Who are the “great cloud of witnesses”?


Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Hebrews 12:1-2
            The answer is found in the previous chapter—eleven—where the writer gave a complete rundown of people from the Old Testament who displayed faith.  The word “therefore” ties this thought to the previous.
            The writer is saying the testimonies of faith from those witnesses show us how to live by faith.  Those individuals are not here on earth, but in the “clouds,” a reference to heaven.  We are surrounded by their stories and encouraged to be like them in our lives.
            There’s no indication in the Bible that people in heaven watch us like fans in the stands.   We don’t need them to watch over us.  We need God to watch over us.  But their faith inspires us.