Awareness of Earthly Events

A common question

Are those in Heaven aware of what happens on Earth? This is a common question. Those who have lost friends and family members sometimes wonder about it. Scripture gives numerous examples that indicate those in Heaven know what happens on Earth to at least some extent.

Biblical answer

Jesus said there is rejoicing in the presence of angels over 1 sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). Notice it says those in the presence of angels do the rejoicing and not angels themselves. A slight variation says there is more rejoicing in Heaven over 1 sinner who repents than 99 righteous who don't(Luke 15:7).

Another example is during the transfiguration of Jesus(Luke 9:28-36). The disciples Peter, John and James followed Jesus up a mountain. Jesus then revealed his glory and Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Both Moses and Elijah were long dead at this time, but here they were with Jesus. They spoke about Jesus' departure, implying they were aware of what happened on Earth.

There are also instances of angels knowing what happens on Earth. The Bible mentions angels seeing Jesus while he was on Earth(1 Tim. 3:16). The prophet Daniel prayed and an angel answered(Dan. 10:10-14).

Another piece of evidence is the Apostle John's vision of Heaven. The martyrs in Heaven ask God how long until the ones who killed them on Earth are judged(Rev. 6:9-11). These are people who were killed for their faith in God. They also know the ones who killed them are still alive.

Later in John's vision, those in Heaven rejoice over Babylon falling(Rev. 19:1-6). Babylon is either a city or nation in the future that is against God. John describes a great number in Heaven shouting "Hallelujah!".

In the future believers who died will return to Earth with Jesus to reign with him for a thousand years(Rev. 20:4-6). This won't be the eternal Heaven, and there will still be sin. They must be aware of what's happened on Earth up to that point in order to rule.

Are they always watching us?

Hebrews 12:1 mentions we are surrounded by a "great cloud of witnesses". Does this mean Heaven's residents are watching us like some reality TV show? That sounds unsettling. However, this verse more likely refers to the righteous mentioned in the previous chapter setting the example for Christians and is not talking about anyone from Heaven watching us. We don't have to worry about people in Heaven constantly watching us because they will be busy worshipping God and fellowshipping.

Another reason to believe they aren't always watching us comes from the story of when King Saul used a medium to contact the prophet Samuel after Samuel died(1 Sam. 28:7-19). Saul was desperate for advice as he was losing control of his kingdom. Samuel asked why Saul disturbed him, certainly unhappy someone from Earth was contacting him. The fact Samuel asked this suggests he wasn't following Saul the whole time.

Wouldn't seeing Earth from Heaven be dreadful?

Some say Heaven can't be Heaven if one gets a glimpse of the tragedies on Earth. They also point to Rev. 21:4 about no more sadness. However, there could still be sadness in present-day Heaven because this passage refers to the eternal Heaven in the future.

Seeing the problems of Earth will not diminish Heaven. Angels see Hell(Rev. 14:10), yet this doesn't impact their view of Heaven. Abraham could see the rich man in torment in the story of the rich man and Lazarus(Luke 16:19-31). Also we will see God's wisdom better in Heaven(1 Cor. 13:12) and see events in a whole new perspective.

Author Randy Alcorn states it best:

Happiness in Heaven is not based on ignorance but perspective. Those who live in the presence of Christ find great joy in worshiping God and living as righteous beings in rich fellowship in a sinless environment. And because God is continuously at work on Earth, the saints watching from Heaven have a great deal to praise him for, including God's drawing people on Earth to himself(Luke 15:7, 10)1

Last updated 3/2/2012

1 Randy Alcorn, Heaven(Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.), p. 73