Chapter 5.....Shall we Know Each Other in Another World?
"For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verse 12
THE man who gives serious consideration to this question will discover that he must be sober amidst the contentions of scepticism and sentimentalism. We are at a point where scepticism can cut and thrust with painful effect and where sentimentality can make riot of sense. Scepticism can quickly perceive chinks in the armour of those who answer the question in the affirmative. Our knowledge of one another in this present life depends in no small part upon physical considerations. How can the body placed in the grave to return to the dust, be brought together again so that loved ones will recognise them? That contention may be met, in some degree, by asking how the body was first produced and developed. If the mysterious power of Almighty God can give it form and substance once, who will deny He can do it again if He so wills? Or suppose, for example, a mother dying when her little girl is three years old, and that little girl lives to be ninety. How will the mother recognise in the old lady of ninety the little child of three?
Theosophy, which is nothing more than Hinduism, refined and coated with a veneer of Christian teaching, sees the resolution of the individual back into the Eternal. We came out from-who knows? Shall we not return to the oblivion whence we came? All the problems, anxieties and despairs of this present life were unknown to us a hundred years ago. Shall we not be resolved into the same oblivion and ignorance a hundred years hence? Just as the moisture is taken up from the sea, descends as rain upon the land, percolates through the earth, runs into the river and so out to sea again, so is the circle of our conscious existence. The individual drop of water loses its identity as it falls into the sea, so the great Mother Eternity will absorb our little personal identities into herself and we shall be content to be lost in the greater entity.
To that, sentiment reacts very strongly. It is incredible that we should be lost to our loved ones or they to us! We rebel against the suggestion with intense feeling. Not to place too great a meaning upon these wistful intuitions of which we are conscious, we may, at least, aver that this sense within is not without significance. Probably the sceptic would declare that the wish is father to the thought. For this reason, therefore, strong as is the interest of the heart in the question we shall be wise assiduously to exclude feeling and emotion in order that we may reach conviction. Truth to be vital, must always be lodged in the heart, but no less, it must be grasped in the mind. Where sentiment is not buttressed by intelligent understanding the peril of lost faith and hope is ever imminent. I believe we shall know each other in another world, and that is solid ground for the assurance, but it is recognition of its own particular kind. We must therefore move towards the conclusion cautiously in order that we may move surely.
It will be conceded that the integral factors of mutual recognition are three-Identity, Memory, and Affection. There must be some nexus of identity between this life and the next, otherwise there can be no recognition. There must be something common to the ego here and the ego there, else persistence of individuality is impossible, and, in consequence, recognition. So too, memory must be active; otherwise, although identity may be established, we shall look upon each other as strangers. These two conditions are essential, but they are not the most important. We must remember that although we shall recognise there those we have known here, yet the vast myriad of the heavenly realm are bound to be strangers, certainly at first. In my view, the most important consideration is affection. By affection I mean intimacy of fellowship, intercourse of heart and correspondence of idea. Let us remember present experience.
When we were at school the boys or girls with whom we were associated were our world of heroes and contemptibles. When we left them the world seemed cold and cheerless but we began to form new connections, to move in new circles, and now we would renew very few of our schoolday connections, even if we could. Even family connections do not escape this influence. We were brought up under a roof, which impressed upon us the importance of brother and sister. The tie was strong and intimate, but in later life, unless that human tie is buttressed by some kind of affinity, some correspondence of idea, the relationship dwarfs and indeed may perish altogether. The exodus from the home roof altered the relationship permanently. Will our exodus from this present sphere change us and our loved ones in the same way?
But just here, where the sentimental possibilities we are trying to build up, seem most assuredly to collapse, one can, I think, reach the most certain conviction. Clearly, sentimentality about the family can become excessive. If we are thinking of mother, father and family in one corner of heaven all to themselves, the dream will be rudely broken. Scripture holds out no suggestion of such a monotonous and restricted existence. Heaven will not be a world of uninteresting family cliques; we shall all belong, by the grace of God, to the one great family of the Father in Jesus Christ. Our Lord distinctly asserted that His mother and brethren were those who did the will of God, and we may legitimately deduce from His words that those who do the Will of God will be our brethren and sisters if we are sharing with them in that obedience.
The Scriptures offer us invaluable guidance concerning recognition in the next world. In the first epistle of John we are assured-"'Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Quite clearly every child of God will know the Lord Jesus Christ in the world to come. He has not floated back into the invisible ether; He is a living radiant being, one day to be the object of the gaze of those that love Him. Whatever doubts we may entertain as to the mutual recognition of the saints, that they will recognise the Lord is beyond dispute.
Here is a truth to meditate upon with joy. Life here may be dreary and sad but every humble believer has this certain joy and privilege flooding the future. The Lord Jesus, in Whom all creation and all redemption are gathered up is to be the unveiled beauty before our eyes, and by His grace, we shall stand in His presence to behold Him face to face. How we shall know Him is a question wrapped still in mystery. Thomas knew Him by the wounds in His hands and feet, and at Emmaus He was known in the breaking of bread. But the means of identification suggested by John in the verse just quoted are of a different kind.
"We know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is." The important note is stressed of likeness and not sight. Recognition follows resemblance. Sight is granted to the believer by reason of some deep correspondence existing between the Lord and himself. As far as we know, none but the disciples, saw the Lord after His resurrection. The resurrection is not evidence to the world, it is the testimony of the true Church. It is not a proved fact demonstrable to the earthly mind but a revelation to those taught of the Spirit. The basis of recognition, therefore, is evidently not memory or physical likeness only, but sympathy, correspondence, affinity, and affection. We have never seen our Lord yet but we shall see Him and know Him because, by His mercy, we shall be like Him. Peter, James and John had never seen Moses and Elijah, but it would appear they recognised them on the Mount of Transfiguration. There was a perfect sympathy between the prophets of the Old Covenant and the Apostles of the New, a perfect sympathy in their mutual love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is quite clear that in the days of His flesh our Lord did not enjoy the unabated confidence and support of His own family. Once they thought Him mad, and when He came to His own native town, where His relatives were, and could do no mighty works they were disappointed in Him. Their physical presence could not repair the breach of the spiritual alienation. Deep in our hearts this yearning to recognise our friends on the other side and to be recognised by them, springs from our passion to perpetuate the strong affinities between those of kindred minds. We cannot endure the thought that we shall be forever unknown to those whose gracious concentrated spirits have been such a spiritual enrichment to us. With them we have shared a peculiar outlook on life, with them shared the joy of salvation, the power of His resurrection, the Hope of His Coming, and it would be pitiless indeed were death to divide us for ever. These are they who are most like us, those who knew us best, those, we may be sure, whom we shall see again, know them and rejoice.
But there are some, even of the saints of God, whom in our perversity, we are not really anxious to greet on the other side, and it is humbling to reflect that some Christians might be quite relieved to find us, with our angularities, absent from their near presence. Even in the happiest fellowship there is usually some minor limitation. The most devoted man and wife cannot obliterate the obvious defects in each other; they lovingly overlook them. But when, by God's infinite mercy I meet my fellow believer on the other side I shall be perfected in Christ and he will be perfected in Christ, and there will be a fellowship between us such as on this earth we never knew. The happiest moment ever permitted me in this world in fellowship with another will not remotely compare with the dullest moment of that exalted fellowship over there. Now we are looking through a glass in an enigma, but then we shall look at each other in the radiance of the presence of the Son of God. Heaven is not a place where recognition is uncertain but where we shall at last really come to know each other. At present each of us is partly mystery but then, fully known in Christ, our hearts shall be unveiled to one another. Then we shall realise that the envyings and bitterness, misunderstand- ings and criticisms existing even between believers here were all due to the fact that we never saw each other in the presence of our Common Lord.
The presence of the Lord is the congenial surrounding and circumstance for growth in spiritual experience. There is probably no bitterer cup for human lips to drink than the loss of a dear child. It is a sorrow which does not lessen with time. The happiness of other children becomes a mockery and all through the years one sees in others what one's own child might have been had he or she lived. But even this cup of unspeakable sorrow need not be entirely bitter. That dear child is with the Lord and is growing in His near presence in spiritual beauty as would never have been possible in this world with its sordid and subtle temptations. He or she is learning of Jesus, close to His feet, like Him, perchance already seeing Him. If recognition is to be through correspondence then the hope of seeing the child again should quicken our feet in the heavenly way and constrain us to the holy separated walk as nothing else could. That may have been the object of God's peculiar dealings, the explanation of the inexplicable stroke. So the little child may lead to dedication in preparation for recognition.
Of this we may be reasonably sure: God has not created in us the social instinct, set us together in communities and associations to consign us to everlasting loneliness. We are made for God and for each other, and the deep strong hopes that persist within our hearts are quickened by the added testimony of the Word of God. We were made not for separation but for congregation, not to live apart but to live with each other. There is enough in the Scriptures to justify the belief that those who are part of the new creation, redeemed unto God in Jesus Christ, will be a company sharing the joy of recognition of the Lord Himself and of each other in Him. This blessed hope cheers the heavy hearts of the bereaved who, as the years go by, bid farewell to this loved one and that. Life as we know it here, is a pilgrimage towards a solitude from which death is a welcome deliverance. But death, to the believer, is an entrance into a fellowship from which there shall never be separation. The lacerations of bereavement, the intensifying of solitariness, which is the destiny of life here, are not Godís final verdict for His people. Lonely though some may be here, there is a great fellowship of the saints waiting to welcome us there. By faith we may see even now in the glorified presence of the Lord those we have loved long since, and who, by the grace of God, we shall meet again to be forever with the Lord.
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