ASK BOB: Will we recognize our loved ones in Heaven?

Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.

QUESTION

Bob,

I need some help.  A close relative is currently at heaven’s gate, and with much praying and heartache, we entered into a conversation about heaven and its glory including those already there.  I’m hoping I didn’t misspeak when I reassured my relative that we would recognize others in heaven including our brothers in Christ, our loved ones, our friends, and relatives—already saved. 

I’m certain I have heard that in one or more of your sermons, possibly at Saturday Men’s Bible study, too.  After much research in the Bible, also searching online via the Blue Letter Bible, I cannot locate this particular reference.  Can you please give me some guidance, reference point or direction?  Am I off point here?  Please help me out if possible—I’m afraid time is critical and quickly running out for my relative.  Only days left.   

Thank you. 

 

MY ANSWER

There are several passages in the Bible that make it clear to me that we will recognize each other in heaven.  Matthew 8:11 speaks of us sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom.  If we recognize those patriarchs whom we never had an opportunity to meet on earth, I think it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll recognize our contemporaries.

In the account of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17), the disciples recognized Moses and Elijah as they stood with Jesus, even though those two patriarchs had died centuries before.

In the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, the rich man died and in Hades saw Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom and recognized him.  Even in hell, the rich man recognized someone he knew on earth!

Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). The dying thief would still retain his identity in heaven.

First Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  There are different interpretations of that passage, but if our knowledge in heaven is more complete than it was on earth, then we must be able to recognize each other. There is no “memory wipe” suggested in Scripture for those who go to heaven.  Our intelligence will be enhanced, not decreased.

After His resurrection, Jesus was recognized by His disciples, although He did conceal His identity on occasion.  (See Luke 24:15-16 & John 20:15.) Those two incidents suggest that while there will be some change in outward appearance, the identity of the person will shine through, especially to minds enlightened by heaven’s glory.

Hope this helps.

– Bob

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