Can Our Lost Loved Ones See Us From Heaven?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Many have asked the question, can our loved ones in heaven see us? What do the Scriptures say?

The Bosom of Abraham

The Jews sometimes thought of heaven as Abraham’s bosom, a place of comfort in Sheol. It is sometimes referred to as Paradise, so the Jews did believe in the afterlife, although certain sects of the Jewish leadership didn’t. Take for example the Sadducees. They didn’t believe in angels, miracles, or the afterlife, and so they were “sad, you see.” That phrase just helps me remember who did and who didn’t believe in life after death. We know the Pharisees did, and many of the other Jews as well. The psalms frequently referred to the afterlife, and even Job knew that after death, he would be raised again and he would see his Redeemer in the flesh (Job 19:25). In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, we read that the rich man could not cross over to Abraham’s side, and neither could he go back and warn his family, because “a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:26). The rich man had no access to Abraham’s bosom (Paradise) or to his family, so at least those who die in disbelief are permanently cut off from their family.

After Death

As I wrote, Paradise is sometimes referred to as the Jewish heaven or bosom of Abraham. Abraham’s bosom promised peace and plenty. On the very day of Jesus’ crucifixion, one of the thieves on the cross cried out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42), and Jesus’ immediate response was, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This means that the moment the thief on the cross died, he would be with Jesus in Paradise! This makes me wonder if the thief ever met Lazarus, who would also be in Abraham’s bosom? In the Book of Samuel, we read about King David and his wife Bathsheba losing their baby. David must have known that the child could not come back to him, even with prayer, because the child was dead, but David knew that he would see the child again…not here on earth, but in kingdom. David said, “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me” (2 Sam 12:23). That child was not really gone, but only absent from his body, and by now, David has been reunited with his child, so to absent from this body of ours, means we’ll be present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8).

Do Christians Go To Heaven At The Moment of Death

Today you will be with me in paradise

A Cloud of Witnesses

One of the main reasons people believe our lost loved ones can see us from heaven is one verse in the Book of Hebrews (12:1). It appears that the Book of Hebrews was written exclusively to Jewish Christians, so the author is closely focused on the Jewish convert. The author has just been going through the so-called, “Hall of Faith” that lists some of the heroes and heroines of the faith (Heb 11), and that’s why Hebrews 12 begins with the word “Therefore.” The “therefore” is there for good reason. It is speaking about those Old Testament saints who kept the faith and endured the suffering, and lived in obedience (not perfectly of course). This is why the author of Hebrews (Paul?) starts out the chapter with “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1), so who are these witnesses? We know they are all the Old Testament saints, but do they include our lost loved ones? Very possibly because those who die in the faith are present with the Lord, so they have joined that “cloud of witnesses,” but it doesn’t say they are witnessing what we are doing here on earth. There is not one Bible verse that indicates we can see our family from heaven or from hell or they can see us here on earth. The author isn’t saying that we’re being watched by all the departed saints, but that these saints are witnesses for us to keep running the race, laying aside the sins we get tangled up in, and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” just like they did.

Our Focus

The author of Hebrews isn’t saying the witnesses are watching us. That’s not his point. And besides, the Bible never says that. What the author is saying is that since we’re surrounded by so many godly examples or witnesses, we should follow their example, but the point is we should be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2). If anything, the witnesses are to help us “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (Heb 12:1), but make sure and focus on Christ (Heb 12:1). We do have an audience, but it’s not Moses, or David, or your late Aunt Martha; it is God alone Who sees from heaven. In fact, He can even see into the human heart (1 Sam 16:7). I hate to think my later mother, a beloved saint, is watching me from heaven, cringing every time I sin. I believe God is watching, and the day is coming when I too will join that cloud of witnesses, but I’ll be too busy worshiping Jesus and serving Him to notice anything on earth, and besides, the Bible gives me no evidence that I’ll be able to see down from heaven and watch all my loved ones from there.

Conclusion

Since there is no evidence that our lost loved ones can see us after they die in the faith, it is important to note that those family and friends we lost who died without Christ cannot see us either. I know that is heartbreaking, but it should compel us to share Christ more often with those still alive. The rich man wanted to see his family again to warn them, but it was not possible he could leave his place or go back to his family. It was a one-way trip, and there is no leaving that place of torment, and others will end in this place too if they are not brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. That is totally unnecessary because today is the day of salvation, meaning there is still time to trust in Christ, but waiting too long and refusing to hear His voice will only serve to harden your heart (2 Cor 6:2; Heb 3:15), and if you wait too long, today will be gone and judgment may come tomorrow or after death (Heb 9:27). I pray that doesn’t happen.

Here is some related reading for you: Will we Recognize Friends and Family in Heaven?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Pomelear June 19, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Above you wrote: “This makes me wonder if the thief ever met Lazarus, who would also be in Abraham’s bosom?”

And I’ll say “No.” This Lazarus is a fictional character in a parable Jesus told. Jesus uses the story to reveal a lot of truth and theology, but the people are fictional.

Reply

Jack Wellman June 19, 2018 at 6:02 pm

Hello Mr. Pomelear. The truth is, we just don’t know, but this is not a parable, according to scholars because it actually uses a person’s name…Lazarus, but today the thief on the cross and Lazarus have met, for sure by now. Thank you for your comment sir.

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