Dead Man Talking?

Occasionally people ask my opinion on various personal or church issues. I recently received the following question which I have reprinted below, followed by my response.

QUESTION

Bob,  

I recently quoted you when a relative asked what I thought about ghosts. I remembered you referencing what Jesus said to the man on the cross and (thankfully) found the question answered here on your blog, and shared that with her.   HOWEVER, today in my Bible study I read about Saul going to a medium and summoning Samuel to speak with him.  I had forgotten about this passage and I’m wondering how do you explain this scenario, which appears to be evidence that spirits MAY interact with the living?    

 

MY ANSWER

Your question about the possibility of the spirits of the dead speaking to people who are living is certainly a relevant concern. In light of the recent fascination with zombies, witches, mediums and the walking dead, it’s important that we understand what God’s Word has to say about this subject.

The incident you mention (1 Samuel 28) where Saul asked the Witch of Endor to conjure up the spirit of Samuel is the only instance of such an experience in Scripture.  Some think God permitted the spirit of Samuel to appear from the grave and speak to Saul but let’s examine it more closely.

We need to remember that God had strictly forbidden the practice of necromancy (occult practices that attempt to communicate with the dead). Deuteronomy 18:10-12 reads, “Let no one be found among you who … practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord…”

Since the Law of Moses had been so specific in forbidding witchcraft, we can understand why God considered Saul’s decision to consult a medium so grievous. “Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse” (1 Chronicles 10:13-14).

God had earlier made it clear that He had completely withdrawn His blessing from Saul and was no longer communicating with him. Saul then turned from God to a witch – a representative of Satan, for counsel.

I find it interesting that the witch herself was frightened when she saw a supernatural spirit coming up out of the ground.  Obviously, up to this point, she had been a fraud- pretending to communicate with the dead. This is evidently the first time she had actually seen something like this, and she was startled.

If you read the story carefully, the Bible does not say Saul saw Samuel. The witch saw an old man covered with a mantle and she and Saul both jumped to the conclusion that it was Samuel. I believe this was a demon who answered as Samuel because demons can impersonate.  The Bible says Satan sometimes masquerades as an angel of light.  Saul walked into Satan’s dominion, and Satan took advantage of the opportunity to deceive so that in the end he can kill, steal and destroy.

J. Vernon McGee points out that Saul gained nothing from this experience. There was no new information. Before the prophet Samuel died he already predicted Saul’s rejection and death. There was no new comfort or direction from Saul’s visit to the medium. He profited nothing from this excursion into the demonic world.

The account of Saul consulting with the Witch of Endor does not contradict the rest of Scripture. The spirits of the dead do not interact with the living.  In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man who died was strictly forbidden to return to the living.

Today’s obsession with zombies is another indication of a culture spiritually adrift.  G.K. Chesterson once said “When a man stops believing in God he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.”  The Bible warns us not to consult mediums or to attempt to communicate with the dead, not just because it’s futile but because it’s dangerous. When we delve into the spirit world, we warm by the Devil’s fire and lay ourselves open to possible demonic deception.

The only one who died and came back to speak with us was Jesus.  If we need information about the spirit world or the after life or guidance for the future- we need only go to Him.  He is the One who was dead but now is alive forevermore.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Bob

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