It is common to hear believers talk about the death of Christians in positive ways. And this is natural since Christians do believe in life after death, and a good life after death does await those who trust in Christ. So we are likely to say about someone who has been suffering physically upon their death that they are now in a better place, free from their misery. Or we say they are better off because they are with the Lord. We will even console ourselves, at least, that the passing of a widow or widower, who had a believing spouse, is in a better place because he or she has been reunited with a wife or husband. I should know, Iâ€™ve been using these lines with myself of late having lost both parents (both believers) within the space of a month.
But I have wondered how exactly a soul, that no longer has a body, will recognize another soul. I also sometimes wonder how resurrected bodies will recognize other resurrected bodies. At what vintage do our bodies come back? If an infant dies, is he glorified as an infant? Will that infant grow? If the body of an 80-year old dies, does he come back as a 35-year old? And if you only knew someone when they were 70 plus, and they come back to bodily existence as a young adult, will you actually recognize them in their gloried state? So how much trickier the recognition of other souls, invisible as they are, by other souls, who are also invisible. The mind reels.
In hopes of keeping it real, here is what the Confession of Faith says about â€œThe State of Men After Deathâ€ (it means you too, ladies):
The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. (32.1)
That would seem to indicate that departed souls will â€œseeâ€ and â€œrecognizeâ€ God. But it does raise questions about whether they will â€œseeâ€ the face of Jesus. Beholding is not necessarily seeing. And seeing, as we know it, is impossible without eyes.
Maybe union with Christ is the solution. I know that justification by faith alone wonâ€™t resolve this one. My pet doctrine has its limits.