Q: Will I still remember my spouse in the new heaven and earth? And will we know our family and friends?


One of the fascinating things about the New Testament, unlike some religious books both ancient and modern, is its refusal to offer much speculation about what the age to come will actually be like. 

Jesus is clear that there will be a resurrection. But, in Matthew 22 when the Sadducees ask which husband a widow will be reunited with, Jesus says they are missing the point. In the new age, we will no longer be mortal. There will be no more death and, therefore, no need for reproduction. We’ll have no need for marriage as we know it, which has procreation as one of its primary goals. 

The early Church fathers speculated about whether there will be an equivalent of what we currently know as sexual relations, or whether that will be something we won’t actually want or delight in as we now do. But we’re not given a definitive answer in the Bible. 

On the question of the people that we’ve loved and lost, and whether we will know them again, Paul gives a word of comfort in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 when he says that ultimately, we will all be “caught up together…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air”. 

People have got hung up about that passage, which has become one of the famous rapture passages, but Paul’s point is that God is looking after our loved ones who have died and we will be together again in God’s new age. There’s no question of whether we will know them; it’s assumed that it will be a glorious, mutual welcome and recognition, but of a sort that we can only distantly imagine at present. 

CS Lewis says in The Four Loves (Collins) that the loves we will retain are the loves that have been subject to the cross and resurrection in the present life. In other words, if we try to cling on to something and idolise it, that grip may have to be broken. But a good, healthy human love is a God-given gift, and God doesn’t give gifts in order to snatch them away. 

On questions such as these, I often refer to the concept of music. Music can open up our imagining of other worlds, where different possibilities are available. We need all those imaginative resources when we consider God’s new age – not that we can then draw an exact picture of what it’s going to be like, but so that we can be assured that God, having made us, loved us and redeemed us in Christ, is not going to make us anonymous and unrecognisable — far from it. We’re going to be more vividly ourselves than ever before.


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