Surprised by Hope: Will We Remember Our Former Lives In Heaven?

[Re-posted to include some new material at the end.]

Someone asked this in class Sunday, and I had wondered the same thing as I was preparing the lesson. The question comes from Isaiah —

(Isa 65:17) “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.

Does that mean that we’ll forget our past lives in heaven? Especially, does that mean we’ll forget our friends and family who rejected Jesus? Many contend that this is exactly what this verse teaches. Let’s see.

There are some parallel verses, especially —

(Rev 21:4-5) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

In 21:4, “old order of things” is translated in the KJV as “former things.” In the Septuagint, “former things” is translated proteros, meaning former. The word in Rev 21:4 is protos, meaning first, but protos is the root of proteros. The Hebrew is ri’shown, meaning either first or former, and so the KJV (and ESV) seems to have it right: “the former things have passed away.” In fact, given that both Isaiah 65:17 and Rev 21:1-3 are speaking of the new heaven and new earth, this just has to be right.

And so, what are the “former things”? It’s a theme that winds throughout Isaiah. The meaning is first explained to us in c 42, part of the “Servant’s Song,” which is highly Messianic —

5 Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:

6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
I will take you by the hand and keep you;
I will give you as a covenant for the people,
a light for the nations,

7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.

8 I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.

9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”

Here, the “former things” are God’s mighty works: the creation, the Mosaic covenant. And he promises further mighty acts.

Similarly, God declares in c 46:8-10 —

“Remember this and stand firm,
recall it to mind, you transgressors,

9 remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,

10 declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,’

His point is that God’s mighty works in the past should assure his hearers that what he says about the future will certainly come true.

But in chapter 65, ironically, it would seem, Isaiah speaks of “former things” that are former sins (v 7) and troubles (16).

7 both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together,
says the Lord;
because they made offerings on the mountains
and insulted me on the hills,
I will measure into their bosom
payment for their former deeds.”

16 So that he who blesses himself in the land
shall bless himself by the God of truth,
and he who takes an oath in the land
shall swear by the God of truth;
because the former troubles are forgotten
and are hidden from my eyes.

Thus, verse 17 seems to change the meaning of “former things.” No longer is he speaking of God’s former mighty works. Now he’s speaking of our former sins and troubles.

(Isa 65:17) “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”

After all, it hardly makes sense for Isaiah to be saying we’ll not remember God’s creation. Rather, he is saying that our former sins will be forgotten.

This reading is confirmed by —

(Rev 21:4-5) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the [former] things ha[ve] passed away.” 5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

It might make sense that we can’t have the full measure of joy in heaven if we remember our former troubles and iniquities.

Now, Isa 65:17 could be read as referring to God’s remembering these things no more, and there are many prophetic passages that speak in terms of God no longer remembering our sins. But the Septuagint’s translation contradicts this possibility —

16b For they shall forget their first affliction and it shall not ascend unto their heart. 17 For there will be the new heaven and new earth. And in no way shall they remember the former things, nor in any way shall it come upon their heart.

In the Septuagint, Isaiah is translated as plainly speaking of the sinful and troubled people forgetting. However, the Hebrew Bible suggests that verses 16-17 say it is God who is forgetting —

16 So that he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself by the God of truth; and he that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten, and because they are hid from Mine eyes. 17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

It’s not entirely clear, I suppose, in the Hebrew, but Rev 21:4 certainly suggests that the result of the former things being done away with will be our comfort, not merely our forgiveness. That hardly answers the questions, though.

Isaiah 54, which is a strikingly beautiful passage (which is why I quote the whole thing), is less ambiguous —

(Isa 54) “Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says the LORD. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.

4 “Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. 5 For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. 6 The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God.

7 “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. 8 In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer.

9 “To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah would never again cover the earth. So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke you again. 10 Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

11 “O afflicted city, lashed by storms and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. 12 I will make your battlements of rubies, your gates of sparkling jewels, and all your walls of precious stones. 13 All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children’s peace. 14 In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. 15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you.

16 “See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; 17 no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.

God speaks to Israel as a husband who left the wife of youth — making her as though a widow — who then changes his mind and takes her back, giving her children. Although she will suffer a time of distress, there will come a time when she forgets her shame and her “widowhood.”

And then, beginning in verse 11, he speaks of Israel as a city in language that sounds much like the description of the new Jerusalem in Rev 21. Indeed, this is surely the source of the imagery John uses.

It seems clear enough that it’s Israel who forgets, not God. And if this is parallel to Isa 65:17, as seems likely, we are told that we’ll forget our former sins.

As is true in all the Isaiah passages, this forgetting of former tribulations could be hyperbole — things will be so great you’ll no longer be concerned about how bad things used to be. Or the passages could be referring to a literal forgetting. It’s hard to tell in apocalyptic language such as this.

But I find nothing that says we’ll forget everything, only that we’ll either forget our former troubles or that the joys of heaven will be so great our former trouble won’t matter. And we’ll certainly find comfort.

(Rev 21:4) “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

(Isa 25:8) he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken.

I would not put limits on God’s power, but I can’t imagine that we’ll lose all memory. In a very real sense, we are the sum total of our memories. If we were to lose all we remember, we’d be very different people in many ways. We’d not rejoice to meet loved ones in heaven. We’d not even be able to celebrate God’s victory!

Therefore, I’m confident that we’ll keep our memories — but God will, one way or another, rescue us from the painful memories.

Consider Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16. We are only told that Lazarus was comforted (25) while the rich man was in agony. And part of his agony was realizing that loved ones he’d left behind were headed to torment as well.

Therefore, those who, like Lazarus, will be comforted will not have to suffer from such fears. How God will give us that comfort, I don’t know. But the promise is sure.

On the souls of martyrs

In Rev 6:9-10, John speaks of the martyrs in Christ, who remember their martyrdom and beg for vengeance —

(Rev 6:9-10) When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”

This occurs, of course, before the Eschaton. There is not yet a new heaven and earth, and we’ve not yet addressed what happens to us between our deaths and the End.

But, for now, suffice to say that I do not take this to refer to actual souls pleading for actual vengeance. Here are some of the reasons —

* It’s hard to imagine a Stephen or other early martyrs begging for vengeance. Following Jesus’ example, Stephen begged for God’s forgiveness for those who stoned him. And many early Christian martyrs did the same.

* It would be truly awful to imagine spending thousands of years begging for God to avenge their deaths. After all, in Revelation, the vengeance comes at the End of time.

* Other than in the Revelation, we are constantly taught that vengeance is God’s and that our role is to love our enemies and do good to them. I doubt the ethical standards are lowered in heaven.

* Mounce notes that in Hebrew jurisprudence, the victim had to plead his own case in criminal court.

* Mounce further notes that, as the plea for vengeance comes from under the altar, which is where the blood would be, the idea may well be that it’s the blood — or their deaths — that cries out for vengeance, which would be parallel with Gen 4:10 —

(Gen 4:10) The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

* Soul or psuche is also means life. Our “soul” is not our Platonic, disembodied self. It’s our life. A modern near-equivalent would be “life force.” And in some contexts, it actually means the entire person, body and “soul.”

For example,

(1 John 3:16) This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

“Life” and “lives” translates psuche. Hence, John may be speaking of the sacrificed lives rather than the disembodied martyrs themselves. In fact, this use of psuche is common in John’s gospel (e.g., 12:25; 13:37,38; 15:13). And I think this likely comes closest to John’s thought. In parallel with Gen 4:10, this makes the best sense to me.

If we remember that the Law says that “life is in the blood” (Lev 7:11,14), and we consider that the martyrs’ blood has been sprinkled beneath the altar (Ex 29; Lev 1, 3, 4), then it only makes sense to speak of their lives (psuche) being there.

Hence, I take this as a figurative device building anticipation for the fulfillment of God’s wrath against evildoers later in the book. But there are better students than I am who disagree.

A final note 2/21/10

I was teaching a class on the nature of hell this morning, and a student asked whether we’d be aware of the damnation of those among our loved ones who aren’t saved. We discussed some of the preceding material very briefly — too briefly — and figured that you’d have to forget somehow in order to truly experience joy in heaven.

Afterwards, another student came forward and questioned me. He asked, “Will God forget the souls he damns?”

It’s a good question, and I answered, “No.” I don’t believe that God forgets anything. He is all-knowing.

“Does God love those he damns any less than we do?”

Again, the answer has to be “no.”

“So how does God deal with that memory?”

How, indeed?

Here’s how I’ve got it figured.

First, as explained in the “Surprised by Hell” series, God does not torture the damned for all eternity. Rather, they suffer punishment proportional to their wickedness. God is just.

(Luke 12:47-48)  “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

The scriptures plainly teach that the punishment will be proportional to the sins committed.

Second, the punishment suffered is finite. They don’t suffer forever. Some who die in virtual innocence will suffer very little. And how much is suffered will depend, in part, on how much we’re given — what opportunities we had in this life.

Therefore, the saved may well be aware of the damnation of the lost — even those they love dearly — but they’ll also be aware that God’s punishment is proportional and just. We’ll understand God’s purposes and agree. Like God, we’ll regret that the lost weren’t saved, but we’ll understand the final outcome as completely just and necessary.

And so, we won’t suffer because of what we know. Somehow or other, God will help us see things as he sees things, which is the right way to see things. And God will — somehow — comfort us.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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42 Responses to Surprised by Hope: Will We Remember Our Former Lives In Heaven?

  1. Yes, we will not remember anything on earth and heaven Revelation 22:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new, And he said unto me, Write; for these words are true and faithful.

  2. Yes, we will not remember anything on earth and heaven Revelation 22:4-5 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new, And he said unto me, Write; for these words are true and faithful.

  3. Alabama John says:

    Our spirit will not die.forever.

    The question usually asked is when did our spirit begin? Upon birth, here on earth?

    Christ in spirit was many different things and for many years WE KNOW OF and can count before being born as a helpless human baby.

    I find it interesting that your topic heading says “Our Former Lives”, plural. Future lives plural too?

    I don’t think God made is to live this short life, not even a dot in time, to float around on clouds playing harps for all eternity if you make heaven. There will be work to do.

    Lessons from this short adventure here on earth will be remembered and learned from.

    We are not tested beyond what we can stand, but, we are tested to be made stronger and more aware of God in heaven and the next life(s).

  4. Loree Lilygreen says:

    If we don’t remember anything about our lives, then as far as I am concerned that is not everlasting life. If all my earthly thoughts perish at death that means I am someone else in heaven. So I guess I can forget everlasting life

  5. Who says this is life? Perhaps it is just the overture. I certainly do not want an everlasting whatever-this-is-I-have-now.

  6. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Charles,

    The novelty of this existence does wear a bit thin as one grows older … Easy to look forward to something better.

  7. laymond says:

    I thank my God every day I live for the life he gives me. I have had a few set backs in life but I blame that on me, not God. God gives life, what you do with it, is up to you.

  8. Monty says:

    Jesus came to give us the abundant life. Did he just mean life after death, only?

  9. Alabama John says:

    We all have an everlasting soul inside our bodies that was given us by God.
    Just as Jesus’s soul, of how many years old, was able to turn and reside inside the man He became for us.
    As Jesus, that soul will return to God when you die.
    I like us to sing the songs about this happening. Two of my favorites we in the COC sing often are: “Where the soul of man never dies”. “Far side bank of Jordan” by the Cox family is the other. Interesting how crossing Jordan is mentioned in many representing the crossing we will make when we die and go from this life to the next. Folks are waiting on us and some, when they see us, will come running through the shallow water reaching for our hands.
    Its also interesting how many songs thoughout the ages have this same message so it is not new thinking.

  10. laymond says:

    Monty, I don see where Jesus ever said this earthly life would be a bed of roses, I do remember where he said this life would have a few thorns. And as I recall if we go for the roses, we will encounter a few thorns. I don’t feel that I have been cheated out of the joy of the roses just because I got stuck by a few thorns. The joy on my wife’s face heals all the pricks I have endured while picking those roses.

  11. laymond says:

    AJ it is understandable that songs follow the beliefs, whether right or wrong. That said, what difference will it make to us whether our soul lies dormant for centuries, or goes to heaven the instant we die. When we rise it will be as an instant has passed. It is not like we will be laying there talking to the worms.

  12. Alabama John says:

    laymond, it will make no difference. But since we do not know for sure if it is instantaneous or after sleeping thousands of years or a few minutes, I will have it my way as I like that better.
    So do the songwriters.

    The bible does tell us several that came back from heaven and walked and talked among us so they were not sleeping.

    The come back obviously will be those might be or were an exception, but who cares?

    I’ll have it my way and have faith I am right. That faith makes for great songs, and lots of comforting of each other.

    Who has heard a comforting and consoling song sung about us sleeping and knowing nothing or no body including Angels and God? Much better believe in hearing right away “you good and faithful servant, enter in” and seeing so many we have missed being with and them having missed us

    What a reunion!!!!.

  13. Dwight says:

    Some of what we read is a matter of perspective in the Bible, meaning that when the apostles went around telling people the kingdom of heaven is at hand, they were actually saying that the kingdom of heaven is now so get in it. But when they speak of Jesus coming they do so with a sense of urgency that almost make it sound as if Jesus is coming the next day, which he didn’t. But he could have. When it comes to the afterlife we have a picture of the great things, so that we will pursue the great thing, even when there are not so great things to go through to get there. We need to sing and pray about the great things, because it is sure and well…great. Revelation is almost all about perspective of God overcoming Satan and the saved sharing in the victory.

  14. laymond says:

    1Th 4:16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:

    Alabama John why do you believe in the writings of Paul, except this one?

    I have encountered many Christians who are as you are. I believe what I believe, and you are wasting your time, trying to change it.
    Except I am not trying to change anyone just pointing to certain scripture so they might change their selves.
    It might be more comforting to tell those who have lost relatives “a little white lie” he is with Jesus smiling down on us, or God needed him there, or whatever the lie is it is not any whiter than any other lie. I think I recall you saying it is consoling for old people who are on their death bed, Why not just tell them the truth “Jesus is waiting to see you” no lie there not even a white one.

  15. laymond says:

    Dwight said; “But when they speak of Jesus coming they do so with a sense of urgency that almost make it sound as if Jesus is coming the next day,”

    Dwight the urgency is not whether Jesus returns tomorrow, the urgency is in our not knowing how much time we have to do what we need to do. As Jesus once said we are not promised tomorrow , but we are promised he will return. so use the allotted time to prepare. We don’t know how many people knew what they must do, but ran out of time to do it. So when we know we should do.

  16. Dwight says:

    Laymond, I never said he wasn’t coming tomorrow or the following day and we shouldn’t be prepared. I even remarked “But he could have.” Their perspective was of urgency and gaining Christ then and not waiting.
    Always Carpe Diem, not Carpe Diem Cras.
    Or as Robert Herrick said “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; and this same flower that smiles today, to-morrow will be dying….”
    Or as Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
    We should live in it, do it and not miss it.

  17. Alabama John says:

    “Today you will be with me in paradise”. I believe that as it is out of Jesus mouth.
    Paul or Jesus, I go with Jesus. Paul to me is still suspect.
    Forget the OT versus the NT as those arguments are tiring.

  18. laymond says:

    Dwight, I think that may have been the message from the apostles, don’t wait until tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come.
    Now you have just about exhausted my Latin vocabulary.

  19. laymond says:

    “Forget the OT versus the NT as those arguments are tiring.”

    I certainly will adhere to your wishes, because we both are old farts and easily tired out. 🙂

  20. Dwight says:

    OT vs. NT never, but OT leading to the NT always.

  21. Alabama John says:

    Thank you laymond, AMEN Dwight,

    Looking forward to understanding throughout the ages all those books if we had now, the world couldn’t hold them. Be interesting and probably laughable or worse, sad, at the misunderstanding we have of so many things.
    Over 3.000 Christian denominations and split offs today.
    All have the Bible down just right in their minds and in their teaching and preaching.
    Finally after reading or hearing first hand what could of been included in all of those other books, and hearing it all first hand, we will ALL finally be as one in our complete understanding of the GOOD NEWS from God.

  22. Emily Jackson says:

    Its does say new earth and heavens. Not heaven. Heavens in the Bible plural means sky. God is saying he’s creating a new earth and sky that is void of what we knew before. Sin. We won’t remember sin and it won’t be in our hearts.

  23. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Emily,

    I’ve done a little looking and you’re right. In the Hebrew, “heaven” is always plural, even when the English translators prefer the singular. The language experts say that the plural word was used as a singular. The early Hebrews were not saying that “heaven” has multiple floors.

    In biblical Hebrew the word for heaven (shamayim) is always plural. Under that influence, the Greek word for heaven in the NT (ouranos) also frequently appears in the plural. The use of the plural probably does not mean that the ancient Hebrews conceived of more than one heaven (different heavens located in different places). By the Second Temple period, however, it was common to conceive of heaven as having multiple levels or layers. The Pseudepigrapha in particular contains many references to multiple heavens, seven being the most common notion (2 Enoch, Ascension of Isaiah). In the NT, Paul says that he knows someone (though many scholars suspect he is speaking of himself) who was “caught up to the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2).

    Adela Yarbro Collins, The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated), 2011, 369.

    From the theological viewpoint, the most important use of the term “heaven” is its reference to the spiritual domain, the abode of God himself. Numerous passages of Scripture speak of God as “the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity” (Is 57:15), who has a parallel dwelling on earth and in heaven (1 Kgs 8:12), and of whom Solomon said, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee” (v 27). It is that abode to which the Lord Jesus Christ said he was about to return (Jn 14:2; cf. Pss 61:4; 65:4). There is where the true tabernacle stands, of which the earthly tabernacle was merely a shadow (cf. Heb 8:1–5). That abode of God was in view when the apostle Paul wrote of “the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2). As such, it is often seen as a synonym for God himself (cf. Mt 23:22; Lk 15:18).
    The term “heaven of heavens” (Dt 10:14; see also KJV 1 Kgs 8:27; Pss 68:33; 148:4) is the literal English rendition of the Hebrew idiom for the superlative “the highest heaven.” Some have thought this the counterpart to Paul’s expression, “the third heaven” (2 Cor 12:2), which parallels the classical Greek conception of three heavens. This notion was subsequently adopted by the Roman Catholic medieval church and in the Latin form of Coelum Aqueum, Coelum Sidereum, and Coelum Empyreum. The basic concept followed the Greek view, and coincides with the OT view of the physical and spiritual heavens as indicated earlier.

    Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1988, 940.

  24. Dwight says:

    Yes, there are in a sense more than one heaven. A spiritual heaven and an earthly heaven, at least. When we read in Genesis that God created the heavens and the earth, this must refer to the physical heaven of the sky/atmosphere/stars, etc. Otherwise where was God when he was creating his own heaven, if not in heaven. I have always considered the concept of heaven to be “beyond” or “above” physically and even spiritually. It is not beyond our grasp, in that we can reach it, but beyond our immediate grasp, in that it is not within reach when we are on the earth. We must elevate our self and reach up and out beyond out immediate situation.

  25. Alabama John says:

    Remember that no matter how primitive the people, they looked upward for God.
    That thinking is embedded in humans since that is where their eternal spirit came from to enter this earthly body for a while.

  26. Alabama John says:

    Also there will not be any marriages or giving in marriage in heaven. That doesn’t mean those of us that die married will not continue to be married for eternity.

  27. Dwight says:

    I think Rom.7:2 “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him.” implies that the binding of marriage is broken due to death.
    And Matt.22:23-30 “That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”
    seems to indicate that although she was married to all seven at one point, that in heaven she will be married to none of them. Marriage is an earthly state not carried forth into heaven.

  28. Alabama John says:

    Like the angels in heaven, that could mean they are all in a state where they are all married to each other and so our married ones would still be together but in a different state of being.
    Thinking we would not be together again after a life together on earth sure would be a terrible thought instead of a happy one on our deathbed..
    Matter of fact I would rather be here than be in heaven if never seeing my spouse again was what heaven required.
    Waiting on the other one and seeing it together is far more like heaven to me.
    Ever heard how the Cherokee see our crossing over and the welcoming by all those you knew and loved that were in heaven before you will greet you?
    I’ll go with that!!!

  29. Monty says:

    Jesus gave no indication that there would be marriages in heaven. Doesn’t mean that former married couples won’t continue a special bond more so than others. Same could be said for our children and parents. Love continues on. That never fails. If there were marriages in heaven then husbands would be the heads of their wives and there would be sexual relations between them. In heaven Christ will be head of all. We won’t be sexless but the sex drive will be removed from our hard wiring. Difficult to imagine and not one I’m sure most are happy about but one I think won’t be missed on the other side. Maybe God gives us something better if He takes away something we value. Can’t imagine disappointment in heaven though, only in our hypothesizing about it.

  30. Larry Cheek says:

    Monty,
    Are you sure? “We won’t be sexless but the sex drive will be removed from our hard wiring.” Where would there be a communication that revels that there will be males and females in Heaven?

  31. Monty says:

    Larry,

    If you have ideas about a genderless heaven please share them.

  32. Dwight says:

    We are trying to translate the physical realm into the spiritual realm where the physical doesn’t apply. When it says in Matt. 22:30 “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” it indicates we will be like the angels.
    Now chances are we will still retain our gender associations, but since we are spiritual, not have a physical gender, thus no hormones or gender associated drives. All loves will be melted away into agape.
    Will we remember our wives? Probably, but they won’t be our wives, which relies on a bond that ends at death. Now this is all supposition. We won’t really know until we get there how everything will be, but it will be better than what we have here. If we think we are going to miss what we have here, then we probably aren’t ready for heaven.

  33. Alabama John says:

    When the men came back from Heaven and spoke, they were recognizable as men looking just as they did before death. None had wings.
    Listen to the words of the songs we sing. They tell a more accurate story of the hope and afterlife than many sermons.
    Since none of us knows, since we have not died and come back, instead of the negative lets take the most positive toward what we all want Gods heaven to be like.
    Instead, we find once again something that can not be undeniably scripturally proven to be negative to differ and argue about. Those same negative folks, if they make it to heaven, will look around and find something not written as they thought should of been. Will they openly criticize?
    Remember the word says if all to come in eternity was written down, the world couldn’t hold the books.
    WE only have a small part revealed so why not interpret it in a positive way, especially if we believe God really is wanting to be with us for eternity and loves us!!!

  34. Monty says:

    Angels in scripture are referred to with masculine names. Michael, Gabriel. Why? Angels appeared in scripture as men, angels unaware. Are there female angels? No sure, unless the woman with wings like a stork actually refers to one. Male and female, be it angels or humans, is a lot more complicated than plumbing fixtures. If we don’t remember our wives, husbands, kids, that makes a mockery of earthly relationships. If we don’t remember the important ones and the important things then we won’t even remember the relationship with God and why we did what we did here on earth. Huh? I thought we would sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and eat. To bad we won’t even remember who they were or their significance.

  35. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Monty,

    “Gabriel” and “Michael” have no grammatical gender in Hebrew. The Greek equivalents are masculine, but I’m not sure that proves anything.

    The Spirit is feminine in the OT and neuter in the NT. There are one or two NT verses where a masculine pronoun is used of Spirit, breaking Greek grammatical conventions.

    So I wouldn’t read too much into the names.

  36. Larry Cheek says:

    One of the most important points to remember about information speaking of our life in Heaven is the lack of communication concerning our knowledge of each other in Heaven.
    Yes, we sing songs continually about the reunion in heaven, meeting our loved ones there, desiring to meet God’s people of prior times, asking them questions that we have been curious about, and the list can continue to the greatest of imaginations. We should be fully aware that songwriters were not inspired with the same inspiration as the writers of the scriptures.
    Since I have tried and failed to find any references in NT about the reunion, a knowledge of other friends, family, men of God, being there. I challenge the readers to research the scriptures to locate validation of these claims please provide BCV of the context representing this reunion. I have also found that there is no discussion even from The Apostles which would lead us to believe that they expected to meet each other in Heaven. The Apostles not suggesting that they will have a grand reunion in heaven? Surely we would believe that they of all people would be there and desire to communicate with each other about the work they began on earth? I know how positively we have been taught, but lets find the proof. It is our duty to test everything, have we?

  37. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry asked,

    Since I have tried and failed to find any references in NT about the reunion, a knowledge of other friends, family, men of God, being there. I challenge the readers to research the scriptures to locate validation of these claims please provide BCV of the context representing this reunion. I have also found that there is no discussion even from The Apostles which would lead us to believe that they expected to meet each other in Heaven.

    Interesting challenge that I can’t say I’ve ever considered. I mean, it seems so obvious … and do strongly believe in the reunion of families in the afterlife. So can I demonstrate the truth of the claim?

    Proof 1: Reductio ad absurdum

    What’s the alternative? If we don’t rejoin our families, then either (a) we’re saved individually apart from everyone else (except the Trinity), or (b) we rejoin our families and have no memories of who they are.

    Well, neither of these is very appealing as an afterlife — not that God has to design the new heavens and new earth (NHNE) to suit my tastes — but I think my reaction is nearly universal. Everyone would find himself lonely in world (a). In world (b), we would no longer be who we are. After all, we as individuals are pretty much the sum of our memories. Take away our memories and we become very different people — and not necessarily happy people. Think of those who suffer profound amnesia after an accident. They suffer a profound sense of loss and disorientation. Imagine no longer recognizing your wife and feeling like she and your children and grandchildren are strangers! They would be severely hurt (and would go through mourning as though you’d died) and you would have to fall in love with your wife all over again. You’d have to re-acquainted with your children. You’d have lost a lifetime of common experiences on which a deep love has been built. It would be terrible — not heaven at all but a cruel form of hell.

    Of course, we look at this in terms of our earthly families — but those who’ve grown up in church know that church family is “family” too. These church people are your friends, surrogate parents and grandparents, encouragers, leaders, shepherds, fellow laborers. To never see them again would be terribly sad. Again, it would be a loss comparable to a death.

    This is, however, an “on the other hand.” Isaiah has this intriguing passage —

    (Isa. 65:17 ESV) 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.”

    Does this mean we’ll lose all memories of our pre-afterlife (“before life”?) Some say so. Most do not. The idea of the “former things” is a recurring theme in the Servant’s Song of Isaiah —

    (Isa. 41:22 ESV) Let them bring them, and tell us what is to happen. Tell us the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, that we may know their outcome; or declare to us the things to come.

    (Isa. 42:9 ESV) Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

    (Isa. 43:9 ESV) All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true.

    (Isa. 43:18 ESV) “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.

    (Isa. 46:9 ESV) remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,

    (Isa. 48:3 ESV) “The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.

    (Isa. 65:17 ESV) “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.

    Up to Isa 65, the “former things” are great things of God previously prophesied that came true.

    The NET Bible translates —

    (Isa. 41:22 NET) “Let them produce evidence! Let them tell us what will happen! Tell us about your earlier predictive oracles, so we may examine them and see how they were fulfilled. Or decree for us some future events!

    (Isa. 42:9 NET) Look, my earlier predictive oracles have come to pass; now I announce new events. Before they begin to occur, I reveal them to you.”

    The “former things” begin as a reference to prophecies: predictions about the future. Then in chapter 43, the concept is expanded to include God’s earlier miracles, especially the mighty works revealed during the Exodus —

    (Isa. 43:15-28 NET) I am the LORD, your Holy One, the one who created Israel, your king.” 16 This is what the LORD says, the one who made a road through the sea, a pathway through the surging waters, 17 the one who led chariots and horses to destruction, together with a mighty army. They fell down, never to rise again; they were extinguished, put out like a burning wick: 18 “Don’t remember these earlier events; don’t recall these former events. 19 “Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the desert and paths in the wilderness. 20 The wild animals of the desert honor me, the jackals and ostriches, because I put water in the desert and streams in the wilderness, to quench the thirst of my chosen people, 21 the people whom I formed for myself, so they might praise me.” 22 “But you did not call for me, O Jacob; you did not long for me, O Israel. 23 You did not bring me lambs for your burnt offerings; you did not honor me with your sacrifices. I did not burden you with offerings; I did not make you weary by demanding incense. 24 You did not buy me aromatic reeds; you did not present to me the fat of your sacrifices. Yet you burdened me with your sins; you made me weary with your evil deeds. 25 I, I am the one who blots out your rebellious deeds for my sake; your sins I do not remember. 26 Remind me of what happened! Let’s debate! You, prove to me that you are right! 27 The father of your nation sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me. 28 So I defiled your holy princes, and handed Jacob over to destruction, and subjected Israel to humiliating abuse.”

    God’s point is that although I did these mighty works for my beloved Israel, you are now so wicked that you should forget about my salvation and protection in the past. I’m upset and planning new mighty works: Destruction and humiliating abuse.

    Isa 46:9 is to similar effect.

    This brings us to —

    (Isa. 48:3-7 ESV) 3 “The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass. 4 Because I know that you are obstinate, and your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass, 5 I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’ 6 “You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. 7 They are created now, not long ago; before today you have never heard of them, lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’

    Isaiah’s tone shifts. God is now promising a new age of redemption. The new miracles — the new exodus — will be so incredibly good that the old mighty works (the Exodus, the Creation) will be forgotten by comparison. (Read entire chapter.)

    God promises “new things, hidden things that you have not known.” And we soon read about the coming Messiah and Kingdom. So the “former things” are in chapter 48 God’s mighty works of the past that will be eclipsed by even mightier, more amazing works yet to be revealed. He is speaking of at least the Messianic age, but likely looking beyond this even to the end of time (as we see in chapters 65-66).

    And so we return to —

    (Isa. 65:17-19 ESV) 17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress.”

    So this sounds a lot like Rev 21-22. The “former things” are still God’s great and mighty works from ancient times — the Creation, the Exodus, etc. These will be forgotten in light of the greatness of what is yet to come. It’s not that we’ll not remember our loved ones but that even the giving of the Torah and the miracle of the Red Sea will pale in comparison with the resurrection and the re-creation of the new heavens and new earth.

    But the context begs for a more expansive understanding. The suffering and pain of this life will be gone and forgotten. That is, if things will be so incredibly good that even the Exodus pales in comparison, imagine how distant the memories of suffering and loss will pale!!

    The point is that the God who made this world and sustains it to the present moment is not locked in by anything that has happened up to now. He is not any part of the system. He is the Creator! And that means that the destructive power of sin can be broken, beginning now, and forever at the last day.

    The former world will be forgotten. This continues the development of previous ideas. In Isa. 43:18 God had told his people to forget the ways he had delivered in the past (“former things”). In the previous sentence here (v. 16), he has said that they would forget their former troubles. But now he says that everything associated with the old world will be forgotten. All the ways in which sin has stamped this world with its own deformed image will be wiped away, not only from reality but even from memory (cf. Rev. 21:4). They will not even come to mind.

    John N. Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, Chapters 40–66, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 656–657.

    Everything the Lord created at the beginning will be made new at the end. Former picks up ‘past’ (lit. ‘former’, 16e) but the conception is now grander: not only its sorrows but everything in the old order, dimmed and diminished as it was by the infection of human sin, will undergo this great renewal. Remembered … mind: not now the divine mind (16ef) but the mind of the redeemed, renewed participants. Their awareness will be of total newness, in which nothing prompts recollection of what once was. The new creation will be observed and enjoyed by new, fresh minds. All (I will create) is the work of God, a work of such greatness and newness that no other agent could account for it. It will be eternal (for ever) and without anything to disturb its joy. Note how this delightful little poem begins (17a) and ends (18b) with I will create, balances the new creation (17b) and those who inhabit it (18a), and centres on total newness (17cd).

    J. Alex Motyer, Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC 20; IVP/Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 450.

    So Isaiah is not saying that we won’t remember our loved ones but that we won’t remember the pain of the past. Today, doctors are working to treat PTSD sufferers by selectively deleting painful memories. Some memories are so painful that we can’t be happy with that memory in our head — and God will fix that. He’s expunge memories of abuse, betrayal, and suffering. But he won’t take away the memories that give us joy in our new abode in the NHNE.

  38. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Larry (proof 2) —

    So I really can’t think of an alternative to the reunion theory. But is there positive evidence for it? Of course, there is!

    1. The Transfiguration shows Moses and Elijah visiting the temporal earth from heaven — meaning they continue to exist with individual identities. They don’t disappear into Nirvana. They continue as individuals with their individual identities.

    2. Jesus reminds us that God is the God of the living, not the dead. When he says that he’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God is speaking of men who still live — with God. With their identities intact and hence as family.

    3. When Jesus himself was resurrected he returned to spend time with family and friends.

    4. In my Father’s house —

    (Jn. 14:1-4 ESV) “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

    The KJV badly mistranslates, promising us “many mansions,” whereas Jesus actually promised “many rooms.” The picture he paints is of the NHNE as a single house in which we all have a room. Think of a boarding house with a shared dinner table. Or think of the Jewish homes. When a son married, he built a room in his father’s house — expanding the house for his wife and bed. When the room was finished, then he and his friends would go find the bride, have a party, and a marriage.

    But there was no privacy in the First Century. There was no glass in the windows. The new couple’s room was part of the house of the father, but they had no kitchen or living room. These were shared. The children all played in a common yard. It was like moving in with your parents — with your wife. Jesus lived in a very different world from us.

    And so to say that the afterlife will be like sharing rooms in the Father’s house was how most people lived in that culture. It’s a promise to be in a single residence with your own bedroom, but without solitude or privacy. Nearly all space is shared space with family and friends. Live is lived, not isolated from others, but in the midst of others.

    PS — “Father’s house” always refers to the temple. But the NHNE will be God’s temple, just as the cosmos was originally intended as God’s temple in Gen 1. We’ll live in the NHNE, which is a temple for the worship of God. So we’ll be in a constant state of worship, I believe. (But no Stamps-Baxter — which is a former thing to be forgotten. Surely! Please, oh, please!)

    In fact, I see our worship in the NHNE as organic, as simply doing what we enjoy doing.

    Something about this video made me think of what it might be like — to worship when and how you please with friends and family in community — where music and the rest of life are not separated. Where you don’t have to go somewhere to participate in a concert to the glory of God. It’s everywhere.

    5. The resurrection scenes are of all the saved being resurrected all at once.

    (Dan. 12:2-3 ESV) 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

    (Isa. 26:19 ESV) 19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.

    (1 Cor. 15:51-54 ESV) 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

    So if we’re all resurrected at once, with identities intact, with memories purged of anything that gives us pain but otherwise retained, how can there be no reunion?

  39. Alabama John says:

    Larrys question sounds like he has been reading something by Stephen Hawkins!!! LOL

    There are many NT scriptures that cause us to believe in Heaven and also hell as we do.
    here is a short list to think on.
    : John 5:24, Romans 4:5, Ephesians 2:8-10, 1Cor.15 which is the classic chapter on the afterlife,
    2 Cor 5:8, Phillipians1:22-23, Psalms 23:6, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, John 14:1-3,. This is only a short list.
    Throughout the ages and in all cultures that didn’t even know others existed or not, they all believed in the afterlife in some form. That belief came from the spirit of God put in them at birth or before and will return to Him.

  40. Larry Cheek says:

    On another thought, as we are raised from the dead are we not supposed to have a body in the likeness of Jesus? Jesus passed through doors without opening them. It was obvious that this new body was not bound by the physical realm. So what about ours?

  41. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    Within all our concerns about family and family life we must not ignore these comments from Jesus.
    It seems very hard for us humans to find a place to reconcile these feelings. But, notice the importance Jesus places on our willingness to place him first.
    Mat 10:34-38 ESV “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. (35) For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. (36) And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. (37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

    Luk 12:51-53 ESV Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. (52) For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. (53) They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    Luk 14:25-27 ESV Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, (26) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (27) Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

    Mar 3:20-35 ESV Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. (21) And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (22) And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” (23) And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? (24) If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. (25) And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (26) And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. (27) But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. (28) “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, (29) but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— (30) for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (31) And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. (32) And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” (33) And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (34) And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! (35) For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

    As we think about how dreadful it would be being singled out, without friends and family. Jesus experienced that on the cross and he has told us that we must bare our own cross. The cross that we must bare may contain some of the similarities to his cross. If that is a message concerning our life as humans on this earth why would we expect it to be any different in Heaven, our Father will be the center of our total existence there. As I see you have already understood, forever worshiping.

  42. Larry Cheek says:

    Jay,
    As I am thinking about.
    “The Transfiguration shows Moses and Elijah visiting the temporal earth from heaven — meaning they continue to exist with individual identities. They don’t disappear into Nirvana. They continue as individuals with their individual identities.”

    You also mentioned, “Jesus reminds us that God is the God of the living, not the dead. When he says that he’s the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God is speaking of men who still live — with God. With their identities intact and hence as family.”
    Their identities are confirmed by the scriptures, but I see nothing in the scriptures which confirm the comment “hence as family”. Is this just an assumption?

    We must remember that these men have died but they have not been raised from the dead into their new bodies, changed prepared for eternity.
    The same would apply to the communication of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
    We are instructed in scriptures that even though this physical body dies we will still live because we have already been borne again into eternal life. It is only this physical body which is not eternal.

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