In moments of grief and loss, people say some of the goofiest things. I was once at a funeral where the pastor, trying to bring comfort to the family who lost their husband/father/grandfather that was once a carpenter, said something like, “I believe the reason God called Bill home so soon is because God needed someone to help Him build all the mansions in heaven.”
Umm, price check on aisle 13, please! Because I’m pretty sure God doesn’t need any help with that, and while Bill may have enjoyed the occasional wood working project on earth, I doubt he made it to heaven hoping for a full-time job.
But it sounded nice, I guess. And we’ve all said and heard similar things, usually having to do with the deceased still being present.
“She’ll always be with you now, no matter where you go.”
“I know he’s up in heaven smiling down on you.”
And who can blame us?! What else are we supposed to say? And who wouldn’t want to feel comforted by the idea that their loved one isn’t really gone?
Thankfully, if you believe what the Bible teaches to be true, it tells us quite a bit about this topic.
Heres what we know…
- The dead can not return to earth. Period. Isaiah 26:14 makes that clear when it says, “Those we served before are dead and gone. Their departed spirits will never return!” And why would they want to!? (hint: see below!)
- If we see or hear from a dead loved one on earth, we’ve been tricked. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan and his demons are the masters of disguise. They want us to see things that aren’t real to distract us from the next point.
- Jesus loves us more than any person ever did or could. We long to see, hear from, and be protected by our loved ones because we lose sight of how Jesus loves us so much more! So much so that he wants to be your greatest desire and focus, not the love of a person (Hebrews 12:2).
- Heaven is SO MUCH BETTER! In heaven there is, “no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4) And in heaven they are WITH JESUS! (John 14:2-4) Why would our loved ones want to leave that to come back down here?! Better yet, why would we want them to?!
So if they don’t come back to earth at any point after death, can they see us? Well, the Bible doesn’t come right out and say. But we can say with confidence it seems like the answer is no. And if we love them as much as we say we do, that should make us happy! Here’s why…
- Seeing us would make them sad. They are now “like the angels” (Luke 20:36) and are experiencing real life for the first time ever as God intended it (Revelation 21 and 22). To see us stuck in our broken world would cause them great sadness for us, and distract them from the presence of Jesus! Again – why would we want that?!
- Time is so different in heaven. 2 Peter 3:8 says a day in heaven is like a 1,000 years. That means to my Nanny, who beat me to heaven by around 60 years, it’s going to only seem like about an hour and a half before I’m there, too! She’ll just be getting settled in on her new front porch when I show up! (see…there I go being goofy!) But the point is, she’s not missing me like I’m missing her!
- We will see them again! Over and over we are told that Christ followers will see and recognize their loved ones in heaven. My favorite example is King David when he was heart broken about his baby son dying. He simply said, “I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.” It’s ok to grieve the loss and the reality that they will not be coming back to us in this earthly life. But our hope is first in Jesus and second in the great news that we will indeed be reunited in Christ!
As you process this reality of the unseen world, let this become so much more than an academic exercise or interesting topic. Let it be a reminder to us of how much Jesus loves us – and loves our family and friends who are in heaven with him – that He would rescue us from this broken world and give us victory and life with him!
With that in mind, I’m glad my Nanny can’t see me or come talk to me. After all, I’ll be there, too, in just a few minutes…