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The Pearly Gates

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"The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass."

The Pearly Gates is common shorthand to describe the outer walls that separate Heaven from the rest of the cosmos. Despite the trope name, the gates are more often golden than pearl-colored. There is usually a book-keeper at the door, typically either St. Peter or a similar Heavenly bouncer, who decides who gets in, typically by reading their deeds from a large book and judging whether they've been good enough to deserve entrance into Heaven. The gates will open for those who earned their place, while everyone else will find themselves standing on a Trap Door leading to the less than ideal alternative.

When what lies on the gates' other side is actually shown, it's almost always a Fluffy Cloud Heaven.

Sub-Trope of Cool Gate. Compare with Gate of Truth, Portal Network and Tannhäuser Gate. For entrances to the other place, contrast Hellevator and Hellgate.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • During the Holy War in The Seven Deadly Sins, a portal between the realm of Brittania and the Celestial Realm — home world of the Goddess Race and the Supreme Deity — exists at Stigma's headquarters the Light of Grace. When the demon armies launch an attack there, it is revealed to have been nothing more than a distraction so that Melascula and Gowther could convert the portal to the Celestial Realm into a portal into the Demon Realm. Or at least that was what Melascula intended, Gowther having tricked her into creating a portal to where his creator (also named Gowther) was imprisoned.

    Comic Strips 
  • Canadian editorial cartoonist Graeme MacKay drew a cartoon of Pope John Paul II approaching the Pearly Gates in his Popemobile, but that cartoon was not approved for publication. On his blog, he noted that a colleague of his said that editorial cartoonists should only be allowed to make six "Pearly Gates" cartoons in their careers.
  • The Far Side:
    • Colonel Sanders (founder and mascot of KFC) is at the Pearly Gates, thinking "Uh-oh" because the guards are chickens.
    • A fellow is standing at the Gates, which have a note attached to them saying Heaven has moved to a new address.

     Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven:
    • In the first film, Charlie crashes right into the Pearly Gates after dying, where a whippet angel named Annabelle looks up his good deeds; despite not finding any, she lets him inside anyway because "unlike humans, all dogs are kind and good inside."
    • In the sequel, Gabriel's Horn is stolen. Charlie and a newly deceased Itchy are sent to retrieve it when it is brought to Manhattan. It is established that the Horn is the only thing that can open the gates of Dog-Heaven and without it, no more dogs who die can enter. In general, the Pearly Gates are prominently featured throughout the franchise.
  • The Gates of Olympus in Hercules are portrayed as massive gates made of gold that keep Mt. Olympus — the Fluffy Cloud Heaven that the gods call home — safe.
  • Ice Age: The Meltdown: When Scrat dies, he finds himself in his version of Heaven, which has a gate decorated with an acorn. When he is revived by Sid, the squirrel gets sucked back into the living realm, trying in vain to hang onto the gate.
  • Make Mine Music:
    • When Sonia the duck is seemingly eaten by the wolf in "Peter and the Wolf", the others imagine her waving goodbye as she is about to cross the gates to Heaven.
    • At the end of "The Whale who Wanted to Sing at the Met", Willie the whale is singing to a packed house in Heaven; the final shot is of a "Sold Out" sign on the Pearly Gates.
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: When he dies early in the film, Kenny finds himself ascending to Heaven, where he's greeted by the Pearly Gates as well as a pair of beautiful naked women... right before he's sent plummeting to Hell for having skipped church that day.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the very end of This Is the End, Seth and Jay pass through these when they get accepted into Heaven following The Rapture.
  • Dimples: In the Show Within a Show of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the dying Little Eva exclaims that she can see the great gates made of pearls opening wide and hear the angels calling for her.

  • Parodied by the renaissance writer Erasmus in Julius Excluded From Heaven. Pope Julius II dies and stands in front of the pearly gates, but the angels won't let him in because he was horribly corrupt and un-Christian. After arguing with Saint Peter for quite a while and a failed attempt to excommunicate him, Julius II eventually decides to storm the gates with the army of war criminals he pardoned.
  • The Pearly Gates appear in the New Jerusalem of the Left Behind series book Kingdom Come, but unlike traditional thought on the subject, Jesus alone is the gatekeeper who determines who goes in.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?: In the episode “The Tale of Station 1091”, a guy named Chris accidentally stumbles upon these which resemble Twin metal doors. These doors open to reveal an ethereal realm of bluish white light.
  • The Brittas Empire: Gordon Brittas shows up here after his Heroic Sacrifice in "The Last Day". They resemble the typical protrayal, completed with Saint Peter being there. He is initially denied access by him due to the amount of suffering he had inflicted, but after they receive word of this sacrifice, they let him in. They later kick him out through said gates when he proves to be too much of an annoyance.
  • Averted in The Good Place, where one who dies "wakes" up in an outer office room with the words, "Welcome! Everything is fine." Although it is later found to be The Bad Place trying a new torture tactic, the Real Good Place simply has each deceased person walk through a portal to the best type of welcome they can imagine. Since the four protagonists walk through together, their entry room is a mixed representation of all of their desires.

  • A classic children's song, "Oh, You Can't Get to Heaven," says "Oh, you can't get to Heaven on roller skates/'Cause you'd roll right by those Pearly Gates" (or, alternately, "You gotta work your way to the Pearly Gates").
  • In the George Strait song "Love Without End, Amen", the narrator dreams about standing outside the pearly gates and worrying that he's done too much wrong in his life to be let in— until he hears a voice from the other side repeating his father's words about fathers loving their children forever.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic: In "Everything You Know Is Wrong", Weird Al dies and meets up with St. Peter at the pearly gates... and is almost denied entry into Heaven because his jacket violates the dress code.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • In the Bible, the theological basis for Heaven having pearly gates is found in Revelation, the last book of the Bible. The detailed description of the City of Heaven, in fact, describes Heaven as having twelve gates, and each of them are made of a single pearl. Traditional thought holds that the justification for Peter the Apostle being the gatekeeper of Heaven is found in the gospels, where Jesus lays a duty on Peter:
    "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19)
The Bible is, however, silent on how St. Peter manages to be present at all twelve gates simultaneously.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Nomine: The Pearly Gates serve as the main entrance through which blessed souls enter Heaven. Their precise appearance tends to vary between viewings, although they're always elaborate and made out of precious materials — one time they may appear as diaphanous mother-of-pearl, the next they may be cast from solid gold or carved from a single sapphire. The blessed are met at the gates by the Seraph Radueriel, who records their names and deeds and makes sure that none of them are plants snuck in by demons.

    Video Games 
  • Afterlife: Naturally shows up as the game is a resource management simulator in the style of SimCity where you build Heaven and Hell. The gates actually come in three versions, with bigger and better gates allowing you to process a higher volume of souls. Of course, you also have their Evil Counterpart.
  • Diablo: The Diamond Gates that lead to the High Heavens. In the millennia that the Diamond Gates have stood, they have withstood countless sieges by The Legions of Hell, but have never fallen in the entire history of the Eternal Conflict. However, in Diablo III, during the end of Act III, those gates finally fall when Diablo, who has become the Prime Evil, makes his grand entrance into Heaven, setting up Act IV, where you have to save Heaven from Hell.


    Web Original 
  • In Dantes Infanzia, Heaven and its gates are only seen from the outside in the Garden of Eden.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of the show Monsters at Work, Tylor has a Near-Death Experience and goes to the Pearly Gates, where he meets David. They’re depicted in the show as a more heavenly version of a scare door.
  • In the Recess episode "The Lost Ball," Gus has a nightmare that shows his entire life being ruined because he was too cowardly to retrieve the ball he lost. In the last scene of the dream, he arrives at the Pearly Gates after dying as an old man, only for St. Peter to remind him of the lost ball and pull a lever that sends him plummeting downward.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show: At the end of "Terminal Stimpy", Ren and Stimpy ascend to Heaven and are greeted by the Announcer Salesman at the gates.
  • Rocko's Modern Life: In "Manic Mechanic", Rocko's car dies, and is escorted by the Grim Tow Truck to Fluffy Cloud Heaven, and stands before St. Peterbilt note  at the "Pearly Garage Door". The garage door in question has a basketball hoop mounted over it, as did many US garage doors in The '80s and early in The '90s.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Dog of Death", while Santa's Little Helper is undergoing surgery, he sees the Pearly Gates and runs toward a doggy door that's built into it. However, he's pulled away once the operation's over and he's saved from death.
    • In the first segment of "Treehouse of Horror XI", Homer dies and appears at the Pearly Gates, where he's told by Saint Peter that he is unable to go to Heaven. They're shown to be electrified when Homer tries to climb over them.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons: The short "Symphony in Slang" opens with a line of deceased souls at the Pearly Gates being given halos by St. Peter and allowed into Heaven.
  • Tom and Jerry: In "Heavenly Puss", Tom gets Squashed Flat by a piano and ascends to a place where deceased cats line up to be admitted onto a train bound for Heaven. Tom tries to sneak past the conductor, but he gets caught and is told that he'll be doomed to Hell if he doesn't make peace with Jerry before a deadline.


Video Example(s):


Brittas Gets Judged

Brittas dies and finds that good intentions don't exactly mean much when one is being judged in the afterlife. Thankfully, he had committed a Heroic Sacrifice beforehand which gets him in Heaven.

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