The Bible doesn’t offer any details about relationships in heaven. Based on the words of Jesus and the New Testament writers, we can be confident that heaven will be a far better place than anything we have experienced in this life and will include reunion with people we love.
The rich man recognized Lazarus even though they were in different places and separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:19-31). The disciples recognized Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration, though the two great prophets lived many centuries earlier (Matthew 17:1-5). Jesus told the repentant thief in Luke 23:43, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (nkjv). The apostle Paul said that we will someday have more knowledge than we have now, implying that we will have greater knowledge of other people than now (1 Corinthians 13:12). He also said that it is “far better” to depart and to be with Christ than to remain on earth (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:22-23).
Christ will be the heavenly Bridegroom and believers will fellowship with Him as His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33; Revelation 19:7-9). There will be no marriage or reproduction in heaven (Matthew 22:23-33), but the fact that God will resurrect us as individuals (See the ATQ article, Does God Value Individuality?) implies we will recognize each other as individuals and remember earthly relationships.
We will no longer need the exclusive relationships that protect us from loneliness and despair in this fallen world, but since heaven is a place of greater and fuller experience than our current life, we will still know and cherish our earthly loved ones. The joys and ecstasy of marital and family love will be far surpassed by perfect intimacy and trust. Perfected bodies and minds will find fulfillment in perfected relationships and a full sense of heavenly joy and gratitude to God.
Does Isaiah 65:17 imply that people in heaven will have no recollection of earthly events?
Isaiah 65:17 (ESV) states: “I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” What are the “former things” that “shall not be remembered or come into mind”? First Corinthians 13 tells us that in glory we will no longer see “as through a glass darkly” but we will “know as we are known.”
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:9-12 NIV).
When the resurrected Christ in His glorified body appeared to Thomas, Jesus still bore the marks of the Roman nails and spear (John 20:24-29). If in heaven we were unable to remember our lives here—including our sins—we would neither have a clear understanding of who we had been, nor an awareness of the worth of our redemption.
In heaven, our perspective will no longer be dominated by “former things.” Knowledge of past sins or earthly suffering will not cause the same kind of suffering and emotional anguish in heaven that it does now. We will see how God’s grace has healed all of the scars that sin left on our mortal lives. We will see how God’s grace could even use our repented sins to bring about His good purposes.
While there is so much we don’t know about the happiness of heaven, for now we can probably safely assume that, at the very least, “no knowledge of former things” means that we will not be dominated by memories of those things that are so painful and destructive now. As implied by Isaiah 65:17, the transformation that will occur in the new heavens and new earth will be so complete that our perspective will be utterly changed. Our earlier, fallen perspective will “not be remembered or come into mind.” The dark and tragic aspects of our past lives will be transformed by the light of a glorious new reality, filled with gratitude and joy.