1. Religion & Spirituality
Scott P. Richert

Reader Question: Will We Know Our Loved Ones in Heaven?

By January 7, 2009

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A reader writes:

In speaking with my husband on the subject of life after death, he states he was taught that we do not remember the people we lived with or knew in this world--that we make a fresh start in the next. I do not remember this teaching (sleeping during class?), nor do I believe that I will not see/remember relatives and friends I knew here on earth. This is contrary to my common sense. Is this really a Catholic teaching? Personally, I believe our friends and families are waiting to welcome us into our new life.

This is a very interesting question, because it highlights certain misconceptions on both sides. Your husband's belief is a common one, and it usually stems from a misunderstanding of Christ's teaching that, in the resurrection, we will neither marry nor be given in marriage (Matthew 22:30; Mark 12:25), but will be like angels in Heaven.

That does not mean, however, that we enter Heaven with a "clean slate." We will still be the people that we were on earth, just purified of all of our sins and enjoying forever the beatific vision (the vision of God). We will retain our memories of our life. None of us are truly "individuals" here on earth. Our family and friends are an important part of who we are as people, and we remain in relationship in Heaven to all of those whom we knew throughout our lives.

As the Catholic Encyclopedia notes in its entry on Heaven, the blessed souls in Heaven "delight greatly in the company of Christ, the angels, and the saints, and in the reunion with so many who were dear to them on earth."

The Church's teaching on the communion of saints make this clear. The saints in Heaven; the suffering souls in Purgatory; and those of us still here on earth all know each other as persons, not as nameless, faceless individuals. If we were to make a "fresh start" in Heaven, our personal relationship with, for instance, Mary, the Mother of God, would be impossible. We pray for our relatives who have died and are suffering in Purgatory in the full assurance that, once they have entered Heaven, they will intercede for us as well before the Throne of God.

However, none of this implies that life in Heaven is simply another version of life on earth, and this is where you and your husband may share a misconception. His belief in a "fresh start" seems to imply that we begin again in creating new relationships, while your belief that "our friends and families are waiting to welcome us into our new life," while not wrong per se, may suggest that you think that our relationships will continue to grow and change, and that we will live as families in Heaven in some way analogous to how we live as families on earth.

But in Heaven, our focus is not on other people, but on God. Yes, we continue to know each other, but now we know each other most completely in our mutual vision of God. Absorbed in the beatific vision, we are still the people we were on earth, and so we have added joy in knowing that those we loved share that vision with us.

And, of course, in our desire that others be able to share in the beatific vision, we will continue to intercede for those whom we knew who are still struggling in Purgatory and on earth.

If you have a question that you would like to have featured in our "Reader Questions" series, send me an e-mail at catholicism.guide@about.com. Be sure to put "QUESTION" in the subject line, and please note whether you'd like me to address it privately or on the Catholicism blog.

More on Heaven, Purgatory, and the Communion of Saints:

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Comments
January 9, 2009 at 1:43 pm
(1) Jeffrey Mark says:

YES WE WILL KNOW OUR LOVED ONES IN HEAVEN,IT,
WILL BE A REUNION.OUR PETS WILL BE THIER ALSO
AND THIER WILL BE MUCH PRAISE & WORSHIP IN-
HEAVEN!!!!!!!!……..

July 9, 2011 at 12:11 pm
(2) Travis Chism says:

no, there will be no pets in Heaven that is not and the Bible, and don’t add stuff in the Bible in Revelation 22:18-19 For I testify unto every man taht hearth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. The Word of God is always right, and Heaven is just for God children’s to praise and worship him, pets can’t worship God at all!

September 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm
(3) TigShad says:

Romans 8:21-22 KJV
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
Romans 8:19 (KJV)
The lesser creatures await Christ’s return to redeem the sons of God so they, too, will be released from physical death to eternal life.
Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 AMP
Though all creatures are subject to man’s cruelty, God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.
Revelation 5:8-13
All creatures recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world and praise God right along with redeemed men.
Revelation 5:13
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (KJV)

19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 reads, “God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.”

September 17, 2011 at 12:14 pm
(4) tigshad says:

Romans 8:21-22 KJV
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

Romans 8:19 (KJV)
The lesser creatures await Christ’s return to redeem the sons of God so they, too, will be released from physical death to eternal life.

Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 AMP
Though all creatures are subject to man’s cruelty, God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.

Revelation 5:8-13
All creatures recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world and praise God right along with redeemed men.

Revelation 5:13
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (KJV)

19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.

Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 reads, “God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.”

January 9, 2009 at 3:49 pm
(5) cleverjohn says:

Shouldn’t our focus be on God and not on friends
or relatives ? Won’t feeling God’s Love for all
eternity be sufficient?

January 9, 2009 at 7:16 pm
(6) Lori says:

If we are able to remember our friends and relatives, logic would state that we will notice if they are missing. What if a good Christian woman were to go to heaven to find out her pre-deceased son – who had let’s say, been an unrepenting murderer – wasn’t there. She would know he had suffered in hell, and that would break her heart. Since there is no sadness in Heaven, I don’t think you can remember your loved ones.

January 9, 2009 at 8:18 pm
(7) Scott P. Richert says:

Lori, the flaw in your logic is that, in Heaven, we are in a perfected state. Sadness is a result of our fallen nature; we cannot feel sadness in Heaven.

As I tried to explain in the answer above, this is not a small matter. Not only does the Church teach (as the Catholic Encyclopedia notes) that we will “delight greatly in . . . the reunion with so many who were dear to [us] on earth,” but the communion of saints–an item of every creed from the Apostles’ Creed on–becomes literally impossible if we lose our memories.

Another way to think of it is this: In Heaven, we are perfected. Yet here on earth, no one would think that a man or woman who loses all memory of those he or she loves is better than those of us who retain our memories. Such amnesia, even if it occurred in Heaven, would be a defect in, not a perfection of, our human nature.

December 1, 2011 at 10:19 am
(8) HitchHiker says:

So, you’re saying that in this ‘perfected state’ the woman in Lori’s example would accept the fact that her son had been a murderer and a sinner and see that he was being punished justly by God for his sins? We would have a clearer view and acceptance of God’s will?

January 24, 2009 at 4:30 am
(9) NYG says:

I understand the logic, but one thing is left out:

“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4).

My take on this verse is that God will wipe away the memories of those who did not make it to heaven.

I’m an amature at this, but it seems to be logicial.

We’ll remember the ones who are in heaven.

And, yes, God’s love is sufficient, and a part of his love, is his gift of family and friends.

I pray (along with my family), that we will see our deceased brother, Nader Georgy in heaven.

He was murdered 2 weeks ago, on his way to work.

Please keep our family in your prayers, as well as the gunmen. We forgive and will forget, just as the Lord AND Nader would have wanted.

October 6, 2009 at 1:05 am
(10) Sandra says:

Isn’t God the only that really needs to Forgive, I understand your logic, but the gunmen don’t need you forgiveness they need God’s, who are you to them, are you helping them enter heaven?

December 27, 2009 at 9:46 pm
(11) Michael Ezzo says:

To Jeffrey Mark : to the best of my knowledge, there are no pets or animals in heaven. I have been taught that while animals do have souls, the souls die upon the animal’s death. Thus — no animals in heaven. Or hell, for that matter. If my understanding is wrong I ask for correction from whoever may know. Thank you.

September 17, 2011 at 12:19 pm
(12) tigshad says:

Romans 8:21-22 KJV
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
Romans 8:19 (KJV)
The lesser creatures await Christ’s return to redeem the sons of God so they, too, will be released from physical death to eternal life.
Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 AMP
Though all creatures are subject to man’s cruelty, God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.
Revelation 5:8-13
All creatures recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world and praise God right along with redeemed men.
Revelation 5:13
“And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (KJV)
19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.
Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 reads, “God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.”

September 17, 2011 at 12:23 pm
(13) tigshad says:

Romans 8:21-22 KJV
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
Romans 8:19 (KJV)
The lesser creatures await Christ’s return to redeem the sons of God so they, too, will be released from physical death to eternal life.
Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 AMP
Though all creatures are subject to man’s cruelty, God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.

Revelation 5:8-13
All creatures recognize Jesus as the Savior of the world and praise God right along with redeemed men.

19 For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them: as one dies, so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath; man has no advantage over animals, for all is vanity.
20 All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust. Psalm 145:-9-10,13,15-21 reads, “God loves all His creation and has made plans for all His children and the lesser creatures to enjoy His eternal Kingdom.”

April 10, 2010 at 12:14 am
(14) StonegateAccent says:

To Jeffrey Mark: I believe God does love all his creations, even animals. He created them and, if you believe in Noah”s Ark,d made sure they were safe on this earth while destroying most of mankind. I do expect to be reunited with my cherished pet’s whose care God entrusted to me. Love is love not matter shape or form. Obviously we can’t know for sure but why would God create them for this earth only.

June 23, 2010 at 10:38 am
(15) karen says:

I would like to say that when I go to Heaven..and I have a thought or memory that one of my loved ones or NOT going to Heaven.. then that WOULDN’T be Heaven..I think that would be HELL!!! I’m with the other guy.. GOD wipes away the bad( and yes, even some family, maybe even our own children.. are NOT Christians)we endure that on earth.. NOT in HEAVEN!!!.. I will be in PARADISE!!!and I will be with my ETERNAL family!!!

September 7, 2010 at 9:54 pm
(16) vivaciousturtle says:

To Sandra: The bible tells us to forgive those who have wronged us.
Luke 6:37 says Forgive others and you will be forgiven

Matthew 6:15 But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

NYG, My prayers are with you.

February 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm
(17) Tony says:

Sorry but we will not know our love ones in heaven…read the bible. It says in Isaiah 65:17 I am creating new heavens and a new earth,everything of the past will be forgotten.

The bible is very clear on this.

June 27, 2011 at 8:01 pm
(18) Margarette says:

Hope it’s not about family. My son is in heaven, and if that is the case…OMG stop it.

September 17, 2011 at 12:35 pm
(19) tigshad says:
September 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm
(20) tigshad says:
March 30, 2011 at 6:54 pm
(21) Maria says:

A friend of mine is not sure we will know and I have always known that we will know not only our loved ones but Bible heroes too automatically. AS to sad memories… I believe we will remember but the sadness will not be there. God promises to take away the tears (He doesnt say anything about the memories)…. We will be so dileriously beyond joyful seeing Jesus and all that awaits us in heaven that there will be no room for sadness. But, we will know and remember and then move on with all that God has in store for us….. Amen

May 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm
(22) Skyler says:

Will there be some earthly things in heaven like night and day
or food and water?

July 9, 2011 at 12:03 pm
(23) Travis Chism says:

No, there will be no night there in Revelation 22:2-5 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there a tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. there will be no food there or night or the sun in Heaven!

June 27, 2011 at 7:48 pm
(24) Margarette says:

My son died four months ago, not able to describe my pain. The only thing that keep me going is the taught, i am going to see him again one day. My heat skip a beat from happiness.

September 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm
(25) tigshad says:

Margarette, I am so terribly sorry for your loss.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (NKJ). That last phrase, “I shall know just as I also am known” would indicate that we shall know others as well as be known by others.

September 17, 2011 at 12:31 pm
(26) tigshad says:

http://www.answers2prayer.org/bible_questions/Answers/heaven/heaven.html

Go there Margarette…you will see proof of seeing your Son in Heaven. Hugs.

September 8, 2011 at 5:00 pm
(27) Sorrowful says:

If there are no tears in heaven, why do we see apparitions of the Virgin Mary with tears and speaking of sorrow? I am confused. And aren’t the saints in heaven saddened by the sins of us all here on earth?

April 29, 2012 at 1:19 am
(28) jennifer says:

when we go to haven do we go up as we left earth like the same age or do we go back to a young version for eg a 90yr old woman dies of old age would she revert back to her young beautiful form or stay old. Do we even keep our human form?

November 16, 2012 at 11:18 am
(29) Albert Cooper says:

I thought the teaching of the Church was that our bodies will ressurect on the last day in perfect form ?

November 16, 2012 at 11:21 am
(30) Albert Cooper says:

Ihave always been taught that our bodies will ressurect on the last day,in perfect form

April 2, 2013 at 6:14 pm
(31) Nick says:

Of course we will know our loved ones in heaven, if we get there. We are asked to pray for our dead relatives, say masses for them and they can ask for help for their loved ones on earth. Many times I have read of a wife losing her husband only for him to appear to her after death, maybe only once, but it’s enough proof that the dead come back to the people they love.

Also on the anniversary of a family members death they can appear to relatives on earth, maybe they need help in purgatory , prayers, who knows, but this is real, we continue to seek help from our family and loved ones in life and in death and we will meet again. But we must stop presuming we are going to heaven, we must do all we can to get there and lead good lives and attend church and confession when we can.

To many Christians presume they are going to heaven simply because they are Christian, , this is NOT how it works. You must love God and love your neighbor and renounce sin.

April 16, 2013 at 11:24 am
(32) Mary says:

In eternal life there is no human form. we are souls and in heaven we are the same soul but without our human constraints. there will be a knowing of fellow souls with whom you travelled as human but the roles, the sort of love, the relationships will be new- a much deeper lasting eternal love that has nothing to do with our human nature. yes, we pray and intercede for the souls that remain in flesh. we love them deeply and in eternal realm even more deeply. but the idea of resuming life in eternity in the same manner only more joyful and loving is a bit un evolved.

January 19, 2014 at 12:32 am
(33) Lee says:

About seeing our pets again in Heaven – I had a Catholic priest tell me after I asked him where in God’s Kingdom was my beloved pet – that God loves all his creatures Great or Small and He holds out His hands and catches them. That is what I believe and I found great solace in those words.

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