1. Will we remember our earthly lives when we are in Heaven?
This life is filled with both the good and the bad. Will we remember the bad things that happened in our life in Heaven? Will we forget our loved ones and the good memories that we formed in this life in the afterlife? When we enter our eternity after this life, a newness begins for us. Isaiah 65:17 says “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Some interpret this verse as saying that we will have no memory of our earthly lives in heaven. But that is clearly not the case according to my experience and the others with whom we have interviewed. To clarify this biblically, one verse earlier in Isaiah 65:16 the Bible says, “For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.” We can be assured that our “past trials” will be forgotten, though our fond memories will survive our transition to Heaven.
Our memories in Heaven will be washed anew, redeemed, healed, and restored to perfection, not erased. We know from our Heaven testimonies that many memories from our earthly lives will translate into Heaven as comforting remembrances of God’s grace, and our loved ones will be remembered fondly. Those memories that will be cleansed are the ones that involve sin, pain, and sadness. We may see these in our life review, but only to reflect the grace of Jesus Christ in those times, and thereafter they will be erased “as far as the East is from the West,” as Jesus said to me while I journeyed with Him in Heaven. As it says in Revelation 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
The fact that the former things will not come to mind does not mean that our memories will be wiped clean. The prophecy promised in Revelation 21:4 declares the joyous Christ-centered mindset we will adopt within Heaven, and as I experienced during my afterlife. Your time in Heaven will be spectacular, so mind-blowing, and consumed with God’s ways, that you will absolutely forget the drudgery and sin of that happened in this world. The only exception will be those who refuse to accept Jesus as their Lord. According to the testimonies of those we interviewed who visited hell before being redeemed through their faith in Jesus, terrible memories will be recycled in hell because they have not been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. However, the great news is that God gives everyone an abundance of opportunities to accept Him as their Lord so that they too can realize the fullness of their joy in Heaven. But there will be a period of redemption for all time after the end of this current age.
In the apocalyptic vision of John, he saw the terrible persecution that has been imposed on believers in this world in Revelation 6:9-10: “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?” John in Revelation 4:1-2 sees and hears those have been persecuted on this earth. Their loud cries for vengeance indicate that God will remember the persecution of His children in this world, and He will render judgment to those who persecute His beloved.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31) is proof that those who are in hell will remember all of their earthly lives, including the good and the bad. The rich man in Hades asks Abraham to send Lazarus back to earth to warn the rich man’s brothers of the fate awaiting the unrighteous (verses 27–28). The rich man obviously remembers his relatives. He also remembers his own life of self-serving and sin (verse 25). The memories of the rich man in Sheol became part of his misery. The good news is that the eternal state of those made righteous through Christ will leave all sorrow behind.
2. Do we have an appointed time of death?
This question can best be answered through Scripture. The Bible tells us that “all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). So, the answer is, yes, God knows exactly when we will die. God knows absolutely everything about us as it says in Psalm 139:1-6. So, does this mean our fate is sealed? Does this mean we have absolutely no control over how or when we will die? The answer is complicated.
The answer is “yes” from God’s perspective because God is omniscient—He knows everything and knows exactly when we will die, but God can add years to our life. Nothing we can do will change what God already knows will happen except when God speaks an exception to what would have happened, such as when God informed Hezekiah: “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you “…I will add fifteen years to your life (2 Kings 20:4-6)”. So, God may change our appointed time to die because we do have an impact on when, where, and how we die. Obviously, a person who commits suicide causes his own death. A person who commits suicide would have lived longer had he not committed suicide. Similarly, a person who dies because of a foolish decision (e.g., drug use) “expedites” his own death. A person who dies of lung cancer from smoking would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had not smoked. A person who dies of a heart attack due to a lifetime of extremely unhealthy eating and little exercise would not have died in the same way or at the same time if he had eaten healthier foods and exercised more. Therefore, our own decisions have a profound impact on the manner, timing, and place of our death.
How should this affect our lives now? We are to live each day for God. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men (Colossians 3:23).” James 4:13-15 teaches us about the brief nature of our life in this world: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” We need to make wise decisions about how we live our lives and how we take care of ourselves. Ultimately, we can trust God that He is sovereign and in control of all things.
In summary, the good we do in this life that honors God will be remembered forever in Heaven, as I remembered times of service unto God when I was in Heaven; those times I spent in prayer and worship toward God, discipleship, evangelizing, and simply showing acts of kindness and love toward others. I, like others who encountered God in Heaven, remembered our loved ones on earth, and we even prayed for our loved ones from Heaven, just as your loved ones may be praying for you now. Every thought was consumed with the ways of God causing joy. Indeed, joy is the ethos of Heaven.
But as only God knows, there will be a time to die. As it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1-2: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot…” Our time will come to leave this world. That time will probably be ushered forth through tragedy or sickness, but it will transition into an eternity without death, or sickness, or sorrow, or loss. On that day, you will meet Jesus. That day will be the most glorious day of your life, and the joy you encounter in meeting Jesus face to face will be everlasting!