A lot of my friends—at home, on Facebook, on this website—have lost family and close friends recently. A lady at my church has mourned the death of her son for ten years. I’m sure the idea of her child in heaven watching over her would bring great comfort. Which is why we want to know the answer to the question so badly. It’s our sorrow, our desire for continued connection. We want the love to continue from our spouse. We want Mom to continue to look out for us.
Those on the other side have no such need. They are in the presence of Jesus, of God the Father, of the Creator of the Universe. They haven’t stopped loving us, but love for any human pales in comparison to love for Christ. The Bible offers no clear-cut answer to our question. Passages recognize that people in heaven aren’t zombies. They’re aware of their surroundings. But those passages don’t out and out say, “And the heavenly throng looks down upon mankind and smiles upon their loved ones.” In Hebrews 12, the cloud of witnesses refers to the group mentioned in chapter eleven, a multitude who testify to the joy of following Christ. They don’t seem to be observing activities on earth.
So can our parents, our spouses, our children, our friends see us from heaven? So far what I’ve written veers toward the answer of “no.”
However, there is one great truth: God can do anything He wants to. If He wants my dad to peek “down” for a glimpse of me or my siblings, God can make it happen. He can also, in His mercy, send us signs to comfort us. Nothing unbiblical. Nothing to do with séances or ghosts. I’ve lost count of the number of stories I’ve heard as to His goodness in providing a sign to the grieving person that their loved one is fine. Be of good cheer.
I’m one of them.
All of his earthly life, my dad, a former military pilot, would rather be soaring through the heavens at mach speed than caged in a lowly automobile. At his funeral, as the report of the twenty-one-gun salute faded away, I looked up into a cloudless summer sky. Circling directly above the church courtyard was a lone hawk. My oldest friend standing at my side clutched my hand, and we both watched the hawk sail the wind in an upward spiral until he was too far away for me to see. Did my dad’s spirit inhabit the hawk? I doubt it, although God could make such a thing happen. For me, that hawk was a blessing from God, His sign to me confirming what I already knew. Daddy was completely free of the agony of cancer, and now he is free to serve the God he loves in perfect joy and strength.
Author Catherine Marshall’s sign came in a dream. Her husband Peter Marshall, a famous preacher in the mid-twentieth century, left her a widow at a very young age. Faith kept her solid, but oh, how she missed the tower of strength she had relied upon! Her dream provided the strongest clue in answering our question, “Can loved ones in heaven see us on earth?” In her dream, she was walking on their property and saw her husband tending the garden, one of his favorite activities when he wasn’t preaching and writing. She ran up to him, so eager for his arms to be around her again, to kiss her, to see his eyes sparkle with love for her. No words were spoken, but when she pulled away from his embrace, she realized things were different. He seemed a little confused as to why she was there. He smiled at her with warmth and love, but not with the passion of a husband.
She awoke sadder and wiser. Yes, her husband was alive and well in heaven. Yes, he could see her because God allowed it for the moment. Yes, Peter loved her, but not in the way she longed for. She had to face it. Her life would continue on earth, his new life continues in heaven, and some day she would be in heaven, too. Her love for her earthly husband would be wonderfully perfected, yet different.
Our comprehension of eternity is so limited while we live on earth. In heaven, we’ll be able to understand so much more when we can see Jesus face to face. Here’s one thought Marshall published in her book, To Live Again, relating to her dream: “Perhaps those on the other side see the end from the beginning, and that makes all the difference.”