I so enjoyed being with the man of CPC a few weeks ago at our conference – Heaven: The best is yet to come! I had a great time and was more than encouraged by the many wonderful questions that came in. In fact, we had around 60 questions submitted! Now, there was overlap among some of the questions, but what it shows is an intense interest, curiosity, and joyful anticipation of “What no eye has see, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”
I have categorized the questions as follows:
Our Relationships in the New Heaven & New Earth
Salvation & Assurance Related
The Resurrection Body
The Nature of the New Heaven & New Earth
Our Activity in the New Heaven & New Earth
What the Bible Teaches about Hell
My goal is to discuss a question from each of the categories every couple of days, until all your questions are considered.
Before we ponder today’s question, let me offer a word of thanks to Alan Isaacs for his remarkable patience with me in getting around to answering these questions. Thanks also to all of you brothers who submitted these wonderfully thoughtful and insightful inquiries.
From the category, “Our Relationships in the New Heaven & New Earth”…
Will we know people that we know in this life?
Good news! Yes! There is continuity between this life and the life to come. And what is to come is perfect, fulfilled, no longer susceptible to corruption and faultiness (1Co 15:53). In heaven we do not cease being who we are as individual persons created in God’s image. A central part of being who we are as individual persons is recognizing ourselves and others. That continues in heaven. Our knowledge will be fuller, not less in heaven. Hence, our cognition, rather than becoming vague or forgetful will be glorified in knowledge. This includes recognition of and sinless fellowship with one another. This is true in the intermediate state (when the departed exist as disembodied souls, and certainly in the New Heavens and New Earth, when our glorified souls are rejoined with our resurrected, perfected bodies).
Let’s consider Scripture toward this end:
*At the amazing scene at the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-8; Mk 9:2-8; Lk 9:28-36), Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up with him. There they see their Lord speaking with Moses and Elijah. They clearly recognized these Old Testament saints for who they were. Nothing is said about Moses and Elijah wearing nametags. They were simply recognized.
*In Lk 16:19-31 Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, wherein both Abraham and Lazaarus are recognized for who they were.
*Jesus is recognized as Jesus in heaven, and in 1Jn 3:1-4, we are told that we will be like him for we shall see him as he is. This entails a lot of things related to the question at hand. First, we recognize Jesus. So, if we are like him, we will also be recognizable by others. Second, Jesus can certainly recognize others. Given we will be like him, we will also be able to recognize and know others.
*In Heb 12:1-2, we are told that we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” This august group is none other than the clearly identified individuals of Ch. 11. By the way this biblical notion of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses has great and encouraging implications for corporate worship and living the Christian life.
*In 1Th 4:13, Paul assures Christians in Thessalonica that Jesus will bring with him their loved ones who have “fallen asleep” (i.e., died). This indicates recognition, otherwise there would have been no comfort in Paul’s promise.
*In Mt 8:11 Jesus tells us that many will recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which implies recognition of them. And, if these three are recognizable, then surely we will recognize one another.
*David, after he experiences the loss of his born to Bathsheba, mourns and declares that he will “go to him” (2Sa 12:23), indicating that he will know his son in heaven.
*As mentioned above, what is to come is not susceptible to corruption. 1Co 1 is a beautiful promise of the resurrection of our bodies. On the day of resurrection, the souls of those who have died will be rejoined with their bodies. These are not wholly other or wholly different bodies in an absolute sense, such that there is not continuity. To the contrary, our resurrection bodies will be our bodies. Hence, we will be able to recognize and know one another just as do now, only then our relating will be totally holy, sinless, and capable of infinite growth in blessed communion with one another. The resurrection changes everything! The resurrection is the animating principle to all our eternal relationships and fellowship with one another.
There is nothing in Scripture that would suggest that we will not recognize each other and know those we know in our earthly lives. We will know our loved ones in love and sinlessness, and that for eternity.