Although we don’t know the answer to this question for sure, the most likely answer is “yes”—we will recognize and remember our loved ones in heaven. All of God’s people will know each other in heaven. This includes the pastor(s) who preached to you throughout your whole life, your parents, your spouse, your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, your church family, your friends, and even acquaintances. All of those who are joined and knit together by faith in the risen Christ will be there with you. And you’ll remember them.
Why do I think we will recognize our loved ones in heaven? Well, there are several good reasons to believe that this will be true:
First, heaven will be the perfection of happiness—it will be full of endless joy and peace. Since heaven will be such a blissful place where we will experience sweet communion with God, we will also have perfect communion with all of the saints. We should expect to have friendship and communion with our brothers and sisters, as we have even greater friendship and communion with God.
Second, in the New Testament, we have several examples of saints recognizing those who are now present with the Lord. Peter and James knew who Moses and Elijah were, even though they were transfigured (Matt. 17:1–13). If this is true, how much more should we be able to recognize those we know now in the future life?
Third, in 1 Thessalonians the apostle Paul calls those whom he has spiritually shepherded his “glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:19–20) at our Lord’s coming. How could Paul describe these people in this way unless he would know who they were on the last day, and they know him? It seems that pastors will know their sheep, and the sheep their pastors, in the life to come.
For these reasons it seems likely that we will recognize and remember our loved ones in heaven. They will participate with us in the new heavens and new earth. I am greatly indebted to the Swiss-Italian theologian, Francis Turretin for my insights in this post. I highly recommend his entire three-volume set, Institutes of Elenctic Theology. (No, that’s not electric theology, although that would be shocking.)