Recognition in Heaven

Will we be able to recognize others in heaven?
The Bible provides several examples that indicate that we will be able to recognize one another in heaven, and later on earth when the world is recreated (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff.). First and foremost, in the resurrection we will have our same bodies, only perfected (1 Cor. 15). Jesus himself is the first such resurrected person, and his disciples recognized him quite easily (Luke 24:33-53; John 20:19:29). The reason the men on the road to Emmaus didn't recognize him was that they were prevented from doing so, not that Jesus was unrecognizable (Luke 24:16,31). Also, even though they did not yet have resurrected bodies, Moses and Elijah were evidentally recognizable during the Transfiguration (even though the disciples had never seen them before [Matt. 17:3]).

Our minds will also remain, only perfected. As John wrote in 1 John 3:2, when Jesus returns we will be like him, and it is clear from his post-resurrection appearances that Jesus' memory remained after his resurrection.

Some people have thought that Psalm 6:5 teaches that the dead have no memory because many translations render this verse to say that there is no "remembrance" of God in death. Of course, we know that this cannot be taken to mean that in death we no longer remember that God exists (cf. Luke 9:30; 2 Cor. 5:8; Rev. 6:10). In fact, the word for "remembrance"does not mean "memory," but rather "memorial." David means that if he dies he will not be able to praise God for delivering him from this situation (and no one else will praise God for it either). On the other hand, if God does deliver him, then the praise that David renders in return will be a memorial to God's salvation. Psalm 6 itself turns out to be just such a memorial, recording David's prayer and salvation.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.