The Bible Says 'No' to Talking to the Dead

Old and New Testament Perspectives on Talking to the Dead

Talking to the Dead
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Is there such a thing as a sixth sense? Is it possible to communicate with the spirit world? Popular television shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures, and Paranormal Witness all seem to suggest that communicating with spirits is quite possible. But what does the Bible say about talking to the dead?

What Does the Old Testament Say?

The Old Testament warns against consulting with mediums and psychics in several instances.

Here are five passages that give a clear picture of God's point of view. In the first, we learn that believers are defiled by turning to spirits:

'Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.' (Leviticus 19:31, NIV)

Speaking to the dead was a capital offense punishable by stoning under Old Testament law:

"Men and women among you who act as mediums or psychics must be put to death by stoning. They are guilty of a capital offense." (Leviticus 20:27, NLT)

God considers talking to the dead a detestable practice. He calls his people to be blameless:

"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, and because of these detestable practices the LORD your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God." (Deuteronomy 18:10-13, NIV)

Consulting the dead was a serious sin that cost King Saul his life:

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, NIV)

King Manasseh provoked God's anger by practicing sorcery and consulting mediums:

He [King Manasseh] sacrificed his sons in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced sorcery, divination, and witchcraft, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the LORD, provoking him to anger. (2 Chronicles 33:6, NIV)

What Does the New Testament Say?

The New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit, not spirits of the dead, will be our teacher and guide:

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26, NIV)

[Jesus speaking] "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." (John 15:26, NIV)

"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (John 16:13, NIV)

Spiritual Guidance Comes from God Alone

The Bible teaches that spiritual guidance should be sought from God alone through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. He has provided everything we need for this life in his Holy Word:

As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness! (2 Peter 1:3, (NLT)

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It straightens us out and teaches us to do what is right. It is God's way of preparing us in every way, fully equipped for every good thing God wants us to do. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT)

Jesus is the only mediator we need between this world and the world to come:

For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5, NLT)

That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. (Hebrews 4:14, NLT)

Our God is a living God. Believers have no reason to seek the dead:

When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Isaiah 8:19, NIV)

Deceiving Spirits, Demonic Forces, Angels of Light, Counterfeits for the Truth

Some believers question whether psychic experiences of talking with the dead are real. The Bible backs up the reality of these events, but not the idea of talking with dead people. Rather, these experiences are  associated with deceiving spirits, demons, angels of light, and counterfeits for the true Spirit of God:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (1 Timothy 4:1, NIV)

What I am saying is that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don't want any of you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord's Table and at the table of demons, too. (1 Corinthians 10:20-21, NLT)

Even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14, NLT)

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10, NIV)

What About Saul, Samuel, and the Witch of Endor?

First Samuel 28:1–25 contains a somewhat confusing account that seems to be the 'exception to the rule' about talking to the dead. After the death of the prophet Samuel, King Saul was terrified of the threatening Philistine army and desperate to know the Lord's will. In his helpless desperation, he resorted to consulting with a medium, the witch of Endor.

Using demonic powers of sorcery, she called up Samuel. But when he appeared, even she was startled, for she had expected a satanic apparition and not Samuel himself. Shocked that God had intervened for Saul, the witch of Endor knew this "spirit coming up out of the ground" was not the result of her demonic conjuring.

So, Samuel's appearance here can only be explained as the unprecedented intervention of the Lord in response to Saul's hopeless desperation, permitting him one firm and final encounter with the prophet. The event in no way indicates God's endorsement of talking to the dead or consulting with mediums. In fact, Saul was condemned to death for these actions in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14.

God has repeatedly made it clear in his Word that guidance is never to be obtained from mediums, physics, or sorcerers, but rather, from the Lord himself.

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Fairchild, Mary. "The Bible Says 'No' to Talking to the Dead." ThoughtCo, Sep. 5, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-bible-on-talking-to-the-dead-701973. Fairchild, Mary. (2017, September 5). The Bible Says 'No' to Talking to the Dead. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-bible-on-talking-to-the-dead-701973 Fairchild, Mary. "The Bible Says 'No' to Talking to the Dead." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-bible-on-talking-to-the-dead-701973 (accessed September 23, 2017).