Will We Know Our Loved Ones in Heaven?

June 11, 2007 at 2:27 pm 3 comments

Recently, a woman asked me this question and I replied without much thought using a saying I learned as a child. I said, “Well, the bible says we will be known even as we are known.”

After quoting this, I decided I needed to make a handout for those who are dealing with grief that compiles several relevant scriptures that answer the common questions folks have.

As I began working on this, I found that it was extremely difficult to find the passage that contains the verse I casually quoted. It turns out that this is from Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:12. Here it is from several translations:

KJV– For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

NIV – Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

NRSV – For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

NASB – For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.

After checking this out, I’m not sure this is much more than a proof text used to support our hope that we’ll know our loved ones beyond the grave. In the context of 1 Corinthians 13, this statement seems to have far more to do with the way we’ll understand the mysteries of God in fullness in the eschaton, even as God now fully knows us. Doesn’t seem to have much to do with knowing beloved relatives in the the afterlife.

Well, I guess I have to stop reflexively quoting that one…

Entry filed under: Religion, Theology.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. jmeunier  |  June 12, 2007 at 8:24 am


    Thanks for this post – and the next one asking what it means to “know the Bible.”

    I don’t have the joy or burden of pastoral counseling, so the comment I’m about to make is wildly uninformed.

    I wonder what would happen if when people asked such questions if we said something like: “I don’t know. There are many things that God does not tell us. (insert glass darkly text) But as a Christian I have hope. I trust in God. Whatever happens on the other side of death, I trust it is God’s will. But that does not make our grief less painful, today. So, let me sit with you.”

    Like I said, this is easy to write. It might not speak at all to the person who asks the kind of question you got.

    But there is my response.

  • 2. Matt  |  June 12, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Hey John! That’s actually perfect in my opinion.
    For whatever reason I usually piddle around and try to share some of my imperfect thoughts and the imperfect thoughts of others
    before I finally say, “You know, in the end we really don’t exactly know what happens…but we know that God is good. We can have hope because of our trust in God’s goodness.” I don’t know that I say it all that eloquently, but I do try to say it.
    This is something that comes up more with the whole “transition period question” about the location of someone between death and resurrection. That’s really a “glass-darkly” kinda period in biblical theology the way I read and understand it.
    People who are newer to the faith seem to really appreciate this. Those who like black and white answers are more frustrated. I find this more with folks who have fundamentalist backgrounds.

  • 3. Mitzi Minkler  |  June 15, 2007 at 1:49 am

    When I think of this issue I think of Hebrews 11, where we are shown previous believers, the great cloud, who received great promises and others refused intervention for a “better resurrection”. I can’t find a reason in my heart why we would be resurrected but not know one another. We are taught all of our lives here on earth to love one another and I can’t think of a reason why we wouldn’t & couldn’t continue that commandment in the sweet hereafter. I also know that Moses and Elijah conversed with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, so I’m assuming they’re both still doing something now, somewhere. Finally, if we’re not together then what? What is a heaven for if it can’t be for the family circle in the sky? A hope my faith finds great joy in. God gave great love to families, and even used marriage as an example of Christ and His church. Why would He change our relationships with other humans we have loved when it is what He desired of us all along?

    My mother had an interesting dream. She dreamt my Grandmother called her from heaven. She said her and Grandpa were there together and they were visiting with Great Granny Boydston. She said Granny had such a huge crown she could hardly keep it on her head and it was so dazzling and beautiful you could hardly stand to look at it. She said to tell everyone she and Grandpa are fine, and Granny is all they’ve visited with and now they need to go see some more people.

    When my mother had the dream my Grandmother had been gone four years. It occurred to me that Grandma could have been there 4 years visiting with Great Granny Boydston all this time, and to us it had seemed like 4 years but to her it was just a short time.

    I took great solace in this dream and if it can help anyone else, then so be it.


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