The descriptions in Revelation 21–22 of the new heavens, new earth, and new Jerusalem are literal — or they are images of an even more literal reality — and how wonderful is that? We will literally, physically, and bodily be with the Godhead, the godly personalities of the invisible realm, the saints of all the ages, and one another for eternity.
- Wouldn’t it be a shame if we never recognized anyone? Is it possible we’ll be total strangers in paradise forever, that we’ll have everlasting amnesia?
No. It isn’t remotely possible — yet we sometimes wonder if we’ll know each other in Heaven. It’s an emotive question. Our relationships on earth mean more to us than anything else. I loved my dad and mom; I love my sister and her family; I miss my wife, and I cherish daughters, their husbands, and all their children. These relationships are more valuable to me than any other single thing in this world apart from my relationship with Christ. I never want to lose these bonds of love. It doesn’t matter if I lose everything else on earth, I don’t want to lose those dearest to me. I want to be where they are, and I want them to be where I am.
Jesus felt the same way. In the upper room on the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus told the disciples,
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. — John 14:3
He wanted His friends to be with Him, near Him, fellowshipping with Him forever. A couple of hours later, Jesus prayed an unutterably deep prayer just before His arrest.
Father, He said, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am. — John 17:24
Jesus Himself — God of very God — wanted His friends and family to be with Him in eternity, where He was, so He could enjoy their fellowship and love. He feels as we do about our dearest ones. These passages in John 14 and John 17 clearly imply that one of the greatest joys of Heaven will be our everlasting reunion with those we love.
While the Bible doesn’t give us a verse saying, “You will know each other in Heaven,” it treats this reality like an obvious truth, simply assuming this is the case. There are a number of passages that make this assumption reasonable and clear.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us our first glimpse in Scripture of what the glorified resurrection body will be like. John 20:19–20 says,
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
When Jesus rose from the tomb, He had the same identity and the same appearance He had prior to His death. The disciples recognized Him. They recognized His face and His features, they recognized His hands with the nail prints, and He even showed them His side. They recognized Him by the scar left from the Roman spear. He knew them after His resurrection, and they knew Him, though His body was now imperishable.
I’ve long believed that our resurrection bodies will have the appearance of our being in our early thirties. Jesus was about thirty-three when He rose from the dead, and Philippians 3:21 says He will “transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Whatever our apparent age, we will be physically, mentally, and emotionally mature, and we will be recognizable as ourselves. The essence of our identity will not be lost through the process of rapture or resurrection. Our faults and failures will be gone, but I will still be me, and you will still be you — in the fullness of the perfection of Christ.
1 Corinthians 13:12
Another clue comes from 1 Corinthians 13. In the first several verses, the apostle Paul commended the virtues of love, and he ended the chapter by talking about its permanence. Love will continue after we die. Faith will not be needed in Heaven, and our hope will be fulfilled. But love will continue. Our relationships with those we love will go right on, and, in fact, be far better.
Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. — 1 Corinthians 13:12
In other words, “I know Jesus Christ now, but one day I’ll know Him better; I’ll see Him fully and I will know Him just as He knows me.” The implication is that we’ll also know each other better and love each other more fully in the future than we do now.
Right now, even the best of human relationships are imperfect. One day those of us who know Christ Jesus our Lord will see His face, reflect His love, and know one another even as we ourselves are known.
1 Thessalonians 4
Another helpful passage is in 1 Thessalonians. The Christians in Thessalonica were still learning the rudiments of Christian theology. They had questions about what happens when we die. Paul wrote,
Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will come down from Heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. — 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
The basis of Paul’s encouragement and comfort is that we’ll be together with those we love and with the Lord forever in heaven. Our fellowship with our Christian loved ones goes right on! We’ll pick up where we left off, and we will know even as we are known. We will recognize Him and others, even as they recognize us.
There’s no capping the encouragement this gives me!
2 Corinthians 4:13–14
In a similar vein, in 2 Corinthians 4:14, Paul wrote,
We know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence.
Paul knew something. He didn’t hope, think, speculate, or wish. He knew his body would be resurrected and he would be reunited with his Corinthian friends in the presence of the Lord. That gave him vast encouragement, and he repeated the same idea elsewhere in his letters to his friends and to other churches he established. For example, he called the Thessalonians “the crown in which we will glory in the presence of the Lord Jesus when He comes” (1 Thessalonians 2:19).
He fully anticipated an eternal friendship with those he had won to Christ.
In Luke 16, Jesus told about a neighborhood beggar who died and went to Heaven. But Jesus didn’t use the word Heaven. He used the phrase Abraham’s side, saying, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.” The passage goes on to talk about “Abraham . . . with Lazarus by his side” (Luke 16:22–23).
In other words, a dirty but God-trusting Middle Eastern beggar went to Heaven and found himself walking down the street side by side with Abraham, the greatest figure of the Old Testament. The whole story is based on the premise that we will know one another in Heaven. Though their earthly timelines had been separated by two thousand years, Abraham and the beggar knew one another and fellowshipped together.
I don’t know if they knew one another instinctively or if they were introduced to each other. I’m curious about this. When I get to Heaven, will I instinctively know my grandfather, who was a mountain preacher and died long before I was born? Or will he come up to me and say, “On earth, I was your grandfather”?
I don’t know, but I’m looking forward to knowing him, along with Abraham, the beggar of Luke 16, and all the other heroes of the faith. One small hint that our knowledge may be instinctive comes from the next passage.
The transfiguration of Christ was the moment when Peter, James, and John caught a glimpse of the intrinsic, eternal glory of their Savior. Matthew 17:1–4 says,
After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
When Jesus came to earth, He left His throne and its eternal glory. He temporarily relinquished His splendor and some of His divine prerogatives. He entered humanity as a baby in a manger. But on this occasion during His earthly life, He was momentarily enveloped with a flash of His original and eternal glory.
How amazing that two Old Testament heroes joined Him! Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all belonged to different epochs of human history. Moses dates to about 1400 BC, Elijah lived in the 800s BC, and Jesus lived in the first century AD.
Here we have three men whose earthly lives were separated by fourteen hundred years, and yet they all knew each other. They were standing there physically, fellowshipping and talking together. They were known by their same names, but they were glorified, energized, wrapped in light.
- This is a sneak peek of Heaven!
So, yes, we’ll recognize our loved ones in Heaven. As someone once put it, we’ll certainly not be greater fools in Heaven than we are on earth. If we know one another now, we’ll certainly know one another in the soon-to-be.
Excerpted with permission from 50 Final Events in World History by Robert J. Morgan, copyright Robert J. Morgan.
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Morgan’s book about world events and how they correspond to the book of Revelation isn’t scary because we have Heaven to look forward to! Heaven where we will know our family, friends, loved ones, and heroes who have gone before us! Just imagine it! We’ll be there soon and very soon! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you. ~ Devotionals Daily