Do you have someone you hope to meet again in heaven? Several friends and loved ones come to mind as I think about the place Jesus referred to as Paradise. Great-grandparents, grandparents, church members, and a childhood hero that I admired are just a few of the friendly faces I cannot wait to see in eternity. The Puritan Richard Baxter, when speaking of heaven, remarked, “it much sweetens the thoughts of that place to me that there are such a multitude of my most dear and precious friends in Christ [who are there].” Indeed.
But will we remember our closest friends in heaven? Will we still know one another? A quick survey of biblical literature answers these questions with a resounding YES! Consider, for example, that after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead all the disciples recognized Him (John 21:1-14). The man some have called Doubting Thomas was able to touch the wounds of the Lord after He was raised from the dead (John 20:24-29). On the Mount of Transfiguration, those closest to Jesus identified that Moses and Elijah were with the Lord (Luke 9:29-33). Furthermore, our forecasted gathering with God celebrates our reunion with fellow Christ followers as well. After telling us that the dead will rise first at the coming of the Lord (1 Thess. 4:16), the Apostle Paul explains that “we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them (1 Thess. 4:17). Clearly, it is scriptural and appropriate for us to look forward to seeing the people we love again. We are even told to “comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:18).” The blessing of our friendships doesn’t compete with the joy we will have in God, but it is part of it.
From here, more specific questions arise. For instance, will husbands and wives remain married in heaven? This question is as old as the Bible itself. On one occasion (Matt. 22:23-30), the Sadducees come to Jesus with a hypothetical question about a woman who had seven husbands who died. “In the resurrection,” they asked, “whose wife of the seven will she be (Matt. 22:28)?” Jesus answered, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven (Matt. 22:29-30).”
People won’t be married to on another in heaven because God created marriage as a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the church. On this earth, husbands should depict a Christ-figure in the home through their sacrificial, servant leadership. In a similar way, wives should function as a picture of the church through their godly submission and support (Eph. 5:22-33). When our union with Christ is complete, the need for the symbol of marriage will disappear. This does not mean, however, that husbands and wives will have no recollection of their earthly marriages, nor that they will not remain close in heaven. In fact, without the hindrance of sin our current relationships will only improve when we meet the Lord.
Similar principles apply to our familial relationships. We will remember our kinfolk in heaven, as well as our past friendships, but the number of our meaningful interactions will increase astronomically. Why? Because individual families will be replaced with one big family, and limited friendships will give way to universal friendships. But how can we be sure? On one occasion Jesus identified those who hear the word of God and do it as His mother and brothers (Luke 8:19-21). Another time Jesus promised brothers, sisters, mothers, and children to anyone who sacrificed to follow Him (Mark 10:29-30). In other words, if you lack a family on this earth, God will give you one in eternity. If you enjoy your family now, He will make it even bigger one day!
Ever wondered how old our bodies will be when we get to heaven? Years ago, while pastoring in Chattanooga, TN, I had a member of our church who was 107 years old. She said to me one, “Pastor, if God will just give me a 90-year-old body I’ll be happy with that!” Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t answer this particular question. Because physical death is caused by sin, though, I tend to believe that our eternal bodies will mirror or peak physical existence. Theologian Jonathan Edwards once opined, “The heavenly inhabitants . . . remain in eternal youth.”
Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Have a question you want answered in the paper? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.