Randy Alcorn is the bestselling author of Heaven (Tyndale) and founder/director of nonprofit Eternal Perspective Ministries. So who better to address seven questions from our readers on heaven. Here's what you asked—and how Randy answers.
1. When a believer dies, when does she go to heaven?
At death, the human spirit goes either to heaven or hell. Christ depicted Lazarus the beggar and the rich man conscious in heaven and hell immediately after they died (Luke 16:22-31). Jesus told the dying thief on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). The apostle Paul said to die is to be with Christ (Philippians 1:23), and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).
These passages clearly invalidate the notion of "soul sleep," or a long period of unconsciousness between life on earth and life in heaven. Every reference in the Book of Revelation to humans talking and worshiping in heaven prior to the resurrection of the dead demonstrates we're conscious after death. Our spirit's departure from the body ends our existence on earth. The physical part of us "sleeps" until we're resurrected, while the spiritual part immediately relocates to a conscious existence in heaven (Daniel 12:2-3).
2. Will I know my husband and children in heaven? Will they know me? And why can't we be married in heaven?
Christ's disciples recognized him countless times after his resurrection: when he cooked breakfast for them on the shore (John 21:1-14); when he revealed himself to a skeptical Thomas (John 20:24-29); and when he appeared to 500 people at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). And at Christ's transfiguration, his disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they couldn't have known what the two men looked like (Luke 9:29-33). If we can recognize those we've never seen, how much more will we recognize our family and friends?1