Pentecostalism is an offshoot of evangelical Christianity, which began at the turn of the 20th century. The defining characteristics of Pentecostalism include a literal interpretation of the Bible and the belief that supernatural gifts and events mentioned in the New Testament should continue to be part of the church's experience today. Most Pentecostals' beliefs about the afterlife stem from the movement's evangelical roots.

Salvation

Pentecostals believe that those who have received salvation will spend eternity in heaven while those who have not will spend eternity in hell. According to Pentecostal teaching, salvation is a free gift from God available to whoever will receive it. Most Pentecostals believe that salvation can be received by being "born again" through repentance (acknowledging and turning from sin) and faith in Jesus Christ and that the Holy Spirit makes it clear to believers that they have received salvation as they continue to mature in their faith.

Hell

Pentecostals believe that those who die in their sins without seeking God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ will spend eternity in a literal hell. Most Pentecostals believe the Bible's descriptions of a lake of fire, of burning, gnashing of teeth and the "worm that doesn't die" should be interpreted literally and used to warn unbelievers regarding the dangers of continuing in an unrepentant life. Pentecostals believe that people's souls consciously exist eternally, whether in the bliss of heaven or the punishment of hell.

Heaven

Most Pentecostals believe the descriptions of heaven given in the Bible should be taken literally, including those that refer to streets of gold and mansions being prepared for believers. According to Pentecostal teaching, heaven is the eternal home of all who have received salvation; all who have truly given their hearts to Christ -- not just Pentecostals -- will obtain heaven. Pentecostals believe that those who go to heaven will be completely sanctified (made holy) when they arrive and that heaven will be a place with no shadows, sickness, death, disease or sorrow.

Variations

Pentecostalism is a large and diverse movement, with over 700 distinct denominations. While most Pentecostals hold to an evangelical view of the afterlife, a few Pentecostal denominations disagree with the mainline teachings about heaven, hell and salvation. A significant offshoot of the Pentecostal movement, known as Apostolic Pentecostalism -- also called "Oneness" or "Jesus Only" Pentecostalism -- teaches that people must repent, be baptized in Jesus' name and speak in tongues in order to fully receive salvation. Other offshoots of Pentecostalism have accepted a wide variety of alternate teachings about the afterlife.