Will we recognize one another in heaven?

Question: Often, when someone dies, the survivors say, “We’ll get to see him/her again in heaven.” Is there any Biblical support that Christians who knew each other on earth will recognize or know each other in heaven?

Answer: It appears that whether we knew each other on earth or not we will know each other in heaven and in the kingdom. I base this on the account of the transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17. Peter says in verse 4, “If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Now unless Jesus specifically told them who the two standing with him were when He was transfigured, Peter just somehow knew this. I get the sense that whatever identifiers we now use (outward physical appearance, voice, etc.) will be communicated more immediately to our spirits once we are confronted with each other in spiritual form in heaven or in our spiritual body/spirit forms on earth in the kingdom.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that in the kingdom we shall “know fully” even as we are “fully known.” Certainly this would include knowing one another. But even in the most unlikely event that we don’t immediately recognize one another, we will certainly be able to identify ourselves to one another. I can tell you who I am and you can tell me who you are and we will be able to reminisce.

Randall Johnson

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3 thoughts on “Will we recognize one another in heaven?

  1. I do not believe that we will be able to reminisce or remember anything about our earthly life when we are in Heaven. See Isaiah 65:17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
    And the former things will not be remembered or come to mind.”

    • The context of Isaiah 65:17 is not really speaking about all “former things” (including, as you suggest, all former memory of relationships and personal history), but rather, as He says in verse 16, “the former troubles.” These are the troubles mentioned earlier in the chapter/prophecy of unbelieving Israelites involved in idolatry and God bringing judgment on them but rescuing a remnant of His people. It would not be wise to use this passage to determine whether we will be able to reminisce or remember anything about our earthly life when heaven comes.

      Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For 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.” It seems that as we have been known here outside of heaven, before the kingdom, by God (who alone fully knows us), so we will know (one another? God’s truth? God Himself? All of the above?).

      If I do not remember my life before the kingdom, do I really have the capacity to appreciate what God has done in rescuing me? As Paul says,

      I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)

      His understanding of grace seemed enhanced by his understanding of his own rebellion. Memory is an important part of our relationship to God. We remember how much we lived without Him and so we acknowledge how great His love for us is that He would save us from ourselves and our sin. Jesus bodily scars were still present in his resurrected body because we need the reminder of the great price he paid for our sinfulness. How will that make sense if we have no memory of it?

      There is no passage of Scripture that teaches that we will no longer remember our past once the kingdom comes. There is much more in Scripture to commend the view that we will indeed remember and be grateful.

      • Thank you for replying to my comment, and calling my attention that the verse I quoted was taken out of context, and actually referred to the past sins of Israel. However, I am not convinced by anything you wrote that indicates as heavenly beings, we will have memory of our former earthly life. For example, you wrote: “Jesus’ bodily scars were still present in his resurrected body because we need the reminder of the great price he paid for our sinfulness. How will that make sense if we have no memory of it?”
        My personal interpretation of that scripture is that Jesus had the visible scars to convince any earthly doubters (e.g.Thomas) that his resurrection was real. It is a leap to believe that also means we will remember or even need to remember that Jesus was resurrected for our salvation once we are in heaven with him in person. I presume that we may have knowledge that Jesus was the one who saved us from our former life, but that doesn’t mean that we will have (or need) any detailed memory of what our former life was like. I believe that “memory” is a physical attribute of our physical body (brain) which will obviously and necessarily die when we die in this earthly form. In the realm of Heaven, we will have no need for memory to make us grateful that we were saved from our earthly sins, as that memory will have already served its purpose when we went through the trials while on earth. We will be heavenly creatures, with only a relationship with God and each other, “living” and basking only in and for the Glory of God. This is the same relationship that the angels have with God – they have no need or use for memory of any former lives, if they ever had one.
        May God bless you richly for your service and support
        Chuck Allmon

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