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When a believer dies and go to heaven will we either know or recognize our loved ones that went to be with the Lord before us?

I don’t think there is any question but what we will know our loved ones (and others) in heaven.  I’ll just mention those instances in Scripture that I can think of that support this conclusion.

  • First of all I think of Saul, speaking to Samuel (from the dead) in 1 Samuel 28:5-19.  Now this is a most puzzling incident, but my point is that Samuel was dead and yet he was recognized as being Samuel.

  • In 2 Samuel chapter 12 David’s son (from his illicit relationship with Bathsheba) dies.  And yet in 2 Samuel 12:23 David says that while his child cannot return to him, he will go to be with the child.  How could this be any comfort to David if he would not be able to recognize his child in heaven?

  • At the transfiguration of our Lord (Matthew 17:1-8) both Moses and Elijah appeared, and were recognized for who they were (both of whom had died long before this).

  • In Matthew 27:50-54 we read of those who were raised from the dead at the time of our Lord’s resurrection.  They even walked about Jerusalem.  My sense (though it is not clearly stated) is that they would be recognizable (were we to know what they looked like many years ago).  Can you imagine meeting David or one of the prophets?  (My assumption, incidentally, is that they ascended to heaven with our Lord.)

  • In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 the rich man seems to know Lazarus.

  • In Luke 24:13-35 Jesus (who had died and been raised from the dead) appeared to the men on the road to Emmaus.  They did not immediately recognize Jesus because “their eyes were prevented from recognizing them” (Luke 24:16).  This certainly implies that they would have recognized him otherwise.  Note, too, that in John 20:26-29 Jesus appeared to His disciples, with Thomas (who wouldn’t believe in the resurrection till he saw Jesus).  Jesus had Thomas put his fingers into the places where the nails and the spear had pierced His flesh.  Thus, Jesus in His heavenly body bore the marks of His earthly body, and could be recognized as the Jesus they knew and loved.

  • My assumption is that part of the comfort Paul gives in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is that we will not only join those who have died before us (in the faith) in heaven, but that we will know them.

  • Having said all of this we must also remember that our relationships in heaven will not be just like they were on earth.  In Matthew 22:23-34 the Sadducees are trying to trick Jesus with the “whose wife will she be in heaven” question (vss. 24-28).  Jesus makes it clear that the dead will be raised, but He also says that the marriage relationship between a husband and a wife will not continue as such in heaven (verse 30).  Thus, things will be different (although this in no way contradicts the fact that we will recognize people in heaven).  The fact is that our relationships in heaven will be far superior to anything we have known on earth.

One last thing.  We are all comforted by the fact that we will be with our saved loved ones in heaven, but the greatest joy of heaven is that we will be there with our Lord.  He is always to be the strongest attraction to heaven (1 Thessalonians 4:17-18; Revelation 21:1-4).

Related Topics: Heaven, Comfort