Tuesday, June 11, 2013


I expect that for many people, maybe most people, their concept of heaven centers on reunion with their departed loved ones. Of course, just because that’s the popular concept of heaven, that may not be the correct concept of heaven. Heaven may not be what they’re hoping for. Indeed, many people who assume they are going to heaven will be in for a rude surprise. Heaven is for Christians (as well as OT saints).

It’s striking that although Scripture has a fair amount to say about heaven, it doesn’t have much to say specifically about reunion. So is this just wishful thinking? Is there any Scriptural basis for this popular belief? For this ardent hope?

Here’s one text that has implications for reunion:

8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb 11:8-10,13-15).

That’s just a sample. I could quote more from the same chapter. But that’s enough to make my point.

If Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are on the same journey, and they complete the journey, then they will arrive at the same destination. They will arrive at different times, but if they are taking the same route, they will wind up in the same place.

That’s reunion. Not all at once. You have to wait your turn. Some get there sooner, some get there later. Some ahead, some behind. But everyone who stays on the right path will end where the path ends. That’s reunion.


  1. There are those places in the OT that talk about being "gathered unto/with one's [deceased] fathers [in death]" (e.g 2 Kings 22:20; 2 Chron. 34:28) as well as passages about "sleeping with one's [deceased] fathers [in death]" (e.g. 2 Sam. 7:12; 1 Kings 1:21). both phrases might refer to being placed in a family grave/tomb. Or in an family ossuary once the fleshed has disintegrated from one's bones. However, it could possibly refer to being gathered to one's ancestors in sheol. If that's the case, then the concept of reunion isn't so far off. Regardless of which interpretation is correct, the fact that the OT refers to death as "sleep" suggests that in those passages a resurrection was part of the belief system of the author (or his contemporaries) because it seems to assume that one day people will "wake up" from the apparent sleep of death. Calling it "sleep" makes sense if there's an expected resurrection.

    Gen. 37:35 has been translated by some and interpreted by some to imply Jacob believed he would be reunited with Joseph in sheol because some translations say (words to the effect) "...No, I shall go down to Sheol to my son, mourning...." rather than "...Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son..." The former way way of translating it suggests that Jacob is expecting to be reunited with Joseph in sheol because he's mourning Joseph's premature death. A common family grave can't be what being referred to because Joseph was eaten by wild animals and so he was never buried.

    David seemed to have the expectation that he would one day be reunited with the son who was conceived through his affair with Bathsheba but died as a result of God's temporal punishment for his sin (2 Sam. 12:23).

    Then there's the common NT motif of referring to all believers as "brothers" and "sisters" in a "family" "household" with God the Father as "Father", and God the Son as the "elder brother". It's only natural, common and to be expected that families would get to know each other and have occasions for big gatherings (e.g. Job's family and children). John 14:2 has the Lord saying "in My Father's house are many dwelling places" (not "many mansions" as the KJV). The metaphor seems to be that one day all true believers will be gathered together as if God the Father were like a human father who had a house big enough so that all his children can live with him. In the context of Jewish families, it wasn't uncommon for children to sleep in the same room as their parents (cf. Luke 11:7). Jesus Himself likens the future Kingdom of God to a feast where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be attending. That suggests that the rest of the family of Abraham (cf. Gal. 3:7, 29) will be attending. I think it's not to far a stretch to assume that just as guests of a feast or wedding mingle, so the children of God will mingle and get to know each other in the "wedding feast of the Lamb." (cf. Matt. 22:1-14; Rev. 19:7-9).

    1. Paul seems to expect his reward will be in the context of being reunited with those whom he ministered to (cf. 1 Thess. 2:19-20; 2 Cor. 1:14).

      The repeated theme of unity in Jesus' (e.g. John 17:11; 21-22) and Paul's teaching (Cor. 1:10ff; 3:3; Eph. 1:10) wouldn't make sense if in the Eternal State believers will forever be separated from each other.

      Regardless of one's eschatology, the souls in Rev. 6:10 refer to themselves as a group by saying "our blood" rather than as individuals saying "my blood."

      Also, the concept of gathering God's people in the future Kingdom of God is a common NT motif. 2 Thess. 2:1 says, "Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers," See also Matt. 3:12; 13:30; 48; 24:31; Luke 11:23; John 11:52; 1 Thess. 4:17; 5:10-11; Eph. 1:10.

      Finally, the NT repeatedly uses the metaphor of the church being the Body of Christ who is the Head or as a temple with Christ as the cornerstone. If the believers won't be able to get to know other Christians in heaven, then that would be like amputating parts of the body of Christ or dismantling the temple of God stone by stone. The earthly hope for the full and perfect unity of the Body of Christ and of the temple of God would seem to be frustrated and unfulfilled just at the time when it's actually is possible metaphysically and eschatologically.

    2. Admittedly, none of these passages dogmatically teach that all believers will get a chance to know every other believer in the eternal state. But the passages do naturally lead people to expect (or at the very least) hope for it to be the case. Lazarus who was covered with sores on Earth got to be at Abraham's bosom/side. That would suggest that believers will be able to mingle with each other since it seems clear to me that Jesus is portraying Abraham to be the loftiest believer in the afterlife while Lazarus being the lowliest/humblest (if not in reality, then symbolically if the passage is interpreted as a mere parable rather than as historical fact).

      If the least to the greatest in the Kingdom of God will have the greatest privilege and blessing of all, viz. knowing God (Jer. 31:34//Heb. 8:11; John 6); then it not too big a deal for believers having the the blessing of knowing each other.

      God commands us in this world/age to love one another (John 13:34; 1 John 2:7-11; 2 John 1:5). Why would God expect us to stop doing that? Would God leave unfulfilled a longing which He fostered and cultivated in us while we were here on earth? There's no indication in the Scriptures that some believers will be eternally segregated from other believers. That's unlike the "heads up" given to us about marriage in Matt. 22:30.

      He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?- Rom 8:32

      21 So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours,22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future---all are yours,23 and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. - 1 Cor. 3:21-23

      Paul seems to say, he, Apollos and Cephas "belong" to every believer. If that's true in this Age, how much more in the Next?

    3. At the very least we'll all be gathered at the Second Coming of Christ according these verses:

      12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you,13 so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.-1 Thess. 3:12-13

      And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.- Zech 14:5 (I'm assuming it's referring to the same event)

      Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.- 1 Thess. 4:17

      So, "when the saints go marching In", we should make sure to greet as many saints as possible because it might be our last opportunity to do so. ;-))

  2. There's an organic-like cohesion to the church in this life which one would expect would continue in the eternal state.

    The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."- 1 Cor. 12:21

    For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.- 1 Cor. 12:12

    For the body does not consist of one member but of many.- 1 Cor. 12:14

    so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.- Rom. 12:5

    But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.- 1 John 1:7

  3. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever,16 no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother---especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. - Philemon 1:15-16

    This would suggest that Paul hoped that there would be an eternal intimate friendship between Philemon and Onesimus reaching into the Eternal State. If so, then Paul seems to be assuming what we in our era usually do, that in the eternal state each believer will be able to fellowship with every other believer for all eternity. Not that it won't be interrupted by the necessities of living (since finite physical creatures can only be in one place at one time), but that Christians won't be segregated (even if some will have "higher" positions in the Kingdom than others). Like I said above,

    Lazarus who was covered with sores on Earth got to be at Abraham's bosom/side. That would suggest that believers will be able to mingle with each other since it seems clear to me that Jesus is portraying Abraham to be the loftiest believer in the afterlife while Lazarus being the lowliest...

    Even the lowly Lazarus was escorted by (not one, but) multiple angels and was treated like an All-Access VIP.