Have you ever wondered if those already in heaven can see us here on earth? Can you see them standing at some sort of heavenly railing looking across the heavens down at us? Or do you think that they are blind to the daily activities here on earth?
Well, let’s lay a few misconceptions to rest fairly quickly that relate to this, albeit they don’t answer this question directly. First of all, we have to realize that the Bible does not speak of anyone who has entered heaven as having the ability to leave heaven (or hell) to come back to earth for any reason. So the concept that your grandmother or nana is standing over you while you sleep is simply not true. People who go before us do not come back as helpers or comforters. We have been given THE comforter, in the person of the Holy Spirit — there is no need of any other. And the scriptures do not support any idea that deceased people can come back for any reason.
Nor do people who die become angels. Angels are a distinct creation of God apart from mankind. Men do not become angels. Scripture tells us that we were created lower than the angels and that we will, at the end of the ages, be raised above the angels with Christ Jesus and that we will even judge the angels.
But what about people who stand at a railing or a window and look down on the earth and see us in our day to day activities? Is this even a possibility within scripture?
Many commentators and Christian writers point to a verse in Hebrews that could possibly lead a belief that those in heaven are surrounding us, rooting us on in our race here on earth.
(all scripture references are from the NET Bible)
“We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Who makes up this “cloud of witnesses?” Well let’s back up a couple verses into chapter 11.
So the ending half of Hebrews 11 is about saints who faced great persecution and did not see their promises here on earth. God, it tells us, provided something better for us, the New Testament saints. We are made perfect in Christ Jesus. And through the plan made for us, the Old Testament saints will be made perfect together with us.
Thus a “great cloud of witnesses” are surrounding us, watching us “get rid of every weight and the sin that clings…” — in other words, as it says in Philippians 2:12, “continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence.”
Now, there are those who will point to the end of chapter 11 and argue that this does not mean that the saints of old are watching us run our race, but rather that they are a testimony to our race, to our faith, and that through this race we can overcome just as they did through their suffering.
The imagery of the “race set out for us” leads me to think that being “surrounded by…witnesses” is leading more to a picture that we are being cheered on — and watched for the outcome.
Another argument against the saints seeing us from above is the truth that in heaven there is no sadness or pain, no tears and crying (except perhaps tears of joy!). This is easily overcome if we realize that when we go to heaven we are transformed and made new. I think that the saints would see us as God sees us: without spot or blemish, through the filter of Jesus’ blood, washed as white as snow. For those on earth who are seen but not saved, the perfect truth that it is our free will choice that leads us to our eternal destination. If this leads one to sadness then when we see the Great White Throne judgement, we will be mightily sad since fewer will be saved then those who will be lost.
But that is not defined in scripture as a sad moment, rather it is a Truth moment — perfect justice executed. A longer argument could be made, but I’ll leave this one here.
Now, I mentioned already that our deceased relatives do not become angels, and they do not have the ability to move between heaven and earth and come alongside of us. Along with this thought it is important that we do not fall into a thought process where (whether or not they can see us) we begin to pray to or attempt communication with the deceased saints. We are not to pray to any man, regardless of their stature here on earth or simply because they are a relative.
For instance, I think that the mother of Jesus, Mary, holds a very special place in the church. But she is not to be prayed to according to scripture. Jesus is the ONLY mediator between man and God (and there is NO mediator between us and Jesus). Jesus shed His blood for us and it is His work on the cross that is our mediation. Mary did not make such a sacrifice, she was not placed in a position to help us nor to save us. We are to pray one for another, but we are to pray to God.
1 Timothy 2:3-6
Our prayers are welcomed before God our Savior — Jesus! There is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity: Christ Jesus!! Not Mary, not the saints, not your relatives. This is important enough to be pointed out in scripture, to be held out as important.
Jesus went through everything that each of us has gone through. No man or woman can say they have done that. Jesus went through it all without sin. No man or woman can come close to saying that. Jesus can sympathize with our weakness, with our temptations. He is offering grace and mercy to us: something that no man or woman could ever do.
And Jesus does not need help. He does not get tired. He does not get too busy. He is there for each and every one of us. He is the intermediary between us and God. Nobody else fills that role.
An important point to make through all of this is an understanding that Jesus is the intermediary for us. Who is “us?” It has been taken for granted through this article that the reader is a Christian. That is the “us”: born again Christians, those who have accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. There is no other way to be saved.
Acts 4:11-12 (emphasis in the original)
As I mentioned earlier, there will be a Great White Throne Judgement. The unsaved will not be in heaven. They will be lost and cast into the lake of fire.
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the lake of fire.
Thus, all of us need to have our names written in the Lamb’s book of life so that we may be accepted in heaven, with Jesus, and with all our saved relatives, friends and family. And to those who do not know Jesus, it is our responsibility to tell them about Jesus.
I want to stress that the verses quoted at the start of this article, Hebrews 12:1-2, do not definitively say the saints can see us. Perhaps those in heaven can see us, and they are cheering us along in our race to hear the message in John 3:16 and respond and be saved. Listen close, you might just hear the cheers. They are telling you to turn to Jesus and Jesus only, repent and accept the sacrifice that He made for you, so that you may have eternal life.