Mennonites practice a type of Christianity that shares roots with the Amish. Like the Amish, they trace their spiritual lineage to the European Anabaptist movement of the 16th century. Anabaptists, or "re-baptizers," opposed infant baptism and were known for their pacifist commitments. Though today's Mennonites differ from mainstream Christianity in some respects, their views about the afterlife do not significantly depart from traditional Protestant teachings about heaven and hell, except in one respect: the belief that good works are needed to enter heaven.
Confession of Faith
Mennonites have an official Confession of Faith that covers Mennonite beliefs. Article 24 of the Confession states in part that Jesus will return to earth for a last judgment, during which "the dead will come out of their graves -- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." It also notes, "The righteous will rise to eternal life with God, and the unrighteous to hell and separation from God." This is viewed as God's ultimate victory over sin and death.
Mennonites believe followers of Jesus will enter heaven after they die or after the final judgment. Their conception of what exactly heaven is -- and what it may look like -- is less defined. Mennonites historically emphasized New Testament biblical teachings over those found in the Old Testament. As such, their understanding of heaven focuses on New Testament passages about eternal life. Article 24 of the Confession of Faith does not go into detailed speculation, but does proclaim, "We look forward to the coming of a new heaven and a new earth, and a new Jerusalem, where the people of God will no longer hunger, thirst, or cry, but will sing praises."
Mennonites believe that hell exists and agree that it involves an eternal separation from God that brings never ending suffering and misery. They say those who do not attain Christian salvation will go there. The Mennonite Confession of Faith has been edited and updated for centuries now, but all versions include a belief in the reality of hell. The 1632 Dordrecht Confession, which predates Mennonite Confessions of Faith, suggests that hell is a place with no hope or comfort.
Faith vs. Good Works
Mennonites do not accept view of some Protestants that faith is achieved only by repentance and faith in Jesus. At the same time, they believe Catholics over-emphasize good and charitable acts, which Christians call "good works." Mennonites believe they offer a third way that bridges the traditional faith/works dichotomy. They emphasize that both Christian faith and good works are needed to gain eternal life. For Mennonites, the imperative to do good works often means serving the poor.
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Hell
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Eternal Security
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Heaven
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Anabaptist Theology of Atonement
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Salvation
- Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online: Sin
- Patheos Religion Library: Anabaptist - Afterlife and Salvation
- Patheos Religion Library: Anabaptist
- Patheos Religion Library: Protestants
- Mennonite Confession of Faith: Article 24 - The Reign of God
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images