Do people in Heaven see what’s happening on Earth?


John Hoole – March 15, 2015




When I was in South Africa a few years ago, helping on a MAPS team, the World Series of Cricket was being held at Cape Town.  (M.A.P.S. stands for Mobilization Abroad and Placement Service.  It allows people with different skills, like construction, to spend a short time overseas, helping missionaries where they live.)


For many of the countries of the world, cricket is a really big deal.  There were teams from Brazil, Australia, England, and other countries.  There were either 8 or 16 teams that had made it to the world series.  While we were there, if you wanted to watch Cricket matches on the television, it was being broadcasted 24-hours a day, or so it seemed..  None of us on the MAPS team knew much about Cricket, so, it took some time for us to even understand the rules.


F. W. Borham tells the story of the English cricket player who lost his sight in his old age.  This was a cause for great grief, because he could not watch his own boy play the game in which the father had excelled.  His son had become the crack bat on his school team, but the father got small satisfaction from it.


One day he suddenly died.  The following Saturday an important match was to be played, and the team took it for granted that their best bat would be absent.  But to their surprise, he was not only there, he batted like never before.  He played with magnificent judgment and skill, and rang up a fantastic score that lead his team to victory.


When it was all over, they asked him what motivated him to play the game of his life.  He explained by telling them, “This was the first game where my father could see me at bat.”  Here was a young man who took literally the idea that people in heaven can see what is going on down here on earth.


Today, I want to find out what the Bible says in answering the question: “Can people in Heaven see what is going on down here on earth?”


How often have you heard, or even said, something like:  “I’m sure Grandma is looking down on us right now.”  I can remember when Randy Johnson was pitching for the Seattle Mariners.  His father died during one season.  And shortly after his father’s death, Randy pitches a masterful complete game, and after the last pitch, he points to the sky, as if saying, ”That one’s for you, dad.”  Even people who don’t believe in a personal God will say stuff like that.


We’ve already seen, in the past few weeks, that after a believer dies, their soul remains conscious and immediately go into the presence of God (2 Cor. 5:8).


We have also noted that people retain in heaven a memory of their life on earth.  But, is it true that departed believers actually see us and know what we are doing?  Some feel this is only wishful thinking and is really too good to be true.  Others counter that it is a horrible thought.  How can they be anything but sad, seeing sin rampant on the earth.


So, what does the Bible say?




I want to start our search of what the Bible says concerning this question, with a verse that is sometimes used by both sides of the issue.


Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)


1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.


Some would use this passage as proof that those in heaven are witnessing our lives on earth.  Others say, “Not so fast!  That verse is referring back to the people mentioned in Hebrews 11, not to our loved ones who are now in heaven.  And my comment to both of their statements is:  “They are both right.”


What is the first word of the Passage we just read.  The word “therefore” means “because of this” or “because of what had just been said.”  They denote words of conclusion to a previous thought, not the beginning of a new thought.  I believe that it indeed is referring back to the previous chapter, Hebrews 11.




It is the “Hall of Fame of Faith”  - or the “Heroes of Faith.”  I believe Hebrews 12:1 is referring us back to those Heroes of Faith mentioned in Chapter 11.  We are being instructed: “In light of their example of faith, we should persevere in our faith.”  But, I also believe it is referring to more than just those mentioned in chapter 11.  In support of the idea that the saints in Heaven are aware of things on earth is that the witnesses of Hebrew 11 are said to “surround” us.  They are not merely to have preceded us or gone before us.


The Greek words translated “surrounded by” should be taken more literal than spiritual.  The witnesses are said to surround us, not merely to have preceded us.  This is especially true when taken in conjunction with the last phrase of the verse we read -- “and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”


The writer is creating the mental picture of the Greek competitions which  were watched intently by throngs of engrossed fan, sitting high in the stands.  By far the majority of Bible scholars that I have studied believe that the saints in chapter 11 are representative of all saints who’ve gone before us.  Their accomplishments on the field, some of them recorded in the previous chapter, are over.  The imagery seems to suggest those saints, the “spiritual athletes” of old are now watching us and cheering us on from the stands in Heaven.  Each day, each moment, a million eyes are watching us.  Depending on what we are doing, this thought can cause either dread or great comfort and inspiration.


Look at a verse with me written by the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.


1 Corinthians 4:9 NIV


9       For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.


We are told that angels are aware of what is transpiring on earth.  If angels know, why not redeemed humans?


Given the substantial evidence of Scripture to the contrary, the burden of proof is on those who argue people in heaven are unconcerned with and unaware of what is happening on earth.  It is, however, possible for those who believe those in heaven are unaware of activity on earth they have come to this opinion on the faulty premise, namely that for heaven to be happy, people in heaven can’t know what is happening on earth.  In other words, it wouldn’t be heaven if we knew of the bad things happening on earth.


Those who disagree with this conclusion of Hebrews 12:1 see the arguments stated above as being very weak and not conclusive.  While I may disagree, I won’t allow that to sidetrack me because I believe there is so much more evidence that the saints indeed are watching us.


1.   The destruction of Babylon


When Babylon is brought down, and angel points to events happening on earth and says, “Rejoice.”


Revelation 18:1-2  (NIV)


1       After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor.

2       With a mighty voice he shouted: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird.


And verse 20 adds:


20     Rejoice over her, O heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! God has judged her for the way she treated you.'"


The angel making this announcement is specifically addressing people in heaven.  The implication is that they are watching and listening to what is happening below.  At the very least, they are kept informed about it.  And the information they are made aware of causes a huge roar of praise in Heaven.


Revelation 19:1-3  (NIV)


1       After this…(After what?  After the fall and destruction of Babylon.)  I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,

2       for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants."

3       And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever."


Again, the saints in heaven are responding to what is happening on earth.  And they are applauding specific judgments of God upon the world below.  Then, almost immediately, we read in Revelation 19 that all these saints in heaven are returning with Christ to set up his millennial kingdom.  It seems almost unthinkable those coming to earth with Christ would be in the dark concerning what was about to transpire on the earth.  This is not a situation into which someone walks unaware.


Earth is like center court at Wimbledon – all eyes are on it.  I believe all those in heaven are concerned with what God is concerned with, and if his interest is in the spiritual battle transpiring on earth, why would saints not be watching his works on earth with great interest.  If the Sovereign God’s attention are toward earth, why wouldn’t those of his heavenly subjects be also?


This picture of saints in Heaven blissfully unaware of what is transpiring on earth, where God and his angels and all believers are about to return for the ultimate Battle of Armageddon, contradicts clear indications they are aware.  When a great war is transpiring, are soldiers in the Commander’s service uninformed and unaware of it?


2.   The martyred saints of Revelation 6


Revelation 6:9-11 NKJV


9       When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held.

10     And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?"

11     Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.


The martyrs in heaven mentioned in this passage clearly remember what happened to them on earth, including the great suffering they underwent.  They also remembered those who murdered them, and are aware that God has not yet avenged their death.  It seems they anticipate and look forward with strong emotion to God’s coming judgment.  This also shows we are incorrect in assuming remembrance of unpleasant things on earth would automatically be impossible in Heaven.  We will talk more about unpleasant memories in heaven in a future lesson.  Will they actually be unpleasant?


These souls can be aware that God has not yet avenged their death only if they have some knowledge of what has been going on down on earth.  They are cognizant that God is restraining his judgment on their adversaries.  And we are told God is keeping them informed.


3.   Samuel called back from heaven


In the Old Testament, when Samuel was brought back to earth from heaven, he was aware of what King Saul had been doing.  He was also aware of what King Saul had failed to do on earth.


1 Samuel 28:16-18 NKJV


16     Then Samuel said: "So why do you ask me, seeing the LORD has departed from you and has become your enemy?

17     And the LORD has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.

18     Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.


Samuel was cognizant of Saul’s disobedience of God’s commands.  He also continues to tell Saul that the very next day, he and his three sons would all die at the hands of the Philistines.  Unless Samuel was specially “briefed” on this, it follows he must have been already aware of it.


4.   Moses & Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration


Luke 9:29-31 NKJV


29     As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.

30     And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah,

31     who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.


When Moses and Elijah joined Jesus on the mount, they were aware of what was happening in the life of Christ, and talked with Him about his approaching death in Jerusalem.  The impressive thing is not only that they appeared, but they were clearly aware of the earthly events they had stepped into.  They also knew what was about to happen in the life of Jesus.  His own disciples could not fully understand him when he spoke of dying.  But, these two, from the realm of the dead, were aware of the details of God’s plan.  Their knowledge wasn’t less, but was superior to those on earth.


5.   Rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents


When people come to believe in Jesus as their Savior, it becomes public knowledge in Heaven.  Whenever someone turns to God on earth, they break out in applause in Heaven.


Luke 15:10 NKJV


10     Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." 




How many of you have read this and assumed it is the angels who are rejoicing?  While I am sure the angels are probably rejoicing, that doesn’t seem to be precisely what this verse says.  Note that there is joy in the presence of angels, not that the angels themselves are rejoicing.  It is those with the angels that are rejoicing.


Just 3 verses earlier – verse 7 – we read:


Luke 15:7 NKJV


7       I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. 


Who else but the saint that are now populating heaven are the ones who are rejoicing?  Those in heaven are watching over sinners who need and respond with repentance, and also “the righteous that need no repentance.”  Since everyone on earth fits into either one or the other of these two positions, then those in heaven are observing all of us still here on earth.


6.   The rich man and Lazarus


In Luke 16:31, when Abraham was speaking to the Rich man, Abraham was aware that the rich man’s brothers had hardened their hearts against Moses and the prophets.  And with that mind set, he knew they would not respond, even if someone came back from the dead to talk to them.


Obviously, Abraham kept abreast of current events and even knew the current state of men’s hearts.  I believe it is logical that he knows what is happening in our day as well.


Christ in Heaven, watches closely what transpires on earth, especially in the lives of God’s people (See Revelation 2 & 3).  If the Sovereign God’s attentions are on earth, why wouldn’t those of his heavenly subjects be?  When a great war is transpiring, is anyone in the home country uninformed and unaware of it?


Angels saw Christ on earth (1 Timothy 3:16).  There are clear indications angels know what is happening on earth (Luke 1:26;  1 Cor. 11:10).


Ephesians 3:10-11 NKJV


10     to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,

11     according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,


The words, “principalities” and “powers,” are terms denoting ranks among angels.  If angels, why not saints?  Don’t the people of God in heaven have as much vested interest in the spiritual events happening on earth as angels do?  Wouldn’t the body and bride of Christ in heaven be expected to be intensely interested about the rest of the body and bride of Christ still living on earth?


Despite such clear scriptural evidence that we have seen this morning, some still insist that people in heaven are unconcerned with and unaware of what is happening on earth.


One of the strongest objection is that if the redeemed in heaven know what happens on earth, how can they be very happy knowing how far from God we have strayed.  “It just wouldn’t be heaven if we knew of the bad things happening on earth since God promised there will be no more crying or pain in heaven.”


We will answer this question more fully in our next session, when we will answer the question: How can believers enjoy Heaven knowing that people are in Hell?