I had the great opportunity last week to visit my father in Mexico. He has been having a hard time since the passing away of my mother about eight months ago. I was encouraged to see him, and he also was encouraged as we spent a few days together. On the Sunday that I was there, I was invited to preach. I wanted to share something that would encourage my relatives and members of the church who were present at worship. I spoke about the day in heaven when we will see each other again with our loved ones who departed before we did.
A question that appears to be of great concern to many people is the question of whether or not we will recognize each other in heaven. Of all the questions we entertain concerning the afterlife, this one is probably the one most frequently asked. And of course, having lost loved ones to death, I certainly understand why the answer to this question is very important. Since the death of my mother, I am gripped with emotion when I imagine the reunion that I will experience with her. Who among us hasn’t heard a preacher in a sermon or at a funeral speak of the reunion that will someday be experienced either at our passing or the return of the Lord? It’s a comforting thought. But for some, it’s a thought that creates concern and discomfort.
One example could be, what about the godly woman who dies in the Lord, but whose husband would never make Jesus his Lord? Or what about the godly parents who die in the Lord, but whose children lived lives of rebellion against the Lord? How can the concept of recognition be a source of comfort for them? If recognition exists in the afterlife, how would this not be an eternal reminder and source of sorrow for those who have loved ones who were not granted access to heaven?
Dear brothers and sisters, if that is a valid argument against recognition and for the lack of recognition in heaven, then consider the other side. If we think that removing the ability to recognize one another removes the possibility of sorrow, then we are presented with the other alternative being a source of sorrow. For instance, how would you like to know that you have a loved one in heaven, but you’ll never be able to know where or who they are? Would that not also be frustrating and a source of sorrow?
The effort to remove the ability to recognize one another doesn’t resolve the issue of sorrow; it only shifts the source of potential sorrow to the lack of ability to recognize one another. While I have far more questions than God chose to answer, please consider these points:
There was recognition in the Hadean realm. The rich man recognized Abraham and Lazarus (Luke 16:23).
There was remembrance in the Hadean realm. The rich man remembered he had five brothers (Luke 16:28).
When Abraham was buried in the cave of Machpelah, the Bible says he was “gathered to his people.” (Genesis 25:8). This does not refer to a shared burial plot, for Abraham’s ancestors were buried elsewhere. Also notice that he was not gathered to all people, my people, or your people, but to his people. This suggests a reunion.
Upon the death of King David’s son, David found comfort in the thought that while he could not bring his son back, he could go to be with his son (2 Samuel 12:23).
For me, the bottom line is that I trust God. I may not know how God will “wipe away all tears” (Revelation 21:4), but I have full assurance, nothing doubting, that he will do just that. Is anything too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27)?