This question is asked quite often, and it seems to me that the answer is yes, we will know one another in heaven.
Why is it that we think we would know less in heaven than we do now on earth? You remember how on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus stood–shining like the sun–with Moses and Elijah on each side. Observing this were Jesus’ disciples, Peter, James, and John.
Somehow, they knew it was Moses the great lawgiver and Elijah the miracle-working prophet with their Lord. But how? They were not wearing little name tags like one does when invited to a “meet and greet” gathering (“Hi, my name is Moses!”). Moses and Elijah had been in glory, but had been brought back temporarily for this special appearance with Christ.
The answer is that, even in a glorified state, these two men were still Moses and Elijah. In the same way, when we get to heaven, we will still be us!
We will be the same people we were on Earth. We will have the same thoughts, feelings, and desires, but all perfected.
Know this–you will be you in heaven! After Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples, He said, “It is I Myself!” (Luke 24:39 NKJV)
In heaven, we will know more, not less
We are told by experts that we only use 5% of our minds. In heaven, we shall surely be restored to a full 100% of it, if not more.
The Bible tells us we shall “know fully” even as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV). In heaven, we will know just like we do on Earth, except more. We will know more in heaven, but the desire to sin will be gone.
You will still love your family and friends. In fact, it will be a stronger, sweeter, purer love. There will be no more a break in our love than there is a break in our thoughts. Death breaks ties on Earth, but renews them in heaven.
As Erwin Lutzer says in his book One Minute After You Die: “Think of the purest joy on Earth, then multiply that many times, and you might catch a glimpse of heaven’s euphoria. Even in the Old Testament, David knew enough to write, ‘In Your Presence is fullness of Joy, and on your right hand pleasures for evermore.’ Heaven is the perfecting of the highest moments of our present Christian experiences.”
What will our new bodies be like?
You will have a new body in heaven, but it will not be in the same state as now. The Bible says, “Our earthly bodies, which die and decay, will be different when they are resurrected, for they will never die. Our bodies now disappoint us, but when they are raised, they will be full of glory. They are weak now, but when they are raised, they will be full of power” (1 Corinthians 15:42-43 NLT).
So if you were disabled on Earth, you won’t be in heaven. If your body has cancer, or is just worn out with age, it won’t be in heaven.
We often talk about the differences there will be when we make our transition from Earth to heaven. But there are some similarities too. Heaven is the earthly life of the believer glorified and perfected.
“I can’t find my car!”
I have been having more of these “senior moments” of late.
For instance, I keep losing my car! If my wife and I go to a mall and park in one of those multi-level parking garages, we will come out and wonder, “Where did we park that car?” So I will walk around, holding up my key and pressing the alarm button, hoping my car will alert me to its whereabouts.
When it does start honking, I usually find it two levels down from the one I am on. Right, I parked on a different level. Sigh.
I know quite a few people in heaven
When we pass over to the other side, our minds and our memories will be clearer than ever before.
My son Christopher is there. So is my mom and my stepfather Oscar, who adopted me. Both of my grandparents are there too. And more and more of my friends. I will be there one day as well.
And the best thing of all is that Jesus Christ is there. I am looking forward to it.
What about you?
So what helps me through it all this difficult process of mourning and grieving over my son?
Thinking about heaven helps a lot. I think a lot about what my son is doing in heaven. For me, heaven is more personal and real now, and it is nearer than it has ever been before.
We have heard it lamely said, “They are so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good!” I would suggest that far too many today are so “earthly-minded, they are no heavenly good!”
Keep seeking heaven
We need to know more about heaven!
Why? Paul tells us in Colossians 3:1-2: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (NIV).
As Randy Alcorn points out in his book, Heaven, to “set your minds” speaks of a diligent, active, single-minded investigation. That is a good description of what I have been doing of late.
Sadly, many of us go through a whole day, or even a week, without one thought of heaven. The verb used in Colossians 3:1-2 is also in the present tense “KEEP SEEKING HEAVEN.”
So we all need to be more “heavenly-minded.” Warren Wiersbe said, “For the Christian, Heaven isn’t simply a Destination; it’s a Motivation.”
But we often wonder, “What is heaven like?”
Let me begin by saying Heaven is an actual place. Jesus said, “I have gone to prepare a place for you.”
We often think of Heaven in a “mystical way.” Clouds, more clouds, and people floating around. Sounds boring! That is not the biblical heaven, but the heaven of Hollywood or cartoons.
The Bible uses many images, ideas, and words to describe heaven.
Heaven is described as paradise
Remember, Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Paul said the same thing when he went to heaven: “It was paradise!” It is a word that is describing “Walled Gardens,” like the King of Persia would have.
Heaven is described as a city
Hebrews 11:10 tells us this city has God as both the Architect and Builder. Hebrews 13:14 says, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (NIV). Cities have buildings, culture, art, music, goods, services, and events.
Heaven is described as a country
Hebrews 11:16 says, “But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (NKJV).
A Country, A City, A Garden, Paradise
We tend to think of Earth as the real thing, and heaven as the surreal thing. In reality, it’s the other way around. That is why C.S.Lewis described Earth as “The Shadowlands.”
Earth is the temporary place where we decide our eternal destiny. It is not home; heaven is.
Heaven is real
Heaven is paradise, a city, a country. Heaven is real. And for you who have loved ones that have gone before you, you need to know that is where they are right now.
Yes, we miss them so badly. But thank God they are in this place that we will soon be joining them in.
Until then, let’s all try to be a lot more “heavenly-minded!”
One thing often asked of someone when they have had someone close to them die is “How are you doing?” Please know that is the hardest question to answer.
Can I just answer for all people who are grieving a recent loss right now? Not very well.
Please don’t hold that against us. It’s just that we are missing that person badly. We are very, very sad.
We have moments of peace, even joy, but more moments of sadness. We are suffering, yet learning. Grieving, yet rejoicing. Mourning and occasionally laughing. But a good part of the time, we are sad.
It hits us really hard when we are not expecting it. Little landmines we step on, filled with memories.
So, if you happen to catch us at such a moment and ask, “How are you doing?,” you may not like what you see and hear.
God is with us
But know this–God is with us. There is even a blessedness in mourning.
Jesus said, “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” But it is mourning, which includes deep sadness, tears, and pain.
Somewhere, we have gotten the idea that sadness and mourning are to be immediately replaced by happiness and celebration. I think in time they will be, but there will always be a hole in the life of a person who has lost a loved one.
The Bible says there is “A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:4,7 NLT). After Stephen was martyred, “Some godly people came and buried Stephen with loud weeping” (Acts 8:2 NLT emphasis mine).
We won’t “get over it”
There is a lot of weeping when a loved one has died, especially if it was unexpected. They simply will not “get over it.”
When a person has been a part of your life, like our son Christopher was for us for 33 years, you don’t just “edit” them out of the script. You notice that empty chair at the table. They are still so much a part of you, yet they are just gone.
That is very hard to comprehend.
A better thing to say
So, instead of asking “How are you doing?,” maybe you’re better off just saying, “I am sorry for your loss,and I am praying for you!” Or smile and say, “Love you!”
The person may want to talk about it, and if they do, listen, don’t talk. Job’s counselors had that right. It’s when they started talking that the problems began.
You see, when you are mourning, you are vulnerable. The armor is down, and you are sensitive to the right and wrong things being said. You can be easily hurt and, at the same time, helped by what people say and do.
So only speak if you are sure you have the right words from the Lord to give to someone who is grieving. The Bible says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11 NKJV).
But do say something!
Having said that you should not say the wrong thing, do say something! The only thing more painful than having said the wrong thing is saying nothing.
I know you might be afraid the person will cry if you mention their loved one. But they might resent it if you don’t.
Crying is not necessarily a bad thing anyway. There can be tears of joy.
You need to know that when people are grieving, they are “not themselves.” You don’t know how you will react to things, and thus people do not know what to say.
If someone tells me a story about my son, or shares a memory, I like to hear that. I have been getting a crash course in this, so it’s all very fresh to me. I have lost my grandparents and my mom, and as hard as those were, nothing is like this.
So please be patient with mourning people. Give them time. Don’t forget to keep praying for them. Store these thoughts up in your mind, like a squirrel would store up nuts for the winter. Because someday you may need to know them for yourself.
We have all experienced those very special moments. That brilliant sunset you watched. A special moment with someone you loved. That incredible place you may have visited.
You thought to yourself, “I wish it could always be this way.” But it isn’t, is it?
Life is filled with sorrows, challenges, trials, and temptations. But it also has it’s many joys. I suggest those joys, even at their highest and purest, are just a foretaste of something far greater to come.
I think the thing we begin to realize, especially when you put your faith in Christ, is that you were really made for another world. As the old song says, “This world is not my home, I’m a just a passin’ through . . . ”
And that is true. The Bible says of our lives on earth, “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a shadow, gone so soon without a trace” (1 Chronicles 29:15 NLT).
Heaven is our real home, not earth
Do you want to know why that is? It’s because your citizenship is in a different place altogether.
When you have put your faith in Christ, you become a citizen of heaven, because that is your real home, not earth. And this longing we have deep inside of us is for something earth can never deliver on, only heaven.
That is why we will always be a bit “out of tune” with this world and all it celebrates. Even more, those things can just leave us cold. Because we as followers of Jesus know there is something more. Much more.
Deep inside, we all long for this place we have never been. C.S. Lewis called it “the inconsolable longing.”
“The inconsolable longing”
C.S. Lewis called it “the inconsolable longing,” writing:
“There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven, but more often I find myself wondering whether in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. . . . It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work.”
So well said.
I have quite a few family members and friends who are in heaven right now. Of course you know my son Christopher is there now, as well.
I have a lot of investment in heaven, as do some of you. And of course, I am going there someday too. So I have been studying heaven quite a bit lately.
Let’s talk about heaven!
I am going to speak on the topic of heaven this Sunday morning at Harvest. I want to deal with some questions and issues like:
- “What is heaven like?”
- “Will we know one another there?”
- “What will our new bodies be like?”
- “Do people in heaven know what is going on on earth?”
- “How should the hope of heaven affect us while we live on earth?”
It’s often been said, “They are so heavenly-minded, they are no earthly good!” That has to be one of the most idiotic things a person could possibly say.
I think the problem is far more often, “They are so earthly-minded that they are no heavenly good!” So let’s all get more heavenly-minded!
Remember to pray
So come join us live or tune in to the webcast live or in archive form. To find out more about that, click here.
Also, please remember to pray for the Greater Philadelphia Harvest. It is only days away now. The dates are October 3-5. For more info, click here.
This too will be webcast live, so you will not want to miss it. If you would, just remember this crusade in prayer everytime you have a meal.
God bless you all.
When tragedy hits us, we often ask the question, “Why?” How can we avoid it? Through the book of Job, Job asks the question “Why?” many times.
There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with asking God, “Why?,” as long as we don’t get the idea that God somehow owes us an answer. Frankly, God does not owe you or me an explanation.
Yet we may still wonder, “Why?”
But let me ask you this, if the Lord did tell you why things happen the way they do, would that ease your pain or heal your broken heart? I don’t think so. In fact, it would raise even more questions.
God says, “My ways are above your ways, and my thoughts above yours . . . ” We live on promises, not explanations, so we shouldn’t spend too much time asking God why.
I too have asked, “Why?” Why did God take my son, and not me? He was only 33 years old, with so much promise. He was a loving husband and father. He was a much-loved son and brother and friend to many. He was walking with God and serving Him.
Why? I don’t know. That is my answer.
Chuck Smith told me recently that we should never trade what you don’t know for what you do know.
So what do I know?
- I know God loves me.
- I know God loves my son, my wife, my daughter-in-law, my granddaughter, and my other son.
- I know God can make good things come out of bad.
So I will stand on what I know, instead of what I don’t know.
In his commentary on the book of Job, Chuck Swindoll wrote:
“God never promised He would inform us all about His plan ahead of time; He’s just promised He has one. Ultimately, it’s for our good and His glory. He knows–we don’t. That’s why we shrug and admit, ‘I don’t know.’
But I do know this: The death of His Son was not in vain; Christ died for you; and if you believe in Him, He will forgive your sins, and you will go to live with Him forever. You’ll have heaven and all the blessings of it, I do know that.”
It’s a tough journey, getting there. Full of confusion, struggle, and shrugs, followed by a lot of “I don’t knows.” But when the heavens open and we’re there, hey, there will be no more shrugs, and you’ll be able to say, “Now I know!”
We could ask the question, “Why?” about many people in the Bible. Why take Stephen at such a young age as a martyr? Later, we read of James being beheaded while Peter is spared.
Why? I don’t know. It was God’s plan. His mysterious, at times frustrating, unknowable plan.
The Bible says, “The secret things belong to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 29:29 NKJV).
Poor old Job did not know how his life would turn out. All he knew was that one day things were delightful and the next day they were dreadful.
He lost his home, his health, and, worst of all, his children. He had not read the last chapter of his book, so he did not know God would bless him later.
Oh sure, his health would return, his possessions would multiply, but the children he lost were not replaced, so still there was great pain.
Sometimes, when a child has died, people will ask if you have any other children and say, “Well, at least you still have your other kids.” But every child is precious and irreplaceable and dear, whether you have two children or 20.
An eternal perspective
In John 11, after the unexpected death of her brother, Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!” (John 11:21 NKJV)
Martha was saying to Jesus, “Unfair, foul, not right!” But she still cried out to Jesus.
That is what we must do as well. Go to Jesus with your frustrations, anguish, and questions. Call out to Him. Just make sure you listen to His response!
Jesus did not correct Martha for making this statement. Rather, He sought to get Martha back to an eternal perspective here.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NKJV)
Death is not the end. Jesus has overcome it.
Thanks so much for your kind and very thoughtful words on this blog regarding our son Christopher and his early departure to heaven. Many, many times they have been “words fitly spoken” (see Proverbs 25:11) that have brought encouragement to our family.
I am so sorry to know that so many of you have suffered and are suffering through similar circumstances. But thank you for speaking from your pain and helping me and many others that read this blog.
Christopher the Runner
Topher (my son’s nickname) was quite the runner in elementary school. He took it very seriously and had gotten quite good at it, running for our own Harvest Christian School. We went to many of his track meets and cheered him on.
The thing is, I also ran when I was back in school, and while Christopher was more of a cross-country runner, I was a bit better in the shorter races, like the 50-yard dash!
So, as Christopher got older, I would challenge him to a short race from time to time. I would always win, but I did notice that he was getting closer to beating me each time.
The day Christopher beat me
One day, Topher and I were at the beach and, once again, old dad challenged him to a race. We both took off in a burst of energy, but this time it was not all that close. Christopher won the race fair and square.
I was crestfallen! I was proud he had gotten so fast, but a bit sad that I could no longer beat him.
The Race of Life
We are all in the race of life. Paul used the running analogy many times in Scripture, reminding us of this.
In his last epistle, knowing he was headed for heaven soon, Paul wrote this to his young protégé, Timothy:
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.And now the prize awaits me–the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV)
Christopher crossed the finish line before me
I always thought I would finish my race before Christopher and Jonathan, my two sons. But Topher did it again. He beat me, just like that day on the beach! He got to heaven before I did.
Instead of me handing the baton to him, he effectively handed it to me. Now, I have my race to finish, just as you have yours. So let’s run well, because we never know when our race will be completed.
Right now, Christopher is in God’s presence, worshipping the Lord. And for those of us who have also put our faith in Jesus, we will be doing the same before we know it.
But I sure miss him. More than ever as the days pass since he left us.
I am so thankful I have the hope I will see him again. If I did not have this hope, this would all be unbearable.
This weekend at Harvest
I will be speaking this Sunday at Harvest at all three morning services. This will be my first Sunday preaching in our pulpit since Christopher went to be with the Lord.
Please remember me in prayer, as I will really need it. I am beginning to ease back into this again.
You can come and join us or watch the webcast live or archived.
I wanted to thank all of you for your prayers for an outreach event I spoke at this last weekend. It was called Harvest in the Ranch, and it was held in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County.
It was sponsored by Horizon Christian Fellowship in Rancho Santa Fe, which is pastored by my friend, Bob Botsford. Bob has spoken at many of our training classes for our Harvest Crusades events, as well as at our church. Bob is a gifted communicator who brings God’s Word in a powerful and relevant way to this generaton.
At this outreach event, which consisted of a morning and evening meeting, we saw more than 12,000 people attend and when the invitations were given to follow Christ, some 924 people came forward! I’m told they are still counting cards and that number may end up higher.
Of course,we rejoice because Jesus said, “There is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that comes to repentance!”
To see some photos or to watch a webcast of this event, click here.
Originally, we were going to show the Lost Boy film, as this event was planned a while ago. I was going to get up after the film and give a message springboarding from the film. As you know, I have done a number of these Lost Boy events over the last few months, and they have been very fruitful.
But I just did not feel I was ready to do that this last weekend, So, instead we showed a brief trailer from the film and I brought messages that were more attuned to where I am right now in life, after the sudden departure of my son Christopher to heaven.
New chapters in my story
When I completed Lost Boy, the book and the documentary, I was able to look back on my life with 20/20 hindsight and get a sense of the big picture. I could see that, despite my difficult childhood, God had used it to help me do what I do today.
In fact, the film ended with my family walking down the street smiling. My wife Cathe, my son Jonathan, my daughter-in-law Brittany, my granddaughter Stella, and, of course, Christopher. It was almost as if to say, “They all lived happily ever after.”
Then Christopher unexpectedly died and everything changed. It was as though the back cover of my book had been ripped off and new chapters were to be added.
The ink is still wet on these new chapters in my life, and I am not sure how how this story will unfold.
God is good
But I know this, God is good and He is still in control!
As I look back on my life, I can see how good the Lord has been to me and my family. And my prayer is that He will be glorified through all that has happened.
I would like to say this has all gotten easier, but it has not. In some ways, it is even harder. The hard reality of not seeing my son again on this earth is sinking in.
Yes, I know I will see him again in heaven, but I just so wish he could be with us now. Fortunately, that day of reunion will come for me and all of us who have loved ones who have gone to heaven before us.
When I spoke this last weekend and, of course, at the Southern California Harvest just a few weeks ago, I wove in the story of my son and how this has affected us. But I also told people that no matter how difficult your trials, God will be walking with you though it.
Take the worst-case scenario in life–finding out you are going to die, or having someone close to you die, or having your child die before you. Now know this–Jesus will be there for you, tears in His eyes, walking with you.
You know certain things are true, but you wonder if you can still stand in this hour. You can and you will, if you have Christ!
One man whose son had died wrote this about his faith: “Faith is a footbridge that you don’t know will hold you over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out unto it.”
I am on that footbridge right now, and I can tell you, it’s sound.
Yes, new chapters are being written in my story, and in yours too. May God help us all seek to glorify Him as He writes them.
From time to time during his childhood, Christopher would get himself into trouble, as sons do. There was always a certain look on his face,and he would say, “Dad . . . ?”
I would respond, “What’s wrong, Topher?” And I was always able to somehow fix it.
That’s what dads do, we fix things.
Sure, we are there to encourage and nurture, but moms do that so much better. Dads want to protect, provide, and “fix things.”
But I cannot “fix” this. I cannot bring him back.
I can do everything in my power to help his wife, his daughter, and his baby to come, and I will. But I cannot help Christopher at all.
Then again, he really does not need Dad’s help this time. He is now with his heavenly Father who, needless to say, is doing a much better job than his earthly one could ever do.
He is “fixed.”
I was always concerned about Christopher’s safety and security (as I am with all of my family). He is now more safe and secure than he has ever been, in the “everlasting arms.”
The fact of the matter is, I am the one that needs the help now. I am looking to God, my Heavenly Father, and effectively saying, “Dad . . . ?”
His reply? “What’s wrong, Greg?”
It is actually a source of comfort to me to know that Jesus weeps. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus, and He weeps with me and every person who has ever had a loved one leave them through death.
It breaks His heart, just as it breaks ours.
Scripture also reminds us that God keeps our “tears in a bottle:”
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT)
When Christopher and I were in an antiquities store in Jerusalem this year on our Israel tour, we came across what is known as a “tear bottle.” It dates back 2,000 years and it was a beautiful blue color.
The man who ran the shop said the Romans kept their tears in these bottles. So we took a photo of it, and I told Christopher about the passage I just quoted.
Now I have my own tear bottle. Not on earth, but in heaven.
Thursday’s A New Beginning broadcast
I happened to catch part of our radio program Thursday and I have to say I was ministered to!
I was speaking on the death of Lazarus and raised the question, “If we could actually speak with people in heaven and ask them the question, ‘Would you like to come back to earth?,’ What would they say?”
To find the answer, you can listen to the program here. (The title of the program to listen to is “When God Seems Late, Part 2″)
I will be speaking in San Diego this weekend
I have been asked to speak at an outreach event this Labor Day weekend at Horizon Christian Fellowship in Rancho Santa Fe, which is in San Diego County.
I will be speaking in the morning and the evening. I will also be joined by the amazing Christian band, MercyMe.
Please remember me in prayer,and if you can, please join us. It will be webcast as well.
For more information on it, click here.
Many people have asked me, “How are you doing?” Frankly, that is a very hard question to answer. It really depends on which moment one asks, but let me give you a little update.
It has been just over a month since Christopher so suddenly left us. It seems like yesterday.
There is a hole in the world and an even bigger one in our hearts for Christopher! I can so imagine him sitting with us, talking and laughing.
The reason this is harder is that every day that goes by, I am further from Christopher.
I miss him.
I miss his voice, his hair. I miss the lines on his face, his walk. All I have now are memories, photos, and a few videos.
I hate using the term, “Christopher died.” I don’t like using the word, and I choke up when I type it.
Yes, he died in one sense, but in a very real sense—an even more real sense—he is alive! More alive than he has ever been. More alive than I am right now.
Jesus said, “He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26 NKJV).
Christopher Laurie is alive.
Anyway, as I was saying, before Christopher went to be with the Lord, I did not see him for almost a week before. He was out of town with his family.
So it has been well over a month since we last spoke. That is a long time, because we communicated every single day for the most part.
Yes, it’s sad, because every day I am further from my last time with my son. But then again, every day I am also closer! Closer to the day when I will be reunited with him in heaven.
As David said after the death of his son, “I will go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23 NIV).
So, those are some of my honest, real-time thoughts from the valley. God is faithful, and He will walk with us through it, just as He is walking with you through your valley.
Thanks again for your prayers and thoughtful words.
God bless you,