Is Hell Eternal?
Or Will God's Plan Fail
By Charles Pridgeon
Chapter Twenty-five: Spiritistic Testimony Irrelevant
Because these studies have made the future life and the state of the dead in the intermediate state more real, there may be the temptation and desire to communicate with the dead. In our day there has been a great rush in that direction. This has been intensified by the multitude of bereavements, and by the nerve tension incident to the late World War, causing any kind of comfort to be sought. Many under such stress have accepted spurious or illicit comfort, when, if they had been fully themselves, they would have found comfort and rest in their God.
In addition to this, men of science have, in some instances, been the leaders in investigating spiritistic phenomena. Their special interest may be accounted for by the fact that the great bulk of their studies are so purely on a naturalistic basis that their nature cries out for something more spiritual or supernatural. When this is not satisfied in a deeper and real knowledge of God, satisfaction is sought in the spiritistic realm.
Then again the spiritistic sphere forms another field for scientific investigation. When one's whole life is spent in seeking and searching, their habit and happiness incline toward the pushing of such investigation into all fields, especially when so many state that the spiritistic phenomena are either fraud or sleight of hand. We have no doubt that much that is connected with spiritism has been wrought by trickery; but, allowing for all that, there is still a considerable residuum which can not be thus explained.
The psychological theory goes part of the way in the explanation; viz., that these things are but the phenomena of our own subconscious or subliminal minds. We say, this theory gives only a partial answer, and is therefore not the explanation of many of the observed facts.
The Bible is very clear in its teaching; and those who acknowledge its authority are saved from many a snare and find all the light that is needed for our time in God's Word.
The seeking to communicate with the dead, or the seeking help from those who do communicate with the dead, is expressly forbidden in the Word of God. Deut. 18:10-12, "There shall not be found among you . . . a consulter with familiar spirits, . . or a necromancer (one who deals with the dead). For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord." The Word then adds that the Canaanitish nations practised the same things; for in this text, Deut. 18:12, the word is added, "And because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee." Spiritists assert that such practises were forbidden in Israel because of the character of the spirits with which they would commune. They say now that the case is different. We fail to find any such distinction in the Word of God. But Old and New Testaments unite in warning us against Spiritism.
Notice the result of the preaching of the Apostle Paul in Ephesus as recorded in Acts 19:18,19. There were many there who practised the spiritistic and occult arts. So mighty was the preaching of the Apostle that they confest their sin, brought their books on these subjects and burned them publicly. The amount of books burned cost fifty thousand pieces of silver. Such occultism is contrary to the Word of God, and when the Word of God prevails such things are forsaken (Acts 19:19,20).
The slave girl who brought her master great gain through her fortune-telling, had an evil spirit, a spirit of Python, and the Apostle Paul cast it out of her (Acts 16:16-18).
It may be interesting to note that the book of Colossians was written to meet the more philosophic form of Spiritism, in which greater light was promised through the invocation of angels: a practise in certain ancient and modern forms of Spiritism and Theosophy. In the book of Colossians, Christ is set forth in all His pre-eminence as the Head of angels, of all creation, and as the Creator of all things (Col. 1:16). Why do we need to go to the lower, when we have the Highest? In Christ are "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3). The Apostle adds, "Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind" (Col. 2:18, R. V.).
Isa. 8:19,20 (R. V.) is plain and one would think that it was written in our day: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto the wizards, that chirp and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? On behalf of the living should they seek unto the dead? To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, surely there is no morning for them."
There is no case in the whole Bible where attempted communication with the dead, even with the good dead, is spoken of with approval.
Saul's supposed communication with Samuel is often spoken of as a genuine communication with the dead. Here is an appropriate case, for even Spiritists say that we can not believe every spirit that may communicate with us, but it is a different matter when we communicate with good spirits. Saul was seeking to communicate with a good spirit; viz., that of the prophet Samuel. The Word of God is very plain in declaring that Saul did exceedingly wrong. 1Chron. 10:13,14, "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 a familiar spirit to enquire of it; and enquired not of the Lord: therefore He slew him, and turned the kingdom unto David the son of Jesse."
Let us look at a few points in the narrative of Saul's visit to the woman of Endor who had a familiar spirit (1Sam. 28:7-25). The woman asked Saul, "Whom shall I bring up unto thee! And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel . . ." etc.
Notice this was not a materialization for Saul, for only the woman saw the one she called "Samuel."
There was nothing the woman said that might not have been said even by one of ordinary intelligence who was living in Israel at that time.
Saul would be suspected by any one because of his great height, "from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people" (1Sam. 9:2).
Likewise, it would not take much wit to describe Samuel as an old man.
It is certainly out of character for Samuel to speak as he is supposed to speak: "Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" (1Sam. 28:15). For this same Samuel when alive had said to the people and to this same Saul: "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you."
There are those among Christians who hold that the witch of Endor did not have power to bring Samuel back, but that God surprized her by sending the spirit of the real Samuel. If Samuel was sent back by God to bring God's message to Saul, it is rather strange language for Samuel to use.
On the other hand, those who think that the woman had the power to bring up Samuel are believing a strange thing, that a woman with a familiar spirit, or a medium, would have the power to call up at her behest any spirit of the blessed that she chose. This, to us, is unthinkable, especially when we read in the Scripture that our Lord has "the keys of Hades and of death" (Rev. 1:18). The custody of our loved ones had better be left to His loving care.
The fact that the spirit or the woman uttered any truth is not strange. The spirit feigned to be Samuel and had to fulfil that role.
It did not take very much beyond an ordinary intelligence to say that the Philistines were to conquer Israel, or that Saul and his sons were to be slain, because the Philistines were in great force and already dominated Israel.
As far as the Bible narrative is concerned, the woman's prophecy does not seem to have been true that Saul was to be slain on the morrow, for the next Chapter tells of other events taking place for which several days would have to be allowed.
Also the prophecy concerning the death of Saul's sons is only in part true. It seems to mean all of his sons; viz., the cutting off of his whole house; but this was not the case. Some of them were cut off with him, but we find one of his sons living a long time after this (2Sam. 2:8,10).
This supposed calling up of Samuel, when properly investigated, is revealed as an abomination to God and one of the chief causes of Saul's losing his kingdom.
This is the only case in the whole Bible that seems to favor in the least the seeking of one with a familiar spirit; and, when fully examined, it is found to be strongly against all such things.
There is a further word that needs to be said, and that is, the cultivation of mediumship or its seeming natural possession is to be most emphatically deplored. It requires the abject laying aside of one's personality, which is our highest and most God-like characteristic, and the development of a passivity which renders us little more than "a thing," an "it." Such a yielding sins not only against God, our Creator; but also against ourselves. It throws open the door to any kind of control or impression and deprives us of free moral agency, so that we become mere tools. The sincerity of some of those who practise these things only renders Spiritism more dangerous. Our God does not ask us to render a passive obedience, even to Himself. He desires that in our yieldedness we should still hold the power of choice. He desires our intelligent cooperation, else there will be no progress or true development on our part. His course of training to fit us for heavenly things is exactly the opposite to that which is necessary to become mediumistic. He develops strength of character and will; passivity degenerates into weakness. The tearing down of the vitality of the body is often one of the means to increase mediumship. Fasting and other methods to accomplish this are used. It is true that our physical bodies are a hindrance at times; but God has made them to be a blessing, and as a wall to block the too easy approach of evil spirits. When the passivity is perfect, the medium becomes a slave, harassed like one who has a private telephone line with ten or more on the line. He is interrupted on all sides and called at all hours.
There is no question about the supernatural element in Spiritism and Theosophy. It is the same power that was back of the old idol worship and is back of all the new idol worship. The Scripture warns us in 1Tim. 4:1, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils."
Most of those who claim such power make it a means of gain. Mediums who have most influenced our scientific men, occasionally, when the conditions are not favorable and the spirits were not working, have been known to deceptively push the thing through themselves. Their deception is not as much an "immoral" thing for them under the circumstances as it is an "unmoral" thing. They have gone so far into passivity that they are not fully responsible.
All this displeases God. He wants to be everything to you, to train you to trust Him. This blocks Him. He can not bestow as great things upon you as He desires. You have not the faith: you follow by the path of sight in place of faith. For a present gratification you sell your opportunity. Do not seek guidance from any one but Himself. Demons will feign to be your loved ones. Our Lord came down from heaven to give us true comfort. He says, "In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you." He is the only One who can prove it to you. He conquered death and the grave, and conquered it for you and your loved ones. They are safe in His care. He has the keys. His name is Love.
When David lost his infant son and was comforted of God, he witnessed against Spiritism. You recall the story. He fasted and prayed for God to spare his child, but no answer came, for it was not best. When David arose from the earth he washed and drest and went to the house of the Lord, and worshipped: "then he came to his own house, and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat" (2Sam. 12:20). The servants could not understand why he so changed. It was because he had bowed to the will of God, and a new purpose had come into his heart, viz., to so live that he could "go" and be reunited to his son. These are his exact words: "But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2Sam. 12:23). David knew he could not bring his son back. He did not want to be deceived by any spirit claiming to be his son. He did not go to any medium with a familiar spirit, but with new courage and increased faith he said, "I shall go to him."
Let us gladly accept the faith of the Apostle: "For I am persuaded that neither death . . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Back to Is Hell Eternal? Index
Back to Scholars Corner