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The age old question: Recognition in heaven?

Jacobs dream
Jacobs dream
LaVista church of Christ

For some reason the subject question is always coming up when life after death is being discussed. It is an important question but should not trouble us. Each person is responsible for his own obedience to God and is also the one to determine his one reward in the hereafter. God and Jesus have done their part and have provided us with a means of attaining everlasting life in glory with them. It is now our responsibility to render obedience and devote our lives to receive that reward.

And there is no real reason to be concerned as to the recognizing of one another, yet it does bother some and is of interest to many including this writer. But let us first understand that we will be changed, not only in appearance but we will not be of physical material. There are ample scriptures to settle that without question. Consider these scriptures:

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2 KJV)

"Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." (1 Corinthians 15:51 KJV)

Now from those scriptures, we can readily see that we will not continue to be the same creatures as we are while dwelling here on earth. And to confirm that fact read the following verses:

"So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:42-45 KJV)

Let us not forget our title subject question. But the above quotations assuredly tell us that we will not be the same body that we now have. It will be 100% of incorruptible materials, if you wish to call such 'material'. Actually it will not be anything made of physical material, because those scriptures assure us that we will be like Jesus when he returns for us. John says, 'We will be like him'. There comes into focus here things which we do not, yea cannot, fully understand. When we think of total absence of physical matter, we loose our comprehension. We know nothing but physical matter. But we know that God is a spirit and we know that Jesus is a spirit...for he and God are one. (See John 10:30 and John 17:11)

Therefore, if we are to be changed and shall be like him, there is no question but that we shall be a spirits. Not only because of those scriptures immediately above but through out the Bible. (Genesis 2:7)

"Then shall the dust (body-JH) return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it." (Ecclesiastes 12:7 KJV)

"For as the body without the spirit F9 is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (James 2:26 KJV)

After reading the preceding verses, it should be completely clear that the spirit of man is all that is going to be in the hereafter. The body is forever gone and there is no need or place for it. All physical matter will be completely removed from existence.

What does this all mean and what does it have to do with our subject? It should have nothing whatsoever to do with it...except that there will be no recognizing of anything physical there. The spirit world has no matter whatsoever to deteriorate and that goes for the human body as well. We cannot expect to be returned to our old 'remodeled' physical body, because flesh and blood cannot be there.

Now, to finally answer the question asked in our title. The answer is, according to many scriptures inferring so, we will know our acquaintances in heaven. We are now back to the place where we cannot perceive the existence in the spirit. We have no details as to just what we will be like, and if John admitted that he did not know what we will be, other than like Jesus, certainly we cannot know either. It may be such that we will be able to visualize our acquaintances seemingly as physical matter, but we will certainly not be composed of such.

There are a number of verses that confirm that the spirit of man is within his physical body, yet is not physical. And we know that the spirit will survive physical death and is immortal. It will live eternally.

John 4:24 tells us several things in a short verse. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." If we analyze that closely, we can understand that (1) God is a spirit...not a physical being. And man must worship him in spirit and in truth. Now that requires man to utilize both the physical being as well as the spirit. We are told to sing. Singing requires use of both our physical use of the mouth, tongue, vocal cords, etc. But it also requires us to use our mentality, wherein is our spirit, to read or know and repeat the words of the song in its musical score.

When the physical body dies, the inner spirit is released from that body but it will survive forever. This is the mentality and personality of man. This author well recognizes that numerous people do not fully agree with my personal assessment of this being, yet there seems to be no other explanation. There is to be no physical matter left in existence once the day of the Lord comes. Although there are a number of places which state that flesh and blood cannot be a part of the existence in heaven, many find it difficult to fully accept that. With those elements gone, what is left? Only the mentality of the individual. That's it! The mental personalty. Now obviously there will have to be some way for that individual to function and to see others as well as others seeing him. But again, keep in mind that nothing physical can be there!

Spirits have the ability to appear to the human eye. But only when manifested in some physical form. God appeared to Moses as a burning bush. God, and other spirits, visited Abraham...manifested as humans! These could have been only visions or they could have been made of physical matter. Either way, it was only for the benefit of the viewer. The human eye must have physical materials to reflect light which forms an image in the persons mind. Yet, God and other beings sometimes appeared in the form of a dream in the human's mind. Now because it was in the form of a dream, did not mean that it was a negative form of occurrence. It happened. My own personal take on this matter is that our spirit will receive visions of others as well as surroundings in the exact manner that one sees those things in a dream...only it will not be a dream and without doubt, things will appear as clearly and perfectly as if it were physical. Now consider that for a moment.

In such an environment, we will be able to see others with perfect vision, even though there is no physical matter involved. Without this physical body, there will be no physical body to deteriorate, to have aches, broken limbs, physical defects, or anything to cause us sorrow or pain, and since it does not deteriorate, it will furnish us a peaceful, life forever and ever. Also, the mind in this state, unhampered by electrical circuits of the physical brain, will be able to recognize, not only God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Abraham, Moses and all those saints who laid down their lives for the cause of God, which the writer of the Hebrews letter describes them as "Of whom the world was not worthy" (Hebrews 11:38). It is very likely, with an unfettered mind, that we shall know every person in heaven.

And, as far as recognizing our friends and relatives from this earth, there are ample scriptures which make it clear that such will be the case. Here are a few which could not mean anything else.

“And Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years, and was gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8).

And another referring to Joshua and those faithful people who lived in his tenure as leader:

"And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel." (Judges 10:9-10)

There are a great many other scriptures which give assurance that we will know our loved ones in heaven. This however, leads us to another question is most difficult of all and apparently there is no clear cut answer for it.

Numerous people, when shown that they will know their friends and loved ones in heaven, have misgivings concerning their loved ones who have died outside of Christ and will not be there. The question is, how can one be totally happy and content knowing that some of their loved ones are enduring eternal punishment. And this writer has to admit, there seems to be no real answer to that one expressed in the scriptures. There are several possibilities which may hold the answer, but there is no scriptural evidence of them. One, it may be that the memories of those will not remain in our minds. It may be that those will be etrased from our memory. This, again is apparently unanswerable. Except for the promises we have that there will be no more pain, heartaches, etc.

We must remember that God is omniscient and omnipotent. He has prepared a place for His faithful children and has promised us relief from all of those negative problems we have here in this life. He wishes us to live eternally with Him in glory with perfect happiness. With that said, we know that he can arrange things where we will not be concerned for anything. He loves us and intends for us to be happy.