Will We Know Each Other in Heaven?
September 23rd, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
1 Corinthians 13:9-12
WILL WE KNOW EACH OTHER
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 13:12
9-23-84 10:50 a.m.
This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled, Shall We Know One Another in Heaven? Our background text is 1 Corinthians 13:12, next to the last verse; 1 Corinthians 13:12, “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.”
Now we see through a looking glass, except they didn’t have any looking glasses then. They were polished metallic mirrors. And he uses that as a description with the Greek word ainigma that we pull bodily and spelled exactly into our English language. For now we see in a metallic mirror, enigmatically. The Greek word ainigma refers to a dark saying; one that lacked full understanding until we came to know its full meaning. That’s the way we look and we understand now; just dimly, inconclusively, partly, partially, but then face to face; as we might see an image in a metallic mirror, obscured, imperfect, someday it will be actually face to face [1 Corinthians 13:12].
“Now, I epiginōskō,” epiginōskō means to know clearly, to know experientially. “Now, I know experientially, clearly, just in part, but then shall I epiginōskō, shall I know even as”—and he changes the tense of the verb. He puts it in the past tense. “Then shall I epiginōskō even as also God hath in the past epiginōskō me” [1Corinthians 13:12]. I presume what he’s speaking of there is primarily the beginning of his Christian ministry when the Lord met him on the road to Damascus and called him by name: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” [Acts 9:4, Acts 22:7]. “Then shall I know even as God has known me” [1Corinthians 13:12].
Shall we know each other in heaven? The sermon is divided like this: first, an avowal, an affirmation; second, the substantiation and verification of that avowal. And it will be from Scripture, from philosophy, and from experience. It will be scripturally, philosophically, and experientially defended.
Now the avowal, the avowal is this: that resurrection means recognition; that they are synonymous terms. They are equally true. And if one is not true, the other is not true. That whatever substantiates the one, substantiates the other. Whatever proves the one, proves the other. Whatever could disprove of the one, could disprove of the other.
If I am to have any identity beyond the grave, in the days of my purported resurrection, then it must be I who am raised from the grave; you have to be you, we have to be we, I have to be I. Otherwise, resurrection has no pertinency, no meaning. It is actually annihilation. It is cessation of the being. If I am to have an identity beyond the grave, it has to be I. Whatever personality I have, whatever being I am, it must be I, recognizable I, raised from the dead.
As Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:1: “We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord, and by our gathering unto Him”; it will be we who are gathered unto Him. If I lose my identity in death, if it is buried in the grave, then what is resurrected is somebody else or something else. And whatever that heap of matter is that is brought to life in resurrection, if it is not identifiable and recognizable I, then it has no meaning whatsoever. That resurrection and recognition are synonymous terms; that is the avowal. And if they are not synonymous, there is no meaning to resurrection; that is the affirmation.
Now for its substantiation: first, from the Word of God. In the Old Testament Scriptures, which we will take first, then the New Testament; in the Old Testament Scriptures, there is a descriptive word that identifies death, that speaks of the death of those old patriarchs who lived so long ago. And the descriptive word is this: that he was gathered to his fathers [Judges 2:10], or he was gathered to his people [Genesis 25:8]. That is the Old Testament terminology, nomenclature for death. He is gathered to his fathers. He is gathered to his people.
Now in a strange turning around of argument—that is, it’s strange to me. When the Sadducees, in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 22]; when the Sadducees accosted the Lord Jesus concerning the resurrection of the dead, for the Sadducees were materialists, they were humanists. They were secularists. They didn’t believe in any resurrection of the dead. When you died, you died. And that was the end of life and living and existence and being. That was the Sadducean doctrine. When they accosted Jesus, who believed in the resurrection of the dead, concerning the doctrine of it, our Lord turned it around—I am seeking to affirm and to substantiate that in the resurrection we are recognizable, that we know each other—the Lord turned it around, and He substantiated the resurrection by recognition. And He said this: “In the old Bible it says, I am the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob” [Matthew 22:32, Exodus 3:6]. Then the conclusion: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” [Matthew 22:32]. By the fact that they were recognizable, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Lord concluded that there was resurrection of the dead [Matthew 22:32].
Now when I turn it around in the way I am affirming it, that if Abraham and Isaac and Jacob were living by name and recognizable, then in the resurrection, in the life to come, we are we. You are you. I am I. Abraham is Abraham. Isaac is Isaac. Jacob is Jacob. And those that were gathered to their father’s, each one is he or she, as you are going to be you. This is the Old Testament premise of all of the meaning of life.
When you go through the Old Testament, the story, which is an amazing one, at Endor [1 Samuel 28:7], when Samuel is raised up from the dead, Saul recognizes him immediately [1 Samuel 28:11-12, 14-15]. In the story, the sad one of the death of the baby in the household of David [2 Samuel 12:18], David says: “He will not come to me, but I shall go to him” [2 Samuel 12:23]. Beyond the grave, David will see that little boy again. And the little boy will be given back to David. David is David, and the child is the child, and they recognize each other.
In the New Testament, in the passage that you just read of the transfiguration of our Lord, Moses has been dead fourteen hundred years. Elijah has been dead nine hundred years. But when they appear before and with the Lord, Peter, James, and John recognize Moses and Elijah immediately [Matthew 17:1-3, Mark 9:2-4]. How did they do that? Because there is intuitive knowledge as well as experiential knowledge. There is a knowledge that I learn. I learned to speak English. They have learned to speak Japanese. We can learn to read Greek. We learn those things. But there are intuitive things that we don’t learn. We just know them.
If you’ve ever been out in West Texas where I grew up and looked at those vast herds of cattle sometimes, there will be a multitude of mother cows and a multitude of baby cows, little calves. How is it that every calf knows its mother and every mother knows its calf, even though they’re mixed up in a great herd? Who teaches that? That is intuitive knowledge. That’s knowledge that comes with the gift of life. That’s the kind of knowledge that we will have in heaven. It is intuitive. It is heavenly.
And all of that affirmation is found in the New Testament. When we have the story of Dives and Lazarus, Dives recognizes Lazarus [Luke 16:20-24]. In the story of the death of the brother of Mary and Martha, also named Lazarus, our Lord says to those two sisters: “Your brother shall rise again” [John 11:23]. And when Lazarus was raised from the dead, it was he [John 11:43-44]. It was their brother; it was Lazarus raised from the dead. And in the death of our Lord, the man on His right hand, repenting, said:
Master, Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.
And the Lord turns to him and says, semeron, semeron, this very day. This very day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.
[Luke 23:42, 43]
That presupposes that they could recognize one another in heaven, in Paradise. If there is no recognition, the word of our Lord is without meaning. In fact, it’s a mockery. It presupposes that in Paradise he will recognize the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus will recognize him. “Semeron, this very day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise” [Luke 23:43].
But of course the most majestic and marvelous of all of the affirmations of our recognition in heaven is the resurrection and the cognitions of Jesus Christ. His recognitions were altogether human. When John came to the tomb and saw the linen—the linen wrapping lying in one place and the napkin carefully folded up lying in another place, the Bible says when John, the beloved disciple, saw that, he believed that Jesus was raised from the dead, because Jesus apparently had a idiosyncratic personality trait of folding up His napkin in just a certain way. And when John saw that napkin folded up in just a certain way, lying by itself, he believed that Jesus, Jesus, the living Jesus, had done it [John 20:5-8].
Take again Mary talking in the garden after the Lord was raised. Mary supposed she was speaking to the gardener about the empty tomb [John 20:15], and while her head was down and her heart broken in grief, why, the risen Lord spoke her name, “Mary” [John 20:16]. And He had an intuition, an intonation. He had a certain way of speaking her name that when He spoke it, immediately she looked and recognized it was He, just by the way He pronounced her name. His recognitions were human.
Or take again: our Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Book of Luke [Luke 24], our Lord was not known, was not revealed, risen, to the two disciples in Emmaus [Luke 24:15]. The Holy Spirit, the power of God it says: “Their eyes were holden. God made it that they did not recognize Him immediately” [Luke 24:16]. But when He said the blessing, Jesus had a certain way of saying the blessing, saying grace at the table. And when He said it, they recognized Him. It was He [Luke 24:30-31, 35]. His recognitions were human.
Take once again the climactic story in the twentieth chapter of the Book of John [John 20]. Thomas, one of the apostles, who is a very typical modern humanists, Thomas says, “I don’t believe that men rise from the dead. Dead men don’t rise. They don’t live again.” And Thomas said, “I will not believe unless I put my finger in the scars in His hands and put my hand and thrust it into the scar in His side; I will not believe” [John 20:25]. And when the Lord appeared to the apostles in the upper room on the following Sunday night [John 20:24, 26], He turned first to Thomas and said to him: “Thomas, Reach hither your finger… and thrust it into the scar in My hand; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing” [John 20:27]. And then the great avowal, Thomas: “My Lord,” he said, “and my God” [John 20:28]. His recognitions are human. It is the Lord Jesus Himself raised from the dead, recognizable, human.
Take again, in the story of the resurrection of our Lord in the latter part of the twenty-fourth chapter of Luke [Luke 24], it says that when the Lord appeared, they could not believe it for joy [Luke 24:41]; it was too good to be true. Like the sermon I’m trying to preach this morning. It’s too good to be factual, to be real, to be true. And they “supposed they were looking at a ghost,” at a specter, at a spirit [Luke 24:37]. And the Lord said:
Handle Me, and see;
for a spirit, a specter, a ghost hath not flesh and bones such as ye see Me have… And He said: Children, have you here any thing to eat?
And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
And He did eat before them…
It is the same Lord Jesus. And lest there be any mistake, affirmation is supported by reiteration, which is supported by emphasis. When the Lord was taken up into glory [Acts 1:9], they were standing there looking up into heaven. And there came angels and said to them: “Ye men of Galilee, why stare ye up into heaven? This same Jesus, this same Jesus, shall so come in the same manner as you have seen Him go away” [Acts 1:10-11]. It is Jesus we are looking for; the same Jesus; the One who was nailed to the cross [Matthew 27:32-51], who has scars in His hands and in His side [John 20:25-27]; His gracious voice, His dear compassionate face, and His loving hands and presence. It is the same Jesus, recognizable.
Now let’s lift up our eyes and our hearts to heaven. They are peopled with recognizable beings in heaven. The angels have names. Gabriel says in the New Testament, in the story of Elizabeth and Mary, Gabriel says: “I am Gabriel who stands in the presence of God” [Luke 1:19]. He’s God’s messenger. “I am Gabriel.” Michael announces himself to Daniel [Daniel 10:13, 21; 12:1] and to us in the Revelation [Revelation 12:7]. And in Jude, Michael is God’s warrior [Jude 1:9]. He’s God’s commander in chief. But he’s Michael. He has a name. He is an entity, a being, a personality. They have names up there in heaven. And above all and most preciously beautiful of all, is the mutualness of their interrelatedness in glory.
In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, the Lord says: “The Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father” [John 10:15]. And then He says: “He calleth His own sheep by name” [John 10:3]. There’s a mutualness. There’s an interrelatedness in that, that is precious beyond compare. They know each other in heaven. And the Lord God knows us. And He calls us by our names. That’s what it says. He calleth His own sheep by name [John 10:3]. God recognizes us. And we recognize God. And we recognize one another.
If I recognize God and He doesn’t recognize me, then there’s no such thing as a me being resurrected from the dead. If I am not a living being known to God, resurrection has no pertinency and no meaning. I had as well be annihilated. It may be that somebody else is resurrected, or some heap of matter is resurrected. But it has nothing to do with me if I am not known to God. I repeat, there is a mutualness in this. There is an interrelatedness in this. There’s a warm knowingness in this that is precious and meaningful beyond compare.
It’s the same kind of a mutualness and interrelatedness that you find in a mother and her child, that you find in a husband and his wife, that you find between the pastor and his people, that you find between a friend and a friend. It is a mutual interrelatedness a knowing, a being together, a cognition, and a recognition. And without it, it has no meaning at all.
I think of that story that I have spoken of so many times, of the little girl, and she wanted to sleep with her mother. And the mother said, “No. Now you go to bed here,” and she put the little girl in bed. And the little child said, “But Mother, I want to sleep with you.” And the mother said, “Now, you just lie here in your bed and you go to sleep here in your bed. And here’s your teddy bear, and you just cuddle up to your teddy bear.” And the little girl replies, “But Mother, this little teddy bear doesn’t cuddle back to me.” That’s what we want in life. We want a cuddling back. We want a recognition. We want a mutualness and an interrelatedness, an intimacy of knowing and understanding. It isn’t life without it.
Look at this. A naturalist, a naturalist; say, a great scientist; a naturalist can study the earth, and the rocks, and the hills, and the mountains, and the streams, and the prairies, and the hills; and he can study it all. And he can study it all forever, but they don’t study him. They don’t know him. He can know them, but they don’t respond. His life and viable intelligence is met with an absolute passive, indifference on the part of the whole creation that he studies. He doesn’t get an answer back. They don’t respond. They’re not alive. They don’t recognize him however much he may recognize them. There has to be a mutual recognition if it has meaning in life.
Or could I say it like this? A long time ago, there was a play called “Green Pastures.” And it’s the idea of the God of creation and all of His wonderful works. So in the play, God makes the moon and the sun and the stars and all of the planets, and He makes the mountains and the oceans and the seas, and all of the wonderful works of God’s omnipotent hand; God makes it all. And God looks at it all; everything that He has made. God looks at it all; wonderful, wonderful.
Then it says God sits down on the side of a grassy hill, and God says, “I am lonesome. I am lonesome.” How is it God is lonesome when He has got his oceans, and He has got His seas, and He has got His mountains, and He has got His stars, and He has got His planets, and He has got His whole creation? Yet God says, “I am lonesome.” And according to the play, God created the man for fellowship that He might talk to him, that the man might talk to Him; that the man might know Him, and love Him, and respond to Him; that is life, and without it there’s no life. That’s the meaning of resurrection; it is recognition. And if there’s no recognition, if there’s no response, resurrection has no meaning whatsoever.
Now may I speak of it so briefly, because our time is gone. May I speak of it just for a moment philosophically and then experientially? Philosophically, just looking at it, if all of the meaning of life is that we dig graves for these who die before us and finally fall into the grave ourselves; if that is the meaning of life, of all the emptiness and sterility and meaningless that mind could imagine, our lives are the most meaningless and empty and void. Think of the stupendous wealth of music, and of art, and of literature, and of drama, and of human culture. And think of the stately marching columns of intellectual cognition. All of it reaching out for nothing. And it is doubly tragedy because of our cognizance of it, our knowledge of it, that we can see it. There is an infinite capacity of the human soul. It is absolutely infinite.
What I see now is but a harbinger of what I yet shall see. What I feel now is but an earnest of what I yet shall feel. What I know now, what I hear now is but the beginning of what someday I shall know and someday I shall hear. As Paul writes: “Now we see through a metallic mirror, dimly; but then face to face: now I epiginōskō just in part; but then shall I know even as God has known me” [1 Corinthians 13:12].
The capacity of our growth in God is infinite; it’s forever and ever and ever and ever. The songs we sing here, how beautiful they are. They’re just the beginning of the glorious songs we’ll sing in heaven. All that we know here and sense here is but a harbinger, an earnest, a down payment of promise of what we shall grow to be in glory, experientially. This affirmation of recognition in the resurrection, in the life to come; will we know each other in heaven?
Human experience; sometime in these years past, I was in Kobe, Japan; in Kobe, Japan. And I was the guest of a missionary there, a Southern Baptist missionary, he and his wife, in Kobe, Japan. And their home was about halfway up the mountainside that reaches down to the harbor in Kobe. And I said to the precious missionary couple, I said, “If you don’t mind, just let me stay by myself on the porch here in Kobe. Just let me stay on the porch and just be alone for a while.” So they were happy to acquiesce. And I sat there on the porch, looking down into the harbor in Kobe.
When Lottie Moon came back from China, she died in the harbor, in Kobe. And as she lay dying on the ship, at anchor in Kobe, right down there, she folded and unfolded, and bowed her head, greeting Christians that she had known in Pingtu years and years and years before; greeting them in glory, greeting them in heaven, by name, Pingtu Christians who’d been dead years and years and years.
Or once again, I sat by the bedside of my dying mother. And she said to me, “Son, have you seen my mother and my father and my brother, Joe?”
And I replied, “Mother, no. Where are they?”
And she said, “Son, they were just here. They were just here. And you must see them.”
Well, I said, “Mother, I would be happy to see them. Where are they now?”
And she said, “They’re just over there. And son, you must see my father and my mother and my brother, Joe.”
And I put my hand upon her face. And I said, “Mother, I will see them. I will see them. I will see them.”
Shall we draw a black line across the cherished testimonies of these saints? Shall we deny them? Shall we mock them? Shall we ridicule them? These are the precious promises of God. We shall see Him and one another again.
I will sing you a song of that beautiful land,
The far away home of the soul,
Where no storms ever beat on the glittering strand,
While the years of eternity roll…
Oh, how sweet it will be in that beautiful land,
So free from all sorrow and pain,
With songs on our lips and with harps in our hands,
To greet one another again.
[“Home of the Soul,” Ellen M.H. Gates]
That is the gospel. That is promise of our living Lord. It will be we who are raised from the dead [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. You shall be you, we shall be we, and all of us shall see our Lord face to face [Revelation 22:3-4; 21:1-3]. He will recognize us and we shall recognize Him.
In this moment, we are going to sing a hymn of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, coming into the fellowship of this dear church [Hebrews 10:24-25]; so welcome you; a couple you, or just one you, “Pastor, today I am taking the Lord Jesus as my Savior and I am coming [Romans 12:8-13]. God has spoken to my heart and I am answering with my life.” May angels attend you, down a stairway in the balcony, down one of these aisles on this lower floor, “This is God’s time for me and here I am, pastor.” God bless you, angels attend you while you come, while we stand and while we sing.
KNOW EACH OTHER IN HEAVEN
A. Enigma – now
we see and understand dimly, inconclusively, partially
– then we will know clearly, experientially
Avowal – resurrection means recognition
inseparable – if one is not true, the other is not true
Otherwise, resurrection has no meaning – it is annihilation
II. Verification of personal recognition
in heaven is throughout Scripture
the Old Testament
for death – “gathered to his fathers, to his people”
a. Sadducees accosted
Jesus concerning resurrection of the dead
b. He substantiated the
resurrection by recognition(Matthew 22:32)
recognizes Samuel at a glance
David will recognize his baby in heaven (2
In the New Testament
At the transfiguration of Christ the disciples recognize Moses and Elijah
Dives recognizes Lazarus
To Mary, Martha, “Your brother shall rise again (John
thief on the cross repenting to Jesus (Luke
majestic of the affirmations is the resurrection, cognitions of Christ
recognized the way He folded the napkin(John 20:5-8)
Mary recognized the way He pronounced her name(John
two on the way to Emmaus recognized the way He said the blessing (Luke 24:16-31)
Thomas recognized Him by His scars(John
The disciples recognized Him by his flesh(Luke
Angels at His ascension – “this same Jesus”(Acts
III. Lifting our eyes to heaven
of heaven have names(Luke 1:19)
The idea of mutualness, interrelatedness in glory(John
IV. Looking at it philosophically and
if all of the meaning of life is that we dig graves for these who die
B. What we see, feel, hear now is harbinger and earnest of
what we shall grow to be in glory