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Will We Know Each Other In Heaven?
by Mark Nickles
11/21/2011 / Bible Studies
Recently, I was surprised to learn from a friend her pastor's teaching that Christians would not know each other in heaven. I've encountered a few believers who held this viewpoint, (or asked such a question) but never a minister of the Gospel.
It was enough to make me wonder, "How many of God's people labor under such a misconception?" In case that question doesn't clue you in to what I believe, let me make it easy for you: I believe Christians WILL know each other in heaven. And, while there is no particular scripture that tells us, "Sure! You'll recognize everyone when you get there!", there are plenty of passages that lead us to reasonably embrace just such a conclusion. Consider the following types of "eternal memory" for which the Bible presents evidence.
Memory of deeds done.
First, let's consider the account in Matthew 7:21-23, in which Jesus reveals something about the day of judgment. He says, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers.'"
What we see here is clear evidence that, at the judgment, people will have memory of the things they did on earth. This begs the question, why would God allow us memory of deeds done, but not of people we knew? In many cases, the memory of miracles and ministries performed would have to be separated from the memory of those who benefitted from them. Not only is there no logical reason to believe such a separation would take place, there is no scripture that supports it.
Memory of opportunities missed.
In Matthew 25:41-46, (The Sheep and the Goats) we find more of Jesus' words that would seem to indicate the presence of our full mental faculties after this life. Verses 34 through 40 deal again with memory of deeds done. But in verses 41 through 46, we see memories of opportunities missed. Again, revealing more of what will transpire in the judgment, we find these words: "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
Obviously, the overriding sin for those represented as "the goats" was the rejection of Christ as Lord. Why else would they be consigned to "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels"? However, Jesus also presents the evidence of ministry that had gone undone. Again, it lends itself to the fact that those judged will be faced with what they know to be true, which can only happen with memory in place.
Luke 16:19-31 could also be included in the category of "Memory of Opportunities Missed". In this passage, Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a poor beggar named Lazarus. Ultimately, the rich man ends up in hell, "where he was in torment", while Lazarus is in heaven, or at "Abraham's side". While in hell, the rich man obviously remembers his lack of compassion, when he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them of the dangers of such an omission, that their fate might be different from his.
Additionally telling, however, is that the rich man calls Lazarus by name twice; once when asking for him to warn his family, and before, when he asks for Lazarus to be sent to comfort him with just a few drops of water. The obvious question to be considered is, if there is no memory of persons in the afterlife, how could the rich man know Lazarus by name? One would have to conclude that there are differing conditions for memory concerning those in hell, which seems silly and contrived, or that Jesus was being untruthful about specific conditions applicable after our earthly life, which is unacceptable, considering his sinless status.
Memory of promises fulfilled.
Finally, we have an aspect of memory that deals with the very important fact of the future resurrection of the people of God. Consider Paul's writings in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. (Emphasis added.) "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 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 own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till 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 each other with these words."
Paul did not want believers to "grieve like the rest of men", or, those who are not saved, over Christian loved ones who had died. Instead, he wanted to comfort them with the thought of being reunited with those loved ones on the day of Jesus' return. This is a tremendous truth for believers, even today. We can all take comfort in the fact that we will again see those Christian loved ones who have already gone on to be with the Savior. That is why we don't grieve like those "who have no hope", but with the knowledge that our separation is not forever.
Having been given such an assurance, can you imagine being "caught up together with them in the clouds", and then thinking "Who are all of these strangers?" It would certainly seem to steal an important aspect of hope from the reunion, would it not?
There doesn't seem to be any Biblical reason to believe that Christians will lose our mental faculties to any degree when we get to heaven. There are, however, many scriptures which should encourage us that God is going to leave our memories intact, that we might remember the long-awaited fulfillment of His many promises for all eternity.
Mark Nickles is a husband, father of three, and a pastor in Northeastern Oklahoma. Copyright, Mark A. Nickles.
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