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Question:
Can the dead see what is going on with their loved ones on earth? Can they intervene or make a plea to God on their behalf?

Answer:

Personally, I suspect that we are “seen” by those in heaven including Christians who are now there. However, that is MY OPINION. I think they do see what is going on here on earth, but God does not allow interaction, intervention between us and them.

Necromancy (trying to contact the “dead”) is certainly forbidden even if its Benny Hinn talking to Kathryn Kuhlman (Deut. 18:11; 26:14; Isa. 8:19; 29:4), but that’s the reverse of the current question. Here’s what the Bible does tell us:

  • We retain our knowledge/memory of people on earth as they were when we were alive.
  • Even if we could send an angel or Apostle to warn people, they won’t listen. God has already engineering the perfect “warning plan” and the world rejects it. Nothing we can do, or think of, to add to God’s warning will make any difference.

I’ve seen Heb. 12:1 used to support the idea of being “watched” from heaven:

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (NKJV; emphasis mine)

This “cloud of witnesses” is NOT accurately exposited as a “cloud of observers” but more like a group of people that testify to the results of living in faith. It’s more like a witness in court who gives testimony about what they have seen and experienced.

Again, it is my personal OPINION (nothing more), that this “great cloud” of Christians who have passed on into the next life, are indeed witnessing and observing those of us who are still in the race, but Heb 12:1 cannot be used to support it Biblically. I think they are watching, cheering us on, and joyfully awaiting our reunion. That’s my intuition not Scripture, and I certainly could be wrong.

Let’s look at the primary Bible example related to this question:

Luke 16:19-31 “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’

“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’ ” (NKJV; emphasis mine)

Since this is found in the Gospels in the midst of parables, many people mistake this for a parable, but it is not. Parables don’t name names and recount specific identifiable events. This is a literal account of real people, in real places in real situations.

Notice the facts we can be sure of relevant to today’s question:

  • Everyone dies
  • Hell is real
  • Hell is torment
  • The tormented in hell could see someone “afar off” in comfort and paradise
  • The one in hell knew that his torment could be relieved momentarily by experiencing what the one in paradise was experiencing
  • An appeal was made for comfort, and for a warning to be sent to the tormented one’s family
  • There is a “great gulf” between the torment of hell and the comfort of heaven that cannot be traversed
  • Any warning sent to “earth” would be useless as they are already ignoring God’s Word, the prophets, the Apostles and the Risen Christ

Notice a verse here that is VERY intriguing:

Luke 16:26 And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ (NKJV; emphasis mine)

The verse seems to imply that there may well be those in “Abraham’s bosom” or Paradise that WANT to cross over to the place of torment. We can only assume it is because they can see the people who are lost, and being good and holy, have a desire to rescue them.

It’s easy to imagine people in hell wanting to cross over to heaven. It’s a bit more thought provoking to think about people in heaven wanting to cross over to hell. It makes sense to me though, because the righteous and good alway have pity on those who are lost.

Just as the lost in hell would want to warn their friends and family, it is natural to think those in heaven, who can see the lost in hell, would want to 1) warn their friends and family on earth, and 2) rescue those in hell if possible.

That’s not some doctrinal position or anything – just an interesting verse that normally slips by without discussing why somone in heaven would want to pass over to hell.

To answer the question:

  • The Bible does not say for sure that humans in heaven can see us on earth
  • The Bible does say that humans in heaven and hell can see each other
  • The Bible does say that humans in heaven and hell retain their memory and knowledge of those still on earth
  • The Bible does say that a plea on their behalf is useless

One final thing: it is useful to clarify the following, although we do not have space here to teach a lesson about it:

  • In answering this question, I used the terms “heaven” and “hell” in sort of a loose generic way because it was not the right forum to get into the differences concerning the various terms
  • Hades seems to be the “holding place” for those destined to be judged and sent to Hell (Gehenna) for all eternity
  • Abraham’s bosom or Paradise is where those bound for eternal life in heaven are until God’s plan with man is complete
  • This is important because there remains that question about whether or not those in Heaven for all eternity will be able to see those in Hell for all eternity (and vice versa)… or is this a temporary situation now before the final Judgment?
  • These are some complicated Biblical issues and topics. I point them out because I want the reader to know that Luke 16:19-23 is probably NOT talking about the eternal Heaven and Hell, but more likely the places that deceased people are temporarily are right now as God’s plan is finishing up on earth.

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