Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Can people in Heaven really know what is happening on earth? A lot of people wonder about that. The answer is: absolutely, people in Heaven do know what is happening on earth and under the earth. Let’s look at Scripture passages that give us some insight on that subject.
Hebrews 12:1 is a passage that is often used to say people in Heaven are aware of what is happening on earth. The writer said, “Since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us . . . let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Who is this “cloud of witnesses surrounding us”? Remember, there are no chapter divisions in the original text. This refers back to chapter 11: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Rahab, and all the men and women of faith are this cloud of witnesses. And right now, the Bible says, they are in Heaven, surrounding us. Some people think that since they are surrounding us, they are like fans in the bleachers watching down as we live our lives. But that can be disconcerting. Do you really want to think of Solomon, who wrote a book on the intimacies of marital love, peeping into your bedroom and critiquing what is going on? I don’t think so. Do you really want to think of your grandmother or your great-grandmother in Heaven watching every move you make? That is kind of disturbing, isn’t it? Is that what this passage is teaching? I don’t think so. I think this is one passage that really does not say people in Heaven can tell what is happening on earth. What the writer was simply saying was, “Consider these great men and women and the way they lived their lives. We ought to demonstrate the same kind of faith in following their example.”
However, there are other passages in the Bible that clearly indicate people in Heaven do know what is happening on earth. For example, consider the story of Abraham and the rich man that Jesus told in Luke 16. In this story, there were two men who lived two very different lives: a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. And the Bible says when they both died, immediately Lazarus went to Heaven, to Abraham’s bosom, because he had placed his faith in God. However, the rich man immediately ended up in Hades, and both the rich man and Lazarus were conscious of what was happening.
By the way, this story dispels the belief that a soul sleeps for a long period of time when a person dies. Jesus said immediately the rich man knew he was in Hades, and Lazarus knew he was being comforted by Abraham. And notice that Abraham knew of the suffering of the rich man in Hades, and the rich man in Hades was aware of the comfort that Lazarus was being offered in Heaven. People in Heaven know what is happening in Hell, and people in Hell know what is happening in Heaven.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Do People In Heaven Know What Is Happening On Earth?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2016.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.lockman.org)