In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.Luke 16:23 NLT Good-byes are difficult; heaven is for hellos.
One of the beautiful assets of eyesight is recognition. I’ve lived in numerous locations and had the privilege of knowing hundreds of people. Some of the names I’ve forgotten, but when I see a particular person I’ve known, I recognize their face. The thought of not knowing people in heaven that I’ve known on earth is troubling—particularly, if it’s a family member. To be incapable of recognizing my parents, grandparents, children, or spouse would be disturbing.
Unfortunately, there’s no Bible verse that states, “You will recognize people in heaven whom you’ve known on earth.” Yet there are stories that infer we will. Jesus told a story about a rich man and a beggar. During his lifetime, the rich man had everything he wanted. The beggar subsisted on the bread crumbs the rich man discarded after using them to wipe his face. As their states in life were different, so were their places after death. Even though the rich man was in hell, he recognized Abraham of old—whom he had never met, as well as the beggar he had ignored.
During Saul’s reign as Israel’s king, he re-instated the divine law outlawing mediums or fortune-tellers. But when things weren’t going well in the kingdom, he disguised himself and consulted a witch who resided at Endor. When she conjured up the prophet Samuel, Saul immediately recognized the prophet who had earlier anointed him as king (1 Samuel 28:7-20).
Jesus once took Peter, James, and John—three of his closest disciples—to a high mountain where his true identity was revealed to them. The old prophets Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Based on Peter’s request to build shelters for all three, it’s evident Peter recognized people he’d never seen.
Though we can’t be certain—and in heaven, it likely won’t matter—it appears we’ll know those we’ve known on earth and possibly those we’ve read about in history, especially biblical history. Most importantly, however, we’ll know the One who died for our sins. And that will be enough.
Martin Wiles is an author, pastor, English teacher, and freelance editor who resides in Greenwood, South Carolina. He is the founder and editor of the internationally recognized website, Love Lines from God (www.lovelinesfromgod.com). Wiles is the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions, the Senior Editor for Inspire a Fire, a Proof Editor for Courier Publishing, and Assistant Editor for Vinewords.net. He has also served as Web Content Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina. Wiles has authored Don’t Just Live…Really Live (Ambassador International), A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Noisy World (Ambassador International), Grits & Grace & God and Grits, Gumbo, and Going to Church (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas), Morning By Morning, Morning Serenity, and Grace Greater Than Sin (America Star Books) and is a contributing author in Penned from the Heart (Son-Rise Publications), Rise (Chaplain Publishing), and Love Knots (Vine-Word Publishing). He has served as Regional Correspondent and Sunday school lesson writer for the Baptist Courier and has also written for Lifeway’s Bible Studies for Life curriculum. He has also been published in Christian Living in the Mature Years, Mature Living, Parenting Teens, Open Windows, Proclaim, Stand Firm, The Secret Place, The Word in Season, The Upper Room, The Upper Room Disciplines, Light from the Word, Reach Out Columbia, Mustard Seed Ministries, Journey Christian Newspaper, Common Ground Herald, The Quiet Hour, Power for Living, Halo Magazine, Joyful Living Magazine, Christian Broadcasting Network, Converge, Sharing, Today’s Christian Living, These Days, Plum Tree Tavern, Eskimo Pie, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Creation Illustrated, LIVE, Purpose Magazine, The Banner, Relevant, Bible Advocate, Reasons to Live, Author Magazine, and Lutheran Digest. Wiles has also written for the Bridges and Pathways Curriculum (Warner Press) and is a regular contributor to Christian Devotions, PCC Daily Devotions, Theology Mix, Inspire a Fire, The Write Conversation, Inkspirations, and VineWords and is a regular writer for the Dorchester County Eagle Record, the Orangeburg County Times and Democrat, and the Greenwood County Index Journal. Wiles has also served on faculty for the Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference. crat, and the Greenwood County Index Journal. Wiles also serves as the Managing Editor for Christian Devotions , the Senior Editor for Inspire a Fire, and as a Proof Editor for Courier Publishing. You can follow him @linesfromgod.