Religious Skepticism

Jude 1:17-19 “But you, beloved, remember what was foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ when they said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow after their own ungodly desires.” These are the ones who cause divisions, who are worldly and devoid of the Spirit.”

I was having a conversation the other day with a couple brothers I greatly respect. The topic was of lesser importance than the way we all approached the topic.

What is the correct response to someone who has had a “spiritual experience”, particularly as it relates to the God of the Bible? Should we start with a healthy dose of skepticism, doubting another’s experience until we can confirm it’s authenticity or should we blindly take their word for granted, even if it can’t be coordinated with scripture?

When it comes to personal experiences, people can draw conclusions based off an emotional response that occurred during the moment. I’ve known people who were so distraught over losing a loved one, they started praying to a picture of that person. The act of trying to conjure up the dead in conversation led them to believe they heard the voice of their dead loved one speak to them. When I asked them what the voice said, the response sounded very similar to others who said they had been attacked by demonic spirits. Soon thereafter fear began to set in and darkness surrounded them until they began to lose their sense of reality.

When I hear someone tell me they contacted a dead friend or relative, I can look to scripture and determine whether this is possible.

2 Samuel 14:14 “For surely we will die and be like water poured out on the ground, which cannot be recovered. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises ways that the banished one may not be cast out from Him.”

Once a person is dead, that life cannot be recovered. The Lord calls people to salvation through the Son of God and for those who accept the call, they ascend into the presence of the Lord at death.

2 Corinthians 5:8 “We are confident, then, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

People who were in Christ ascend into the presence of the Lord the moment their body has died. For those who die in their sin because they have rejected Christ as their only hope of salvation, they immediately descend into Hell with everlasting contempt.

Proverbs 14:32 “The wicked man is thrown down by his own sin, but the righteous man has a refuge even in death.”

Even these scriptures which speak of life for the godly or death to the sinner, say nothing about whether we can contact them from an earthly position. The question remains as to whether someone who is still living on earth can contact someone who has passed away?

Well, there was a very specific moment in the Bible when this did occur.

The Sin of Saul

Saul was the first king of Israel. He had disobeyed God on several occasions and Samuel the prophet was the man God used to convey God’s disapproval.

Eventually Samuel died and Saul, wanting to be successful in battle, asked God to show him how to win a conflict with the Philistines. Because of Saul’s disobedience the Lord did not respond to Saul’s request and since Samuel wasn’t around, Saul decided to take matters into his own hands and hired a medium or sorceress. Since Saul had cut off all people from practicing this form of witchcraft, Saul had to disguise himself and hypocritically seek her guidance against his own decree.

1 Samuel 28:11-14 “Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”

And he said, “Bring up Samuel for me.”

When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, “Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!”

And the king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What did you see?”

And the woman said to Saul, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth.”

So he said to her, “What is his form?”

And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle.” And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground and bowed down.

Now Samuel had died and was in a place of non-torment referred to as Abraham’s bosom. Some people will argue with me and claim he was in Heaven but since Jesus had not died and made that possible, no one had yet qualified to enter into God’s presence. This scripture speaks of Samuel “ascending up from the earth”, a place that has specifically been mentioned numerous times before for the place of Sheol.

Notice also that Samuel’s body was not resurrected, only his spirit was brought up, which is the state of all people who have died until God replaces the old with the new.

1 Samuel 28:15-19 “Now Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”

And Saul answered, “I am deeply distressed; for the Philistines make war against me, and God has departed from me and does not answer me anymore, neither by prophets nor by dreams. Therefore I have called you, that you may reveal to me what I should do.”

Then Samuel said: “So why do you ask me, seeing the Lord has departed from you and has become your enemy? And the Lord has done for Himself as He spoke by me. For the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord nor execute His fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover the Lord will also deliver Israel with you into the hand of the Philistines. And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also deliver the army of Israel into the hand of the Philistines.”

Saul is living in complete disobedience to God and yet Samuel reminds him that upon his soon and eventual death, Saul and his sons will join him in the same place he dwells, except possibly in the place of torment which was visible to those who were not being tormented. We really don’t know for certain Saul’s eternal status before God, but we do know that he was in serious trouble.

This story of Saul and Samuel was a unique example of God allowing someone who had previously died to talk with someone who was living.

Ezekiel 18:4 “Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.”

The Lord has made it very clear that whether someone has died and ascended into the presence of the Lord or into Hell, they are all His. He controls their fate, He alone passes judgement, and He directs them to where they should go. No sorceress has the ability to conjure up a spirit without the Lord allowing this to happen, and this is not a practice that I would ever advise attempting. Saul had been judged for his disobedience and this was another step in the wrong direction, we certainly don’t want to be found in the same predicament.

Doubt

I know many people who doubt the authenticity of this passage in the Bible. Imagine if these same people were alive during Saul’s day, they wouldn’t believe him if he told them.

I firmly believe that all Truth is complete in God’s Word so anything that rises up against that Truth is made false. Where I differ is people’s experiences, they may have a way that God has revealed His power to them or brought them clarity for God is indeed on the throne and He alone is sovereign. Just because we don’t see the same experience related to in the Bible, doesn’t mean that someone else couldn’t have their own unique experience. Dreams, visions, or some other experience that God gives people who are in doubt can be as unique as the the people themselves, what I look for is the fruit. Did the experience lead them to glorify God, the One true God, or did it lead them to focus on something else?

Joel 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

The prophecy of Joel was for the church age. When Jesus died and was then resurrected, the Spirit was imparted to the church. The manifestation of God’s Spirit in His people brings forth a connection with God that was made possible through the sanctifying work of Christ. Visions and dreams have been reported in many people through the ages and God has used them for a myriad of reasons, namely to guide and direct.

These Last Days

Acts 2:17 “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.”

The church age has been occurring for 2000 years, we are reaching the end of it and so we are therefore in the last days.

The concern is warranted when people claim to have a vision or dream and yet it leads them into further darkness. There have been many reported instances of people who were living in contempt before God and yet were imparted visions or dreams from God. Nebuchadnezzar dreamed of the future Kingdoms to come and also the coming Messiah. Pharaoh, the butcher and baker all had dreams that Joseph interpreted for them. A man had a dream given to him by God that helped Gideon have the courage for battle. Whether a person is a faithful servant of God or not, God can use anyone to accomplish His purposes.

All inspiration should lead to doing God’s will. God’s will is made clear through His Word. How God inspires is the point I’m making here, and I don’t believe it’s up to us to make that judgement.

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

It’s easy to decipher those who are doing God’s will because it always brings glory to God, it always reflects righteousness, and it almost always leads others to Christ.

We can’t forget the foundational calling of Christ to His people…”Go into all the world and make disciples”, building one another up in their faith, and being light in the midst of the darkness.

If our inspiration is true, our works will be true.

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