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Heaven: Will I Recognize My Loved Ones?

In his series about Heaven, Pastor Daniel Brown asks, in the world to come, will we recognize our loved ones?


God is the God of the living, not of the dead. (Mark 12:27) We do not cease to exist after death on earth; we pass into the realm of spirit—but we retain enough distinctive essence of our true selves to be easily identified by everyone else. At the transfiguration, the disciples recognized Moses and Elijah who had lived hundreds of years prior to Peter, James and John. Though the disciples had never met Moses and Elijah on earth, they were able to recognize them for who they were. This has exciting implications for us. Not only will we recognize our friends and loved ones in Heaven, it seems likely that we will also “know” all the other inhabitants, and everyone else will know us, too.

The Bible speaks of several distinct groups of redeemed people in Heaven, such as the twenty-four elders, (Revelation 4:10) the hundred and forty-four thousand who go through the “Great Ordeal” with the Anti-Christ, (Revelation 14:1-3) and the great multitude that “no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues.” (Revelation 7:4-9). Without recognizable bodies, these groups of heavenly residents would be impossible to identify, so it is safe to conclude that we will have features in Heaven to distinguish us from one another. We will recognize others in Heaven.

Here on earth we know one another more than just by our looks. For instance, we converse “over the phone” with a voice—knowing it is our friend or spouse. Just by the sound of their voice, we know who they are, and it does not seem the least bit odd to relate to them without seeing their physical form. Likewise, when we read a letter from a dear friend, we actually read it with their voice echoing in our mind. We mimic the sound of it as we read the letter silently.

We get a feel for people we know, a sense of their personality and humor and presence. When we happen to think of them, we can do so as easily in terms of their personality (what they are like) as we can in terms of their physical features (what they look like). If you were to tell me that one of my golfing buddies went into a rage and broke the Clubhouse window because of a missed putt, I would tell you that there must be some mistake; my friends are not like that.

Our clay bodies are like an old set of clothes. My wife used to wear a blue and white, ankle-length gingham skirt. I loved how it looked on her—just as I love particular outfits she has now. None of her clothes have lasted as long as our marriage. Different ensembles; same wife. When the clothes are bundled up in the bag she takes to the dry cleaners, I can recognize her dresses and blouses, and say they are hers. But just because she is not wearing a particular outfit does not mean I have trouble recognizing her! So it will be when you and I put off our earthly outfit and put on our heavenly one.

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Category: Fall 2019, Living the Faith

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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