Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Are Our Loved Ones Looking Down On Us?

A few months ago, I attended a memorial service for a dearly loved saint who had a long battle with cancer. Friends and family members came to show their love for her and support of the family she left behind. The one thing that the preacher of the service said really struct me because you will not hear this from many preachers. He said, "I do not believe she is looking down from heaven on us, I know would not, but I know he is worshiping Jesus." He goes to add, "I know when I die, I do not want to look down on this world. I want to leave it behind."

It is a common misconception among Christians that when their loved ones died, who are believers, will go to heaven to meet Jesus face-to-face, but somehow have the ability to look down on us. I just can't imagine God giving someone a remote control to a 62 inch flatscreen and all it shows is their loved ones on earth and how they are doing. Where in the world does the Bible teach that loved ones have moved on to glory will be able to see us? The answer is really simple: it does not.

Many Christians will site Hebrews 12:1-2 as their "evidence" that our loved ones in heaven are cheering us on:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

These two verses come after the famous "Hall of Faith" chapter in the Bible, which is Hebrews 11, where the writer of Hebrews talks about the many people from the Old Testament who lived by faith. Some Christians think that the great cloud of witnesses are not only those Old Testament saints but all the saints, included our loved ones, cheering us on as they are some spectators of a big sporting event like the Super Bowl. Hebrews 12:1-2 tells about their example of faith to give us encouragement knowing these people live by faith and we can too. Keep in mind we look to Jesus who is the founder and finisher of our faith who endured the cross in our place. A study note from The ESV Study Bible says:

Nowhere else does the NT envisage saints in heaven watching saints on earth, nor does it encourage Christians ever to pray to these believers in heaven or to ask for their prayers. Christ prays for his people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25) and is the only mediator between them and God (1 Tim. 2:5). The Holy Spirit helps their prayers (Rom. 8:26–27), and all Christians are priests with the right of direct access to God (Heb. 4:16; 10:22; 1 Pet. 2:5, 9). lay aside. This first exhortation pictures sin as a weight (or “impediment”) to be discarded, since otherwise it ensnares or obstructs the athlete. let us run. A metaphor also found in Paul (1 Cor. 9:24–27; 2 Tim. 4:7–8), with a focus on endurance in the faith (see Heb. 12:2–3; cf. 10:32, 36).

While it is a nice thought that our loved ones in heaven are cheering us on from heaven, it is not biblical. If they could, that would make them a god. We do not pray to them, either. We pray to the God of the Bible. Jesus is the one who is cheering us on not our loved ones nor the saints who have gone before. Jesus looks down from heaven and prays for us. That should comfort us more than thinking our loved ones are looking down for heaven on us.

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