AskRob: Question on the Resurrection and Heaven

Q. Hey Rob,
Okay, my cage is rattled again. It's about your stance on people not 
recognizing each other in the resurrection. I'll be surprised if mine is the 
only e-mail you get about this. First, I agree with you completely that we 
probably won't even care and that just being in God's presence and seeing 
Him in all His glory will be all-consuming and probably overwhelm any other 
thought or feeling.
That said, I have to wonder if your position is entirely correct when I 
think about instances like when King Saul paid the medium to call up Samuel: 
Saul recognized Samuel from the medium's description. In Jesus' parable 
about the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man recognized both Lazarus and 
Abraham. In the  account of Jesus' transfiguration, Peter, James and 
John recognized Moses and Elijah. Whether this was from ancient drawings, 
maybe, or some God-granted telepathy-type thing, we don't know, but they 
obviously were recognizable as those specific Biblical figures. In , 
Jesus tells us He's the God of the living, not the dead, and names Abraham, 
Isaac and Jacob. This implies that they're still known by those names and 
recognized as those people even after death. In this same chapter, Jesus 
tells us there will be no marriage, but rather that we'll be like the angels 
in heaven. Is it taking that verse too far to suppose we'll be known by 
names and recognizable as the angels Michael and Gabriel clearly are? The 
most persuasive example to me is that of Jesus Himself after His death, who 
was immediately recognized by His disciples when He appeared to them in the 
locked room. Scripture even depicts Him retaining the wounds of the 
crucifixion. There's the obvious delineation between our humanity and His 
deity, but we're told that we will be like Him.
As far as having memories, if we are to give an account after death (Rom. 
14) of the acts done in this life, we would surely be able to remember them, 
along with the others' whose lives are included in the memories of what 
we've done.
 Thanks for your time.

Oh yeah, and who were the Nephilim? (Just kidding)

A pre-Abraham Boy-Band. (Just Kidding)
Here you Go:
Since this is a rattled cage issue, I will answer it first, because if you are anything like me, you would want this answered first.  If not, sorry for the assumption. As you will see in the quote below from an older theologian that pretty much states how I would view the general particulars (as oxymoronic as that sounds) of the resurrection and heaven, I agree with what you said, about the general particulars. What I was also dealing with are the existential implications of that question about seeing relatives.

QUOTE:  That the resurrection body of both the good and the evil will have the common characteristic of being destitute of fleshly appetites and passions and will be a “spiritual” in distinction from a “natural” body is proved by the following: “They neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God” (); “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (); “they hunger no more, neither thirst any more” ().[1] 

The resurrection body is an identical body. An identical body is one that is recognized by the person himself and by others. No more than this is required in order to bodily identity. A living man recognizes his present body as the same body that he had ten years ago; yet the material particles are not the same identically: “We shall rise again with the same bodies we have now as to the substance, but the quality will be different” (Calvin 3.25.8); “the dead shall be raised up with the self-same bodies and none other, although with different qualities” (Westminster Confession 33.2). In saying that the substance is the same but the quality is different, Calvin does not mean that all the qualities will be different. This would be incompatible with sameness of substance. But some of the qualities are changed. Calvin explains his statement in the following words: “Just as the very body of Christ which had been offered as a sacrifice was raised again, but with such new and superior qualities as though it had been altogether different.” Certain qualities of the “natural” body will still belong to the “spiritual,” such as extension, figure, etc. The difference will be in the secondary, rather than in the primary properties of the natural body.

That the spiritual body is recognized is proved by –33: Moses and Elijah were recognized by Christ and pointed out to the disciples; “you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God” (; –17, 20); Christ prepares a place for his people and receives them individually: “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (); “Jacob was gathered unto his people” (); “Abraham died and was gathered to his people” (25:8). (See supplement 7.3.5.)

That the spiritual body does not consist of the very same particles of matter with the natural body, no more, no less, and no different, is proved by St. Paul’s illustration in –40: “You sow not that body that shall be; but God gives it a body as it has pleased him. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, another of fishes, and another of birds. There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial.” [2]

 

 

Let me explain.

First, it seems that you and I are on the same page about the primacy of activity in heaven, in that the focus will be on the LORD.  We will respond to Him, for Him forever.  Heaven is fellowship with God, without sin. Having said that, what are we to make of “the rest of it?” This is where the existential (or philosophical approach to existence and/or experience[which really means that I am speaking more phenomenologically than existentially]  - but whatever)  becomes part of my view.  Even though I agree that in the general particulars we will have identity (as in many of your examples and the point of our “dwelling places (mansions)” of  show), what people usually mean in that question is, “Will my family and those who have gone before me be a prominent part of my life?” I think that people are also interested in having a recognizable reality in heaven, because they are a bit nervous about the unknown.  So…

What I am saying is that I agree that we will have identity, and that identity will be identifiable. I am saying that whereas this identity will be a reality, it will still be a completely new expression of what is yet our still true identity – even more than just a perfect form of the “us now.” I think that the nature of our being brought into the presence of God will be so overwhelming that it will eclipse any and all other passions we have now and that our relationships with others will only be as relates to our worship of God. So I am really working mostly with this concept, namely that Heaven is where we get to finally live the ultimate reality -  that it is all about God.

Now, do remember that I qualified my view as being a “me-thing” that is clearly extreme, and that others have another view. In my extreme view is a desire to bring about a pendulum swing from a man-focused view of heaven where it is great that God is there and I cannot wait to see my wife or grandmother again, to simply, I cannot wait to be with the LORD ().

Now, it is also important to deal with texts as you mentioned to determine what import they have on this topic.  Of the passages that you mentioned, the quote above affirms the best of your mentionings, and with the others I would say:
  1. That the primary point of the (I believe) parable in of the rich man and Lazarus is a teaching about greed and accountability, not the particulars of the afterlife.  Now having said that, there are some details present, but because they are secondary in nature, they must not be afforded a primary slot in building the doctrine of the afterlife.  Notice for instance that the “saved man”, Lazarus goes to be with Abraham and the Lord is not mentioned.  Should we assume that this is some lesser place in heaven where he does not get to be with God, only Abraham?  No. This (again, what I believe to be) euphemistic phrase for where Paradise would obviously be to the Jews -  where Abraham is. It was employed to communicate just that it was paradise.
  2. In , the distinction of being the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was a common link to being the God of Israel, yet being employed by Jesus, saying that they are still clearly themselves and that they are living.  A better passage for this view would be . Still showing that it is an excellent point to the position that you are espousing.
  3. The giving of an account requiring our memory is stretching our abilities too far.  The Lord will have a Book, as it were, where the deeds would be (), as is with the Book of Life. To give an account means more of being held accountable and judged, whether or not we remember what we have done.
So, try not to think of me as offering some unbiblical view based on what the texts are saying, but rather a view that stretches one as to the practical aspects of what that means, namely that even though we will be recognizable in our true identity, we will not recognize each other for the purpose that people usually mean. You will find that this issue of ultimate meaning is a metanarrative of how I do theology. Thanks for the dialog!
[1]William Greenough Thayer Shedd and Alan W. Gomes, Dogmatic Theology, "First One-Volume Edition (3 Vols. in 1)"--Jacket., 3rd ed. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub., 2003), 870. [2] Ibid, 871.

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17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.

24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” (ESV)

22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. (ESV)

30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (ESV)

16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore;
the sun shall not strike them,
nor any scorching heat. (ESV)

30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, (ESV)

28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. (ESV)

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.

John 20:16

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (ESV)

23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (ESV)

33 When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people. (ESV)

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (ESV)

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? (ESV)

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (ESV)

16:1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.

10 “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15 And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.

16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. 17 But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

18 “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (ESV)

22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

23 The same day Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, 24 saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up children for his brother.’ 25 Now there were seven brothers among us. The first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother. 26 So too the second and third, down to the seventh. 27 After them all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, of the seven, whose wife will she be? For they all had her.”

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

44 “‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet’?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. (ESV)

11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, (ESV)

12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (ESV)

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