Very frequently one hears from our pulpits statements concerning our abode in glory and our relationship and recognition concerning the saints and/or Biblical characters.
The question is this: To what degree and in what capacity will they be recognized? Will it be their role, station, or spiritual influence or contribution which they had or made during their earthly pilgrimage? I sometimes get that impression. If so, why is this just limited to Bible characters?
Fraternally yours, N.
Questions of this kind are always interesting because they involve our future glorious estate as the children of God. There are many questions which we may ask concerning that future estate and the details of our life in heaven. In general, I would make two remarks: l) We must remember that the essence of our blessedness and glory in the new creation will consist in our perfect covenant fellowship with the God of our salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord. 2) We must not think in earthly and flesh-and-blood terms of the final glory. Heaven will be altogether different. It is also remarkable, in this connection, how Scripture describes the blessedness of heaven for us in terms of what it will not be. The inheritance is incorruptible, andundefiled, and fadeth never away, I Peter 1:4.
As to the particular question at hand, I would answer: Yes, we will know and recognize the saints in glory individually. In the first place, it is inconceivable to me that there should be communion of saints, but that the saints would not know one another’s identity. Not only shall we retain our personal identity in glory, but we shall also know one another perfectly as saints in Christ Jesus. It would be very strange, indeed, if this were not the case. Here on earth we do not exercise communion of saints incognito; why should we do so in heaven? Only we must remember that our knowledge as saints shall be perfect. And this surely implies, among other things, the fact that our recognition of the saints in glory will not be a matter of merely satisfying our curiosity. In the second place, I believe that there is Scriptural ground for such an idea. In Matthew 8:10, 11 we read: “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in- the kingdom of heaven.” (cf.Luke 13:28, 29) This would seem to imply, for example, that we shall recognize Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; at least, it is inconceivable to me that we should sit down with them, and thus have communion with them, and not recognize them. In Luke 13 the Lord even says that the unbelieving and impenitent shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and they themselves thrust out.
In what capacity shall we recognize them? In the first place, in their capacity as saints, that is, as those in whom Christ is perfectly revealed. In the second place, even as there shall be degrees in glory, so I would assume that we shall know the saints according to their status in glory; and this status in glory shall be according to their works as God’s children on earth. If, as the Lord says, the apostles shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, shall we not also recognize them in their exalted position in the glory of the everlasting state?
Finally, I certainly would not limit this to Bible characters and can find no ground for doing so. Why, for example, should we not be able to recognize saints like Augustine or Martin Luther or John Calvin in heaven? And why should we not know and recognize in glory the saints among whom we lived and with whom we had fellowship while on the earth?
Once more, however, I would caution that we must not think earthly of all these things. Flesh and blood shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. And all that belongs strictly to that sphere of “flesh and blood” shall be eliminated in the relationships of our life in glory.