Would We Recognize Our Loved Ones In Heaven?

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An Interview with Brian Wagner.

Brian Wagner is an instructor at Veritas Bible College, Virginia. He also teaches at Piedmont International University, and South Florida Bible College and Seminary.

Brian has a Ph.D., in Theology from Piedmont Baptist Graduate School; MDiv from Biblical Theological Seminary; ThM from Liberty Theological University.

You may find more about Brian here: https://brianwagner.academia.edu/cv

Many of us deal with some great pain when we loose our loved ones. This is also a time where we ask some deep theological questions. One of these questions is: Would we see our loved ones again in heaven as we see them here on earth during our life time?

In this episode, Brian Wagner answers some important questions.

Joel Madasu06:33  All right. Brother Brian, thank you so much for your time, for your willingness to be here on this podcast and share with us one of the crucial topics, sharing some information about the Christian topics that I think a lot of people would love to know, and a lot of people are also struggling with this kind of thought in their minds is when they lose their loved ones. So the question that we’re going to address today in this podcast is would we see our loved ones as we see them here in our lives?

Brian Wagner:               07:12                Well, brother Joel, thank you very much for the opportunity to, uh, be on your podcast here and to try to answer that question and as best I can from God’s word, and I’ve done some thinking about, you know, what, what scriptures we should look at. Um, and what, what thoughts come from those passages of scripture being, because it really is, it’s only God’s word that can give us any clarity. And yet, uh, of course there are a lot of things that the Bible doesn’t answer. And so we’ll, we’ll try to, to make some educated guesses at least, um, about what people are usually thinking about when, when I think about dying and when they think about the next life. And, and, um, especially when the loved one goes and, uh, you know, will they meet them again? Uh, so I Jot us some thoughts down and I hope you don’t mind.

Brian Wagner:               08:07                I’m going to share the screen so that the viewers can see the versus, because I think sometimes there’s a benefit of, of seeing God’s word as it’s being read out loud and, uh, and you don’t have to look at me all the time. So, uh, uh, but I, I’ll, uh, I’ll try to go back and forth if I can, um, to share some of those things. So here, here’s my initial thoughts. Uh, you know, of course there’s an assumption, uh, that our loved ones are in the family of God with us. You know, we’re not, we won’t see them again unless, unless they’re already in the family of God with us. Uh, and of course that happens through God giving them the new spiritual birth into his family like he did us, uh, when, when they expressed humble trust in Jesus, God’s son, uh, for his mercy and the forgiveness of their sins.

Brian Wagner:               09:01                And assuming that’s true, um, I thought, you know, I should say there’s going to be a promised resurrection. Of course, we’re all God’s children and a gathering onto him and a, and then many of us believe the scripture clearly teaches that a, that includes serving him in our resurrected bodies 4,000 years here on earth. Um, before we find out what he has next for us to do after, after that. Uh, so, so seeing our loved ones again increase the question, you know, what, what will we all look like in our resurrected bodies and, uh, and, and will we recognize each other. Um, so a quick look at at two clear versus that indicate a that we will have bodies like Jesus resurrected body I think is a good place to start. Uh, first John Chapter three verses one to two. This was a favorite passage of my dad before he passed away at the age of 91.

Brian Wagner:               10:03                Um, any chance he got in church, uh, if he had to give a testimony or, or, or he would quote, he would quote this verse, you know, “behold what manner of love the father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God. Therefore, the world does not know us because it did not know him. Beloved. Now we are the children of God and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when he is revealed, we shall be like him. For we shall see him as he is.”

Joel Madasu:                10:36                Hmm.

Brian Wagner:               10:37                And so initially we, we, we have here a promise that, uh, whatever we look like, it’s going to be somewhat like Jesus. Now, how physical is that? How spiritual is that? We will be like him. And of course we were hoping it’s more spiritual, you know, are we are, we’re not all going to be 33 year old Jewish males, I don’t think. Um, but, but there’s some connection there. And we see in the next verse, it’s a bodily connection. Um, Philippians 3: 21-22, “for our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body. That it may be conformed to his glorious body according to the working by which he is able to subdue all things to himself.” So, so we will be like him and that’s a bodily likeness in some way. And the word glorious is thrown in there. Um, so there’s something different than just the physical body. Um, but it is a body and we’ll see that very clearly in the, in this next discussion point, some have suggested Christ’s resurrection body that he had for 40 days after he rose again, somehow changed when he went to heaven.

Brian Wagner:               12:02                So we don’t know exactly what his glorious body now looks like or can change to look like. Uh, but some of the things Jesus and other scriptures said about the future coming of the resurrection indicates it will be very much the same physical body the apostle saw after he rose from the dead. So I don’t know if you’ve run into this Joel, but in America here, there is some controversy about the resurrection and the resurrection body. And, um, I don’t know if it’s eastern influence, but there is this idea, um, get going away from physicality in the, in the resurrection experience. And, and, uh, the argument is even a, you know, uh, well Jesus just took on a physical form, um, when he needed to. Um, but, but really he’s, he’s in a, in a spiritual body, which is not physical at all anymore.

Brian Wagner:               13:06                Um, kind of like the, the thief and he’s of the Old Testament that, you know, how they could take on a physical form, um, and you could hear them speak and, and all the rest. Um, the problem with that is that really hits at the whole idea of resurrection and the uniqueness of who we are physically, you know, with, you know, how the doctors say, you know, your thumbprint, your retina of your eye. I mean, we’re all, we’re all so unique genetically and physically. Um, and, and there seems to be, it, it, it appears in scripture. There seems to be this continuation of that when Jesus returns. So here’s, here’s what Jesus said, uh, we’ll look at some verses right after his resurrection and then we’re going to see what he said about when he comes back. So that’s already been 2000 years or so. So we’re going to see how he describes the resurrected body. Um, when he comes back.

Brian Wagner:               14:10                Now, this first passage is from Luke 24 and a, it’s a great passage. When you were talking about the resurrected body of Jesus, of course the tomb was empty, so it was the actual body was somehow lifted up and, and take it half of the tomb, reanimated with life. And uh, and this, this physical body stands in front of, of the disciples that first, uh, day of the week, that first resurrection Sunday. And it says, he stood in the midst of them, said to them, peace to you, but they were terrified and frightened. And suppose they had seen a spirit and he said to them, why you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet that it is, I myself, I think that’s kind of interesting. He says that is I my self, right after saying hands and feet, um, you know, if, if he’s just saying, well, I just took on this body, I just took on this body. So you’d have something to see that it doesn’t kind of, doesn’t kind of fit. Um, handle me and see for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have. And when he said this, he showed them his hands and feet and while they were still, uh, while they still do not believe for joy and marveled and said to them, he said to them, have you any food here? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb and he took it and ate it in their presence. And so there, there he is, he’s saying, Hey, this is me. I can eat. I got a body and it can eat. Then also in John the story, which many know of, of Thomas Doubting Thomas, we call him. Uh, but this is another good story, um, for a number of reasons, but if not just this point that, that Jesus was in a physical body.

Brian Wagner:               16:07                Um, Thomas called the twin, one of the 12 was not with them that first Sunday. So the next Sunday, Jesus came, the other disciples therefore said unto them, unto him, we have seen the Lord. So he said to them, unless I see his hands in his hands, the print of the nails and put my finger into the print of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. And then after eight days, his disciples were again inside Thomas was with them. Jesus came. Now listen, this is interesting. The jaw, the doors being shut and stood in the midst and said, peace to you. Then he said to Thomas, reach your finger here and look at my hands and reach your hand here and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to him, my Lord and my God, Jesus said to him, Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and have yet and yet have believed. And so we’re called upon were the ones who have not seen. But we’re called upon to believe this testimony that Jesus was in a physical resurrected body, his body, the one he lived in for 33 years and then and then died in and then it rose from the grave. And now it’s changed in some way cause he comes through the door, it looks like without the door opening. So, so, uh, there is a change there. But now when you think about that scientifically, that’s, it really isn’t that hard to imagine. Uh, because we know scientifically that everything is made of atoms and atoms are mostly space. You know, the nucleus is like invisible and the electrons that are floating around that are invisible. So, so almost, you know, so, um, you know, even everything that’s physical is, is kind of like space.

Brian Wagner:               18:13                And if you, if you can figure out a way of squeezing through the posts, you know, you know, uh, you can have a physical body pass through another physical body. You just have to vibrate the atoms or whatever to get through. But God can do it, right? God can do it. And a, so whether he did it with some kind of physical law, I don’t know. But, um, he, he knows how to work those things. Uh, but hey, I can’t do it. And so, you know, there’s something that’s going to happen to my body, your body, Joel, afterwards, um, resurrected that’s going to be able to do things that we can’t do now. All right. Now he does talk, Jesus dead while he was on this earth, uh, about his second coming is coming back. And, and he says in this one passage in Matthew 8: 11, uh, something caught my attention. He said, “I say to you that many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Um, and the word sit down has the idea of reclining for a meal to eat. And, and so, you know, he’s not, we would have to read our theology into these passage to get away from the idea that he’s talking about physical people and, and with physical identities. And, um, you, you can pick them out. Oh, there’s Abraham over there. There’s Isaac over there, you know.

Brian Wagner:               20:00                Now this brings up the question, and I personally don’t think we are going to be at the age we died. Okay. I, I just don’t, I don’t think we’re going to be 33 year year old Jewish males, but I do think we’re going to be at the height of, of the genetic maturity that God made our bodies to be. Hmm. And you take away all the defects, all the genetic defects probably won’t get rid of this big nose, but, but, but we will be you. We will be ourselves at the fullness of what we were intended to be. I guess. Almost like what, what Adam probably looked like the first day he was created. Uh, you know, how old was he? He was a day old, but how would have you look like? Well, probably 30 something years old. Right, right. So Abraham’s probably going to be young again. He’ll probably be glad of that. A lot of women out there will probably be glad to be back to their younger years.

Brian Wagner:               21:05                Uh, but this does then say suggests, um, and this is just, I’m just theologizing making inferences, but, um, so God, if God wants to do it differently, I’m, um, I’m for where, however you want to do it. But I know there are many a grieving moms and dads, but moms especially, um, who, who want to hold that child that they never got a chance to hold, died in the womb perhaps, or aborted, um, and, or maybe died as a baby and they, and they think, you know, I want wanna, I just want to hold that baby one more time. And, uh, you know how God is going to dry those tears. I don’t know. He said he’s going to, I, I just don’t think it’s going to be through being able to hold a baby again, but it may be, hey, that’s if that’s what God wants to do.

Brian Wagner:               22:12                Um, but I do think the resurrected body itself will be, um, at the state of maturity that, that’s my guess. He does say also in Matthew 26, he says, I said to you, I will not drink this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my father’s kingdom. So here he again, he’s not saying, he’s saying in the future I’m going to be drinking as well. So the physical body of Christ is still going to be there the same way it was on resurrection Sunday. Um, old testament has this prophecy of I will pour on the house of David on the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the spirit of grace and suffocation and they will look on me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for him as one mourns for his only son. And grieved for him is one grieves for his firstborn.

Brian Wagner:               23:05                And this prophecy has been linked with Christ’s second coming and the nation of Israel, seeing the one that they had rejected. And finally a large multitude of that nation as it says here. Um, repenting with grief put, we did crucify our Messiah and, and there’s a hint it, you can argue both ways. Uh, but there’s a hint that they actually see the piercings, you know, uh, that, that in his hands and his feet. Uh, but you could argue that, you know, they’re looking on him whom they pierced 2000 years ago, but the piercings aren’t, you don’t see them anymore. What argument against the piercings and Christ’s hands and feet is John’s vision of Christ. Um, in revelation chapter one. He doesn’t mention that. Um, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still there. So in some ways though, our physical bodies will be also like angels. Jesus said. So there were, there will be no longer family relationships. And this kind of throws a little bit of a monkey wrench into this longing that we have, uh, for perfect family love again, or especially when we grieve over lost loved family member. Um, but the Bible says we’re going to be like the angels and, and, but, but, but we will have close friendships. Now, sometimes friendships can be closer than family relationships. In fact, that’s often true. And sometimes we, we should be better friends with our spouses and better friends with our brothers and sisters, that we, that we’re flesh and blood with. Well if you’re in the family of God, that’s really what’s going to be like, I think in heaven. Um, you know, those are counted worthy. This is in a parable that Jesus gave. Um, oh, this was, no, this was an, an answer. Jesus was given to the Pharisees. He said, “those are counted worthy to attain to the, that age, the son resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, nor can they die any more for their equal to the angels and our sons of God being sons of the resurrection. So, so we’re equal to the angels, but we’re actually more, we’re, we’re, we’re also sons of the resurrection. In fact, the Bible says in First Corinthians six, we’re going to judge angels.” So, so, uh, were made a little lower than the angels and flesh and blood. But then in the resurrection body, it seems like we’re like the angels, but we’re also going to be in a position above the angels in, in, uh, in the next generation of God’s creation. Um, and this verse here, and a power ball, he’s talking about finances.

Brian Wagner:               26:00                He says, uh, I said, you make friends of your, for yourselves, unrighteous mammon money, uh, that when when you fail, they may receive you into an everlasting home. And it’s basically Jesus is saying, use your money to win souls. Um, but I like the word friends here. You know, the idea is this friendship is going to continue as you, as you live together in heaven, in an everlasting home. Well the main passage in the Bible that talks about a resurrection bodies, I, you know, I through all these different verses in and, and uh, they’re very important passages that we just looked at and they speak for themselves. But I always think it’s good to find what is the most comprehensive passage where the writer who was sitting down to speak just about that issue. And so we talk about Christian Love and we immediately think of First Corinthians 13, uh, you know, we talk about the millennium, we immediately think of revelation 20. Uh, you know, we talk about, um, resurrection bodies or resurrection, you know, First Corinthians 15, I mean, that’s the resurrection chapter. So I want to read some verses from it and I’ve highlighted some of the main points that I won’t take that much time to discuss. But what I thought might be interesting to look at, Paul says, “but someone will say, how are the dead raised up and with what body do they come? Foolish one, what, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not. sow that Bot what that body Shell, uh, you do not. So that body that shall be, but mere grain, perhaps wheat or some other grain, but God gives it a body as he pleases. And to each seed it’s own body. All flashes is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men and other kind of animals and other fish and other birds. And there are celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies. But the glory of the celestial is one. And the glory of the terrestrial is another. And there is one glory of the Sun and another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars. And one star differs from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption. It is raised in incorruption, sown in dishonor. 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. There is a natural body and there’s a spiritual body.” So just, just briefly looking at these highlighted portions. Um, you know, this body right now, we should think of it as a seed. It’s not what God intended it to ultimately be. It really is the resurrected body.

Brian Wagner:               29:05                It really is the glorious body. Um, that has to be, um, but what God is intended, the one that’s going to live forever and it’s not going to be tied just to a natural earth. Uh, they’ll can live in a natural earth and eat and drink. Uh, so just like seeds have to have to die or fall apart in, in the earth. And, and, and then, and then, yet it is from that seed. It’s, the seed doesn’t disappear. It’s from that actual seed, that the next, you know, the tree or the stock or whatever comes. So, so there’s a connection there. And that idea of being genetically unique and the resurrection body is going to have that same uniqueness and it goes on to talk about that, but it is according to God as He pleases. So He made us all unique, for some reason, spiritually, physically, emotionally, personality wise, he has a special task for us to do while we’re here on earth. And he’s going to have a special task for us to do in the millennium and in the, in the ages to come. So what, so, uh, uh, it’s up to him and, and yet it’s going to be our own body. It’s going to be unique, and it’s got to be celestial. Uh, it’s going to have, be able to survive in the heavens as well as on the earth. Um, it’s going to differ from, from other people. We’re not gonna we’re not going to be, well, we defer now we know that already. But, but, but the glory of the, of the body that we’re going to get is going to, um, be different. And some of this may hint to how we serve now and the rewards we get later will affect the glory of our celestial body. Yeah. I don’t know. Um, but uh, but we’re going to be, we’re going to be raised in incorruption. We won’t die. We won’t have sickness. [inaudible] we’re going to be raised in glory. We’re going to reflect the glory like, like planets do the other reflecting, the sun’s shining. Uh, we’re going to reflect the sun’s glory off of our lives perfectly. Whether we’re big or small. Um, we’re going to be powerful. It’s going to be powerful body. So there’s going to be, there’s going to be a power to, to this new body. There’s going to be a, it’s gotta be spiritual. Now this is the key word that throws some people off. It is a body, but it’s a spiritual body in the sense that it, it can dwell in the spiritual realm of the spirits of God, the heavens, cause they are just spirits. They’re not, they don’t have a body. The only body and having right now is Jesus his body. Um, the, the old testament saints aren’t in their bodies yet. Um, they recognizes individuals somehow. I don’t know. You know, it’s like seeing ghosts, right? I don’t know, but, but, but, but when the resurrection takes place, there’ll be more bodies in heaven. Now, let me take that back.

Brian Wagner:               32:32                The angels are ministering spirits and, and so I, you know, you could argue the beats, the four beasts, four living creatures that are in heaven. Maybe they have physical bodies. I don’t know. I don’t know where they’re described in revelation. They could, they could. But anyway, it’s a, it’s a spiritual body in the sense that it can dwell in a spiritual realm.

Joel Madasu:                32:53                Hmm.

Brian Wagner:               32:55                So finally, uh, will we recognize our saved loved ones when gathered together to be with them in our resurrection bodies? Uh, would there be any I should be there. That’s a misspelling there. Okay, I got to change that. That’s terrible. Don’t tell anybody. All right? Would there be any comfort in our being brought together with them if we didn’t recognize them? So this idea is, okay, we’re going to have a physical body. They’re going to have a physical body. If there are saved loved ones, will we recognize them? This passage I’m about to read suggests very clearly that’s why you’re, you’re going to be, there’s going to be comfort of some sort getting together. And how could there be comfort if you don’t recognize the person, right? You know, it’s like when you meet somebody that yet like, I see you, Joel, I haven’t seen you for years. And there’s a comfort. It’s an encouragement. It’s a joy just to see you and the picture in my mind, what God’s doing in your life. You know, so yeah, when we, when we say goodbye to a loved one and they’re in heaven.

Brian Wagner:               34:09                Now this passage, first Thessalonians four, you know the rapture passage, you get a new body at the rapture because that’s a resurrection experience. That’s a separation from your old body and a translation into a new body without dying. But it’s still a death in a sense that you’re, you’re getting your new body and your body’s gone. You’re separated from it. Um, let me read it, “but I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those that have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow is others who have no hope for. We believe that Jesus died and rose again. Even so God will bring with him those who sleep in Jesus’ as those are our dead loved ones. ‘He’s going to bring their spirits with him when he comes from heaven. And this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive here on earth and remain until that day when coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep or is their bodies or there in uh, in the grave sleeping and their spirits are there in heaven. I mean, back with Jesus, for the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel and the trumpet of God and the Dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them’ together with them ‘in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words.” You know, we can emphasize the caught up and the word rapture, the Latin word rapture that comes from that, that a Greek word and they’re caught up.

Brian Wagner:               36:00                But the focus of the passage here is really the getting together with those who have died. It’s not focused so much on the rapture as it is on the getting together. When the Lord returns and to be comforted, comforted by that fact. Um, and so this, this is a great passage for any funeral service because it’s fat, especially if a believer, right. We don’t sorrow as others who have no hope. We have a sure hope that we’re going to be gathered together with our loved ones. And so to say, we wouldn’t recognize them. How would that be? Very hopeful. How would that be? Much of a comfort. I think we will recognize them. I do think the body’s physical and it will probably be looking differently than maybe we might guess, um, brought to a perfection in maturity maybe. Um, but there’ll be like Jesus glorious body and it’ll, it’ll be powerful. It’ll be glorious. Those are my thoughts. I hope, I hope I didn’t go too long for you there. Uh, but that, that’s my, uh, concluding thoughts.

Joel Madasu:                37:14                Yeah. But even that is, or the phrase that just, um, it just caught my attention to those who are alive remain, shall be caught up together with them. That’s just fascinating.

Brian Wagner:               37:26             Yeah.

Joel Madasu:                37:30                Yeah, absolutely. I mean this is, this is really comforting because I mean, there’s so, so many people who lost their loved ones. And for example, when you’re saying you’re only getting about why if a woman lost her child, for example, a newborn or so forth, I’m a twin and my brother, I was twin, when my brother died when he was four days old, the one that was out after me after a minute and say, I don’t, I don’t know. And they still don’t understand how my mother, my mother went through all that struggle and pain. But you know, there’s that comfort now. She’s got the comfort. So, and I hope that through this podcast and through this content, those who are listening will have that hope that comfort that they will see them at some point; in what position and so forth? That is all up to God. But we see them. Yes. And even the fascinating, uh, the phrase that we just read, last part, we will rise up together with them; that’s even comforting. So.

Brian Wagner:               38:33                Yes. Amen. Now of course, you know that Joel, this brings up the question about babies salvation. So w we might have to do that and another broadcast at the time.

Joel Madasu:                38:43                I actually thought about that too. What is that? Yeah, exactly. Agent Accountability and all of that. I have, I have some thoughts on that if you’d want me to share them. So absolutely. We’re gonna do it next time. All right. God bless. Hey, thank you very much for the opportunity. Yes, sir. Thank you.

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