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Are your loved ones in Heaven watching you?
What does the Bible REALLY say about forgiving each other?

Are your loved ones in Heaven watching you?

A visitor's message to Bible Riches
Leone S. writes - I have a friend who is a Catholic, whose father recently died. I feel she is still in mourning for him. She often says how much she misses him, which is only natural of course. She also says that he is looking down at her, which I don't agree with, but do not want to raise an argument.

I suppose that Catholics have a different view on departing souls, so I am not about to change a thing which they have been instructed with since the cradle.
Rich's reply
Dear Leone,
Thanks for your email.

When your friend said that her father may be looking down at her from Heaven, she may have a point. There is a bit of Biblical evidence to indicate that the saints in Heaven may know what's being done on earth -- to what degree I'm not sure.

Let me give you a couple of examples to ponder...
First, take a look at Revelation 6.9-10. Here the tribulation saints in Heaven are crying out for justice on the earth.

Now ask yourself, why would this be a concern for them if they did not know what was taking place on earth?
  When He [Lord Jesus] opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, "How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Rev 6.9-10

Second, read the verses in the panel alongside. Notice that these verses speak of a "cloud of witnesses" that you have surrounding you.

These verses give the idea that your Christian walk is like being in a stadium on a field doing battle.

  • In the stands are God's people who died and went to Heaven before you.
  • They are cheering you on, as you daily confront the world, the flesh, and the devil.
  • They are encouraging you to keep fighting, and to keep doing great things for the Lord.

The cheers of God's people in Heaven should be heard by every New Testament believer. They are your cloud of witnesses. They are more than mere spectators, because at one time or another they were all in the battle themselves.

  Therefore we [God's people on the earth] also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [God's people in Heaven], 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, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Heb 12.1-2
As you have seen, the Biblical evidence is limited to just a few verses. Even so, you shouldn't completely dismiss it. Neither should you completely dwell on it.

For some folks, the comforting thought of a loved one (hopefully one who has truly received Jesus as Lord and Savior) looking down from Heaven is somehow put within them.

You're right not to make an issue out of it. For a season, God may use this to help your grieving friend find rest and comfort in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Much Grace, Rich

What does the Bible REALLY say about forgiving each other?

A visitor writes -- When I am asked to forgive someone, I have been taught that it should be done "unconditionally."

Does this mean that I should forgive a person whether or not they have done anything to change their behavior?
Rich's reply
It seems that whenever you read or hear a message on forgiveness, it comes across as if it is to be given out “unconditionally.” But the Bible doesn’t say that. It tells you that you should “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.
Eph 4.32

Bear with one another, and forgive one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even
as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. Col 3.13
While God’s forgiveness is undeserved, it isn’t unconditional.

Notice the conditional words [if, unless] in the verses alongside. Those verses, and many others like them, make it very evident that the Lord’s forgiveness is offered only to those who confess their sin and repent.
  [God said...] If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chron 7.14

[Jesus said...] Unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Lk 13.3b

If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us your sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1.9
1) On the surface, it might seem more spiritual and Christlike to forgive unconditionally. But unconditional forgiveness may be motivated more by fear than by love. And because of this it’s usually destructive.

For example, if a wife continues to forgive an unfaithful and abusive husband unconditionally, her toleration of his behavior will probably result in even more abuse and disrespect.
2) This kind of “unconditional” forgiveness expresses a determination to cling to the abuser. No matter how bad things are, this woman fears that things will probably get worse if she holds her husband accountable. Therefore, she forgives him whether he repents or not. Her passive acceptance of his behavior will probably encourage him to continue in his sin.
3) Instead of her forgiveness being a helpful act of tough love, it is actually a violation of love that will hinder his and her growth toward Christlikeness.   A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again.
Prov 19.19, NIV
The Lord's specific teaching about forgiveness in Luke 17.3-4 makes it clear that forgiveness should always be conditioned upon *repentance.*

Let's examine what it means to repent...
  [Jesus said...] Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, "I repent," you shall forgive him. Lk 17.3-4
Some folks think repentance just means saying that they're sorry. [This might prompt you to ask. "Sorry for what? Sorry for what you did? Or sorry because you got caught?"]

The verse alongside shows that sorrow is not the same thing as repentance. Rather, godly sorrow PRODUCES repentance. Therefore, repentance is more than merely being sorry for one's sinful behavior.
  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. 2 Cor 7.10
In Luke 17.3-4 "repent" is a translation of the Greek word metanoeo. As shown by the definition alongside, repentance denotes an actual CHANGE in one's mind and purpose with respect to their sinful behavior.

A person is "Biblically ineligible" to receive forgiveness unless and until that person has *repented* -- TURNED AWAY from his or her sinful behavior.
  Repentance (metanoeo) -- A change of mind, accompanied with regret and sorrow for something done, and an earnest wish that it was undone.
American Bible Tract Society Dictionary
It takes courage and character to forgive a person who repents and asks your forgiveness. If you forgive them, you expose yourself to the risk of being hurt again.

Their repentance earns your forgiveness because the Bible commands you to grant it. But the Bible does not command your forgetfulness. They are still responsible for the harm they’ve done to you. Moreover, as the one who was hurt, you are responsible to maintain sound judgment so as not to be placed in a situation that will only cause more harm to occur.

Repentance makes them deserving of your forgiveness. It also makes them eligible to receive your trust. When they repent, your forgiveness should come quickly. On the other hand, they should realize that it will take time and effort for them to once again earn your trust.

"Undeserved forgiveness" and “unconditional forgiveness" are absolutely different!

  • Unconditional forgiveness is an affront against justice, and a denial of the significance of sin and its cruel effects.
  • In a sinful and abusive world, forgiveness shouldn’t be given unconditionally.

On the other hand, you should always be willing to share the *undeserved forgiveness* you have received through Christ -- but ONLY when it is preceded by genuine repentance.

Be realistic in confronting those who have hurt you. Love them. Try to help them understand their need for true repentance in order to heal the wounds they have inflicted -- not just in your heart, but in God's heart as well.

    Click HERE to read Forgiveness - Part 2.

Part 2 responds to a message requesting clarification of certain conclusions that I reached in the preceding study.


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