This is an important question. It’s not simply something for the curious to be interested in, it’s not just for those who have dear ones already beyond the door of death.
There is a doctrine which states: “When we get to heaven we will not know one another.” In plain words this doctrine says: “We will not be able to remember, recognize or know those that we have known in this life.”
Let’s note from the following passages what the Bible has to say about our faculties on the other side of the grave. . . because this is the issue: will we retain all our faculties?
1) Matthew 7:21 – 23 (NASB)
21 ” Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.
22 ” Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
A. In this passage, those at the judgment are pictured arguing with God about their good works while on earth. If they lost their faculties at death, how could they remember their good works?
B. The scriptures clearly establish the fact that in judgment men will be possessed of the memory of deeds done here! – We do retain all our faculties according to this passage.
2) Matthew 25:40(NASB)
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
A. Again we have the judgment scene. Why did Jesus refer to brethren if they couldn’t know or remember.
B. They had just asked, “When did we see you sick?” In other words they were searching their memory trying to remember. If they didn’t have their faculties to remember, why would Jesus bring up something for them to remember?
C. Already in these two passages we have the doctrine of rewards and punishments taught, which implies and necessitates the conclusion that future recognition is an assured fact. In the field of criminal jurisprudence, for example, a man is regarded as worthy of punishment for unsocial acts committed, only when it appears that he is mentally capable of recognizing the nature of his deed.
3) LUKE 16:19-31(NASB)
A. A study of the context will show that the rich man had all his faculties. He could feel, see, hear, remember, etc. If you say it is a parable, that changes nothing.
B. This is a glimpse of the future state of the dead, and it lifts the curtain of the future and enables us to look for a moment on scenes of the yet-to-be.
C. All are conscious of their surroundings. Memory is retained. “Child, remember” is a necessary inference for all to remember.
4) I John 3:2(NASB)
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.”
A. If we are to be like Christ, doesn’t it also include the ability to remember and recognize? He can. We will SEE him, and know him.
5) I Corinthians 15:53 – 55(NASB)
53 “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory.
55 “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?”
A. Does this include the ability to remember and recognize one another? If not, then the corruptible memory must not put on incorruption!
B. Are we conscious of triumph? How are we conscious?
6) I Thessalonians 4:13ff(NASB)
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.”
A. Why did Paul comfort them about the assurances of the resurrection if they wouldn’t recognize each other any way? What difference would it make? How could we ever know if Paul was teaching the truth or error?
B. If the personality of those we have loved and lost is obliterated, their memories of us and ours of them forevermore gone and with no tangible marks of identity remaining, how is hope possible and where is there occasion for comfort in such circumstances.
7) Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-15(NASB)
A. Here the souls of saints in heaven are pictured as having their faculties.
B. They are even aware of what is going on, on earth.
C. They want to know how long it will be before their blood is avenged. If they don’t have their memories, please explain how they knew what had taken place on earth.
8) Acts 1:11
A. According to this passage this “Same Jesus is coming back.”
B. I John 3:2, “We will be like him.” (Will he be able to recognize people?
C. How about us? We will either be like Him or not like him!
9) Matthew 8:11
A. If we won’t recognize one another, how would one ever know if this statement is true?
B. Why worry about names if we won’t know each other?
10) Job 19:25 – 27
A. Job positively affirmed that he (as Job) would see God; he would see God with his own eyes; he would see God in the flesh (following the changes which bodies will experience in the resurrection.) Therefore, the ancient patriarch, by inspiration assured the resurrection of the body, the preservation of the personality, and identity of the resurrected person.
11) Matthew 12:38-41
A. The men of Nineveh, who repented at the preaching of Jonah, will rise up in judgment and condemn those of his generation.
B. They must therefore have a detailed and minute memory of events that have occurred.
12) II Samuel 12:23(NASB)
“But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
A. David, stricken with grief, and with the body of his dead child yet unburied, said, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
B. This statement of the grieving father is significant only if when he should “go to” the child he would be conscious of being the child’s father, and being in the child’s presence.
QUESTIONS FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE WE WON’T KNOW EACH OTHER IN HEAVEN:
1) Produce ONE passage that teaches we won’t recognize each other in the next life.
2) If we don’t recognize each other, then wouldn’t we think we were the only ones that made it?
3) Will we recognize our own selves? How will we know it is true?
4) Explain how we can be like Jesus and be without our memory faculty.
5) From evidence of Scripture, is there more proof for believing that we will be able to recognize each other, or is there more teaching that we will not?
6) If God were to do nothing but raise my body, and make a being out of it that is not me, an put it up in heaven, why should I be interested any more than if God were to make that being out of a dead animal?
7) How could we praise the Lord for our redemption and salvation from sin in this world, unless we would remember we were once lost, and had been saved?
8) To say that we will become beings without our former faculties is to believe the doctrine of materialism that teaches extinction of man’s being.
We will retain our faculties and ability to remember after death. If we go to heaven or hell, we will be able to remember this life.