It’s odd to me that so many assume people who are now in the present Heaven are completely ignorant of what’s going on here on Earth where the great drama of redemption is unfolding—wouldn’t we think they’d be more enlightened, not less?
From what we see in Scripture, it appears people in Heaven have at least some idea of what’s happening here. Now, I’m not making the claim that they know or pay attention to everything that’s going on. But take, for example, the martyrs in Revelation 6, who knew that God hadn’t yet brought judgment on those who killed them. It’s likely that they knew many other things about what’s happening on Earth:
“I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 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?’ Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.” (Revelation 6:9-11)
This passage demonstrates that those in Heaven are the same people—only relocated. There’s continuity of identity from this life to the next. Those we love who are there now are part of what Hebrews 12:23 calls the “righteous men made perfect.”
Notice that the martyrs are aware of what happens on earth when they ask God, “How long… until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” They know those who killed them haven’t yet been judged. That means the martyrs remember their lives on Earth, even that they were murdered. Some say people in Heaven can’t remember or see life on earth because knowing of evil would diminish Heaven’s happiness. But that’s not true. The key to Heaven’s joy isn’t ignorance, but perspective.
When called from Heaven to the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah “appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). They seemed fully aware of what was transpiring on Earth, and what God was about to do.
Also consider this: Christ referred to “rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:7). Similarly, He said, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). It doesn’t speak of rejoicing by the angels but in the presence of angels. Surely this includes saints in Heaven, who would be overjoyed by human conversions, especially of those they knew and loved on Earth. To rejoice over conversions on Earth, they must be aware of what is happening on Earth—not generally, but specifically.
Hebrews 12:1-2 tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” It evokes the image of Greek competitions watched by throngs of engrossed fans sitting high in ancient stadiums. The saints who’ve gone before us are called a “great cloud of witnesses.” This imagery suggests those saints—veteran spiritual athletes—watch us and cheer us on from the great stadium of Heaven. (Note that the witnesses are said to “surround” us, not just to have preceded us.)
Earth is center stage, awaiting the universe’s climactic event: Christ’s return. In Heaven, Christ watches closely what transpires on earth, especially in the lives of believers (Revelation 2-3). If God’s attention is on earth, why wouldn’t the attention of His loyal subjects be here too?
My mom was one of the closest friends I’ve ever had, and she’s been in Heaven for almost forty years. I can’t wait (but I will) to see her again. Mom died just four months after our Angie was born. I said at both our daughters’ weddings, in the summer of 2001, that I believed their two grandmothers were watching from Heaven. And since Nanci’s mom had been blind her last few years here, she was seeing the wedding in a way she couldn’t have even a few months earlier before she died.
I firmly believe this is true, but even if I was wrong on that point (since of course I can’t know exactly when God allows people to see events on Earth and when He doesn’t), I would not be wrong in praying “Lord, please tell Mom her precious granddaughters love You with all their hearts and married young men that do too. That will mean so much to her.”
My guess is that Mom knows all that anyway, and that she is enjoying seeing God at work in the lives of our grandchildren, her great-grandchildren she hasn’t yet been able to hug.
So, I believe Scripture clearly suggests our loved ones now in Heaven are witnessing, in at least some capacity, God’s unfolding plan on earth. They live in a place where joy is the air they breathe, and nothing they see on earth can diminish their joy. Their happiness doesn’t depend on ignorance, but perspective, drawn from the Christ in whose presence they live.
If you’re following Jesus, no doubt your loved ones there are rejoicing over you and looking forward to the great reunion. In fact, when we enter Heaven, I think our family and friends will among those right there with Jesus to give us a “rich welcome” (2 Peter 1:11).