The Race to Contact the Dead, Part 1
The Race to Contact the Dead, Part I
There is something that no skeptic in the world can deny. The Bible, heaven, God and Jesus may all be rashly denied, but none dare deny the fact that all are headed toward death. Because of this undeniable fact, a haunting question vaunts itself into the minds of many: "After death, what?" The subject of death creates a range in the emotional spectrum that can go from paranoia to fascination. The fascination with death, and the realization of the impossibility of escape from death, has led many into a race to contact the dead.
Recently there has been an explosion of interest in the unknown mysteries of death. The phenomenon of claiming to contact the dead is becoming almost common place. Hollywood movies fill the screens with plots revolving around contact with the dead. The television program Crossing Over features a host who claims to contact the dead. Books, movies, television programs, magazines, the Internet, all seem to be feeding America’s interest in contacting the dead. A popular magazine once caught my attention while standing in line at the grocery store. The cover said, "A hit movie has people asking, is there a Sixth Sense? Whether they’re mediums with a message or phonies after a fast buck, a new breed of psychic has made believers of millions who long to talk to the dead." J. D. Reed, Ivory Clinton, Natasha Stoynoff, Eric Francis, Fannie Weinstein, Johnny Dodd, Glenn Garelik, "Across the Great Divide," People Weekly, October 25, 1999, 117–126.
The article took a look at mediums (those who claim to communicate with the dead) and their opponents. It declared, "In a 1994 USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll, almost 70 million Americans said they think it’s possible to communicate with the dead. Meanwhile, the afterlife business is booming in the U.S. [United States]. Books about contacting the dead have crowded onto The New York Times bestseller list in the past two years, and the paranormal is at full boil on TV. Leeza, Montel, and Larry King Live regularly feature segments on the spirit world. . . . On the Internet, hundreds of niche sites spread the ghostly gospel, including some devoted to home snapshots of eerie ectoplasmic forms floating around backyard parties, and instructions on how to have your own ADC (after death communication) with loved ones." Ibid., 118. Clearly the race to contact the dead has well-nigh swept across America.
With the increased interest in afterlife, it becomes necessary for every Christian to thoroughly investigate the Scriptures to see what God’s word teaches about what happens at death. If this is something that the Scriptures commend, then surely Christians should not be left out of the race to contact the dead, but if this is something that the Scriptures explicitly forbid, every Christian should be foremost in warning their friends of this dangerous deception.
The Bible is actually remarkably clear upon whether it is safe for a Christian to contact their dead loved ones. "Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I [am] the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:31. Clearly it is defiling to seek after mediums. The Lord said to "give no regard" to them. "When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you [anyone] who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, [or one] who practices witchcraft, [or] a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things [are] an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you." Deuteronomy 18:9–14. This even gives us an idea as to why the Canaanites were driven from the land of Canaan. They had become inundated with practices of spiritualism. There is an entire list that the Lord gives us so we will not be misled. The very foundational cornerstone of most of the ones mentioned in the list above is the supposed ability to contact the dead. Just so there is no misunderstanding, the Lord adds, in unmistakable words, "or one who calls up the dead." It is an abomination before the Lord to go to someone who claims to contact the dead. This was one of the reasons the Lord’s anger was kindled against the inhabitants of Canaan, and it will rekindle His anger if we get involved with the deceptive practices of spiritualism.
It is an insult to the God of heaven to communicate with the dead for any reason. When King Ahaziah of Israel fell through a lattice and was injured, he sent a messenger to ask of Baal-Zebub of Ekron whether he was going to recover from his injury or not. Elijah met him with the stern message, "[Is it] because [there is] no God in Israel [that] you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?" 2 Kings 1:3. Because the king had gone to inquire of Baal-Zebub instead of the God of Israel, he was to die, and it happened exactly as prophesied. The Lord regards it the same way if we turn to the dead instead of to the God of heaven. "And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? [Should they seek] the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them." Isaiah 8:19, 20. By going in search of what the dead have to say, we are turning our back upon the God of heaven. He says, "Should not a people seek their God?" Why do those who profess His name turn to the dead instead of to the living God? It is an abomination and an insult to God to attempt to contact the dead instead of seeking Him for wisdom and guidance.
In ancient Israel, this act was so offensive to God that He gave the instruction that anyone who went against the word of God and attempted to contact the dead should be stoned. "A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood [shall be] upon them." Leviticus 20:27. One who attempted to contact the dead or one who dealt with spirits was not to live long. A similar warning is given in the New Testament: "But outside [the New Jerusalem] [are] dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie." Revelation 22:15. "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Revelation 21:8. This time it is not just physical death; the sorcerers receive the lake of fire. (Sorcery is based on the supposed contact with evil spirits and the spirits of the dead, and is grouped with contacting the dead in Deuteronomy 18:9–11.) God is very clear upon this subject. Those in Israel’s day who ventured onto the forbidden ground of communication with the dead met the sentence of death, and those who follow suit today will partake of the lake of fire.
It is clear from the Bible that neither anciently, nor now, are God’s people to have anything to do with mediums or with calling up the dead. It is an abomination, and the Lord explicitly tells us to give no regard to them. Paul, writing in the New Testament, counsels, "have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [them]." Ephesians 5:11. Although the seriousness of this matter can be seen, the question naturally arises, why such a strict prohibition? Is it not simply an innocent communication with our loved relatives? We communicated with them while they were alive; what could be wrong in talking with them once they are dead?
The Impassable Gulf
God in His great love and mercy for us has put an impassable gulf between the dead and the living. The living cannot communicate with the dead, and the dead cannot communicate with the living. "As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, Nor shall his place know him anymore." Job 7:9, 10. The word of God plainly declares that once a person dies, he does not come back up from the grave. Job says that he is like a cloud; once it disappears and vanishes, it does not return. Though there will, of course, be a resurrection. Job was not trying to say that once a person died it was all over, but he was making it clear that once a person goes down to the grave, they will not return to this earth again. "So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens [are] no more, they will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep." Job 14:12. The same concept is explained in the following verses, but with more detail given. Once man dies, he is not going to come back until the heavens are no more. Since the dead are never going to return to their place, it would be futile to attempt to communicate with them, for his place shall know him no more.
God, in His love, has given us this prohibition so we will not be deceived. We are warned in the New Testament about this deception. "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons." 1 Timothy 4:1. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1. There are deceiving spirits out there, so we are exhorted to test the spirits in order that we are not deceived. If we are not testing the spirits, we will inevitably be deceived. That the dead cannot cross the gulf back to the living, is one of those tests. God has given us this test because He knew that without it the devil could counterfeit our loved ones and thus deceive us.
The Bible tells us that the devil can, and frequently does, transform himself! "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light." 2 Corinthians 11:14. The devil can be transformed into an angel of light, and his agents put on his wily masks as well. "Therefore [it is] no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works." Verse 15. It is no great thing for the devil or his fallen angels (see Revelation 12:9) to appear in the guise of a loved one. After all, did not Satan first come in the form of a serpent in the Garden of Eden? (See Genesis 3:1–5, 14, 15.) God knew that these deceiving spirits could impersonate our dead loved ones and that we would be unable to tell the difference, so He put an impassible barrier between the dead and the living. We know from the Bible that if someone claims to be a deceased loved one, they are not from God. God has said that will not happen. Once a person goes down to the grave, they will not come up again. Thus, if there is one who claims to be able to hold conversation with the dead, in reality he is conversing with the devil or with one of his angels. When we understand this, it is not hard to see why God calls communicating with the dead an abomination. It is not hard to understand why God instructed that all who did this be put to death. It is not hard to explain that those who continue to do this without repenting will have their part in the lake of fire.
The Sleep of Death
In order to understand this subject fully, it is also necessary to understand how death is described throughout the Bible. In the overwhelming majority of texts, in both the Old and New Testaments, death is referred to as a sleep. Job was probably one of the earliest patriarchs, and he knew what death was: "Why did I not die at birth? . . . For now I would have lain still and been quiet, I would have been asleep; Then I would have been at rest." Job 3:11, 13. Moses knew what death was: "And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers . . . ." Deuteronomy 31:16. David knew what death was: "Consider [and] hear me, O Lord my God: lighten mine eyes, lest I sleep the [sleep of] death . . . ." Psalm 13:3. Jeremiah knew what death was: "‘And I will make drunk Her princes and wise men, Her governors, her deputies, and her mighty men. And they shall sleep a perpetual sleep And not awake,’ says the King, whose name [is] the Lord of hosts." Jeremiah 51:57. Daniel knew what death was: "And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame [and] everlasting contempt." Daniel 12:2. Our Lord Jesus Himself testified as to the state of death: "He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’" John 11:11–14. There is no mistaking what Jesus was talking about. Jesus plainly calls death a sleep. Paul knew what death was: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:51. Lastly, we find that Peter also called death a sleep: "Scoffers will come . . . saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of creation.’" 2 Peter 3:3, 4. This is such predominant terminology in the Bible that in the King James Version similar words such as "sleep, sleepeth, asleep," are used to describe death in no less than 60 verses.
Since this is something that is so widely taught throughout the Bible, we must take note of it and try to understand what it is telling us. Over and over again death is referred to as a sleep. What is sleep? Sleep is an unconscious state when man is totally oblivious to all that goes on around him. A person that is peacefully sleeping does not know of the calamities and problems or anything else that is happening. World War III could break out, and they would not know it. The silent sleeper is unaware of anything taking place around them until the moment they awake. The first thing that they have cognizance of when they awake may be the alarm clock ringing or the sun rising. There may have been ten minutes that have elapsed or eight hours, but it was as a moment of time to the sound sleeper. How fitting and comforting a representation of death. Instead of trying to explain the soaring of some spirit to unknown worlds afar, the one who dies is simply sleeping in the grave where he was laid. This is something that our ancestors knew. Years ago the letters R.I.P. (Rest in Peace) were engraved upon many tombstones—sleep silently in the grave until your Maker calls you forth. Thus, if death is a sleep, a resting in the grave as the Bible testifies over and over again, it can clearly be seen why there is an impassable gulf between the dead and the living. None can awake until they hear the voice of the Creator Himself, so it is an impossibility to communicate with our dead loved ones. They are sleeping in the grave awaiting the voice of the Son of God.
Conscious or Unconscious
While we are taking a nap, it is common to have dreams or even nightmares. What kind of sleep is this "sleep of death"? Is it an unconscious, dreamless sleep or is there a conscious existence? Once again, our only safety is in turning to the word of God. There is no one who truly knows the mysteries of death aside from the One who said: "You shall surely die." Genesis 2:17. The testimony of the Bible is once again unmistakable. "For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share In anything done under the sun. . . . Whatever your hand finds to do, do [it] with your might; for [there is] no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6, 10. Solomon, the wisest man that has ever lived upon the earth, declared, "the dead know nothing." Obviously the sleep of death is an unconscious state. He further says that all of the emotions of the dead have perished. They have no more love or hatred. Then the warning is given to the living to do what they can with their might, because in the grave they will be unable to do anything; there is no wisdom or knowledge in the grave. The Psalmist testifies of this same thing: "Put not your trust in princes, [nor] in the son of man, in whom [there is] no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." Psalm 146:3, 4. The thinking process comes to a standstill. Problems are no longer wrestled with; solutions are no longer sought or found. The amazing organ of the brain ceases to turn; the neurons and electric currents of the brain no longer carry their messages back and forth. At the moment of death every thought ceases to exist. The conflicting emotions stop. Knowledge and wisdom come to an end. The thoughts perish. Instead of this life of turmoil and problems, there is a silent and peaceful sleeping in the grave. Time is frozen for the dead. Although life moves on in our world, it is all unbeknownst to the deceased. They are neither writhing in anguish and pain, nor looking down from bliss, seeing the agony and suffering that the living are enduring. The dead are unconsciously sleeping in the grave where they have been laid.
Another way we know from the Bible that the "sleep of death" is an unconscious state is because we are repeatedly told that the dead are not praising God. "Will You work wonders for the dead? Shall the dead arise [and] praise You? Shall Your lovingkindness be declared in the grave? [Or] Your faithfulness in the place of destruction?" Psalm 88:10, 11. "For in death [there is] no remembrance of You; In the grave who will give You thanks?" Psalm 6:5. "The dead do not praise the Lord, Nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord From this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 115:17, 18. The Psalms repeatedly declare that it is the living that praise God. "The dead do not praise the Lord." Surely if the righteous dead have a conscious existence, they would be praising God. If they had ascended to heaven where all worship and praise the Lord, they would certainly join in the praise. But no, the inspired record declares that they do not praise the Lord and that there is not even remembrance of Him in death. Why? Because in the very day of death the thoughts perish. The righteous, with the wicked, are sleeping in their graves, awaiting the call of the Master.
[All Emphasis Supplied.]
To be continued . . .
October 2002 Table of Contents