Current Beliefs about Life after Death
Afterlife as reward or punishment
Many religious traditions have held that the afterlife will resolve justice by assigning rewards and punishments to people according to how they lived their lives. This belief can be found throughout the ancient world, especially in Greek and Roman religion, as well as in various Asian religions. To the extent that the afterlife is a form of justice, it is usually restricted to humans, as other animals are not held responsible for their actions.
In the monotheistic traditions of Judaism (see Jewish views of the afterlife), and most sects of Christianity, human souls spend eternity in a place of happiness or torment, such as Heaven, Hell, Purgatory or Limbo (in Islam, Mizan, the instrument used, to compare the things of good and bad in the afterlife by someone, compares everything a person has done, and it is believed limbo does not exist according to the Quran) . (in Judaism, "eternity" is not applicable to heaven, hell or limbo doesn't exist, and time spent in "purgatory" is definitely not eternal.)
Salvation, faith, and merit
Most Christians deny that entry into Heaven can be properly earned, rather it is a gift that is solely God's to give through his unmerited grace. This belief follows the theology of St. Paul: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. The Augustinian, Thomist, Lutheran, and Calvinist theological traditions all emphasize the necessity of God's undeserved grace for salvation, and reject so-called Pelagianism, which would make man earn salvation through good works. Not all Christian sects accept this doctrine, leading many controversies on grace and free will, and the idea of predestination. In particular, the belief that heaven is a reward for good behavior is a common folk belief in Christian societies, even among members of churches which reject that belief.
The dead as Angels in Heaven
In the informal folk beliefs of many Christians, the souls of virtuous people ascend to Heaven and are converted into angels. More formal Christian theology makes a sharp distinction between angels, who were created by God before the creation of humanity, and saints, who are virtuous people who have received immortality from the grace of God.
Some sects, such as the Universalists, believe in universalism which holds that all will eventually be rewarded regardless of what they have done or believed. On that note, perhaps it is that on the other side of life, in a space we would call death, it would be more than likely that we know everything instantaneously, which would soon be followed by boredom. Perhaps it is because we would be bored in knowing everything that we come to here in life and take the present form of humanity, unknowing and curious, yet knowing that it is impossible to know everything without wondering "Why is the Universe Eternal" and failing to realize that it is Eternal to keep us Entertained with Possibility.
Jehovah's Witnesses understand Ecclesiastes 9:5 to preclude an afterlife:
For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they any more have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten.
They believe that following Armageddon a resurrection in the flesh to an Edenic Earth will be rewarded to both righteous and unrighteous(but not wicked) dead and that eternal death (non-existence) is the punishment for sin lacking repentance after Armageddon. Although those who are not dead when Armageddon occurs will be judged and possibly slain during Armageddon because of their potential regretless sins. They believe that death is the price for sinning (that is why most dead will be resurrected - they paid the price already.
During the European Enlightenment, many deist freethinkers held that belief in an afterlife with reward and punishment was a necessity of reason and good moral order.
Punishment, retribution, and deterrence
Over the centuries, concepts related to punishment have changed, and so have attitudes about punishment in the afterlife. Earlier views of punishment as retribution have largely given way to a modern view of punishment as properly serving to deter or rehabilitate. (See for example punishment; Cesare, Marquis of Beccaria; Jeremy Bentham; and Michel Foucault) At the same time, views of punishment in the afterlife have softened. For example, Thomas Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards wrote that the saved in heaven will delight in the suffering of the damned. Hell, however, doesn't fit modern, humanitarian concepts of punishment because it can't deter the unbeliever nor rehabilitate the damned. Believers have come to downplay the punishment of hell. Universalists teach that salvation is for all. Jehovah's Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventists teach that sinners are destroyed rather than tortured forever. Mormons believe that there are three possible degrees of glory in the afterlife, none of which are hellish. In the 1990s, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defined hell not as punishment imposed on the sinner but rather as the sinner's "self-exclusion" from God.