I’D RATHER NOT recognize some people in heaven, if you know what I mean.
- Souls that don’t belong there, if what I saw in them is any measure of worth.
- Souls that probably don’t think I belong there, if what they saw in me is any measure of worth.
When we get to heaven, will we recognize our loved ones?
I don’t know. I haven’t died yet. I’ll have to get back to you when I’m dead. I’ll send a note by Dead-Ex.
In the meantime, a couple kissing-cousin Bible passages come to mind.
There are no Bible passages I’m aware of that directly answer the question. I have seen scholars refer to a few selected passages, but those passages seem even more of a stretch than the ones I’m about to mention.
Reunion 1: Saul, Samuel
Remember that story about King Saul going to see the Witch of Endor? She wasn’t really a witch. She was a medium who had a reputation for consulting the dead.
Kings often consulted with their leading prophet before going into battle. And King Saul was about to lead his Jewish militia into battle against an overwhelming force of Philistines. He wanted to know if by any stretch of possibility he and his men might win the battle. But his only prophet, Samuel, was dead in the dirt.
During the séance, Samuel’s spirit appeared and shocked the bejeebers out of the medium – who must’ve been a fraud if a real spirit shocked her.
Saul apparently couldn’t see the spirit, but the medium could – and Saul could hear the spirit. When the medium described what Samuel looked like, “Saul realized it was Samuel” (1 Samuel 28:14). Samuel’s voice must’ve sealed Samuel’s identity, as far as Saul was concerned.
Just so you know, Samuel said that Saul and his sons would join the dead prophet the next day. And he was right. Philistines overran the Jewish militia.
Reunion 2: Jesus, Moses, Elijah
Remember the story of the Transfiguration?
Jesus took his three best friends to some hilltop to spend guy time together. The disciples – Peter, James, and John – watched Jesus transform into what sounds like a celestial form: “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light” (Matthew 17:2).
They saw something else, too: “Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus” (Matthew 17:3).
If that story is any indication, we not only recognize people we’ve met, we recognize people we’ve never met. Moses lived more than 1,000 years before Jesus; Elijah, more than 800.
And, of course, we have all these near-death experiences in which people report having seen their loved ones in the afterlife.
Skepticism is allowed.
But it’s a little harder to discount the stories when they come from family and friends. And it seems the stories are not as uncommon as people used to think. Maybe that’s because folks are a little more open to telling their story without fear of being judged as wacko.
One last thought.
Consider what is reasonable. Would heaven be heaven if it’s a place where we didn’t know anyone?
I feel fairly uncomfortable tackling questions about the afterlife. So many theories and interpretations, so few facts.
That’s why I turned down a publisher’s request to write a book about heaven. A book on that topic would be far too speculative for the kind of writing I prefer to do.
I understand that people are curious and they want answers. But a lot of the time the answers are not there. The theories are thin. And the interpretations make as much sense as a painting by Picasso with Parkinson’s.
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was one of the most influential theologians in Christian history. Seminary students still study his work.
That’s in spite of the fact that Aquinas quit writing because he said he had a vision:
I can write no more. I have seen things that make my writings like straw.
Straw is worthless.
He left his greatest work unfinished: a five-volume Summa Theologiae (Summary of Theology).
He died three months later.
I remember Aquinas when I have to explore questions like this.
I am left wondering if the answers are so beyond our frame of reference that there is no way of understanding them on this side of eternity.
Here, perhaps, physics gets in the way.
Alas, that’s just another theory.