"Then one of the elders asked me, 'These in white robes-- who are they, and where did they come from?'" - Revelation 7:13
What of our earthly lives will we remember in heaven? Will we remember our loved ones? Will we remember our actions and personal histories? Especially poignantly, will we remember our sins? Some may argue that it is impossible for us to remember our sins, since God has said He’s forgotten them in Christ: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). God also speaks of removing our sins far from us in a variety of images: As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12); You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).
I delight in all of these passages and others which speak of the incredible value of our justification by faith in Jesus Christ! We cannot begin to imagine the value of complete and total forgiveness of all of our sins by the grace of God. The verses cited above only begin to scratch the surface of this reality. We are forgiven!! Totally forgiven!! So that means that, in Christ, God could not possibly be more favorably disposed toward us, or more delighted in us, or more pleased to be with us. We cannot improve our standing with God one bit, for we are seen as perfect in His sight through the imputed righteousness of Christ. So, as far as our relationship with God stands, He has “forgotten our sins and lawless acts.” He has removed our sins from our account in His sight “as far as the east is from the west,” and He has dropped our sins in the deepest part of an infinitely deep ocean. All of that is true.
But yet it is impossible for an omniscient God to “forget” anything. The record of our full lives is always open and available to God, whose eyes see everything that happens on earth. He will never hold our sins against us, nor will He bring up the matter with us to hurt us in any way. Yet in five of the seven “Letters to the Churches” in Revelation 2-3, the Lord Jesus Christ says, “I know your deeds.” This perfect record of our lives will certainly be available to God in order to assess our rewards on Judgment Day (see 1 Cor. 3). But I want to go beyond this. I believe that we will remember everything we’ve done on earth even beyond Judgment Day. I think that if we do not, if Judgment Day produces something of a frontal lobotomy so that we all walk around in heaven with no prior knowledge of what happened on earth, we will be unable to worship God for His incredible grace shown to us in Christ. How would we be able to understand why the Lamb looked as if He had been slain (Rev. 5) if we have no memory of what happened on earth. It was SIN that caused Jesus to be slain. If we have no memory of sin, how can we thank God for our forgiveness? Does Peter in heaven know that Jesus was condemned to die by Pontius Pilate, but not know that he himself denied Jesus three times? How could such a partial (and therefore false) history of earthly events be presented in heaven? Can the apostle Paul know that he was converted on the Damascus Road, but not know that he was breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples that morning? How can it be?
"We will be able to look clear-eyed at the accurate record of all of our dealings and actions and see the grace of God in forgiving us and cleansing us and bringing us to heaven."
How can the redeemed from every tribe and language and people and nation stand around the throne and not know the sins from which they were redeemed? If they had a perfect heavenly amnesia, words like “grace” and “mercy” and “forgiveness” and “redeemed” will lose their meaning entirely. Rather I think that God will bring us to a full accounting on Judgment Day for all of our sins, even as we have been forgiven, then will wipe every tear from our eyes, and “There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain…” (Rev. 21:3), including painful regrets about our sins. We will be able to look clear-eyed at the accurate record of all of our dealings and actions and see the grace of God in forgiving us and cleansing us and bringing us to heaven. It will be the backdrop of our relationship with God as our Redeemer, but our sins will not be hanging around our necks like some sentence from a judge or sewn on our white robes like some scarlet letter. Rather, the accurate history of events on earth will bring us only joy in our great Redeemer, Jesus Christ.