Question: “I have been told that when we get to heaven that we won’t really know each other—that we will know each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, but not as the same people we are now. Is this true? Will I know my loved ones? And will they know me?”
My Answer: This is a fairly common question. Through the years I have been asked it many times. First, the simple answer: YES! You will know others in heaven, and they will know you.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s see what the Scripture says. Is there Biblical warrant for believing that we will know each other in the afterlife, and recognize friends and loved ones? I believe there is a strong case for this being so.
In the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration, he was seen with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:17:3). Moses had been dead for over a thousand years, yet the disciples knew him to be the Lawgiver of Israel, not some names Hebrew saint.
Jesus said that “many will come from the east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). Again, the patriarchs are called by name, they still have their personal identities. It is Abraham, himself; Isaac, himself; Jacob, himself who sits with the gathered saints of God.
In the story Jesus told of the rich man going to hell, the Lord said that he lifted up his eyes and he saw Abraham and Lazarus (Luke 16:23). The rich man recognized both the patriarch, who had died centuries before, and Lazarus, with whom he was acquainted in his own life.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonian church: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19, 20). Clearly Paul had the expectation that he was going to see the people he knew, the very ones he had led to Christ, when he met them in the Presence of Christ at His coming.
Also speaking to the Thessalonians, Paul was dealing with confusion on their part about the dead. He wanted to comfort them in this matter (1 Thessalonians 4:13). He states emphatically that the dead in Christ will come with the Lord when He returns, and that they will be resurrected first. Then we are still alive on earth will changed and join them (1 Thess. 14-17). Paul says that we are “comfort one another” with this teaching (v. 18). What comfort is there if you are missing your loved one, confused about what happens after death, and then find out that you will never know them again? There is no comfort in this. Clearly, Paul indicates we will join with our loved ones, and know them in eternity.
Of course, the greatest evidence is the Lord Jesus Himself. He did not cease to be the individual person that He was, even after death, even after the Resurrection. He was still Jesus of Nazareth. He was seen and recognized by his disciples. They interacted with Him on numerous occasions. And the Bible is clear, we will be like Him in the resurrection (1 John 3:2, Philippians 3:21).
The bottom line is this: when you become a Christian, Jesus redeems YOU. You are not a number on a list. You are not some unknown spiritual blob. You are YOU. And the YOU that He forgives, saves, gives a new life here will be the very same YOU that He takes to heaven, and will resurrect one day.
No wonder Paul wrote:
“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.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV)