Will I see friends in heaven?
Ask a Pastor
“We always talk about seeing our family members, friends, etc. in heaven when we get there. Is there Scripture that supports this?” — Judy Sturm, Bethany Lutheran Church, Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
Ron: It is reported that Martin Luther once said, “If you aren’t allowed to laugh in heaven, then I don’t want to go there.”
I also remember the lines from an old song, “We don’t know what the future holds, but we know who holds the future.” And so, I know that when one has had a loved one die, then we wonder will we ever see them again. I know that when our heart is broken by grief, we wonder will I ever feel like I felt before? I know that it is “out of the depths” that we cry and pray, “Lord, hear my call.” So, it is quite natural to have questions and desires about what will happen in what people normally call “the afterlife,” but which I have come to think of as “the after-death.”
My parents both have died within the past decade. I think of them often. Every time I preside at Communion and we say the words, “and with the host of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn,” I see their faces full of light, hope and grace. I believe that when we talk about “seeing our loved ones” that the biblical references are more implicit than they are explicit. Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Additionally, when the Pharisees and the Sadducees were trying to trick Jesus with questions about “death and taxes” in Matthew 22, Jesus said,
“You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?’ He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.
So, it would seem to me that however or whatever we are in heaven with the Lord, there is a new creation — a new reality. I also hope and believe that we will know and see each other.
In addition, I am quite taken by the words of St. Paul to the community of believers at Thessalonica, who were wondering what happens after you die. He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel's call and with the sound of God's trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
I hope you are encouraged by these words. Every time we sing the fourth stanza of “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling” (ELW, #631), I think of our heavenly reunions:
Finish then thy new creation,
pure and spotless let us be;
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee!
Changed from glory into glory,
till in heav'n we take our place,
till we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise!
I know that when I read Isaiah 25 and God promises a great party, a feast of wine on the lees, that I think of wonderful Thanksgiving dinners together. May it be so!
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