We all have an infinite spirit, born to a finite body. Death is a guarantee for everyone. (Heb 9:27) As the saying goes, “It’s just a matter of time.” We all seek comfort after our loved ones pass, hopefully wondering, shall the saints know each other in heaven? Every devoted Christian has probably given thought to this question at one time or another. When one of our loved ones (a saint) departs from this life, we are sustained by the hope that we shall be united with them in heaven. Shall we recognize each other? Though the Bible does give some teaching about future recognition, nevertheless, there are questions which remain unanswered, especially those involving details or specificity.
Examine the phrase found in Genesis 25:8 which says, “And Abraham gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years, and was “Gathered to his people.” This phrase, or a slight variation of it, is used with reference to Ishmael’s death (Gen.25:17), the death of Isaac (Gen.35:29), the death of Jacob (Gen.49:29,33) and to Moses and Aaron (Deut.32:50). Moses was not buried in the sepulchers of his fathers, but in an unknown place “in the valley of Moab” (Deut.34:6). So, the phrase “gathered unto his people” would not refer to the burial of the body, but to the reunion of the spirit with those who had died before.
On the occasion of David’s child who had died, he said: “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23). David realized that someday he would go to be with the child.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “. . . we are your glorying, even as ye also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus” (2 Cor. 1:14). Paul also wrote to these brethren: “knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also with Jesus, and shall present us with you” (2 Cor. 4:14). And, he wrote to the Thessalonians: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? Are not even you, before our Lord Jesus at his coming?” These are times of future rejoicing and glorying, thus it seems reasonable that Paul in these verses is referring to the “day” when the Lord Jesus will come to judge the world.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:13,14 Paul admonished that they “sorrow not, even as the rest, who have no hope” (v.13). Their hope was not only that of the loved being at home with God, but it is also reasonable that there was the hope of someday seeing that beloved saint and being with them forever. This Scripture affords us the same hope today.
Will there be future recognition? There are two passages in particular which lend evidence to this. The transfiguration (Matt. 17:18; Mk. 9:2-8; Lk. 9:28-36). Christ was transfigured on the mountain and there appeared with him Moses and Elijah. Moses had been dead for nearly 1500 years, and his body lay in an unknown grave. Elijah did not die, for he was taken up into heaven by a whirlwind (2 Kgs. 2:11). The body of Moses turned to dust and Elijah had been changed. These men were clothed with different bodies from what they had here upon earth, but they appeared to the disciples and were talking with Jesus. They were both recognized. Secondly, the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). The rich man recognized Lazarus and Abraham in the unseen world. He still possessed memory, for he was told to remember that in this world he had good things and Lazarus evil things. He also remembered that he had five brothers still living. He requested that they be warned, lest they too, should come to torment. A great gulf in Hades separated the righteous from the wicked, and although it was too late for the rich man to be changed, there was recognition.
Some will reason that if we know family members who are saints, we shall also remember those who were not saved. Thus, sadness in heaven, where we are promised no sadness. (Rev 21:4) This is a reasonable thought, but does it negate our recognition of all the saints? Hardly. If God could allow us to remember our loved ones who were saved, he could also make us to forget all loved ones who were lost. With God, all things are possible even if we don’t fully understand it. (Mk 10:27 f; 1 Cor 8:2)
The very thought of knowing one another in heaven is a great hope for Christians, and should motivate us to endeavor even more to please God, and be assured that someday we can live forever in promised land.
Many are lead astray by following family members who were mislead by false teachers. Though we console ourselves to see our family members in heaven once we leave this earthly abode, we should never love them more than we love God. (Lk 14:26) If our loved ones are lost, I hardly doubt that anyone wants to be reunited with them in hell. Just because one of our family members are saved doesn’t mean we will be. Therefore, let us first and foremost seek to please God by obeying the gospel of Christ lest we fall short of the glory of God. And if we fall short of that glory, no reunion with family members will seem glorious.