Monday, April 04, 2011

Can we communicate with our loved ones in heaven?

I have a friend who recently lost a loved one and who is experiencing unusual "happenings." My friend is asking, "Are these things happening because of 'visits' from my loved one?"

Today, I am sharing part of my response with my friend.


Thanks for your question. Here are a few thoughts. Please know I am praying for you. I believe that God is at work caring for you. I am glad that you are experiencing tokens of His love, care, and concern for you.

Luke 16 contains teaching on the experience of those who have gone home to heaven before us. It refers to an impassable separation between the after-life and this world. The Bible teaches that those in the next world cannot return to deliver messages to the living.

In Luke 16, a rich man had died and a poor man had died. The rich man went to Hades while the poor man went to heaven. The rich man cried out for some relief, "Send the poor man here to cool my tongue with water!" But He was told, "Between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us" (Luke 16:26).

The idea is that once a person is in their eternal state, then they are secured there forever. This is a comfort for us. God is eternally protecting our loved ones in heaven until we join them there.

Another example for us is when David lost his son. David said, "Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me" (II Samuel 12:23). Again, the teaching here is that those who have gone home cannot return to us.

In II Corinthians 5:8, Paul writes, "We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord." The ESV Study Bible says that this "refers to the 'intermediate state' between a Christian's death and the resurrection of all believers' bodies on the day Christ returns. Paul means that when he dies, though his physical body will be buried here on earth, he expects that he (as a 'spirit' or 'soul'...) will go immediately into the presence of Christ, and will be present with Christ... until the day of resurrection (cf. Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23; Heb. 12:23)." 

So, with all this in mind, I believe that [your loved one] is safe and secure with Jesus in heaven. [Those who have gone on are] not coming back and forth. 

However, it is possible that God is giving you gracious tokens of His presence and care to remind you in your grief and loss that He is caring for you. I can imagine [your loved one] saying to the Lord, "Would You send an angel to show my [family] that You love them and are thinking of them and that I love them and am thinking of them?" And I can imagine the Lord doing just that in the various ways you mentioned. 

Scripture suggests there are guardian angels for children. Jesus says of children, "their angels behold the face of my Father," (Matthew 18:10). Also, it appears there may be one specific angel assigned to adults, too. For example, the apostle Peter had an special experience with "his angel" (Acts 12:6-15). So, these experiences you are having may be experiences with angels assigned by God to bring comfort and peace and hope to your soul.

I believe that it is appropriate for us to ask God to get messages of love and gratitude to those we have lost. 

Randy Alcorn, who wrote a wonderful book called "Heaven," writes the following on his blog,

"Is it okay to talk to our loved ones who've gone on to be with Jesus?

"First, would it even be possible for someone in Heaven to know what's happening on earth, and be able to hear us say anything? Many assume the answer is no. But in Matthew 17, Moses and Elijah clearly already knew the events going on when they appeared with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. In Luke 15 Jesus speaks of rejoicing in the presence of the angels, not BY the angels but in their presence, whenever a sinner repents, suggesting God's people in heaven rejoice at God's work in lives on earth. To rejoice at it, they obviously must be aware of it. And Revelation 6:9-11 shows martyrs in Heaven who are clearly aware that God hasn't yet brought judgment on those who persecuted them, and are wondering why. So they know some of what's happening on earth.

"Okay, so if it's possible someone in Heaven could hear us, is it right to talk to them? First, there's a huge difference between talking to someone and praying to them, and it's critical we keep that clear. When people pray to Mary and the saints, they are calling on them as intermediaries, asking them to intervene and exercise power in this world. There is no biblical basis for this. Since 1 Tim. 2:5 says Christ is the only mediator between God and men, it would violate this to pray to those in heaven. We're not to pray to people or to angels, but only to God.

"But would it be okay to say, 'I'm not sure you can hear this, Mom, but if you can I just want to say thanks for how you always watched out for me. I love you and I'm looking forward to seeing you again and talking and having you show me some special places there.,

"That's talking to someone, but it's NOT praying to them, calling upon them to do something, or to exercise power or talk back.

"Seeking to call up from the dead or to hear from the spirits of the departed is a forbidden occult practice (Deut.18:9-14). But that's very different than doing what I just described.

"Personally, rather than talking to a loved one, I am more comfortable simply praying to Jesus or the Father (there are biblical examples of praying to each) and saying, 'Lord, would you please give my mom a hug, and tell her it's from me?' Now I think my mom sometimes sees what's going on here and might hear this when I say it, but I KNOW God hears it. And I trust God to do what He knows is best. Does that make sense?

"I could see how a person speaking to their departed loved one, even if they're not violating Scripture (since they're not praying to them or calling on them), could become unhealthy or obsessive. But that's not likely to happen when we're talking to God about them. He invites us to come to Him with what's on our minds and hearts. Obviously your loved one is on your mind and heart. If your child or wife or husband or parents or best friend are with Jesus, God understands your desire to feel connected to them, and to want them to know of your love for them, and that you miss them and look forward to seeing them again.

"I have every reason to believe God would honor the request to pass on our warm greetings to loved ones. But again, that's up to Him. It's one thing to ask God for something like this, but entirely another to insist on it. We're the creatures, He's the Creator. He's the Potter, we're the clay. (And what a privilege to be His clay, as well as his sons and daughters.)

"So, bottom line to the person who asked the question, as long as you're not praying TO your loved one or FOR your loved one (who needs no prayer now), but to God ABOUT your loved one, and your feelings, and your desire for them to know something, I think there's nothing in that which violates a Scripture. Just be careful it doesn't shift into anything that treats them as intermediaries or leads to obsession or seeking contact with them, which is expressly forbidden."


Rob Berg said...

Thanks Rick! I never really new any of that! I have lost many friends in the past 3 years and often hear people at the wake and funeral saying they know so and so is watching over us and is with us but clearly that is not the case. I appreciate the scripture you quoted to show these meanings! I started coming to CVC only 11 months ago and have been getting so much out of your and Pastor Chad's sermons. I feel very blessed to be part of such a wonderful Church and am grateful God has brought me to you. I have been reading the bible every day since November using the CVC Bible Study from the website and I remember reading that when you stray from the church and come back that God makes your Faith stronger than ever! I am experiencing that now and am very grateful to for it!

Thanks for being such an insightful man and Pastor! my fiance and I drive 40 miles round trip to see you every Sunday. You also once prayed with her and I at the loss of her 42 yr old cousin from cancer. Thank You!

Janice Morovich said...

I lost both my parents this year, my Mom April 18, 2011 after her 6 year journey with Alzheimer's disease, and my Dad November 1,2011, (two days before his 93th birthday),from respiratory failure, which developed a few months after she died. He was healthy all his life until then. My Dad was Bob Feller's birthday twin. My parents had been married 63 yrs. They took their marriage vows seriously--"in sickness and in health until death do us part..." My Dad was the most dedicated devoted husband. Others have said their life was truly a love story.

I know they are both in heaven and will be celebrating Christmas with Jesus this year, but I am hurting and missing them. Your blog was encouraging about how "God understands (our) desire to feel connected to them(our loved ones), and to want them to know of (my) love for them and that (I) miss them and look forward to seeing them again." Also, you mentioned "I have every reason to believe God would honor the request to pass on our warm greetings to loved ones," if he chooses. Thank you. Your blog was reassuring and hopeful. Have a blessed Christmas.

liz said...

Thank you for your blog, I am so sad on missing my friend, I don't know if I could go another day with out him. I wish I can talk to him. Tell him I love him and hope he is happy. Wish he was back.

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