"Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 8:11
When we think about heaven, there are two errors that commonly arise. Either we imagine realities about heaven that have no basis in God's Word, or we come far short of God's revelation and do not think much about heaven at all. Both errors lead to hearts starved for eternal hope. For centuries, false religions have led their followers astray with visions of the afterlife: Norse Valhalla, Buddhist Nirvana, Muslim Paradise, Greco-Roman Elysium, and so on. Recently, people who have had near-death experiences (NDEs) on the brink of eternity have relayed vivid dreams and visions of what heaven will be like. These NDEs have offered false hope to many while providing disharmonious and unauthoritative pictures of heaven. Such imaginary visions of heaven are dangerous.
To avoid these fantasies, some Christians veer in the other direction. John Calvin warned against speculating on heaven:
We must all the more, then, keep sobriety, lest forgetful of limitations we should soar aloft with the greater boldness, and be overcome by the brightness of the heavenly glory. We also feel how we are titillated by an immoderate desire to know more than is lawful. From this, trifling and harmful questions repeatedly flow forth.
While this restraint is sober-minded, it is too restrictive if we fall short of all that God has revealed to us. The truth of what God has prepared for those who love him will never naturally enter the human heart, but "these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit" (1Cor. 2:10). Our meditation upon the heavenly life should go as far as Scripture and sound theological reasoning permit but no further.
One of the things that Scripture says about heaven is that we will have heavenly knowledge of Earth's history. Jesus's proof of the resurrection from the dead was profound: "Have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob?' He is not God of the dead, but of the living" (Matt. 22:31-32). God uses the present tense, saying, "I am Abraham's God right now! He is still alive, and we continue to have a relationship here in heaven." This proves that we retain in heaven memories of our lives on Earth. If Abraham still exists as Abraham, his history must remain, or he would lose his identity. If Abraham's memory was completely wiped in heaven, he would no longer be the same man we read about in the Bible. We would know more now about his earthly life than he does.
"Clearly, Jesus anticipates an experience of fellowship among the saints enriched by perfected memories of earthly lives. Without our life stories, we would essentially be clones with meaningless name badges."
Jesus said, "Many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 8:11). If earthly memories evaporate in heaven, those who come from the east and west (gentile converts to Christ) will have no recollection of their own origins, and feasting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will have no particular meaning. Imagine sitting next to Abraham at the heavenly banquet and having no idea who he is. Clearly, Jesus anticipates an experience of fellowship among the saints enriched by perfected memories of earthly lives. Without our life stories, we would essentially be clones with meaningless name badges.
Christians ought to meditate on what the Bible teaches about heaven. It would be just as wrong to ignore or avoid these passages as it would be to add to them our own speculations. In our meditation on what the scripture reveals about heaven, we can look forward to the way our own memories and those of other Christians (whether figures from the Bible, church history, or ordinary lives never recorded) will combine to weave a perfect tapestry displaying the sovereign plan of God throughout history. And we will have so much to praise God for then!
Excerpt from "The Glory Now Revealed" by Andrew M. Davis. To purchase click here.