Will we recognize each other in heaven?
No specific biblical reference declares explicitly that we will recognize each other. But the implicit teaching of Scripture is so overwhelming that I don’t think there’s really any doubt that we will be able to recognize each other in heaven. There is an element of discontinuity between this life and the life to come: We’re going to be changed in the twinkling of an eye; we’ll have a new body, and the old will pass away. Nevertheless, the Christian view of life after death is not like the Eastern view of annihilation, in which we lose our personal identities in some kind of a sea of forgetfulness. Even though there is this element of discontinuity, replacing the old with the new, there’s a strong element of continuity in that the individual person will continue to live on into eternity.
Part of what it means to be an individual person is to be involved in personal relationships. In fact, one of the articles of the Apostles’ Creed is that we say we believe in the communion of the saints. That affirmation does not apply only to the fellowship that we enjoy with each other now, but it indicates a communion that all people who are in Christ have with one another. Even now, in this world, I mystically enter into communion with Martin Luther and John Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, who are part of the whole company of saints. There’s no reason to expect that this communion will cease.
When we enter into a better level of communion with Christ and with those who are in Christ, we would think that communion would naturally intensify rather than diminish.
Although you have to be careful about how much you draw out of a parable, Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus does give us an inside look at the afterlife. He talks about a rich man who had everything going for him in this world and a poor man who was a beggar at the rich man’s gates. The rich man ignored the pleas of the poor man. Both of them died, and the poor man, Lazarus, was carried to the bosom of Abraham, whereas the rich man was in the outer darkness. But even there this one who was presumably in hell was able to see across the unbridgeable chasm to the bosom of Abraham and see the state of felicity this beggar was now enjoying. He pleaded with Abraham, crying across the gulf, to have mercy and to let him have the power to go back to earth or to send a message back to warn his own brothers lest they fell into the judgment he had fallen into. Of course, Jesus says it’s too late at that point. At least in the parable there is recognition of the persons involved and also recognition of where people are and where they aren’t.
©1996 by R.C. Sproul. Used by permission of Tyndale.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. ©1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.