We often hear Christian people say that deceased loved ones are watching over them, taking care of them, smiling down on them, or sending them signs. The Bible doesn’t specifically have much to say about this topic, but there are several clues in Scripture that seem to show that this is not true.
1. He will not return to me.
In 2 Samuel, we see David, a distraught father who has lost his only child. He has been fasting and praying that God might spare his son’s life, but when the child passes away, David makes this statement:
But, now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me. (2 Samuel 12:23)
David shows here that the child is now gone, never to return to this Earth. He talks about how they will one day be reunited in Heaven, but until that time, David indicates that they are separated. He does not seem to expect the child to leave him signs of any kind or to be a presence in his life.
2. Present with the Lord.
In 2 Corinthians 5:8, the Bible tells us that when we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord. In other passages we get glimpses of what being in the presence of the Lord might look like. Isaiah and Revelation both paint vivid pictures of the singular focus of those in Heaven, as they gather round the throne of God singing an eternal song of worship and praise, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”
There is no indication in these descriptions of Heaven or any other place in Scripture that those in Heaven are involved in or cognizant of the things that are happening on Earth. Although some claim that the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 12:1 indicates that our loved ones are watching us, John MacArthur explains why this passage doesn’t support that idea:
The witnesses in that verse are not modern-day loved ones, but the faithful saints in Hebrews 11 who lived victorious lives by trusting God. Those saints are witnesses to us because their lives testify about the value of trusting God no matter what hardships we face. They are active witnesses who speak to us by their example; not passive witnesses who watch us with their eyes.
Hebrews 11 shows how the great fathers of the faith lived out that faith. Their stories witness to us about trusting God, and they are the witnesses mentioned in verse 12:1. These aren’t our loved ones witnessing what we do, but Abraham, Isaac, and others whose lives witness to us.
3. No tears in Heaven.
In Revelation 17:7 and 21:4, we read that in Heaven God will wipe away every tear: “There will be no more death or tears or crying or pain.” If our loved ones can look down on this tragedy-filled world and watch us struggle through it, watch us lose people we love, watch us make mistakes that grieve God, how can they be without tears? How can they exist with no pain if they are aware of or involved in our daily struggles?
It seems it would be impossible for our loved ones to enjoy Heaven as the Bible says we all will, to live in perfect peace with no fear or worry or sorrow, if they are witnessing the many terrible things that go on here on Earth. Even a great day on Earth is marred by sin and imperfections the likes of which are abolished forever in Heaven, so it seems unlikely that our loved ones are looking down, sending rainbows, or helping us through situations. God is our help, and He is all we need. So, even though it may be a comforting thought to imagine that we still have a connection with our loved ones after they die, it is likely that only our memories and the hope of being reunited with them in Heaven remain.
Losing those we love is indescribably difficult. But, we can take comfort in knowing that our believing loved ones are safe, at peace, and in the presence of God, no longer concerned by all of the many worries of our world, but resting in the arms of the Savior. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 says that we do not grieve like the rest of the world, which has no hope. We don’t have to look for signs or hope for the spiritual presence of our loved ones. We can know without a doubt that they are happily escaped from a world of great sorrow and pain, and we can console ourselves, knowing that they would not wish to be privy anymore to the sadness and troubles of this life.
We can trust God on this. We can believe His word, and we can enjoy the memories of time with our loved ones until we see them again in Heaven.