If we can’t remember pain when we get to heaven, how will we remember anything? What about our parents or the Gospel writers we know and love? Will we know them?
A: For starters, the Bible doesn’t say we won’t remember suffering and pain. “... and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4, NASB). No, it says there won’t be any of those earthly experiences taking place in heaven, but it does not say our brains will be wiped of all memory of pain or wounding.
The moments when we entered into the sufferings of Christ, and overcame our strife, are part of our testimony in God. Jesus himself has holes in his hands and a spear-wound on his side even today. Doubting Thomas saw the marks from the crucifixion firsthand (John 20), and Jesus had already risen from the tomb. Jesus did not die again, we recall, because he lifted straight off the earth and went to The Father (Acts 1:9, 10). So the evidence in Christ’s flesh is still there for all to see. I’m confident Jesus hasn’t forgotten the pain and suffering he endured to receive those important scars on our behalf. He does, however, have joy about it now (Hebrews 12:2).
We’ll recognize our Christian relatives, yes, and we’ll also know the Disciples, Apostles and leaders in the Kingdom of God. These men and women are considered “the great cloud of witnesses” spoken of in detail by Paul (Hebrews; chapters 11 and 12.) We also have credible testimonies to back up the idea: many people have had a near-death experience and came back to discuss what happened. (Three reliable sources come to mind and have produced numerous recorded accounts: Kevin Zadai, Jesse Duplantis and Colton Burpo.) Jesse Duplantis, for example, knew instantly that it was David or Abraham when he encountered them in heaven. This, I believe, is because all people are spirit-beings. We communicate with our mouths, hands or body language, of course, but we also perceive much about each other through the spirit realm. I believe these great men and women who are dead in Christ will easily be identified as alive and well because our spirits will know them even before our eyes recognize them on those streets of gold. Especially when it comes to the Bible authors we’ve studied all of our lives. We’ve heard their voices in our heads and their spirits have already resonated inside our souls.
King Saul’s encounter with the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel: 28) also proves that we are able to recognize one another when we are on the other side, or between the two realms of heaven and earth. As soon as Saul sinned and commanded the witch to raise the dead, Samuel appeared and yelled, “Why are you disturbing me?” The evil sorceress instantly recognized who it was, and she was afraid of the prophet’s power, even from the grave.
Unfortunately, we don’t know much about heaven with absolute certainty. Our Lord has left some things shrouded in mystery and for good reason. While curiosity is encouraged by God since it leads us into a deeper relationship with him and his Word, we must not insist every question is answered on this side of Glory. Being consumed with unanswerable questions, our curiosity may distract us away from our Gospel priorities as we chase down the theological details and wander down dead-end roads of speculation.
No, we must trust God with our unanswered questions and we’ll have nothing to fear in our afterlife. We won’t miss those hugs and conversations with those who’ve gone before us. Jesus will make sure of it. And we’ll have all eternity to socialize!
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Ask Pastor Adrienne column: What will I remember in heaven?