Will Everything Be Different After We Die

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Erwin Lutzer; ©2002
Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. Erwin Lutzer discuss: Will anything about us be the same after we die? Will we feel the same emotions? Will we remember our loved ones? Or will everything be different?

Will Everything Be Different After We Die?

John, one day we were traveling. My wife was driving the car. I was in the front seat, and I felt some real heaviness on my chest. This fear came over me that I might be dying. I thought I might be having a heart attack. Well, thankfully, it wasn’t that, of course, but I began to wonder, “What would it be like just at that moment of death?” And it’s amazing that the thing that came to my mind first is that I knew that if I died at that moment, I would see angels. Of course, those angels would then take us into the presence of Christ. You know, that’s what Luke Chapter 16 teaches. It says that the rich man died and was buried, and Lazarus, the poor man, died and he was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. So I don’t know about you, but I expect to see angels when I die.

Sometime ago I read in Christianity Today a marvelous story by Steve Saint, who is the son of one of the missionary martyrs that died in the jungles of Ecuador. He said that there are people living today who say that when those five missionaries were being martyred, they actually heard beings singing in the trees. And today some of these people say that they did not know what the singing was until years later when they heard Christian records.

Well, we can’t always build our theology on experiences, but an experience like that would be perfectly consistent with the Scriptures because the angels are watching us. They are sent “to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation.” So one of the things that we shall see, when we die, I believe, is angels. But, of course, we want to see the Lord Jesus Christ because He is the One whom we love.

One of the questions that we want to answer is this: What actually happens at that point of transition? What happens when you die and a moment later? Well, you know, oftentimes we talk about how different heaven is going to be. But I’d like to think for a few moments about the things that remain the same when you die.

I’ve often discovered that people forget that we are the same people after we die as we are here. Now, of course, we’re different in the sense that we have a different way of living. We have a new nature. We are not sinners anymore. But here’s what I’d like to point out. Personal knowledge continues in heaven. Remember the rich man in the 16th chapter of the Gospel of Luke that Jesus told about? Here he is in Hades. He is tormented. And what does he say? “Send Lazarus so that he might go and preach to my five brothers so that they do not come to this same place of torment.” Notice that compassion and knowledge continued. He remembered his brothers.

Remember the Mount of Transfiguration where you have Peter, James, and John up on the mountain and they meet Moses and Elijah. There is, of course, sharing of information and so forth. I like to think of the fact that when we get to heaven we won’t need name tags. And I base that on the fact that I think that Peter, James and John instantly knew Moses and Elijah. But furthermore, the Bible says, “We shall know even as we are fully known.” So you die and you go to heaven. Do you remember your family on earth? Of course you remember your family on earth. Personal knowledge continues.

Personal love continues. I mentioned a moment ago that the rich man was concerned about his brothers. I spoke to a widow, and she asked, “Pastor Lutzer, does my husband remember that he was married to me?” Of course he remembers that he was married to you. Does he remember your children? Of course he remembers your children. He remem­bers where he was in his own family tree and who he is. He’s the same person over there as he is here. Remember that–as he was here. So, let’s keep that in mind.

You know, there’s that passage of Scripture that talks about the fact that Jesus, in re­sponding to an issue that was brought to Him, said that in heaven we are “like angels who neither marry nor are given in marriage.” Some people misinterpreted that. They think it means that in heaven we are going to be sexless; that just like angels are neither male nor female, apparently, that in heaven we will not be male or female. I strongly disagree. What Jesus was simply saying is that there are no baby angels and there is no marriage in heaven. But in heaven your mother will still be your mother. Your father will be known as your father. These kinds of bits and pieces of information and concern will be known. I can assure you of that.

Another question people often ask me is, “Do our loved ones in heaven know what we’re doing here on earth?” Well, I would simply say this. There is no evidence in the Scriptures that they can see us. My own hunch is that they’ve got better things to do than to watch us. They are in the presence of Jesus. They are rejoicing. But I would say this, that if they wanted to have an update, I really do believe that the Lord Jesus Christ would give it to them. I can’t imagine that in heaven they would desire information that Jesus Christ would not grant them. You know?

One day at the Moody Church the seven-year-old daughter of an associate pastor said something very interesting. Her grandfather died, and she said, “Daddy, can we pray to Jesus to get a message to Grandpa?” Now, my associate said that he was somewhat taken aback. He had never been asked that question before. But as he began to think about it, he thought, “You know, there’s nothing in my theology that says that we can’t pray to Jesus to get a message to Grandpa.”

Now, you think of the wisdom of that little girl. She knew that if anything, you pray to Jesus to get a message to Grandpa. You don’t pray to Grandpa to get a message to Jesus. Well, all that I know is that in heaven the needs and the desires of people will be fulfilled. And if they want updates on what is happening here on earth, I can assume that those will be granted to them.

Let me tell you something else that continues. Personal feelings continue. I need to stress this because sometimes we think of heaven in such metaphysical ways that we forget that we’re the same people on the other side. For example, there is joy in heaven. Even Asaph in the Old Testament said that there is joy. “Thou dost guide me with thy coun­sel and afterward receive me to glory.” In the 16th Psalm it says, “At thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

Do people, after they die, even have a sense of justice? Oh, yes. You know, the Book of Revelation talks about those who are underneath the throne, and then it says they had died and they were beneath the throne and they kept saying, “Lord, how long will it be until you avenge those who have put us to death?”

Let me say also that in heaven I think various activities continue. By that I mean, scien­tists may continue to do their work. They may continue to explore the vastness of the universe. Then, of course, I can imagine also musicians doing their work. Our leader of worship at the Moody Church sometimes tells me that when we get to heaven, he’s still going to have something to do, but as a preacher, I’m going to be out of work. Jonathan Edwards said, “The ideas of God will continue to eternity.” I like to think of it this way. We will begin knowing God, but our knowledge of Him will be constantly increasing and we will never exhaust the knowledge of the Lord our God.

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