Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven?

WILL WE RECOGNIZE OUR LOVED ONES IN HEAVEN WHEN WE GET THERE?

by Shawn Brasseaux

It is a very common question and we turn to the Word of God to see what He has to say about this most personal issue.

Besides us dying in our sins and going to hell, or our relatives and friends dying in their sins and going to hell, the worst pain associated with living in this sin-cursed world is relatives and friends dying in Jesus Christ and going to heaven. The Bible provides comforting words in that regard. We will not only see them again (in times unfathomably happier times than we last saw them), but we will know them as soon as we see them and they will know us as soon as they see us.

The Thessalonians, enduring much persecution and even physical death itself for Jesus Christ’s sake, were comforted by the following words of the Holy Spirit: “[13] But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. [14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. [15] For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. [18] Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

There was much suffering among—and even execution of—Christians in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-9). Hence, these saints began to wonder what happened to their loved ones who had been executed for being Christians. Paul wrote the above passage to them, to the intent that they would no longer stay “ignorant” of, or unaware of, what had happened to those who were now dead in Christ. We too can take these inspired words of God and remind ourselves of the location of the souls of those who have died possessing a testimony of salvation in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we can take heart that we will see them again… and we will know them.

We Christians anticipate the day when we will be reunited with loved ones who have died in Jesus Christ. Commonly called “the Rapture,” from the Latin word translated “caught up” in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, it is when Jesus Christ will return to Earth (or rather, Earth’s atmosphere) to receive unto Himself all members of the Church the Body of Christ, living and deceased. It will be a very quick event, when all believers will receive glorified bodies fashioned like unto Jesus Christ’s resurrected body (Philippians 3:20-21).

The question often arises at this point, “Will we be able to recognize our loved ones?” After all, we have not seen some of them in many years or decades. (They are enjoying such fellowship with Jesus Christ and each other they do not know how long it has actually been!)

The following Scriptures cause us to believe that we will certainly recognize our loved ones in heaven:

  • Firstly, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Apostles Peter, James, and John recognized Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:4; Mark 9:5; Luke 9:33)—Moses and Elijah lived several centuries earlier! There were no photographs of Moses or Elijah in those days, and yet the apostles knew their faces! How? Evidently, the Holy Spirit gave the apostles the ability to recognize these prophets of old, although these apostles knew nothing of them apart from their writings.
  • Secondly, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: “[19] For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? [20] Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.” Led by the Holy Spirit, Paul implied that he would recognize the Thessalonians when the Lord returned to take us to heaven. Paul would be thrilled to see them stand before Jesus Christ as mature saints, people who then would joyfully serve Him in the heavenly places. These verses should be particularly encouraging to preachers and Bible teachers, for they too will be able to see their brethren rewarded by and before the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing full well that they played a role in guiding those Christians into God’s truth. What a feeling that will be!
  • Thirdly, Jesus Christ’s resurrected body looked just as it did before He died (John 20:19-29). Jesus Christ never had to introduce Himself.

CONCLUSION

We have every reason to believe that, in heaven, we will look basically the same way as we do now (minus physical imperfections, effects of aging, et cetera). What a day that will be! Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven? (Indeed!) But, there is more than that to remember. We will recognize saints we have never even met! Those who died in Christ many centuries ago, thousands of years ago, they will recognize us and we will recognize them. Yes, will see the faces that go with the names we recognize from the Bible. Heaven would be awfully difficult if we had to go around asking everyone’s name. And how could we forget, our greatest “Loved One” of all, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will surely recognize us as we will Him! 🙂 Yes, what a day that will be!

Also see:
» What does “at the last trump” mean in 1 Corinthians 15:52?
» Do people become angels when they die? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» What did Jesus mean, “I go to prepare a place for you?” (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)

6 responses to “Will we recognize our loved ones in heaven?

  1. Pingback: Instant Christians #14 | 333 Words of Grace

  2. Thank you for this message…it is one of my children’s favorite topic to discuss. 2 questions for you: My 5 and 7 year old wanted to know if we are raptured now, will they stay children? Will we age in heaven or stay in the age that we are raptured in?

    Second question is about those already dead in Christ. I never learned that once saved people die they will immediately begin fellowshipping with the Lord. When I read 1 Thessalonians 4:16, it says “the dead in Christ shall rise first”. The word “rise” makes me think they aren’t with the Lord yet. If He is sitting on the right hand side of God in heaven then the dead in Christ would not have to rise at the trump of God bc they would already be there. Is there another verse I can go to help me understand this?

    As always, thank you for your time and wonderful bible studies!

    Melanie T.

    >

    • Melanie, the Bible isn’t clear about our age in heaven, so God has given us liberty to speculate about that topic. Here’s how I look at it. You are free to agree or disagree with me.

      OUR AGE IN HEAVEN

      Many say that we will be in heaven the same age as Jesus Christ was when He left earth (around 33 years). I would tend to agree with them there, since Philippians 3:20-21 says: “[20] For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: [21] Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

      Our glorified bodies will be just like Jesus Christ’s resurrected body, the body He had when He physically ascended into heaven in Acts 1:9-11 (cf. Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51). That body was able to travel at high speeds to cross the universe–Jesus traveled from Earth, to Father God in Heaven, and back to Earth, in less than eight days (John 20:11-31). His body could move through walls and locked doors (John 20:19). He was able to eat physical foods such as honeycomb and broiled fish (Luke 24:30; John 24:41-43). That body was also aged 33 years when He left Earth–He began His ministry at around age 30 (Luke 3:23) and we can use various verses from the Four Gospels to estimate that He had a three-year-long ministry.

      Heaven being filled with babies that need to be nursed, or children and elderly people who need to be tended to, that is not my view of Heaven. God would have us function by ourselves, fully able to do His will without having someone else to take care of us. That is why I hold to the idea that we will neither be young nor old, but somewhere around middle-age, in heaven, never to age, weaken, slow down, et cetera. Personally, I do not see elderly Christians remaining elderly in heaven and juvenile Christians remaining juveniles in heaven. I see us all being one age, neither young nor old (whatever common age that is I would say Christ’s age). Again, apart from speculation, we’ll just have to wait and see for ourselves!

      “THE DEAD IN CHRIST SHALL RISE FIRST”

      “Second question is about those already dead in Christ. I never learned that once saved people die they will immediately begin fellowshipping with the Lord. When I read 1 Thessalonians 4:16, it says “the dead in Christ shall rise first”. The word “rise” makes me think they aren’t with the Lord yet. If He is sitting on the right hand side of God in heaven then the dead in Christ would not have to rise at the trump of God bc they would already be there. Is there another verse I can go to help me understand this?”

      Okay, let’s go to 1 Thessalonians 4 first:

      “[13] But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
      [14] For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
      [15] For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
      [16] For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
      [17] Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
      [18] Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

      Note verse 14: “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” Jesus Christ is BRINGING WITH HIM the deceased Christians. Their souls and spirits are in heaven right now, and when He comes to Earth at the Rapture, He will bring those souls and spirits with Him. He will then unite them with their new glorified, resurrected bodies. Today, their physical bodies are decaying in their graves, but THESE are that which rise, which resurrect. You can refer to 1 Corinthians 15:47-56 for better understanding:

      “[47] The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.
      [48] As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.
      [49] And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
      [50] Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
      [51] Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
      [52] In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
      [53] For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
      [54] So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
      [55] O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
      [56] The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.”

      Notice this passage (verse 50) talks about the “flesh and blood” bodies we have now. They have to be changed, transformed, for they are related to Adam, sinful and vile, and would thus taint heaven. Notice the raising of the dead Christian bodies in verse 52–this is the “dead in Christ shall rise first” of 1 Thessalonians 4:16. Their corruptible (decaying) bodies must be made to be incorruptible (never to decay or die again), and our mortal (subject to death) bodies must be made immortal (never to die).

      FELLOWSHIPPING IN HEAVEN

      Remember, “For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Paul had “been with Christ” years earlier, having been stoned to death in Acts 14:19 (I think 2 Corinthians 12:1-7 is descriptive of what happened to Paul when he was stoned). While some teach “soul sleep”–the idea that the souls of people sleep when they die, that their souls become unconscious–that is not Bible. Paul knew that to be “with Christ” was “far better.” If Paul were not awake after death, but rather unconscious, then is that (unaware of your surroundings) truly better than a conscious life here on Earth? Paul knew that after death, the Christian would be aware of being WITH Christ, being in His presence, being “with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). That’s what I mean by Christians “fellowshipping with Christ in heaven.” The affairs of this life pale in comparison to what they feel up there! If you think Christian fellowship is good here on Earth, imagine it without sin (fighting, bitterness, et cetera)… and to have the Lord Jesus Christ Himself personally there too!

      I hope that helps clarify some of these issues for you. Thanks for submitting these questions… you’re thinking critically about the Bible, and that’s excellent!

      in Christ, Shawn

  3. Pingback: Are deceased Christians with the Lord yet? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

  4. Pingback: Will we know if a loved one is not in heaven with us? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

  5. Pingback: How old will we be in heaven? | For What Saith the Scriptures?

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