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Is it possible to talk to the dead? Today I received an interesting comment from a reader named Darryle and he has a few opinions about talking to the dead. He doesn’t believe that it’s possible to talk to the dead and he provided scripture to back up his position. I figured I’d respond publicly so that everyone can benefit from the dialogue.
“We know that God never spoke to Saul again because he never repented. Just like our disobedience today without repentance will prevent the lord from talking to us. That’s the law.”
“So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the Word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had familiar spirit, to inquire of it; And inquired not of the lord: therefore he slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse.” – 1 Chron. 10:13-14
Saul Gets The Silent Treatment
The first thing we need to address is the statement that God never spoke to Saul again. That is true, but God never stopped speaking to Samuel. Even after God stopped speaking to Saul, He spoke to Samuel concerning Saul’s destiny to be replaced as king. This information was then relayed to Saul through Samuel. As for the statement that Saul never repented, that is not true. In fact, scripture records Saul’s repentance twice.
“And Saul said unto Samuel, I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice. Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD.” – 1 Samuel 15:24-25
“Then he said, I have sinned: yet honour me now, I pray thee, before the elders of my people, and before Israel, and turn again with me, that I may worship the LORD thy God. So Samuel turned again after Saul; and Saul worshipped the LORD.” – 1 Samuel 15:30-31
If we read the above verses very carefully there are a few things that should stand out:
- Saul specifically requests a woman with a familiar spirit.
- Saul believes that this woman is capable of contacting the spirits.
- Saul’s servants already know where to find a woman with a familiar spirit.
The reason Saul had to repent in the first place is because he left Agag (a nephilim) alive in disobedience to God’s order to kill him. Even though he repented, God appointed a new king. Saul’s next problem came about as an act of desperation. When God stopped speaking to him he consulted the witch of Endor and asked her to raise Samuel from the dead.
Can The Living Talk To The Dead
“The dead may have conscious, but they do not interact with us after death.” – Darryle
Here is where we get into shaky ground. Aside from the account of Samuel communicating from beyond the grave, we also have a New Testament example of the dead communicating with the living.
“And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.” – Matthew 17:3
Elijah was taken into the spiritual realm while living, according to 2 Kings 2:1. Based on that we’ll exclude Elijah from this discussion. We know for a fact, according to scripture that Moses died at 120 years old (Deuteronomy 34:7). If the dead cannot interact with the living after death, who was Jesus really talking to? On this I have to agree with scripture, He was indeed talking to Moses who had previously died.
Read More About Angels & Demons In My BookBeyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons
Moses was clearly a servant of God, as was Samuel, so there is no reason that it would be impossible for the living to contact a dead servant of God at that time. At this point my understanding of the subject, based on research, is that the dead can’t come back to the land of the living on their own accord (except Christ). In both the Old Testament and the New Testament the dead are raised and brought back to the world of the living. Unless we are prepared to say that those resurrected did not have a soul, the only logical conclusion is that they did indeed have souls after being raised from the dead.
What we are looking at based solely on the Bible are two references to the dead communicating with the living and multiple references to the dead being brought back to the land of the living. The question now becomes, can the dead be contacted and communicated with, without being restored to a physical body?
“As for the story of Lazarus and the rich man, notice what the scriptures said to the rich man’s request to send Lazarus back to warn his family.” – Darryle
“Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” – Luke 16:29-31
There are several things to address in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. Is this conversation occurring after Lazarus’ 1st death or 2nd death? The Rich Man clearly believes it is possible for the dead to return to the land of the living. If it was impossible, he would not have made the request.
Next, notice that they inform him that even if they did send someone back from the dead people wouldn’t believe. When Lazarus was raised from the dead, the people didn’t believe, they actually plotted to kill him again (John 12:10). Christ rose from the dead over 2,000 years ago and people still don’t believe Him, which is completely in the context of what they were saying. They acknowledged that it was possible for the dead to be raised, but pointed out that not even the raising of the dead would convince someone that they needed to turn their life over to Christ.
“Like I stated before, here on earth, we have the church, the word, the Holy Spirit, prophets, teachers, and etc. If you don’ hear them, you can’t circumvent God’s established order and call up the dead. Again, Ecc. 9:5 and Job 7:9 are clear. The dead have no more interaction with this world and shall not rise again until the resurrection.” – Darryle
Again, I disagree. We have plenty of examples of the natural order being circumvented. Transhumanism and the creation of hybrid animals are perfect examples of people doing things that circumvent the natural order. What we have here is the failure to acknowledge the difference between “don’t” and “can’t”.
Can’t vs. Don’t
Just because we are told that we shouldn’t do something doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to do. Psalms actually addresses this very problem of the natural order being tampered with:
“They know not, neither will they understand; they walk on in darkness: all the foundations of the earth are out of course.” – Psalm 82:5
“Mosad erets mat” (foundations of the earth are out of course) refers to things not being as they were originally intended to be. In order for something to be on course, a course/order must first be established. In order for something to veer off course or out of order, something has to happen to upset the established order/course. Here are a few examples:
- Lucifer’s fall upset the established order of all angels being obedient to God.
- Adam and Eve’s disobedience upset the established order of mankind’s existence free of death.
- The fallen angels upset the natural order of people only reproducing with people.
- We are currently using science to upset the natural order by producing things in labs that would not occur naturally.
Let me point out that I do not think it is possible to circumvent anything that God intends to be tamper proof. I’ll explain in a minute, but first let’s continue addressing Darryle’s points.
“By rightly dividing the word of truth, the bible does prove that it is impossible to contact the dead. Deut. 18:10-11, it was forbidden for the children of Isreal to seek those with familiar spirits. There are no good familiar spirits. They are just spirits that work for satan who are familiar with our family history.” – Darryle
Darylle makes a few very good points here, so let’s look at exactly what Deuteronomy 18:10-11 says and see if he is rightly dividing the word of truth:
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” – Deuteronomy 18:10-11
Here the Bible tells us that we are not supposed to have certain types of people among us. It does not say that these people are fakes or frauds. There is clearly something spiritually dangerous in what they do. There is no command to rid the world of actors, and if these people weren’t legitimate, they would essentially be actors. Let’s look at each of these types of people.
- Child Sacrifice – Used to worship other gods, most notably Molech who God calls an abomination (Jeremiah 32:35)
- Divination – Attempting to contact angels, demons, or the gods through ritual means. It also includes fortune telling and reading omens.
- Familiar Spirits – These type of spirits were usually believed to be demons and are said to assist witches in magical practices.
- Wizard – Traditionally wizards studied texts that taught them how to cast spells, make amulets, and draw sigils in order to achieve a desired result that would not occur natural.
- Necromancer – The practice of raising a previously dead person.
Once we look at all of the above, we can clearly see that they all have different functions and purposes that upset the natural order or balance between the spiritual and physical worlds. If necromancy was impossible, God would not have bothered warning us about it. That would be equivalent to me warning my daughter not to stay over Spongebob’s house past 9pm. It’s not necessary to warn people not to do something that is impossible to do. Also notice that there is a huge difference between necromancy and having a familiar spirit. What role would a demon play in the practice of necromancy?
If you hold the belief that demons are the disembodied spirits of the Nephilim, by default you also hold the belief that they were once alive, then died at some point, and now interact with the living, which is just one more example of the previously dead contacting the living. While demons seem to inhabit the spiritual realm, they can also manifest in the physical realm by possessing people and animals. I actually go much deeper into this subject in my book, Beyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons.
Is it possible that the witch of Endor was using her familiar spirit to gain access to Samuel? I don’t know for sure, but what I do know is that the writer of 1 Samuel refers to this spirit as Samuel. They also make the differentiation between the gods and this particular spirit.
“That’s why the bible tells us to try the spirits and see if they be of God (1 John 4:1). Notice, familiar spirits never bring the good news of the Gospel, they are only familiar with past generational sins. They are there to keep you in bondage. Lev.20:27, a man or woman with a familiar sprit was to be stoned.” – Darryle
Read More About Angels & Demons In My BookBeyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons
Here I think Darryle is misunderstanding exactly what a familiar spirit is. The definition does not refer to them being familiar with past events (although they probably are), it refers to the spirit being familiar to the person that conjured the spirit. This is much in the same sense that your brother or sister would be familiar to you. It is a way of referencing a spirit that they contact on a regular basis. I agree that familiar spirits don’t share the Gospel, otherwise God wouldn’t have warned us not to consult them.
“A conjurer can bring an evil familiar spirit from the same family to impersonate the just one. But, We know today that a conjurer cannot summon the just spirits to appear since Jesus descended below where they were captive and released them from prison and carried them to heaven (Matt. 27:52-53; Heb. 12:22). So, who do you really think these people are talking to when they say they are talking to love ones who have departed this world?” – Darryle
I agree that spirits can impersonate someone that has passed on, but there is no indication of that in the story of the witch of Endor. It is a church tradition that cannot be backed by scripture. What we know for a fact is that the writer calls the spirit Samuel. He is not referred to as an evil spirit or a deceptive spirit or a lying spirit. The confusion comes in when Christians attempt to explain away the obvious explanation. Saul found someone that had means of contacting people that had passed on and he wasn’t supposed to.
I also believe that Darryle is correct in saying that Jesus descended and released some of the dead, but that doesn’t apply here. This event took place long before Jesus did that. It also doesn’t account for those people that have died and don’t know Christ. They do no reside in heaven.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what we think or if it conflicts with our beliefs, we have to accept what the Bible says. The Bible says it was Samuel. Saul clearly believed it was Samuel, and the witch believed it to be Samuel as well. I’m not saying that they couldn’t be deceived, but the text does not indicate that in any way at all. Furthermore if this was an evil or lying spirit, it would not have been able to accurately tell Saul that he was going to die that very day. God could have easily proven this spirit to be false by allowing Saul to live another 24 hours, but He didn’t. The spirit’s words came to pass 100% without fail.
Ghosts and Spirits In The Bible
Throughout history people have been reporting encounters with spirits that seem to manifest, disappear, taunt, and torment them seemingly without reason. Unfortunately, good Biblical explanations are few and far between, and even most of those are only available if we know where to look. Our society seems to have an obsession with communicating with the supernatural realm, which is a very dangerous practice. Believe it or not the Bible has a lot to say about the subject of ghosts, poltergeists, and other hauntings.
“In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men, Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake. Then a spirit passed before my face; the hair of my flesh stood up: It stood still, but I could not discern the form thereof: an image was before mine eyes, there was silence, and I heard a voice, saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?” –
Many believe that Eliphaz’s encounter was with an angel, some believe that it was with the Holy Spirit, and others believe Eliphaz’s encounter is Biblical evidence of ghosts. In the story, Eliphaz experiences several things that are usually associated with a haunting:
- He first feels fear.
- He started to tremble.
- A spirit manifests.
- The hair on his body stood up.
- The spirit had no shape.
If we compare this story with the stories of angelic encounters, they are only similar in two of the five aspects. Angelic encounters usually result in fear and trembling. If we compare this story to the disciples encounter with the resurrected Christ, there is no fear before they see Him, and He also has a definite shape.
“According to the records of the time, they would appear in numerous guises, often as an animal, but also at times as a human or humanoid figure, and were described as clearly defined, three-dimensional… forms, vivid with colour and animated with movement and sound by those alleging to have come into contact with them, unlike later descriptions of ghosts with their smoky, undefined forms.
According to the above statement, formless ghosts are a later description of these ghostly appearances; however, the book of Job is believed to predate Genesis, which was written around 1400BC. There are many scholars that believe that Job was written 2000 BC – 1800 BC, which would make this encounter over 4,000 years old. This manifestation is only one type of strange encounters in the Bible between people and spirits, but there is another more disturbing practice that was going on in Biblical times and has carried on into modern society.
Read More About Angels & Demons In My BookBeyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons
Our Modern Obsession With The Dead
In our modern times talking to the dead (necromancy) has become a very popular subject in the media. On any given day of the week we can turn on the television and find one or more of the following shows:
- Ghost Hunters
- Ghost Adventures
- Ghost Whisperer
- Many More
All of these shows have one thing in common: They all encourage communication with the dead. In addition to these shows, there are people like John Edwards and Silvia Brown that make a living by claiming to talk to the dead, but where does this idea of talking to the dead originate? Many people believe that the practice started in Biblical times, but that is not the case.
“In European folklore and folk-belief of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, familiar spirits, sometimes referred to simply as familiars, were supernatural entities that were believed to assist witches and cunning folk in their practice of magic.”
The Bible contains very specific laws concerning talking to the dead, but the idea does not originate in the Bible. The practice of Necromancy (spirit divination) or having a familiar spirit dates all the way back to Babylon. Babylonian Necromancers were referred to as Manzazuu and the spirits they raised were referred to as Etemmu and Gidim. Before we continue it is important to differentiate between these two types of spirits.
- Etemmu – They were the ghosts of people not properly buried, thus being denied entry to the underworld and doomed to wander the world for all eternity. They are also vengeful towards the living. In modern times these would be what we would refer to as ghosts or poltergeists.
- Gidim – They are the equivalent of ghosts, but the difference between them and the Etemmu is that they were the spirits of dead people living in the Underworld.
Once we dig into the subject of talking to the dead, we can clearly see that the entities that the Babylonians claimed to have contact with were not the same. These entities had different functions and they abode in two different locations. There also seems to be a difference in interpretation as to what these entities are. From a Biblical perspective, only demons and fallen angels are vengeful toward mankind, while the Babylonians held a completely different belief. The story of the which of Endor speaking with Samuel after death is very similar to the belief in the Gidim.
“Early necromancy is likely related to shamanism, which calls upon spirits such as the ghosts of ancestors. Classical necromancers addressed the dead in a mixture of high-pitch squeaking and low droning, comparable to the trance-state mutterings of shamans.”
While the use of sound to invoke a spiritual response goes far beyond the scope of this book, it was a common practice in ancient times. Certain sounds and tones were believed to attract spirits and certain tones were believed to repel them. We find one such example of a spirit being repelled by David through the playing of music.
“And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” – 1 Samuel 16:23
While this does not prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that witches can conjure up spirits through vocal sounds, it does give some credibility to the belief in using music to influence a desired response from spirits. However the conjuring of spirits was accomplished, the Bible has very strict warnings concerning those that seek people that engage in the practice.
“And the soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.” – Leviticus 20:6
The consequences for being guilty by association were to be cut off from everything you knew and left to fend for yourself. If you think that is harsh, the penalty for actually being a witch, wizard, or warlock was death. God does not take dabbling into the spiritual realm lightly. The fact is that people do not come back from the dead as spirits to physically manifest and interact with mankind without being conjured up through forbidden ritual, which means that these modern spiritual encounters have to be manifestations of something other than dead humans. However, there is one exception to this rule.
Excerpted From: Beyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons (Chapter 2 pg. 31-36)
In conclusion, I believe that people can circumvent natural law by piercing the veil into the spiritual realm. I believe people can be deceived by spirits pretending to be something that they are not. I don’t think that the dead can come back to the land of the living on their own accord (except Christ) as ghost stories suggest. For a more thorough explanation of haunting vs. necromancy, please see my book, Beyond Flesh and Blood: The Ultimate Guide To Angels and Demons.