Do they know what is happening with loved ones? Do they pray for us in the presence of the King? If they do, would their prayers be more powerful than ours? If we have great victories–or defeats, do they know about them?
Paul said, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). I have always felt that meant no more contact with earth, no more praying, no more awareness. After all, wouldn’t hearing bad news impact an otherwise pain-free experience? On a car trip up to San Francisco, I read from Hebrews 12:1 about how “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” My wife and Steve and Betty Luttio said, “Sounds like they can see what’s going on.” I disagreed and looked at commentaries. They confirmed my outlook that death brings a separation from earth and from knowledge of what takes place.
Then I looked at what Randy Alcorn , who wrote an excellent book called Heaven, had to say. He disagrees with me and opened my eyes to the possibility that people on the other side can see us. He said, “The key to heaven’s joy is not ignorance but perspective.” I could buy that. He brought up several good arguments:
1) After Moses and Elijah died, they met with Jesus on the mountain and talked about His impending death like they knew what was going on.
2) Revelation 6:9-11 speaks about martyrs asking God when He is going to avenge their blood. To ask they would have to know that it had not happened yet, so they were aware of what was taking place. They also remembered that they were martyred. One big difference between being on earth and in heaven is that on the other side we are “the righteous made perfect (Hebrews 12:23).
3) Christ said that there is “rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7). Alcorn points out that these folks are not the angels as we might expect, because three verses later Jesus says that “there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (10). if it is not God and not the angels, that leaves the folks who have gone before us. Looks like they are aware of those coming to faith and it brings much joy. (Hey, they were already exuberant).
4) Now back to what we started with, who does the “cloud of witnesses” refer to? It is those who have preceded us in death and have conquered the grave. What are they witnessing? The contest suggests that they are viewing our race and are somehow cheering us on. Though we can’t see them, they can see us. Thank you, Mr. Alcorn, for a new perspective of the thin veil that separates earth from heaven.
So what does it do for me? Picturing my father and mother before the throne cheering me on gives me incentive to run a good race. I know they will meet me on the other side and congratulate me if I succeed. Saying “goodbye” was difficult, but the reunion will be glorious, and even more so believing they are rooting for me. Let this truth cause your hope to swell today!