A popular belief among some Christians is that our loved ones who have died (and other Christians) watch over us from heaven (if they went to heaven). You may hear this at funerals or in a casual conversation with some Christians. Is this true? Do deceased Christians watch over us from heaven? Do they know what is going on down here on Earth? Let’s take a look at what Scripture says about the topic.
Knowledge of what is happening on Earth
There are actually a few passages that show us that Christians in heaven do have at least some kind of knowledge of the happenings on earth. Revelation 6:10 says, “They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” This shows us that the saints in heaven have at least some knowledge of what is going on here on earth. They understand that those who persecuted them have not been judged yet. Other verses in Revelation (18:20; 19:1-5) teach us that the saints celebrate the fall of Babylon, showing us that they will know when this event will happen on earth.
The book of Revelation is not the only place in the Bible where we see knowledge on the part of someone who is in heaven. 1 Samuel 28 records King Saul visiting a witch so that she can summon up Samuel’s spirit. Verses 16-19 tell us that when Samuel appeared he had some knowledge of what had been happening in Israel after his death.
Luke 15:10 says that “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Theologian Randy Alcorn notes that it says “in the presence of the angels” not “by the angels.” This seems to indicate that it is the saints who are rejoicing. However, John MacArthur believes that it is the angels that are rejoicing (he says that the rejoicing was among the angels). Whatever the case, if the verse refers to Christians in the presence of angels, this does not teach that Christians are watching our every move like some believe. The same can be said for 1 Samuel and the passages in Revelation. These all imply that people in heaven do have at least some knowledge of the events on earth. None of them say that these saints are watching over us.
A Cloud of Witnesses
Hebrews 12:1 is sometimes used as evidence that Christians in heaven watch over us. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” This verse begins with the transition “therefore” which points us back to the preceding section (chapter 11) which gave an overview of the faith of Old Testament saints such as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and many others.
Alcorn says concerning this verse: this is “creating the mental picture of the Greek competitions, which were watched intently by throngs of engrossed fans sitting high up in the ancient stadiums. The ‘great cloud of witnesses’ refers to the saints who’ve gone before us, whose accomplishments on the playing field of life are now part of our rich history. The imagery seems to suggest that those saints, the spiritual ‘athletes’ of old, are now watching us and cheering us on from the great stadium of Heaven that looks down on the field of Earth. (The witnesses are said to ‘surround’ us, not merely to have preceded us).”
MacArthur and Steven Cole have different views however. MacArthur says, “The deceased people of chapter 11 give witness to the value and blessing of living by faith. Motivation for running ‘the race’ is not in the possibility of receiving praise from ‘observing’ heavenly saints. Rather, the runner is inspired by the godly examples those saints set during their lives. The great crowd is not comprised of spectators but rather is made up of ones whose past life of faith encourages others to live that way.”
Cole says, “There is a question about whether these witnesses are watching us from heaven as we run the race; or, more in line with the meaning of the word witness, do we look to their testimony as an example of how to run the race? There is no indication in the Bible (unless it is here) that those in heaven are watching us on earth. Probably, with the race metaphor, the picture here is that as we run the race, along the route we encounter the Old Testament saints (and, by extension, other heroes of the faith in the New Testament, plus those who lived after biblical times). They are calling out to us by their examples of faith, ‘Keep going, I made it and you can, too! I know it’s hard, but the reward is worth it! Don’t quit! The finish line is not too far ahead!’”
It is also interesting how the New King James translation renders Hebrews 11: 4. “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks” (emphasis added). It is clear that by studying this verse (Hebrews 12:1) in context, it teaches us that we are surrounded by the witness/faith of the Old Testament saints, not that they are watching us and cheering us on like they are at a football game.
There is no place in the Bible that teaches us that people in heaven watch over us. In fact, the passages that do speak about the topic imply only limited knowledge, not complete knowledge. It is not like a Christian in heaven is watching me type this right now.
What do you think? Do Christians in heaven watch over us and observe everything that we do? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
 Randy Alcorn. Heaven (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004). Pg. 70-71.
 John MacArthur. The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2005). Pg. 1309.
 Alcorn, 70.
 MacArthur, 1872-1873.
 Steven J. Cole. “Faith to Run the Christian Marathon (Hebrews 12:1-3).” https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-44-faith-run-christian-marathon-hebrews-121-3