Will we be able to retain our consciousness and memory in heaven? If not, then we will lose everything within our human experience in this life that shaped and molded us into the unique person that we have become and that came to know Christ. If we do, then how will we be able to function the same in heaven considering that our minds are always adapting and changing. Will we cease to change or improve for all of Eternity and never grow weary? I would like to know your thoughts on this. Thank you.
I love your question and the fact that we share the same Spanish surname — my mother is also López.
I agree with you that losing our memory and our consciousness would mean to lose who we are and become someone else entirely. If we lost our memory, we would forget why we are in heaven in the first place, we would look at Jesus’ scars and wonder where they came from, or what on earth a Bible is.
From the beginning to the end of the Bible we see a God who restores and redeems, not a God who wipes out everything and starts brand new.
In fact, in Revelation 21:1, when John talks about the new creation “new heaven and new earth” the word for “new” is kainos ,not neos. Even though they are interchangeable synonyms in some instances, neos tends to be used in the sense of “brand new,” while kainos is the word you would choose for a new version of Microsoft Office or a new BMW X6, i.e., an updated version, based on the previous one.
The example par excellence is in the resurrected body of Jesus, the firstfruit of the resurrection of all our bodies, according to 1 Cor 15. Jesus’ resurrected body enjoys a new physicality, but it is pretty much based on the previous body. The incarnate Jesus is the same person as the resurrected Jesus. He is still a Galilean man, speaking Aramaic. The disciples would not recognise Him in the beginning because “their eyes had been closed” (Luke 24:16, 31) or did not expect Him to be alive. Once these barriers where gone, people could recognise Him even from a distance, as John and Peter did from the boat (John 21:1-14).
Revelation talks about every nation and every culture worshipping Jesus in eternity. That means that we will retain our culture, our language, along with their nuances, humour, intricacies. For example, I will be Spanish for eternity, even though that is not my main identity. This speaks very highly of how God wants to redeem our cultures and cultural identities. But this would be impossible if we lose our memory and consciousness.
I am of the opinion that our memories will be more active and empowered than ever because we will be more human than ever, fully new Adams, not less than we are now.
One might ask, “But will we not be sad by the mere memory of our sins, and sufferings? Isn´t that a problem since the Rev 21:4 says, ‘There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’?”
Maybe our sins will be erased from our memories; after all, isn’t that what God says about His own memory? The Lord says, “I will remember your sins no more." Does it mean that He has erased that memory from His consciousness forever? That He cannot retrieve the facts and circumstances around our sinful actions? That would pose a serious difficulty for a God who is all-knowing. The way I understand it is that God chooses not to bring back those memories, not to dwell on them, not to pay attention to them because they have been dealt with in a satisfactory way through the cross. They are a done deal.
In the same way, I believe we will be able to remember our sins even for eternity, but with a redeemed mind. We will choose not to bring up those memories or let them condition our present reality, or shape our identity, as we often do now.
About growing, maturing and changing our mind, I think that will be a crucial part of our eternal experience. I do not think that all of us will suddenly speak all languages (although it could be argued that speaking in tongues and the gift of interpretation might be given to all in full) or be expert painters or amazing worship singers. I believe we will have all eternity to learn through loving relationships, a renewed Christlike mind, and in the full power of the Holy Spirit.
As a human the Lord Jesus grew in maturity and wisdom according to the gospels. I do not believe that poses ontological problems for the nature of God, but it does reflect on the fact that we are going to be eternally growing, mainly because we are not God; i.e., there will never be a time when we will say, “I have arrived. Now there is nothing else for me to learn.” We have been made to know the triune God and enjoy Him forever. He is so amazing that we will never grow tired of getting to know Him, adoring Him, and having fun with Him and with one another as we glorify Him forever. Author and pastor Tim Keller talks about the “dance” of the triune God into which we are invited. A dance is not a mechanical impersonal relationship but a ongoing creative expression of the self.
In part, that is the beauty of relationships. Where there is true love, there is genuine interest and discovery of one another. In a sense, I believe this is even true of the Trinity, one God but three persons joined in perfect loving relationship. Part of the eternal fun for God is to relate to one another, in Himself, which is what makes Him so incredibly unique compared to any other concept of divinity in any other religion.
What is really exciting, Justin, is that we are going to enjoy eternity not with a lesser but a greater awareness than now of who we really are, becoming who we were always meant to be, in full consciousness of the price God paid in order for us to be saved and in full reality enjoying Truth at its best and, as the apostle Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12,“For now we see only a 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.”
Your response is very insightful and I appreciate you taking the time to answer my question. It has definitely given me something to think about. I wonder if there will be new ways to learn something, considering now that sometimes we learn through trial and error or by practice until it is “perfected”. Or will we have perfect knowledge so that it would eliminate that feeling of inadequacy when we don’t get it right as we do here in this life. A lot of the lessons we’ve learned have been through those failures and trials and I wonder if that would continue to happen in that way. Thank you for your time and your insight. This is actually my first conversation since joining RZIM Connect
I am very glad you got to ask this thoughtful question here at RZIM Connect, Justin. In case you want to read a bit more on this, I found a couple of articles that you might find interesting: https://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/6/heaven-chapter-32-what-will-we-know-and-learn/
and this one: