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: “ 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.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.  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.  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:  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.  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: “ For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  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.
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!
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