Where in the Bible does it say we will be reunited with our loved ones in heaven?
There came to him some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, and they asked him a question, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife but no children, the man must take the wife and raise up children for his brother.
Now there were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and died without children; and the second and the third took her, and likewise all seven left no children and died. Afterward the woman also died. In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife will the woman be? For the seven had her as wife.”
And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage; but those who are accounted worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”
And some of the scribes answered, “Teacher, you have spoken well.” For they no longer dared to ask him any question.
–Luke 20:27-40 (RSV)
Very often, when a loved one passes, we are apt to hear two things from people who profess to know Christ and His Father.
A. They are now with Jesus in heaven.
B. We can look forward to being reunited with our loved ones in heaven.
When I inquire of those who make such a claim as to where in the Bible such promises are made, I am referred to what Jesus said to the penitent thief on the cross; “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43) and to Paul’s statement, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23b). Yet, when I read those statements in context [exegesis], I find no “across the board” claim that validates we immediately go to heaven when we die and/or that we will be reunited with our loved ones [eisegesis].
How can we go to heaven if we are yet to be judged? Remember that Christ said we will be held accountable on the day of judgment for every careless word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36). Additionally, Jesus said;
“Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’ –Matthew 7:21-23 (RSV)
“On that day…” What day is that? The day of judgment.
Even though Paul said, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), he went on to clarify how we may know whether or not we are actually “in Christ” (see Romans 8:1-17). After reading that, do you believe your are truly living “in Christ”? Remember, Paul also said, “…work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
And what did Jesus say about counting the cost of following him?
“If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” –Luke 14:26
If our main reason for going to heaven is based on our desire to be reunited with our loved ones, then we desire heaven for the wrong reason. Our desire should be to be with God so we can worship and praise him for saving us from our self-centered heart.
Our greatest need is our need for God. When our greatest desire lines up with our greatest need, THEN we are living according to God’s desire for us. THEN we are loving him above everything else. Then we become that which he created us to be -completely his and his alone.
Christ said he will be returning to collect his bride, the church, which is comprised of all those who believe in him. Belief in Christ is not simply acknowledging that he was and is the eternal Son of God. Rather, it is a belief that results in a change of heart. It is being born again in His Spirit, as Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:1-15) and as Paul spoke about (Romans 8:1-17).
Now if Christ is returning for his bride AND if on that day, “the dead in Christ shall rise first” as Paul claims in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, then it is not possible for us to immediately go to heaven when we die, because there are no dead in Christ to raise if we are already with Him in heaven!!! So either Paul is mistaken or those who claim we go to heaven when we die are mistaken.
So which is it? Do we go to heaven when we die, or do we “sleep” until Christ comes again?
Maybe we shouldn’t say things that we do not know for sure. Maybe we should avoid reading into the text or extracting from the text what is not there. Maybe we should concern ourselves more with being counted among the sheep (Matthew 25:32) than we are about seeing our loved ones again. Maybe we should seek the Kingdom of God first and foremost as our Savior taught.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” –Hebrews 12:1-2