Are the Saints in Heaven Aware of Us?
Often nowadays in my Bible studies, I will hear the same idea from two or more sources at about the same point in time. At the time of the Bible Prophecy Blog article about Lordship salvation, for instance, I was continuing to hear more of the issue from things said by S. Lewis Johnson in a special message about it and elsewhere (such as in his Matthew series). More recently, another idea — are the saints in heaven aware of things going on down here? — was mentioned by S. Lewis Johnson and by Spurgeon, in two unrelated messages: first in SLJ’s message about the transfiguration, and a few days later in Spurgeon’s sermon #203, “The Sympathy of the Two Worlds.”
From SLJ I learned that John Bunyan certainly believed that the saints in heaven are aware of what’s going on down here, as depicted in Pilgrim’s Progress: when the pilgrims from this world call at the gates, Moses and Elijah and some other saints are looking out over the gates. Knowing how Spurgeon was greatly influenced by Bunyan explains Spurgeon’s similar view:
Does not the Apostle tell us that the saints above are a cloud of witnesses? After he had mentioned Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Gideon and Barak and Jephthah, did he not say, “Therefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight”? Lo, we are running in the plains and the glorified ones are looking down upon us! Your mother’s eyes follow you, young man! A father’s eyes are looking down upon you, young woman! The eyes of my godly grandmother, long since glorified, I doubt not, rest on me perpetually. No doubt, in Heaven they often talk of us! I think they sometimes visit this poor earth—they never go out of Heaven, it is true, for Heaven is everywhere to them. This world is to them but just one corner of God’s Heaven, one shady bower of Paradise.
The saints of the living God, are, I doubt not, very near unto us when we think them very far away. At any rate, they still remember us, still look for us, for this is ever upon their hearts—the truth that they without us cannot be made perfect—they cannot be a perfect Church till all are gathered in and, therefore, do they long for our appearing!
As to the Hebrews 12 verse referenced by Spurgeon, though, some Bible teachers — including S. Lewis Johnson, as well as John MacArthur — do not hold to such an interpretation. Rather, they see that text as referring to the Old Testament saints — not as spectators of us but as witnesses in Scripture, and thus witnesses to us of the life of faith.
Yet scripture does give some hints elsewhere — and only hints — that the redeemed in God’s presence are aware of us in this life. Spurgeon in the above sermon related it to Luke 15:10, which certainly teaches that the angels in heaven are aware of what’s going on here, since they rejoice over every sinner who repents. SLJ saw a hint of this also in the transfiguration account, where Moses and Elijah are conversing with Jesus and aware of His soon departure to be accomplished at Jerusalem (reference the parallel account in Luke 9:31).
Johnson also pointed out an answer to the common objection: how can the saints in heaven possibly be in bliss if they know about all the terrible sin and unhappiness going on down here on the earth? But God of course also knows about all the terrible things going on here, and yet certainly He is resting in His own bliss. Likewise the angels are certainly aware of this world’s affairs, since they then rejoice every time a sinner repents and comes to salvation.
It is a nice thought, one I hadn’t really considered that much before, but very possibly true. In closing I offer up the following somewhat humorous words from S. Lewis Johnson, when he was here with us:
Now that’s a very comforting thing, really. That means that when I get to heaven you can think of me appearing over heaven wondering what’s going on in Believers Chapel. I’ve often said to my students at the theological seminary, when they depart from the faith my ghost will disturb them. Now someone might say, well my goodness, if in heaven we know what’s happening down here on the earth with all of the sin and unhappiness and tragedy, how can we possibly be in bliss in heaven if we know what’s going down here on the earth? Well, I reply with another question. Does not God know? Is He not resting in the leisure of His own bliss? Of course He is. You see, He knows the end from the beginning, and then we shall have better perspective too.