There are a few things that I would like to forget. There are far more that I wish I could remember. I have completed an undergraduate and two post-graduate degrees. As I sit here in my office, I am surrounded by books that in theory I read at some time in the past. Do I remember all that I have read or heard? Nope. I am not expecting it to get better either.
What about after death? Will we remember this life: people, events, joys, sorrows or traumas? The answer is yes and no.
The first concern is about people. For the most part, we would like to remember people. The Bible says little about the relationships we will have with the people we now have a relationship. Jesus says, “In the resurrection, they will neither be married or given in marriage.” So our marital status will not carry over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we won’t know our spouse, or remember that they were our spouse, or kids, or whatever.
Paul speaks of the Thessalonians, “For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy.” This perhaps hints that those to whom we minister to in this life are a form of reward in an ongoing relationship in the afterlife. Beyond this people aren’t mentioned.
One particular concern is about all those whom we loved, but who failed to be connected to Christ. We want to think that all the people we care about will be saved. That is not a promise at all. Won’t Heaven and the New Earth be a place of grieving because of their loss? Because there is not a promise that all will be saved (quite the opposite) we need to proceed with a sense of urgency moved by our love in sharing the Gospel. Still, we cannot make people believe. If there is a sense of loss, it will be a fading one. Revelation 7 states, “and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” I would interpret that to mean that those who are lost will fade or just be gone from our memories.
There is more that people to remember or forget. What about the beautiful and positive things of this life? These things are the content of Revelation 21:24, 26, which speaks about the New Jerusalem as a metaphor for the New Earth “By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the Earth will bring their glory into it…They will bring into it the glory and honor of the nations.” I doubt that “kings” refers to literal kings but rather the glory and honor of God’s people who “reign on Earth” as far as the Kingdom of God is concerned. So what is good and honorable about our lives will follow us.
That said, there are many painful and ugly things about this life and maybe our lives personally. Will these things follow us? To this issue the following passages apply:
And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold I am making all things newRevelation 21:5
For behold, I create new Heavens and a new Earth, and the former things shall not remembered or come into mind.Isaiah 65:17
At least by the conclusion of Judgment Day, the travails, sins and pains of this life will be gone and wiped from memory. Everything will have a new structure and while some aspects of our current lives will be incorporated into life on the New Earth, significant changes will make it a new, enduring and joyful experience.