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 Isaiah 65:17 as saying that we will have no memory of our earthly lives in heaven. However, one verse earlier in Isaiah 65:16, the Bible says, “For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.” It is likely only our “past troubles” will be forgotten, not all of our memories. Our memories will eventually be cleansed, redeemed, healed, and restored, not erased. There is no reason why we could not possess many memories from our earthly lives. The memories that will be cleansed are the ones that involve sin, pain, and sadness. Revelation 21:4declares, “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 could be suggesting the wondrous quality of our new environment. The new earth will be so spectacular, so mind-blowing, that everyone will quite forget the drudgery and sin of the current earth. A child who is scared of the shadows in his room at night completely forgets his nocturnal fear the next day on the playground. It’s not that the memories have been wiped out, only that, in the sunshine, they don’t come to mind.
Also, it’s important to make a distinction between the eternal state and the current heaven. When a believer dies, he or she goes to heaven, but that is not our final destination. The Bible speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth” as our eternal, permanent home. Both passages quoted above (Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1) refer to the eternal state, not the current heaven. The promise of wiping away every tear does not come until after the tribulation, after the final judgment, and after the re-creation of the universe.
In his apocalyptic vision, John sees sorrow in heaven: “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?’” (Revelation 6:9–10). John is obviously in heaven (Revelation 4:1–2), and he sees and hears those who obviously remember the injustice done to them. Their loud calls for vengeance indicate that, in the current heaven, we will remember our lives on earth, including the bad things. The current heaven of Revelation 6 is temporary, though, giving way to the eternal state in Revelation 21.
The story of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19–31) is further proof that the dead remember their earthly lives. The rich man in hell 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 sinful comfort (verse 25). The memories of the rich man in hell become part of his misery. The story does not mention whether or not Lazarus has memories, but Abraham has definite knowledge of goings-on on earth (verse 25). It’s not until we reach the eternal state that the righteous will leave all sorrow behind.
Prophet Nathan Emol