Can Our Loved Ones Look Down On Us From Heaven?

This question was sent to me from my good friend, Brian from the Great Lakes Backpacker Youtube channel. When Brian sent me a text message with this question, he actually referenced a blog-styled article from on the topic. I’m not familiar with this site, but it seems to be a devotional-styled webpage written from various authors. One of their stated goals is “to create a place where our audience can feel uplifted…” There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting people to feel uplifted.

So, let’s jump into whether or not our loved ones, who have gone on to be with the Lord, can see us from heaven. However, I also want to include whether or not our deceased loved ones can somehow make their presence known to us, since I think that’s probably something that’s on a lot of people’s minds as well. 

When Brian asked me this question, a few passages of scripture immediately came to mind. These passages were also cited in the blog article that he sent me, and so I’d like to deal with them here today. But, first let me say that the author of the article also discussed more than Biblical passages. They included individual experiences. Several different stories were shared in which people reported to the author events in which they felt like a deceased loved one had somehow presented in their lives or offered some type of assurance. This isn’t the first time that I’ve encountered that type of report. I’ve personally met quite a few people who’ve suggested to me that they believe that they’ve felt the occasional presence of a loved one who’s passed on. Or, they’ll say something about how their loved one is “looking down” on them from above. Sometimes this is said in a way in which I don’t get the sense that the person telling me this is really invested in that thought. In other words, it’s almost seemed more of a figure of speech than an actual report of an event. However, I’ve had a number of people suggest to me that they were very certain that they’ve had some type of an experience with a loved one after their decease.

Now, although I very much respect the experiences of people, I’m here to discuss whether or not we have any revealed truth in scripture that might lead us to believe that these events could indeed occur.

Let me begin by saying that there is no passage anywhere in the Bible in which the writer plainly tells us that we should expect some sort of communication from the deceased, or that it would be considered normative. As a matter of fact, in the book of Deuteronomy we read that Moses forbade the Hebrews from conjuring spells, or being a medium, a spiritualist, or one who calls up the dead (18:11). This warning would suggest to me that we shouldn’t be seeking these types of encounters.

Now, one of the first passages of scriptures that I think we need to discuss is the well-known witch of Endor passage, found in 1 Sam 28. In this chapter King Saul was trying to get an answer from the Lord regarding a battle that he was about to be involved in. When the Lord didn’t answer him, he decided to seek out a medium so that he could speak with the prophet Samuel, who had already died. So, although Israel wasn’t to have mediums, it’s obvious that there were some, because Saul’s servants were able to locate this particular one.

Saul disguised himself so the medium wouldn’t know who he was. The medium conducted a séance and appears to have conjured someone who the Bible identified as Samuel. Samuel doesn’t seem to be overly pleased by this disruption of his afterlife, because he asks Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” The word then that Samuel has for Saul is not a good one, as he predicts Saul’s demise.

You know what’s interesting about this account is that when the medium conjures Samuel, and he appears, she screams (28:12). It’s almost as if she wasn’t expecting him, like it had surprised her that this had actually worked.

I know that some Christians might not be comfortable with the possibility that the being conjured up was the actual Samuel. I think some prefer to see it as a demonic entity. However, I don’t think the passage itself gives us that luxury. Everything about the account seems to suggest that it’s the real Samuel who appears. This, then, opens us up the possibility that even though we are forbidden to try to make contact with the dead, like Saul did, it may not be impossible that dead can reach us.

Another passage that we should look at is the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus, as found in Luke 16 (19-31). Jesus tells us that there were two men who apparently died on the same occasion. One was a rich man who is unnamed, and the other is Lazarus, who had been a beggar at the rich man’s gates. Incidentally, this is not the same Lazarus whom Jesus would later raise.

Lazarus goes to the bosom of Abraham, most likely understood as Paradise, while the rich man goes to a place of torment. We read that the rich man is able to see Lazarus and begs that Lazarus might be sent with some water to ease his pain. Evidently, he still sees Lazarus as subservient. Now, Abraham responds that Lazarus is unable to cross the divide to reach the rich man. The rich man then asks that Lazarus return to earth and warn the rich man’s brothers of this place of torment, but this request is likewise denied.

I know that it’s tempting to assume from this passage things like the dead can see one another, and have conversations with one another, or that the dead may even return to the earth. The problem, however, is that I don’t think we can be 100% sure that Jesus intended to teach us those things. We’re not even sure that the story is true. Not only is it possible that it’s a parable, but some scholars insist that it was a parable used by the Rabbi’s in Jesus day, but Jesus had retold and reinterpreted it. If this is the case then I don’t feel comfortable drawing conclusions from it that are outside the boundaries of Jesus’ intentions. The passage ends with Father Abraham telling the rich man that if his brothers didn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, then they wouldn’t listen to someone raised from the dead. It’s obvious to me that Jesus is commenting on the lack of insight that the religious leaders of His day had possessed, and that the teaching was really about his own coming resurrection. Therefore, I’m a little concerned about pressing that story for details, which it may not intend to convey.

Another passage to take a look at, and one mentioned in the article Brian sent to me, is in Matthew 17, which is the Transfiguration account. In this passage three of Jesus disciple’s witnessed Jesus being joined by Moses and Elijah, who had long been dead. The disciples observed Moses and Elijah having a conversation with Jesus, and in Luke’s gospel we actually read that the subject of the conversation was Jesus own upcoming death (Luke 9:31).  Once again, I think this story underscores the point that there’s nothing necessarily outside the nature of God for a deceased person to have contact with a person yet alive. HOWEVER, I think that we should caution ourselves to consider that these may be remote events, and not something that we can expect to be normative. And, in the two cases we looked at the deceased person’s presence and identity were verified by being seen by more than one person. In other words, there were witnesses present and these witnesses were able to identify the presence of the person because they saw them. This is a very far cry from most of our modern stories, which seem to involve someone reporting that they had felt a hand on their shoulder, or felt a presence in the room, or heard the wind chimes sound with no wind blowing. Though those may be heartwarming accounts, they leave us with no objective assurance that the deceased person was in fact involved. But, I know that not all Christians seek objective truth. Many are satisfied by what simply feels true to them.

Now, up to this point we’ve only looked at whether or not a deceased person can have contact with a person yet alive. We haven’t looked at the original question: can a deceased person observe those of us who are alive?

The only passage that I have ever heard employed to make this point is Hebrews 12:1, which begins, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…”

Because the writer in the same verse makes a reference to a race being run, this has caused some Christians to believe that this great cloud of witnesses is a group of spectators. People who are watching us. I suppose that that is possible, however, there’s also another way of seeing it that I feel is also reasonable.

It could be that the word witness is a reference to someone who is called to give testimony, as in a courtroom. To bolster that point, in the preceding chapter, we have a list of people who had placed their faith in God, and in three verses we are told that they had a good testimony. Therefore, it seems more likely to me that the writer of Hebrews is talking about being surrounded by a great cloud of people who had had good testimonies. They were called upon to give testimony as witnesses, not called upon to watch us.

With all of that being said, I cannot rule out that those who have died cannot see us. Maybe they can. However, I don’t think it can be demonstrated from Scripture that we can assume that we are being watched by them. In the end it really doesn’t matter to me. I am much more concerned about Jesus watching me than my late great-great grandmother.

I know that my answers don’t always seem to answer the questions. But, sometimes the answer has to be “I’m not sure.” And I’m absolutely okay with that.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, follower-of-Jesus blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmakerPodcast host, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us , and has worked as an investigator for over 35 years.






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