Randy, I would like to thank you for your book on Heaven. This is my second time reading it, and it is providing me great comfort. We unexpectedly lost my dad and it has been extremely difficult to say the least. My dad was one of my best friends, and we talked almost every day. I miss communicating with him deeply!
As I have been re-reading your book, I have a few questions for you.
1. Will I matter to my dad? I have had so many people tell me I will see him again. And I know I will. But will it be the same? There is so much that I didn’t get to say or do with my dad! We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, one big family on earth and even more in Heaven, so will I actually matter to my dad?
2. Can my dad see us? I know the rich man was able to see Lazarus, but we are never told that Lazarus can see the rich man. We are also not told that Lazarus can see earth. Do you think family members know when one of their family members is on their way?
3. Do you have any more insights into time? My dad went to Heaven six months ago but has it really been six minutes to him? Do you think the Bible literally meant 1,000 years is one day in Heaven?
4. In the 1000-year millennium, we come back with our glorified bodies. But for those who make it through the tribulation, their bodies are not changed. Do they continue to have families, be married, and have children throughout that 1,000-year reign? But the glorified saints will not?
5. “As in the days of Noah”—does this refer to the rapture or Christ’s second coming?
I'm responding on Randy's behalf. I am very sorry for your loss, especially since you and your dad were so close. My dad passed through death’s door several years ago, and I still miss him deeply, so I join you in anticipating a reunion in God’s timing.
Here is Randy’s answer to your first question about whether you will matter to your dad:
"When we receive our glorified bodies and relocate to the New Earth, it will culminate history, not erase it. And nothing will negate or minimize the fact that we were members of families here on Earth. My daughters will always be my daughters, though first and foremost they are God’s daughters. My grandchildren will always be my grandchildren.”
You asked, “Will it be the same?” A dad who loved his daughter on Earth is unlikely to love her less when he’s been freed from sin’s grasp and has finally experienced love in a way none of us can before we join God in His presence. It’s hard to know how that will change us—though I’m sure it will. Yet I’m also sure it will be a change for the better and one we’ll enjoy, not regret. We’ll no longer need to focus on what we’ve lost because we will finally be free to focus on the One who gave it all so we could all be together.
Randy again writes, “There’s every reason to believe we’ll pick right up in Heaven with relationships from Earth. We’ll gain many new ones but will continue to deepen the old ones. I think we’ll especially enjoy connecting with those we faced tough times with on Earth and saying, 'Did you ever imagine Heaven would be so wonderful?’”
Randy answers your second question about whether your dad can see what’s going on this way:
“From what we see in Scripture, it appears people in Heaven have at least some idea of what’s happening here. Now, I’m not making the claim that they know or pay attention to everything that’s going on. But take, for example, the martyrs in Revelation 6, who knew that God hadn’t yet brought judgment on those who killed them. It’s likely that they knew many other things about what’s happening on Earth:
“I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11)
“This passage demonstrates that those in Heaven are the same people—only relocated. There’s continuity of identity from this life to the next. Those we love who are there now are part of what Hebrews 12:23 calls the ‘righteous men made perfect.’
“Notice that the martyrs are aware of what happens on earth when they ask God, ‘How long... until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’ They know those who killed them haven’t yet been judged. That means the martyrs remember their lives on Earth, even that they were murdered. Some say people in Heaven can’t remember or see life on Earth because knowing of evil would diminish Heaven’s happiness. But that’s not true. The key to Heaven’s joy isn’t ignorance, but perspective.”
There’s no reason to believe that we who do not die as martyrs would be any more in the dark than they are about whatever God thinks is important for us to know about what’s going on in this world. Randy writes scenes in several of his novels about opportunities for those in present Heaven watching with great interest the salvation stories of those on Earth. He used the passage in Revelation 6 to fuel his imagination about what could be. We won’t know for sure until we get there, and in the meantime, I encourage you to continue to study Scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you.
Your third question about time is fascinating. I grew up with Star Trek and loved conversations about the nature of time with my (much) older brothers. My short answer is, no, I don’t believe the Bible speaks of a literal thousand years equaling a day in Heaven. The complete passage you referred to, 2 Peter 3:8, reads “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” This is an analogy, and the context is not an explanation of time in Heaven; it is of the final judgment and God’s final act of justice on Earth and the transcendence of God above and beyond time’s reach.
Psalm 90:4 says, “For in Your sight a thousand years are but a day that passes, or a watch of the night.” What seems like an interminable wait to us here and now (and if you’re a night watchman with nothing to watch, it could seem like a very long night) is a mere flash in the pan compared to eternity. I appreciate author Ray Cummings’s idea that time is what keeps things from happening all at once. Since everything will not happen in a chaotic jumble in Heaven, we can assume that something like time will continue, it just won’t have the same hold on us that it does here. We will forever have all the “time” we need for whatever God has planned for us to do without the accompanying sense of hurry or that “time” is running out. Won’t that be a treat?!
For the answer to your question about what happens during the Millennium, I’d like to refer you to this resource on our website. That’s a very big topic with a very wide variety of opinions and the answer to your question depends entirely on which one of many views, if any, God happens to hold about the subject, and that is beyond the scope of this reply.
Finally, your question about the days of Noah is unclear. I’m not aware of any mention of that phrase in the book Heaven, relating to either the rapture (about which, again, there are many and varied opinions) or Jesus’ second coming. Both Matthew 24 and Luke 17 reference “the days of Noah.” In Matthew 24:3 Jesus’ disciples ask Him two questions, the first about the destruction of the Temple (which occurred in 70 AD) and the second about the sign of His coming and the end of the age, which He answers in verses 29-30. And the “moral” of His teaching is found in Matthew 24:36-50, which I believe is what He really wants us to focus on: We don’t know when He’ll return, but He will most certainly return and when He does, we will either be prepared, or we won’t. And what happens to us after that, for the rest of eternity, hinges on that preparation.
You might also like to read this article on our website.
I commend you for your deep thinking about our future home and look forward, with you, to the reunion with our dads and embarking on the adventure of learning what we long to know with the One who knows all.
Doreen is part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and helps Randy with editing and answering reader questions. She is a certified biblical counselor.