory.
  • The Culture novels have virtual reality "afterlives". Because a mind can be copied and digitised, it can then be put into a simulation, usually at the point of death. Whilst this means that Heaven (or whatever equivalent exists for each individual alien species) can be made real, it also means that Hell can exist too. And then there are the Sublimed, who may or may not be capable of creating genuinely "real" heavens.
  • Warrior Cats has StarClan for Clan cats and The Tribe of Endless Hunting for Tribe cats. However, the cats in these heavens can communicate on rare occasions, and it is possible for a cat to belong to both.

    Live Action TV 
  • In Angel, after Cordelia ascended to a higher plane, we see her in Heaven next season. It shows her as an angelic floating entity of light floating in a hazy pastel environment. Her first pronouncement? "I'm bored"
  • This quote from Buffythe Vampire Slayer pretty much sums it up:
    Buffy: I was happy. Wherever I ... was ... I was happy. At peace. I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time ... didn't mean anything ... nothing had form ... but I was still me, you know? And I was warm ... and I was loved ... and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or ... any of it, really ... but I think I was in heaven.
    • Buffy also sings about heaven, and her unexpected return from it, in Once More With Feeling:
      Buffy: There was no pain / No fear, no doubt / 'Til they pulled me out / Of heaven. / So that's my refrain: / I live in hell / 'Cause I've been expelled / From heaven. / I think I was in heaven.
  • Ghost Whisperer.
  • In Supernatural heaven, you relive your best memories. Actually, this being Supernatural, it's not that great: you spend eternity reliving the same moments, knowing perfectly well they're not real (Dean compares it to the Matrix); unless you have a soulmate, you'll never see any of your loved ones again; and now, apparently, angels can use your soul as a weapon. It is, however, far preferable to hell.
  • An odd instance of 'not quite heaven' that obeys similar rules happens in the Astral diner from the Stargate SG-1 episode "Threads". It's basically the ascended realm boiled down to a level that Daniel's unprepared mind can accept (because he hasn't yet made his final choice whether to ascend or stay mortal).
  • Dead Like Me never shows Heaven, but does show what the passage there looks like: whatever the deceased most loved to do in life. One guy sees a cliff he once dived off. A girl in the first episode sees a carnival. The Reapers that take the souls can see these images too, but are not allowed to enter them. One Reaper does, halfway through the first season, and completely vanishes. Despite Rube trying to find out what happened to her, it's left entirely unanswered.
  • The Twilight Zone had an episode written by Earl Hamner where an Appalachian mountain man and his dog died, and the afterlife was just like his everyday world. On a dirt road, a gatekeeper at what was ostensibly Heaven told him no dogs were allowed, so he refused to enter a place that wouldn't take his dog too. Later on, another traveller informs him that was the gate to Hell (and dogs can tell) and Heaven was a way up further.
  • In the series finale of LOST all of the main characters enter a bright light that is implied to be heaven.
  • Deep Space Nine. In "Body Parts", after apparently dying in his sleep Quark wakes up in the Divine Treasury, which due to the limited budget of a TV series isn't quite as splendiferous as you'd expect Ferengi heaven to be.
    First Grand Negus: That's because this is a dream, you imbecile!
    Quark: So I'm not dead, I'm asleep. That explains why this place looks so tacky.
    First Grand Negus: Don't blame me for your limited imagination!

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: several canon and many homebrew campaign settings have their own heavens and hells, often several different ones per setting!
    • In a particularly interesting case of "one man's heaven, another man's hell", most Heavens are alignment based, so that there's a Lawful Good and a Chaotic Good heaven. The hells are "heavens of a sort", since they are the Evil part of the spectrum. Lawful Evil hell is even considered relatively nice, all things considered.
    • More notable the heavens are based on different "concepts" of heaven, from most lawful to most chaotic: Arcadia is all about order and Law and society as a perfectly regimented place, ruled with benevolence and justice. Celestia is all about disciplined and constant self-improvement (symbolized by climbing the mountain, when you reach the top... Well, you you don't come back. Bytopia is about the pleasures of honest living and hard work. Elysium is about calm and restfullness (so much that people have trouble leaving) The Beastlands is all about Ghibli Hills and unspoiled nature ala Rosseau. Arborea is all about swashbuckling and High Adventure, while Ysgard is all about competition and contest.
  • In Exalted, Heaven is just a enormous city where the top gods live. Ordinary humans have little to no chance of ever getting there, and the Odd Job Gods aren't based there either. The afterlife is the rather crapsacky Underworld, though you might reincarnate. Or be made into soulsteel.
  • In Nomine's Heaven has a whole bunch of different areas (called Cathedrals although only some of them are actually buildings), the dead people can hang out in whichever area suits their fancy, there is an endless party, a library containing not only anything that has ever been written, but some things that somebody only thought of writing, a number of different places of worship, including one that always appears to be a perfect site of worship for any observer's religious leanings, etc. And all this is just the LOWEST level of Heaven, the Upper Heavens are essentially a place of perfect transcendent joy, souls that go there don't come back.. Hell is similarly varied, with an area that's like the stereotypes of Las Vegas writ large, an area with lava pits where people are tortured, etc. Most souls don't go to either though, they just reincarnate.
  • Mage: The Awakening features the Aether, the Supernal Realm associated with the Arcanum of Forces (fire, electricity, gravity, sound, light, etc.) and Prime (the very essence of magic itself). It is a realm of endless, glorious light and limitless power, and it's home to angels, beings of pure energy and unflagging resolve. No souls seem to enter the Aether after death, however; most pass through the Underworld, and the only mortals who visit the Aether are mages who Awaken to the Obrimos path.

    Video Games 
  • The 'Farplane', of Final Fantasy X-2.
    • A bit of a subversion, as the Farplane isn't really Heaven, it's just a place where pyreflies will form the image of someone who has passed away. The image cannot speak, and doesn't seem to have any emotion or recollection of the person that summoned them. Dead people appear to go to somewhere else, and the pyreflies are what remains of their souls, although the game itself remains vague on the true nature of the Farplane.
      • Then again, Lord Jyscal Guado physically left the Farplane for a few moments, giving the main characters a very important piece of information in a sphere, so it would seem souls truly do exist in the Farplane, with the motivations they held in life. It is the Al Bhed's opinion that they are only pyreflies, but none of them have necessarily ever seen anyone leave before.
  • Subverted horrifyingly in Bayonetta. Paradiso may LOOK like Fluffy Cloud Heaven, but it's more like the Light-Themed version of Inferno. Note that Hell really IS a bad place and that the Angels are EldritchAbominations. You do the math.
  • Several in Touhou. The White Jade Tower where Yuyuko and Youmu dwell is a place for virtuous dead (or in Youmu's case, half-dead), while Celestials such as Tenshi lives in a heaven for people chosen by the gods. Eiki implies that there are other good places for good people. The main characters can go to White Jade Tower as much as they like for partying, even if they are neither virtuous nor dead.
  • The High Heavens from the Diablo series are finally explored in Diablo III. Unfortunately, when you do explore them, they're in the midst of a full-scale invasion by all the forces of the Burning Hells, spearheaded by Diablo who has become the very embodiment of Evil itself.
  • The Overthere in Super Paper Mario is this.

    Web Comics 


Happy PlaceMetaphysical PlaceBonus Level of Heaven
Heaven and HellAfterlife TropesBonus Level of Heaven
Gold and White Are DivineTropes of the DivineBonus Level of Heaven
Happily MarriedOlder Than DirtHellhound
Circles of HellReligion TropesBonus Level of Heaven
Hazmat SuitWe Are Not Alone IndexHeavenly Blue
The Great FloodImageSource/ArtHell
Giant FoodSettingsHell

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