Will There Be Recognition in Heaven?

by Pastor Paul M. Sadler

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There are two notable distinctions between the two programs of God regarding the hereafter, both of which have to do with the hope of believers. In the twenty-third Psalm, David, whose hope was earthly, was willing to go, but wanting to stay. Contrariwise, the Apostle Paul taught that believers today have a heavenly hope, and as a result, he was willing to stay for the sake of the Church, but longing to go, which he knew would be much better (Phil. 1:23,24).

A book could be written on misconceptions about heaven. The majority of these have been handed down from generation to generation, but they have absolutely no Scriptural basis. Here are some common examples: we will one day become angels in heaven; Peter stands at the pearly gates to determine who will enter; we will float on clouds, playing harps for eternity; there will not be recognition in heaven. These are well-known folklores that Satan uses to divert attention away from the Word of God.

In the eyes of the world, most everyone who dies goes to heaven. But the fact of the matter is that only those who place their faith in Christ will be the eternal residents of this glorious realm. But will we know one another there?

Recognition in the hereafter is a principle that transcends all the ages and dispensations, whether we’re talking about the disembodied state or after the resurrection. For example, Saul knew Samuel when God allowed the prophet to return from paradise years after his death. The rich man of Luke 16 recognized Lazarus, who appeared with Abraham, and requested that the patriarch send Lazarus with some water to cool his tongue.

Paul also makes a strong case that we will know one another in the hereafter. The apostle says to the saints at Philippi,

“For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body” (Phil. 3:20,21).

This particular passage substantiates that our identity will be preserved in the resurrection. After our Lord was resurrected from the dead, He appeared to His disciples in the upper room. When He entered the room, He first calmed their fears with words with which they were very familiar: “Peace be unto you!” They immediately recognized the Lord and rejoiced when they saw Him (John 20:19-21).

Afterward the disciples shared the good news with Thomas, who was not present that day, that they had seen the Lord. Thomas, however, refused to believe it until he saw the nail prints in His hands. Eight days later, the Lord appeared again to His disciples, but this time Thomas was present. When he saw the Lord, he was so overwhelmed by the visitation that he declared, “My Lord and my God!” There was no question whatsoever in Thomas’ mind that he had seen the Savior and undoubtedly touched the nail prints in His hands, prints that will forever be a reminder of His death at Calvary (John 20:24-29).

Now, if our Lord’s identity was preserved in the resurrection and the brethren recognized Him, then the same will be true of us. This conclusion is based on the fact that our vile bodies will be “fashioned like unto His glorious body” in the coming resurrection. If the Lord’s followers recognized Him, there is no doubt that we will recognize one another in the hereafter. Further evidence is presented by Paul a little later in the epistle:

“And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil. 4:3).

What’s in a name? The importance of this question cannot be overstated. Of course, we use names to distinguish one person from another. In biblical times, names had specific meanings attached to them, some of which were in fulfillment of prophecy. Today, as in time past, our names are set in stone; they will be with us for time and eternity. If there isn’t recognition in heaven, as some teach, why would there need to be names in eternity? Clearly the names of Euodias, Syntyche, Clement, and the other fellow workers of Paul, are all recorded in the Book of Life. The reason our names are recorded there is that we will be known in the resurrection by name and appearance, even as we are known here.

I look forward to seeing those with whom I’ve had the privilege of ministering the Word, along with all my family members and friends who believed the gospel. You won’t have trouble finding me at that day; I’ll be the tall one in the background. Yes, even our stature, voice, personality and mannerisms will all be preserved. See you there!

To the Reader:

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