This article is about recognizing one another in heaven.

Source: Clarion, 2008. 2 pages.

Will We Recognize Each Other?

A question I have encountered time and again in pastoral work: “Will we recognize each other after this life?” That question becomes especially poignant at the death of a loved one, when there’s much sorrow and there are many questions. According to “Gert” in the “Gereformeerde Kerkbode” (of Groningen, Fryslan, and Drenthe, The Netherlands), there is a lot of information about that issue in the Bible. This is my translation from the Dutch of the information “Gert” presents in issue number 48 (Dec.21, 2007):

In Mark 9:2-13 as well as in Matthew and Luke we read about the transfiguration on the mount. Jesus was on the mountain to pray. Peter, John, and James saw Jesus’ appearance change and his clothes became dazzling white. He spoke to two men there, who obviously were Moses and Elijah. Jesus and the disciples knew who they were and Moses and Elijah knew each other. There was no need to get acquainted with each other. They simply spoke with each other. Glorified saints apparently interact with each other! It doesn’t seem to make any difference when you lived in this life, for Moses and Elijah lived in completely different times.

The men on the way to Emmaus didn’t recognize Jesus right away, but suddenly, because of a word or gesture, they knew: “It’s Jesus!” Later, Jesus entered the house where the disciples were and they recognized Him. Mary recognized Him at the tomb, by his voice, by his manner of addressing her. After he died, the rich man (Luke 16:14-31) saw poor Lazarus at Abraham’s side. He recognized both of them. He knew what he was seeing and there was no uncertainty.

What will we look like in the life to come? Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 15:44 about a spiritual body. What is that, a spirit without a body? No, for it clearly states “body.” Not more nor any less than now. As the flesh of people is different than that of animals and the glory of the sun is different from that of the moon, so it will be with the body before and after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:35-49). A plant produces a seed and a new plant grows out of that seed. So it will be with our bodies. We sow a natural, perishable body, but a spiritual, imperishable body is raised up. A body which comes from the Spirit of God. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.

After his resurrection, Jesus was the same, recognizable to those who knew Him. But He was also different. It was Jesus, his wounds were visible and his voice recognizable. Yet He also did things which He had not done before. He suddenly appeared in a closed house. Doors and locks were no obstacle to Him any longer (John 20:19). He appeared to the men on the way to Emmaus suddenly and He disappeared again just as suddenly. The glorified body is capable of things we can only dream of now.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He picked up where He had left off before. His life continued, even though it was also different. Mary was not allowed to hold Him, things would not go back to the way they were before. But even an agreement made previously was remembered. Jesus reminds disciples of words He had spoken to them before his death (Mark 16:7). Life continues!

In the future we won’t just stand around, singing Psalms with palm branches in hand. It will be new life on a renewed earth. Then there will be no break between heaven and earth. We’ll build houses, plant vineyards, and eat their fruit (Isaiah 65:17-25). We’ll drink wine with Christ (Matthew 26:29). Yes, we’ll recognize others and be recognized by them. Only it’ll be of different importance from what that recognition was here on earth. Then everything will be different, also the matter of recognizing each other. The family relationships won’t be important (Matthew 22:23-33). We can’t fathom this with our sinful, limited understanding here. A world without sinners and sin in every aspect. Then God is all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

Are you allowed to visualize what it’ll be like? A promise about which you can’t visualize is a dead promise. The Bible even encourages us to imagine what the future will be like. Many people did that in the form of poetry or art... Imagine what it’ll be like. It’s worth the effort.

I would agree with most of what “Gert” writes. The thing is, in the life to come you’ll still be you and I’ll still be me. That’s because Christ has redeemed us body and soul (Lord’s Day 22 of the Heidelberg Catechism).

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