Heaven and Hell

Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá regard the descriptions of Heaven and Hell given in some of the older religious writings as symbolic, like the Biblical story of the Creation, and not as literally true. According to Them, Heaven is the state of perfection, and Hell that of imperfection; Heaven is harmony with God’s will and with our fellows, and Hell is the want of such harmony; Heaven is the condition of spiritual life, and Hell that of spiritual death. A man may be either in Heaven or in Hell while still in the body. The joys of Heaven are spiritual joys; and the pains of Hell consist in the deprivation of these joys.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:
When they [men] are delivered through the light of faith from the darkness of these vices, and become illuminated with the radiance of the sun of reality, and ennobled with all the virtues, they esteem this the greatest reward, and they know it to be the true paradise. In the same way they consider that the spiritual punishment… is to be subjected to the world of nature, to be veiled from God, to be brutal and ignorant, to fall into carnal lusts, to be absorbed in animal frailties, to be characterized with dark qualities … these are the greatest punishments and tortures. …

… The rewards of the other world are the perfections and the peace obtained in the spiritual worlds after leaving this world … the spiritual graces, the various spiritual gifts in the Kingdom of God, the gaining of the desires of the heart and the soul, and the meeting of God in the world of eternity. In the same way the punishments of the other world … consist in being deprived of the special divine blessings and the absolute bounties, and falling into the lowest degrees of existence. He who is deprived of these divine favours, although he continues after death, is considered as dead by the people of truth.

The wealth of the other world is nearness to God. Consequently it is certain that those who are near the Divine Court are allowed to intercede, and this intercession is approved by God. …

It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed; that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice; for bounty if giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. As we have the power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. … Therefore in that world also they can make progress. As here they can receive light by their supplications, there also they can plead for forgiveness, and receive light through entreaties and supplications.

Both before and after putting off this material form, there is progress in perfection, but not in state. …There is no other being higher than a perfect man. But man when he has reached this state can still make progress in perfections but not in state, because there is no state higher than that of a perfect man to which he can transfer himself. He only progresses in the state of humanity, for the human perfections are infinite. Thus however learned a man may be, we can imagine one more learned.

Hence, as the perfections of humanity are endless, man can also make progress in perfections after leaving this world.—Some Answered Questions, pp. 260, 261, 268, 269, 274.