Will We Remember Our Lives On Earth?


John Hoole – February 1, 2015




For several weeks, we have been investigating what the Bible says about Heaven.  Last week we looked at the continuity of our lives from earth to Heaven.  One think we noted is you are going to be the same person.  God calls people by name in Heaven, so I will still be John Hoole.


One thing we have come to understand in some of the questions we have already addressed, is that they require us to remember, at least in part, our lives when we were on earth.  Today, I would like to expand this thought to what we might remember in heaven about our lives on earth.  Will we be allowed to remember only parts of our lives here?  Or will we remember all the bad as well as the good in our mortal lives.




What, if anything, does Scripture say about the perpetuation of memory in heaven?  Before we can continue to inquire what the Bible says about retaining our memory of earth in heaven, we need to tackle a passage that many take to indicate there is no such memory in heaven.


One verse is often cited as proof that we will not be able to remember our lives on earth.


Isaiah 65:17  (NKJV) says:


17     For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.


First of all, a verse like this needs to be weighed against the rest of the Bible.  To help us do that, let me point you to a passage and ask you a question.


In Revelation 21, we find descriptions and details of the New Jerusalem.


In Verse 12, we are told there are twelve gates to the city, and on each gate will be inscribed the name of the 12 tribes of Israel.


In Verse 14, we are told there are 12 foundations for the wall around the city and on each foundation is inscribed each of the 12 apostles.




This is obviously a memorial.  But the whole point of a memorial is to cause us to remember.  God wants us to remember the twelve tribes and the apostles, for who they are and what they did on earth.  This is but one of many, many example where the Bible encourages or invites us to remember what happened on earth.


So, the key to understanding what Isaiah 65:17 says, is to compare it to other Scriptures.  And the key to understanding this verse, as is the case in understanding any verse, is to look at its immediate context.


The 17th verse flows directly from the 16th, which reads:


Isaiah 65:16-17 (NIV)


16     Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth; he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.

17     For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.


These verses tell us that it is God who is the primary party doing the “forgetting.”  It is not talking about our memory being wiped clean.  We should not, however, think this suggests that God has a poor memory.  God knows everything.


Rather, it is like God saying, “I will remember their sins no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:34).  The Bible often speaks of God’s forgiveness by saying He forgets our sins.  It means He will choose not to call to mind or to hold against us our past sins.


We do somewhat the same thing at times.  If someone apologizes to me and I say about something they did, I just say  “Forget it!”……or “I won’t give it a thought!”  What I mean is not that the data will be erased from my brain but rather, I won’t dwell on it or hold it against them.  So, Isaiah 65:17 does not indicate that we will be unable to remember our lives on earth, but that God will not bring it to his mind.


As we have seen, in eternity, we will remember at least parts of our lives while on earth.  But, I think it is safe to say, past sins and sufferings won’t plague us, nor interfere with God’s acceptance of us.


What, if anything, does the Scripture say about the perpetuation of memory in heaven?  Will heaven be a place where we wax nostalgic?  Will our memories be more complete in heaven, or restored to a sharpness that we failed to utilize on earth?


Will we have all earthly memories erased or only the bad ones removed?  Will I forget coming to Christ?  Will I forget marrying my wife?  Will I forget how God used trials in my life to make me more Christ-like?  Will I forget the way he provided for us every day.  Will I forget the strength He provided during difficult times?  Will I forget the people God sent to make me laugh and cry?  I see absolutely no biblical reason why I would not remember these things.  I see every reason why I would.


We have already noted, in this and past lessons, a couple of ways the Bible indicates we will retain our memory, at least in part.


1.  The Bible promises we will recognize and know our loved ones in heaven.  That can only occur if we are able to remember things about them while on earth.


2.  The names of the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel are inscribed on the 12 foundations and 12 gates respectively.  We noted that this is to memorialize these groups, but to do so requires us to remember them.


There are at least seven more ways in which the Bible illustrates that we will, indeed, remember our lives when we lived on earth.


1.     Praising and worshiping God in heaven


Revelation 5:12-13  (NIV)


12     In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

13     Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power,  for ever and ever!"




We will do it primarily for two reasons: It is the same reason we praise and worship God today. 

But, number 2 requires us to remember what He has done.


The Christian takes with him/her the greatest experience of his life – their encounter with God.  What Christ has done for them and in them will never be forgotten.  It will not just be a memory, but an ongoing reality.  A Christian does not outgrow the moment when the Lord gave their life new direction, for the alteration and changes He made in my life is an eternal wonder.


In the life of the resurrected saint, it appears our memories of God’s grace on earth will continue and sharpen.  And it will be the impetus behind our praising and worshiping God in heaven.


Some of the things we will be praising God for in heaven will be the help God gave us during very difficult experiences.  But, to be able to praise God for those moments requires us to remember those difficult times.  However, I don’t believe we will relive those moments when we do remember them.


A woman once plagued by nightmares of an evil man who abused her will have the capacity not to be haunted by what he did to her.  She will not relive the horror but she will remember the faithfulness of God and perhaps see for the first time the actions of God and the angels done on her behalf.  She will also understand something we presently cannot, why He allowed it to happen.


Joseph saw in his lifetime why God allowed his brothers to sell him into slavery.  This had to be terribly frightening to a young boy.  But later in his life, he understood the purposes of God which were at work in his life.


In Genesis 50:20 (NKJV), Joseph said:


20     But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.


I am sure all of us have questions to ask God as to why we had to go through very difficult times.  Like Joseph, some of us will recognize God’s purpose while still living here.  Others we will not understand until we arrive in Glory.


Once we understand God’s purposes, we will see how faithful He really was, and we will praise and worship Him because of it.  Recalling our earthly troubles will not depress us nor cause us to relive the events, but, rather, it will deepen our love for God and increase our joy.


This worship and praise of God’s faithfulness would be lost if our former sorrows and sinful state were literally forgotten.  But we will remember His sacrifice and our being sinners in need of a Savior, and will praise Him forever because of that memory.


2.     Rewards received in Heaven


The issue of rewards is found 106 times in 101 different verses in the Bible.  It was Jesus who used the phrase, “great is your reward in heaven.”




The whole idea of rewards requires memories to remain intact.  Rewards are given to people for things they did.  In this case, for things they did while alive on earth.


Revelation 14:13 NKJV


13     Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, "Write: 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.'" "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them."


                  Our deeds follow us to heaven.


Our specific acts of faithfulness on earth will survive the fire of judgment and be brought into heaven with us.  We are told that in Heaven the wedding dress worn by the bride of Christ “stands for the righteous acts of the saints” done on earth (Revelation 19:7-8).  The very clothes we wear in heaven will testify to what we did on earth.


Revelation 22:5  (NIV)


5       There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.


Each saint will be assigned different areas of rulership.




They will be based on what we did on earth.  So, again, what we did on earth is brought to mind.  That wouldn’t happen unless we remembered what we did while alive on earth.


Matthew 25:23 NKJV


23     His lord said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.' 


                   This verse tells us that the span of our reign will be based on what we did while still on earth.


The positions of authority and the treasures awarded in heaven to the faithful will perpetually remind heaven’s inhabitants – including us – of the lives we lived on earth.  Again, we have a testimony from the Word of God that memory on earth will be taken with us to heaven.


3.     Judgment requires memory


We are told in the Scripture that after we die, we will give an account of our lives on earth (Matt 12:36).  From that thought, it is obvious we must remember the things we have done on earth.  How else would we be able to give an account of them?  In fact, considering the fact that in heaven we will have improved minds and clearer thinking, our memories of our earthly past should be more acute not less We won’t remember less of earth, but more.


Again, each of us will give an account of our lives to God.  That is true whether we are saved or unsaved.


As was stated in earlier lessons, neither the Judgment Seat of Christ (Bema) for the saved nor the Great While Throne Judgment for the sinner, are judgments to determine whether one is saved or lost.  Both are a judgment of the things we did while alive on earth.  They are each a judgment of works.


For the saved, 2 Corinthians 5:10  (NKJV) says:


10     For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.


                   The works or deeds we did while alive in this body will be judged.


Again, this judgment is not to determine whether the person is save or lost.  Take note of the Last phrase – “Whether good or bad.”  The word “bad” there does not mean “evil” or “sinful.”  The Greek word, Phaulos, is translated “bad” here.  It is not the Greek word, Kakos,  which is the word for “evil.”


According to Revelation 20:13  (NKJV), at the Great White Throne, the sinners, are judged, each one according to his works.


The whole idea of rewards or punishment requires us to remember our lives on earth.  How can you reward or punish a soul if they haven’t the slightest idea of what they are being rewarded or punished for.


I am not talking about some selected memory, but rather a detailed memory of our lives.


Matthew 12:36 NKJV


36     But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 


                   This shows that our memory will be quite detailed.


If we have no memory of our lives here, how can we give an account of our lives?  And how or why would God reward or punish someone who has no memory of his life on earth, and who has no idea what he is being rewarded or punished for?


4.     Martyrs in heaven remember their lives on earth


Revelation 6:9-11 NKJV


9       When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

10     And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

11     Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.


The martyrs in heaven mention in this passage clearly remember what happened on earth, including the great suffering they underwent.  They also remembered those who murdered them, and are aware that God has not yet avenged their death.  Verse 11 also tells us that Christ keeps the martyrs informed of the state of affairs on earth.  He tells them of events still future –  “others will be killed like they were.”


5.     The rich man and Lazarus


Luke 16:19-31 is the story of the Rich man and Lazarus, both of whom die.  A study of these verses will show the rich man had all his faculties.  He could feel, see, hear and remember.


In Verse 24, he remembered Lazarus, the man who sat begging at the gate to his home.


In verse 25, Abraham tells the rich man,…..


“Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things and likewise Lazarus evil things......”


In verse 27-28, the rich man remembers that he has 5 brothers.  So, again, memory of our earthly lives follow us after death.


6.     A book of remembrance


God makes a record in heaven of everything done by people on earth.  This is true from both the godly and the ungodly.  And we know these records outlast a person’s life on earth.  For the believer, this record lasts at least to the judgment seat of Christ.  For the unbeliever, they last at least up to the Great White Throne judgment.  Whether it lasts beyond these points we don’t know but I think it can be inferred that the record of the godly will last forever.


In Malachi 3:16  (NKJV), we read:


16     Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.


Typically, in the world of biblical times, such documents were recorded by the king’s scribes and periodically read in his presence to ensure that worthy actions done by his subjects would be remembered and properly rewarded.


Esther 6:1-11  (NKJV), shows this to be the fact.


         Let me read the first 3 verses.


1       That night the king could not sleep. So one was commanded to bring the book of the records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.

2       And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, the doorkeepers who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.

3       Then the king said, "What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?" And the king's servants who attended him said, "Nothing has been done for him."


The scroll in heaven mentioned in Malachi may be recorded by angels acting as God’s scribes.  We are not told who the scribes are.  Since God thought it necessary to tell us about its existence, it is hard to envision the God of history later destroying it or everyone in heaven ignoring it in the ages to come.


It seems more likely that these records of the faithful works of God’s people on earth will be periodically read – perhaps viewed as they actually happened.  Undoubtedly, they will be rejoiced over by God, his angels, and ourselves.


Having established that God keeps very meticulous records of his people, there is a side issue that may infer another reason God keeps such records.  Even though we will have more acute minds in heaven, we still will not know everything.  And even though our memory will be much clearer than it is today, it will not be infallible.




Matthew 25:34-38 NKJV


34     Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 

35     for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 

36     I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' 

37     "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? (They did not have an accurate memory)

38     When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 


Could it be that God keeps a record because He knows that ours might be incomplete?


7.     The Word of God


There is at least one more area that will show we will keep our memory into eternity.


Matthew 24:35  (NIV)


35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.


The written Word of God will last forever.  So, we certainly will have all the memories of what is recorded in the Bible.  And, by the way, it includes both godly and ungodly acts.




So, it appears we will have full and complete memory on the other side of death’s door.  We will know and recognize all those that we knew in our earthly life.  When these bodies of ours are resurrected, we are going to have wonderful new and improved bodies, and I just cannot see the Lord leaving out our memory.


Without our memory, we wouldn’t even know Jesus Christ.  We wouldn’t know that He paid the supreme sacrifice for our sins.  We wouldn’t even remember that we had been sinners, and would have the joy of praising Him for what He did to pick us up.  How would we ever know if the promises God gave in his Word are true, if we could not remember them?


I do, however, believe that we will never be troubled by memories of our lives on earth.  And in heaven, we will be surrounded the beauty of heaven and the presence of God, that will captivate our attentions, and our minds simply will not migrate to the sad times on earth.  We may wax nostalgic about the faithfulness of God, but we will not long for the “good old day.” because we will be living the best of days forever and ever.