Dear Pastor Charles: Please answer for me what the Bible says about memory after death. Will we be able to retain the memories of our present earthly state? I hope this question isn’t too difficult for you. Thanks. Wondering.
I, for one, hope that my memory improves after death. On the other hand, there are many things that I would not care to remember at all.
The Bible teaches that Christians will one day stand before Christ and be judged according to the deeds done in the flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” From this verse, it appears that God is keeping a record of our actions in this life.
Fairness dictates that if God is going to judge us according to our deeds, then we will be able to recall them. So that you do not misunderstand what I am saying, I am talking about born again Christians here. A Child of God will stand before Christ to give an account of his or her life and will be rewarded according to his or her works. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
To be fair about it, there is also a time of judgment waiting for those who do not receive Jesus Christ as their Savior in this life. Revelation 20:11-15, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” So you see, our memories do live on in this sense.
In fact, it appears from the writings of the Apostle Paul that death is only a veil which is transparent to those on the other side. 1 Corinthians 13:12, “Now we see but a poor 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.” 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The Bible teaches that death is merely the shedding of the garment of mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:1, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”
As far as I can tell, the Bible does not teach that we will be able to see what is going on down here after we are gone. However, it does teach that we will retain our memories of what happened in the flesh. Our Lord gave a good example of this in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:22-31, “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”
I hope that I have answered your question to your satisfaction. My prayer for you is that you will one day see Jesus face to face for an eternity in heaven with Him. May you be richly blessed by the Lord of Glory.