Saturday, September 20, 2008

Will Those in Heaven Recognize Those in Hell

"Will Those in Heaven Recognize Those in Hell"

This is a question that has haunted Christians since the beginning of time. “If my unbelieving brother is in hell, will I see him from heaven?” is a question that personalizes the issue even more. What is the answer?

As the spokes of a wheel converge on one axle at the center, so do many Scriptures come together to answer this question that is the center of our attention.

Consideration #1 –

Hebrews 9:15 “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are [the] called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.”

The writer to the Hebrews declares that Jesus is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of His death on the Cross. All of our transgressions (our sins) which were committed under the first covenant earned death – “For the wages of sin is death…” [Romans 6:23a]. Jesus set us free by the payment of His blood for our sins (this is redemption) when He took our place on the Cross (this is substitutionary atonement) to satisfy God’s holy wrath against the Elect for their breaking of His righteous law.

In this new covenant we do not find a simple refurbishing of the old – a remodeling of what we had. No, it is much more than that – infinitely more! It is in the new covenant established by Christ that we are declared to be a new creation in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

The verb parelthen( that is translated ‘passed away,’ can also be translated “come to an end” – as in “did pass away” or “disappear.” Too often is the deepest sense of the word not appreciated. In Biblical Greek there is what is called the ‘aktionsart’ of the verb-stem. It is a word descriptive of the “kind of action” rather than the “time of an action.” And in the text before us the emphasis should be placed on the fact of God’s removal of our sins, not merely the time in which He made them disappear. This glorious truth is declared in the following passage:

Psalm 103:10-12
10 “He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”

Consequently, the new covenant established by Christ, on behalf of His Elect, declares that in being “born again” [anothen = ‘from above’], a saved sinner is created as a new man:

Ephesians 4:24 “and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”

A saved sinner is created in Christ a new creation – a new man – that will receive “the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15c). The “eternal inheritance” includes a new heaven and a new earth:”

2 Peter 3:13 “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

Consideration #2 –

In a glorified body (another part of the eternal inheritance promised to the Elect) we will enjoy the presence of God:

Isaiah 65:17-18
17 " “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.”

According to the Scripture, “…the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (v17b).

Look at the following supportive Scriptures:

Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.”

Hebrews 8:12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

Hebrews 10:12-18
12 “But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,
13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.
14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.
15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,
16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,"
17 then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.”

Just as God will not remember a saved sinner’s former life, former habits and former relationships that were of the flesh, so a saved sinner – in his glorified body – will not remember anything that relates to the flesh – our former ways, habits, sins and relationships that were made in the flesh.

Look at the following supportive Scriptures that refer to the things and people of this earthly existence:

Proverbs 10:7“The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.”

Ecclesiastes 9:55 “For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten.”

Isaiah 26:14 “They are dead, they will not live; They are deceased, they will not rise. Therefore You have punished and destroyed them, And made all their memory to perish.”

Isaiah 65:17-18
17“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy.”

1 John 2:17 “And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”

What a deliverance is this – what a mercy of God poured out upon His people! No more sins to plague us, no more memories of relationships gone bad, no more actions to regret – all are remembered no more! No wonder that the Scripture shows our heavenly Father wiping away the tears of His saints:

Isaiah 25:8“He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.”

Revelation 7:16-17
16 "They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat;
17 "for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Revelation 21:1-4
1 “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
4 "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Consideration #3 –

We are given to understand that the relationships we have with others in eternity will be based upon the relationship we have with Christ. In Matthew 22: 23-33, the subject of eternal relationships was brought up by the Sadducees. What is interesting to note is that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection at all; nevertheless, Jesus answers the question about relationships in heaven in this manner:

Matthew 22:30 "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”

In another passage in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus spells out that eternal relationships with Him in Heaven are based upon obedience to Christ here on this earth:

Matthew 12:46-50
46 “While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him.
47 Then one said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You."
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?"
49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!
50 "For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."

In the Gospel of Luke the following testimony by Christ is recorded:

Luke 8:19-21
19 ¶ “Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd.
20 And it was told Him by some, who said, "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You."
21 But He answered and said to them, "My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it."

Those relationships we have on this earth that are based upon our relationship with Jesus Christ, as displayed by our obedience to Him in our life, will be the relationships that we will have in heaven. We will know our believing parents, our believing siblings, our believing friends. Those outside of Christ – who have no relationship with Jesus – we will have no memory of them. They relate to our fleshly existence, as we live as citizens of this earth. But we, as Christians have dual citizenships: one earthly and one heavenly:

Ephesians 2:19-22
19 “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”

Philippians 3:20-21
20 “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Our citizenship in heaven will be enjoyed in a body “conformed to His glorious body” (v21a). We will know all the saints in heaven by name, we will recognize them and know them in Christ. What a tremendous time that will be, when Christ gathers in all His Elect to be with Him in the new heavens and the new earth.

Consideration #4 –

We are told in Scripture that those in Hell will remember the relationships they had while on earth. They will also be able to see into heaven and recognize those people they knew while they were on this earth. This insight is given by Jesus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:

Luke 16:19-31
19 " There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.
20 "But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate,
21 "desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried.
23 "And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 "Then he cried and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'
25 "But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented.
26 'And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.'
27 "Then he said, 'I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father's house,
28 'for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.'
29 "Abraham said to him, 'They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.'
30 "And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'
31 "But he said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.' "

The following insights are gleaned from the passage before us:

I. Concerning Lazarus – the saved sinner

A. v.22 – at the point of death, he was immediately taken into the presence of God.
B. v.22 – “Abraham’s bosom” is symbolic of the comfort and sweet fellowship a saint will have with God.
C. v.22 – the fact that he was carried is symbolic of the rapture of the saint to Heaven.

II. Concerning the rich man – the lost sinner

A. v.23a – When he died, he found himself in torment
B. v.23b – He found himself in torment for he was in Hell
C. v.23b – He was able to look into heaven
D. v.23c – He recognized Lazarus
E. v.24 – He cried out for mercy – not for his soul, but for the relief of his flesh
F. v.25 – He had full memory recall of his earthly lifetime
G. v.27 – He was aware of what was going on in earth relative to his father’s household, and in particular, his five brothers.
H. v.28 – His request for his brothers was fleshly in nature; he wanted his brothers to know of the horrors of hell rather than the glories of heaven.

III. Concerning Hell

A. v.23 – Hell is not a state of mind, but a real place.
B. v.23 – Hell is a place of torment for the unrepentant sinner.
C. v.23 – From Hell the unrepentant sinner can see into Heaven.
D. v.24 – Hell is a place where no relief from torment can be found.
E. v.24 – Hell is a place of tormenting fire.
F. v.25 – Hell is a place filled with lifetime memories.
G. v.26 – Hell is separated from Heaven by a great gulf that no one can cross.
H. v.27-28 – People in Hell know what is happening to their families on earth.

Some Final Conclusions

1. We should never presume that we know the spiritual condition of a person – albeit a family member or a friend. Only the Lord knows the heart.
2. We should encourage believers in the knowledge that they will know in Heaven all those saints who know the Lord as their personal Savior.
3. Saints in Heaven will not know any person in Hell – they will have no memory of the things of the flesh, and the things of the world. No relationship that did not bring glory to God will be remembered by the saints in Heaven.
4. There is no intermediate state where the soul goes when he dies; either he will go to heaven as a repentant sinner saved by grace, or go to hell as an unrepentant sinner who was unwilling to come to Christ – there is no third option.
5. While Hell is a horrific place of fire and torment, the greatest anguish that is experienced by a sinner is eternal separation from Jesus Christ.

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