`Will We Know One another in Heaven?
“I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there…cause I wanted him and me to be together.” (In Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, when Miss Watson tells Huck about “the good place.”)
Will we know our family and friends in Heaven? Our granddaughter Sarah answered that question for me a long time ago, when she was only five: “We don’t take our bodies to Heaven,” she opined, “but our faces will be there.”
Of course we’ll know one another! “Will we be bigger fools there than we are here on earth?” George MacDonald asks.
I think of Jesus’ post–resurrection appearances, and those moments of immediate recognition—Mary Magdalene’s “Rabboni” (John 20:16); Thomas’ “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28); Peter's "It is the Lord!" (John 21:7). These folks recognized Jesus immediately. It’s true that the disciples that Jesus accompanied on the road to Emmaus did not at first recognize him for, “their eyes were kept from recognizing him” (Luke 24:16), but on all other occasions Jesus was known straight away.
Thomas Aquinas makes the point that our earthly bodies are "shaped" by our souls: ”The soul is the form of the body — that which makes us particular human beings.” In other words, our mortal bodies are the outward, visible "form" or expression of our individual, unique, immortal souls. Can it be that our redeemed, heavenly bodies will be similarly formed by our souls and thus will be recognizable.
Furthermore, we are not our bodies, we are our souls and our souls are immortal. We will always be who we are with all of our hopes and dreams, our interests, memories, experiences and loves. We will always be busy being ourselves. “We are assured of our self–identity and shall live to remember the galaxy as an old tale,” C. S.Lewis said.
We will know one another, but in a different way: We will see our friends and neighbors with all their imperfections loved away; when all the ugliness that made them obnoxious and fractious will be converted into luminous beauty. Tenth-century Irish theologian, Adamnan, described those in heaven as, “a gentle folk, most mild, most kindly, lacking in no goodly quality.” John put it more succinctly: “We shall be like (Jesus)” (1John 3:2).
There will be no animosity or estrangement there. Sins and slights will be forgotten. "Parents will look after their children and children will look up to their parents” (Malachi 4:6 The Message). Dysfunctional families will be made healthy; disordered relationships made whole.
We will never again be grieved with the thought that we have not loved well, or that our love has not been fully and fondly returned. There will be no unfaithfulness, hypocrisy or insincerity. There will be no secrets there for we shall see one another through and through.
Finally, we will know our loved ones in Heaven and we will love them specially, or so I believe. Jesus had special friends here on earth and so it must be in heaven. We are not created to be solitary mystics, loving God alone. We are relational beings, like God, made to know and enjoy our loved ones, and to do so in a personal and special way.
Our family and special friends will always be our family and special friends. Is there anything wrong with loving our family and friends now? Why would God deprive us of that enjoyment in Heaven? Indeed, that’s one aspect of Heaven that will make Heaven heavenly for me: I will be forever with the Lord, and also with those whom, I have “loved long since, and lost awhile!”
I cannot end this essay without a nod to one of my favorite reads, George MacDonald’s The Golden Key—a tale of two children, Mossy and Tangle, their love for one another and their journey together to find the door that could be opened with a golden key (Jesus). They fall in love, marry and grow old together and then are lost to one another when Tangle dies. Mossy, old, lonely and foot-weary, comes at last to a great cliff in which he catches sight of a row of small sapphires that surround a little hole in the rock.
He tried the key. It fitted. It turned. A great clang and clash, as of iron bolts on huge brazen caldrons, echoed thunderously within. He drew out the key. The rock in front of him began to fall. He retreated from it as far as the breadth of the platform would allow. A great slab fell at his feet. In front was still the solid rock, with this one slab fallen forward out of it. But the moment he stepped upon it, a second fell, just short of the edge of the first, making the next step of a stair, which thus kept dropping itself before him as he ascended into the heart of the precipice. It led him into a hall fit for such an approach—irregular and rude in formation, but floor, sides, pillars, and vaulted roof, all one mass of shining stones of every color that light can show. In the centre stood seven columns, ranged from red to violet. And on the pedestal of one of them sat a woman, motionless, with her face bowed upon her knees. Seven years had she sat there waiting. She lifted her head as Mossy drew near. It was Tangle. Her hair had grown to her feet, and was rippled like the windless sea on broad sands. Her face was beautiful, like her grandmother’s, and as still and peaceful as that of the Old Man of the Fire. Her form was tall and noble. Yet Mossy knew her at once.
"How beautiful you are, Tangle!” he said, in delight and astonishment.
"Am I?” she returned. "Oh, I have waited for you so long! But you, you are the Old Man of the Sea. No. You are like the Old Man of the Earth. No, no. You are like the oldest man of all. You are like them all. And yet you are my own old Mossy!
What thou didst lose, he keeps it for thee;
With Him thy lost love thou shalt find;
And what his hand doth once restore thee,
That hand to thee will changeless bind. —Novalis
David H. Roper