Question: “A scriptural passage reads, ‘There will be no sorrow there’. If we or our loved ones are not accepted into the Kingdom, there would be much sadness for the redeemed.”

The Scripture alluded to is Revelation 21:4, “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

We might first note that possession of divine nature is no barrier to experiencing and expressing a wide range of emotions. How barren the Kingdom would be if this were not so. Our Lord taught us that “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:7). An example quite the opposite of this can be found in Ezekiel 38:18–19: “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face. For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken.” Here are strong feelings expressed ranging from great joy to fearsome anger. And if there is joy experienced by the angels when a sinner repents, consider their feelings when a saint departs from the faith. Surely there would be sorrow and disappointment. We ourselves feel that way now, when a brother or sister leaves “the Truth”.

So yes, to see our loved ones not accepted into the Kingdom will be an occasion for sorrow at that time. What then do we understand by the expressions used in Revelation 21:4? This passage speaks of the time at the end of the Millennium when “there shall be no more death … (and) the former things are passed away”. Then tears, death, sorrow and crying associated with mortality and sin will no longer apply. Those found worthy of salvation at the return of Christ at the dawn of the Millennium will experience a similar situation. For us, if in God’s mercy we be in that number, death will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:55), and we will joyfully sing the song of the redeemed (Rev 5:9, 12–14). The evils of mortality will still be present upon the earth, but it will be transformed in the manner described by the prophets: “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord” (Isa 65:25; 11:6–9; 35:9; Hos 2:18).

The joy and activity of the Kingdom age will fully engage the redeemed saints. Possession of divine nature will bring an expanded perception of our just and holy God. There will be a residual sorrow and regret that some whom we cared for did not “accept the Truth”, or did so yet failed to live up to our high calling and thus cannot share the joys of eternity with us. Our understanding of God’s righteousness and His wisdom in allowing all to exercise their freewill in the day of probation will temper this sorrow. We will recognise, as in our hearts we perhaps already accept, that as Christ put it, speaking of some who hypocritically carried out public almsgiving or prayers to win the praise of men: “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matt 6:2,5,16). The sad reality is that they sought the favour of men, they received it, and Christ declared that was all they would get; so for those today who, like Demas, “(love) this present world”. The present world is what they wanted; they made that choice, they enjoyed such brief pleasures as this present evil world has to offer and that is all: “they have their reward”. This is sad, but in full accord with God’s righteousness which we all acknowledge.

So in a broad sense, the passing of the ills of mortality and possession of divine nature will mean an end for us of the tears, sorrow and suffering which afflict humanity. But this is not an absolute expression, and there will surely remain the capacity for a wide range of emotions and feelings which may well include a shadow of regret for those lost along the way.

 

Another reader asks: Will we recognize our loved ones in the Kingdom; Scripture tells us “we shall all be changed”?

The passage quoted is from 1 Corinthians 15:51–52. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

As is apparent from the context, the change referred to is not one so much of physical appearance, but of physical nature; the change from mortality to immortality, from corruptible to incorruptible (1 Cor 15:53–54). The apostles and many others recognised the Lord Jesus Christ after he had put on divine nature and immortality. He challenged them: “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see” (Luke 24:39). The Apostle Paul mentions the many eyewitnesses who saw and recognised Christ as proof of the resurrection: “And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:5–8).

The marvellous truth is that Almighty God will raise the dead and preserve intact all their memory, physical form and identity and then transform the accepted saints to the likeness of the Lord’s immortalised, glorious body (Phil 3:21). The only change to appearance, in my view, will be the rejuvenation of the old to youthful form. The prophet declares: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not be faint” (Isa 40:31). It would be incongruous indeed to preserve for eternity the evidence of mortality in the ravages of old age. There are inferences at least that angels appear as ‘young men’. The angels who came to Lot at Sodom attracted the perverse attentions of the men at that place; hardly likely unless they had the form of attractive young men.

Jesus said we shall be “equal unto the angels” (Luke 20:36). And though he also said we shall “neither marry, nor (be) given in marriage” (Luke 20:35), the Apostle Peter reminds the married saints that their wonderful prospect is to be “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet 3:7). This implies an eternity of joyous friendship together, undoubtedly involving mutual recognition.

Yes, we will be changed, but we will clearly recognise each other, young for eternity, dear immortal friends for ever – what a prospect!