Robert Jeffress - Will We Know One Another In Heaven?
Growing old is not for the faint of heart. With age come aches, ailments, and sometimes a few extra pounds. The late humorist Erma Bombeck once wrote, "I'm not telling you what I weigh but when I measure my girth and then step on the scales, I ought to be a 90 foot redwood". Unfortunately, most people don't age gracefully. Along with a few extra pounds come hearing loss, fading eye sight, aches, creaking joints. You know, part of growing older also means not always recognizing people. Have you ever had the experience of going to a high school or a college reunion? You look at people, you don't recognize them. If it wasn't for their name tag, you wouldn't know who they are. Even worse, they don't recognize you. And perhaps worse of all, have you ever stood in the mirror and looked at yourself and wondered who is that person?
Which all brings up an interesting question and that is, when we get to heaven, what will our bodies be like? Will we know one another? Will other people know us? Well that's what we're going to talk about today. In our series, A Place Called Heaven, we're answering 10 of the most frequently asked questions in heaven and today, we're going to answer the question, will we know one another in heaven? Now, to answer that question, we first of all need to understand something about Jesus' promise of a resurrection body. In heaven, the Bible is very clear. We're not just gonna be some spirit floating around, we are going to have a physical body.
Now that shouldn't be a surprise when you look at God's original plan for us. God's original design for us was both a spirit and a body. Look at Genesis 2:7 about God's original creation. "Then the Lord God formed man from the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living being". God created us originally body and spirit and that's why it should be no surprise that in eternity, we will always exist in a body as well as spirit. God's future plan for us includes a physical resurrection. Whenever we look at the Bible, we find that there are actually two resurrections that will occur.
Did you know it's not only Christians who will receive a new body? Unbelievers will also receive a new body for eternity. A believer's body is necessary so that we can experience God's unending blessing. Unbelievers must receive a body so that they can experience God's everlasting judgment but everybody is going to be raised from the dead. Everyone is going to have a resurrected body. The Bible talks about two resurrections. The resurrection for believers, for Christians, is called the first resurrection. In Revelation 20:6, John says "Blessed and holy is the one who has part in the first resurrection. Over these, the second death has no power but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for 1000 years".
What is the first resurrection? The first resurrection, now get this, doesn't refer to a point in time. Instead, the first resurrection refers to that group of people, believers, who will receive a new body to experience God's blessing. Not every believer will receive his new body at the same point in history. Paul makes that clear in 1 Corinthians 15:22 and 23. "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, all will be made alive but each in his own order". Some people, some of us, will receive our resurrection body at the rapture, at the rapture, remember, the Lord himself will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ, that is those believers who've already died since the time of Pentecost, they will be raised and then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air.
1 Corinthians 15:52 and 53 say at that time, we will be changed and receive our new bodies but then there will be other people who will receive their new bodies at the second coming of Jesus, seven years later after the tribulation and there's another group of believers who are saved during the millennium who will receive their new bodies at the end of the thousand year reign of Christ but all of those people are part of the first resurrection, the resurrection of the righteous. In Daniel 12:2, Daniel says "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, believers to everlasting life, but others, the unbelievers, to disgrace and everlasting contempt". The first resurrection is the resurrection of the saved but there is a second resurrection and that is the resurrection of all the unsaved.
Right now, when an unbeliever dies, he goes to hades, the temporary place of the unsaved, but one day, they're going to be raised and unlike the first resurrection that occurs in stages over a period of time, the second resurrection, the resurrection of unbelievers, all occurs at one point in history. Immediately before the Great White Throne judgment. We find it described in Revelation 20, verses 13 and 14, the resurrection of the unsaved. "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it and death and hades gave up the dead which were in them and they were judged, every one, according to their deeds". Verse 14 says "And death and hades were thrown into the lake of fire, Gehenna. This is the second death, the lake of fire". The two resurrections, everyone, believers and unbelievers, will receive a new body for all eternity.
Now that raises an interesting question. How is it possible that people whose bodies have died could have bodies that ever come to life again? How can something that has died ever come to life again? Actually, the Corinthian Christians had that very same question. Paul, we believe in a spiritual resurrection but a literal, physical resurrection, how can that be? In 1 Corinthians 15:35, Paul anticipated that question. He said "But someone will say how are the dead raised? And what kind of body do they come"? What kind of body do they have? Have you ever thought about that? How is it that the dead are raised? How is a resurrection at all possible?
Well, Paul answers that question by using an analogy and that is of planting and harvesting. Look at 1 Corinthians 15, verses 36 to 38, where Paul explains how a resurrection happens. "That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies and that which you sow, you do not sow the body, which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or something else. But God gives it a body just as he wished and to each of the seeds, a body of its own".
Think of planting and harvesting. What's involved in that? Well, first of all, when you plant a seed, that means the seed actually dies. If you plant a watermelon seed in the ground, that seed dies before it ever comes to life and so it is with the resurrection. When we die, that death is necessary for there to be a future harvest. If you don't plant a seed and the seed dies, never will a harvest come months later. It's the same way with us, Paul says. Death is not only inevitable, it is necessary. It has to happen for us to ever inherit God's kingdom. Verse, Corinthians 15:36. "That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies". And he explains why in verse 50. "For flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit that which is imperishable".
Think of it this way. Your body is perfectly designed for this world but your body is totally not suitable for residence on Mars or Pluto or any other plant. Your body is only suitable for this planet and it's the same way in terms of this earth and the new earth and the new heaven. Our bodies are designed for this earth but they are totally inadequate for the new heaven and the new earth and that leads to the second part of the process, the reaping of the harvest.
Notice something about the relationship between the planting and the harvest. First of all, the harvest is superior to the seed. What is harvested is always superior to the seed. For example, let's just imagine it's a hot day here in Dallas, Texas in August, 110 degrees in the shade. You've been out working in the yard. You come in and you need some refreshment and you've got a choice. You can either have a cold slice of watermelon or you can eat a watermelon seed. Now which would you choose? A watermelon or the watermelon seed? I think everybody would choose the slice of watermelon because the harvest is always superior to the seed. It's the same way with the resurrection.
What is harvested at the resurrection? Our new body is vastly superior to that which is planted. But secondly, the harvest is also similar to the seed. It's superior to the seed but it's similar to the seed. I mean, you don't plant a watermelon seed and harvest a kumquat, okay? If you plant a watermelon seed, guess what? You get a watermelon. And it's the same way with us. When our bodies die, it's not someone else who is resurrected. We don't get a body that is totally dissimilar to what we were. Our new bodies are going to resemble our old bodies. We'll talk about that more in just a moment. But if you want a good idea of what your resurrection body is going to be like for eternity, the best place to look is to look at Jesus himself. Jesus is the prototype of our resurrection body.
In 1 John three, verse 2, the apostle writes "Beloved, now we are children of God and it has not appeared as yet what we will be but we know that when he, Jesus, appears, we shall be like him because we will see him just as he is". The best answer to what we're gonna be like in our new bodies is to look at the resurrection body of Jesus. Remember after Jesus was raised from the dead, he spent 40 days on the earth ministering to people so let's ask the question first of all, was Jesus' resurrection spiritual or physical? There were some in the Corinthian church who said oh, we believe Jesus was raised from the dead but we believe it was a spiritual resurrection. We can't believe that he was literally, physically raised from the dead and so in verses three and four, 1 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that the physical resurrection of Jesus is the very essence of the Gospel message. Paul wrote "For I deliver to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures".
It was a physical resurrection. How do I know that? Well, just look at what happened to Jesus over those 40 days he was on the earth in his resurrection body. 17 different times, he conversed with his disciples. On three occasions, he ate with his disciples. On two different occasions, he allowed his disciples to touch him. What was Jesus' resurrection body like? First of all, it was superior to his earthly body. Now Jesus was without sin in his earthly body but he had limitations just like you and I have in our earthly bodies but in his resurrection body, he was vastly superior. For example, on several occasions, Jesus was able to materialize at a place at will. He was able to come through a door that was locked. He had abilities in his new body that he didn't have in his original body.
But secondly, Jesus' body was also similar to his earthly body. If you look at the accounts of those 40 days Jesus spent on earth, you will discover that those who knew him best eventually recognized him. I say eventually because many times, they didn't immediately recognize him. You say well, why is that? Several reasons. Some were so full of sorrow, they couldn't see clearly. One appearance happened when it was still dark and they couldn't make out his features. On another occasion, the distance between Jesus and his disciples were great enough to obscure recognizable features. Some were disbelieving, they didn't believe he was really going to come back again. Others weren't expecting to see him at all.
What is it that caused them to recognize Jesus? There were some similarity between Jesus earthly body and his new body. Perhaps it was his stature. Perhaps it was the color of his eyes or his hair. Perhaps it was a mannerism that he had but something about Jesus was recognizable. Well, that leads to the question, what will our bodies be like in heaven? Remember John said we shall be like him. Colossians 1:18 says that Jesus was the first born from the dead. That word first born is the Greek word prototokos. Prototokos. He is the prototokos, the prototype of those, all of us, who will be raised from the dead.
So knowing that that is true, we can gather several important facts about our new bodies in heaven. First of all, our bodies will be physical. Just as Jesus had a physical body, so will we. Now, our new bodies will be vastly different than our original bodies. Make no mistake about it. In verses 39 to 41 in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul said "All flesh is not the same flesh but there is one flesh of men and another flesh of beast and another flesh of birds and another flesh of fish. There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies but the glory of the heavenly is one and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, another glory of the stars, for stars differ from star in their glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body. It is raised an imperishable body. It is sown in dishonor but it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body. It is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body".
Now notice the word body, soma in Greek, is repeated over and over again. That refers to a physical body. It's Paul's way of saying don't miss this, we are a body but on earth in our current state, we are a natural body, but in the new heaven and new earth, we will be spiritual but we will still be a body. Let me summarize for you if I can the differences between our earthly body and our heavenly body for the new heaven and new earth. First of all, our earthly bodies decay. Our heavenly bodies will endure. Secondly, our earthly bodies are infected with sin. Our heavenly bodies will be free of sin. Thirdly, our earthly bodies are weak. Our heavenly bodies will be powerful. And finally, our earthly bodies are for the old earth. Our heavenly bodies are for the new earth. Secondly, our bodies will not only be physical, they will also be perfect. They will be perfect. No more cancer, no more heart attacks, no more strokes, no more high blood pressure. Revelation 21, verse four, says "The first things will have passed away". Revelation 22, verse three. "And there shall no longer be any curse".
Many of you know Jani Erickson, my friend, a great woman of God. At age 17, through a diving accident, became a quadriplegic. Listen to what Jani has to say about the promise of a new body. "Can you imagine the hope this gives someone like me with a spinal cord injury or someone who is cerebral palsied, brain injured, or has multiple sclerosis? Imagine the hope this gives someone who is a manic depressive. No other religion, no other philosophy, promises new bodies, hearts, and minds. Only in the Gospel of Christ do hurting people find such incredible hope".
Isn't that great? That's the promise we have. Our bodies will be perfect. They'll be physical, they'll be perfect, thirdly, our bodies will be personal. What I mean by that is when you are raised from the dead, you don't become somebody else. You are still you. You know, in 1 John 3:2, John said we shall be like him. We will be like Jesus. That doesn't mean we all become little mini-mes of Jesus without any distinction. It means we will inherit the heavenly DNA like Jesus but we still retain our own identities.
How do I know that? Well, Luke 24:39, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, listen to what he said in his new resurrection body. "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself". It is i, it's not somebody else. It is i. It means in heaven we won't be someone else. You will be you and the relationships, by the way, you have here on earth with Christians will continue in heaven. You'll know other people, they will know you and you will enjoy perfect fellowship untainted by sin of any kind.
Ron Rhodes, theologian, says it this way. "Our eternal reunion with Christian loved ones and friends will be ceaselessly glorious. Keep in mind that we will no longer have sin natures. There will be no fights among loved ones. There won't be any resentment or envy or jealousy. There won't be any one-up-manship or rivalries. There won't be any cross words or misunderstandings or selfishness. Our relationships in heaven will be truly wonderful and utterly satisfying". Now that's something to look forward to in that place called heaven.