Do They Really Speak With the Dead?
SOCCER teams in Brazil sometimes seek help through spirit mediums. Why? In order to get advice because of fear that an opposing team may win. According to one newspaper, the “opportunity to communicate directly with the supernatural in search of solutions to all types of problems exerts a powerful influence upon millions of people.” In some countries, high-ranking politicians, artists, and businessmen regularly consult the spirits. In an effort to seek a cure or to solve a financial problem, many try to consult the dead, who are believed to be more enlightened.
But is it proper to try to speak with the dead? Is it really possible to do so? And are there any risks involved? You may be surprised to see what the Bible says.
What Happened in Saul’s Case?
Consider this real-life experience recorded in the Bible: Fearful of the enemy Philistines, King Saul of ancient Israel sought out a spirit medium in En-dor. He asked her to contact the dead prophet Samuel. On hearing her description of an old man with a sleeveless coat, Saul assumed this apparition to be Samuel. And what was the message? Israel would be given into Philistine hands, and the next day Saul and his sons would be with “Samuel,” indicating that they would die while fighting the Philistines. (1 Samuel 28:4-19) Is that what happened?
Not exactly. Saul was severely wounded in battle with the Philistines, but he died a suicide. (1 Samuel 31:1-4) And contrary to the prediction suggesting that all Saul’s sons would die with him, his son Ish-bosheth survived him.
But was it proper to inquire of the dead in the first place? No, it was not. The Scriptures tell us: “Saul died for his unfaithfulness . . . and also for asking of a spirit medium to make inquiry.” (1 Chronicles 10:13) Can we learn something from this? Yes. Saul died for asking a spirit medium to inquire of the dead. Why? Because in doing this, he disobeyed God’s explicit law: “There should not be found in you . . . anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.” (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) Why is inquiry of the dead detestable to God? Before answering that question, we may ask:
Is It Really Possible?
If anyone is to talk with the dead, the deceased must actually be alive. They must have immortal souls. Yet the Bible says: “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground and to blow into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man came to be a living soul.” (Genesis 2:7) Therefore, the person himself is a soul. He does not have an immortal soul that lives on after the death of the body. In fact, the Scriptures say: “The soul that is sinning—it itself will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) Moreover, God’s Word says: “The living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all . . . There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol,” mankind’s common grave.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.
Far from being more enlightened, then, the dead are unconscious. So it is impossible to speak with them. Acting in harmony with God’s law against inquiring of the dead therefore protects us from being deceived. Yet, messages from the spirit realm are possible, as King Saul’s experience shows.
But What Is the Source?
For one thing, frauds are common among those professing to contact the dead. The World Book Encyclopedia informs us: “It has been shown that mediums trick people at séances into believing that spirits can communicate with the living. Scientists offer explanations for much of what happens at séances. For example, some mediums are ventriloquists. Some use helpers and various types of trick equipment. Others use hypnosis. Many people who attend séances have a strong desire to contact a dead loved one. This desire may make them believe that any message delivered by the medium comes from the spirit world.”
But should we think only in such terms? No, for adhering to God’s decree against inquiring of the dead also protects us in a far more significant way. Messages do come from the spirit realm, but their source is powerful creatures seeking to mislead mankind. The Bible identifies them as “wicked spirit forces”—Satan the Devil and disobedient angels known as demons. (Ephesians 6:12) When King Saul visited the spirit medium in En-dor, it was a demon that impersonated the dead prophet Samuel.
As illustrated in the case of Saul, the demons have nothing beneficial to convey, and their supposed help is short-lived. Like their ruler, the Devil, they are liars. (Mark 3:22; John 8:44) In this regard, the late British psychic researcher Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote: “We have, unhappily, to deal with absolute cold-blooded lying on the part of wicked or mischievous intelligences. Every one who has investigated the matter has, I suppose, met with examples of wilful deception which occasionally are mixed up with good and true communications.” (The New Revelation, page 72) Of course, you do not want to be deceived, do you?
Now, consider this: History tells us about the slave trade and related sufferings. Would anyone willingly accept such hardship and humiliation? Of course not. Then why should we permit ourselves to become enslaved by wicked spirits? They not only lie but also rob people of their freedom and may even lead them to violence and murder. For instance, 29-year-old José of Pernambuco, Brazil, said that ‘a spirit entered into him, forcing him to kill his year-old daughter.’ Yes, involvement with wicked spirits can lead to such slavery. Well, then, just as grieving slaves of the past yearned for freedom, so those enslaved by the demons today should want to be free. One way to achieve this freedom is to refrain from consulting spirit mediums and attempting to speak with the dead. For that matter, is there . . .
Any Need to Speak With the Dead?
No, because we are not without assistance. Like children who trust their father, we can freely ask for help from the heavenly Father, who is pleased to assist the honesthearted. (Luke 11:9-13) God’s prophet Isaiah wrote: “In case they should say to you people: ‘Apply to the spiritistic mediums or to those having a spirit of prediction who are chirping and making utterances in low tones,’ is it not to its God that any people should apply? Should there be application to dead persons in behalf of living persons? To the law and to the attestation!”—Isaiah 8:19, 20.
Yes, we have a solid basis for confidence in Jehovah God if we do his will and refuse to have any contact with wicked spirits. The Christian disciple James wrote: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) After studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, a man who had practiced spiritism for 28 years stated: “Never fear what the Devil may do to those who abandon spiritistic practices, but, rather, trust in Jehovah God.”
Filling the mind with the truth from God’s Word and acting on it will enable us to “put on the complete suit of [spiritual] armor from God” that we may “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil” and not be enslaved by wicked spirit forces. (Ephesians 6:11) Moreover, praying to Jehovah regularly will provide a powerful defense against demon molestation.—Proverbs 18:10.
How comforting it is to know the truth about the condition of the dead! Death is like a profound sleep. (John 11:11) And Jesus Christ guaranteed that there would be a resurrection of the dead.—John 5:28, 29.
Together with his wife and children, one man who had been a spiritist learned from the Scriptures that no one needs to try speaking with the dead or someone impersonating them. Like this family and many others around the world, you too can enjoy spiritual freedom. (John 8:32) Learn the truth about the dead and God’s purpose for mankind. Then you can look forward to Jehovah’s new system, where you can speak with resurrected loved ones and enjoy eternal life under peaceful conditions.—Isaiah 25:8.
[Picture on page 4]
Who really spoke when King Saul asked for a message from the dead prophet Samuel?