Awareness of Saints in Heaven


When people die and go to heaven, can they see people on earth and how they are doing?


The Bible doesn't tell us much about what people experience in heaven. However, it does give us some potential looks at the lives of the departed. Two that come to mind are Samuel's appearance to Saul in 1 Samuel 28, and Jesus' parable about Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16. In both of these instances, the dead do not appear to have any awareness beyond their own existence. In the case of Samuel, he seems to consider the world's affairs a bother. And in the case of the rich man, he is concerned about the world's affairs but is far removed from them.

However, both these accounts are debated by scholars. Some conservative scholars think that Samuel didn't really appear to Saul, but that Saul was merely hallucinating or in a psychotic episode. Other scholars debate whether or not the story of Lazarus and the rich man is historic or a parable, and if it is a parable, whether or not it represents Jesus' own view of the afterlife or a mythological Jewish view.

In any event, the departed saints in heaven do not acquire any divine attributes such as omnipresence or omniscience, so their awareness is limited to their location (just as would appear to be the case with angels). If God allows them to come to this world (as he did Moses and Elijah [Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4]), then I expect they would be able to perceive things here.

I do know of some respected conservative scholars who believe that their departed friends and family can hear or see them, but I am unaware of any biblical basis for these beliefs.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.