Can the dead speak to the living?

“The dead are still with us and death is just an illusion. The dead try to connect with us every day. To receive guidance and comfort from them, we only have to be open and aware of the signs they send us.” Mystics and mediums promise they can help people hear from the dearly departed. Many people wonder if the dead really can speak to them. Many claim to have had contact with a deceased relative. Whether it be a touch of the wind on their cheek or a vision of a loved one, they believe they have had personal contact with a spirit. While these experiences offer a sense of comfort, are they real? What does the Bible say about speaking to the dead?

Most importantly, Scripture strongly condemns attempts to get instruction, input or guidance from the dead. Deuteronomy 18:11-12 says, “There shall not be found among you anyone who . . . practices divination or a sorcerer or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord.” This is not just a command for the Israelites that no longer applies today. All throughout the Bible witches and mediums were closely connected with idolatry. The New Testament condemns all forms of witchcraft and sorcery, which includes necromancy, mysticism and divination. If it were possible for the dead to speak to the living, the living are prohibitted to seek guidance from them.

The dead cannot speak to the living. The Bible describes the dead as no longer able to speak to the living. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, “The dead know nothing.” and Ecclesiastes 9:10 says there is no knowledge or wisdom in the grave. Psalm 115:17 calls the grave a place of silence. These verses teach that the dead have no more voice upon this world.

But what about King Saul? Didn’t he speak to the spirit of the prophet Samuel? In 1 Samuel 28 King Saul visits a witch to seek guidance from the deceased prophet. The witch of Endor was genuinely surprised when Samuel appeared. Her surprise hints that she did not actually expect the spirit of a dead man come at her call. This incident is the only one of its kind in the Bible. None should read the description of Saul’s sin as permission to seek guidance from the dead. Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor is specifically mentioned as one of the reasons for his death in battle against the Philistines. Samuel’s appearance to the witch of Endor was a unique event that God allowed to happen for His own purposes. The dead do not possess any ability in themselves to speak to the living.

Everything the Bible teaches about the spirits of the dead shows that we should not expect to hear from them. The Word of God gives clear and strong condemnnation against seeking to contact the dead. These supposed contacts may offer a measure of comfort to some, they are fleeting and ultimately unnecessary. Wer have no need to seek input from the dead. The Bible gives all the comfort, instruction and guidance that anyone needs.

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If God is real, why do terrible things happen to innocent people?

One of the great problems many people struggle to address is the presence of terrible evil in the world. Why does God allow tragedies to happen to innocent people? Why do so many evil people go unpunished through life? Why do little children in Africa starve while pedophiles die at a comfortable old age?

These kinds of questions are not contrary to the Bible. Scripture asks and answers them. In Psalm 73 the Psalmist wrestled with why the wicked prospered. He said, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no (pains) in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.” The Psalmist was tempted to think serving the Lord to be a waste of time, but he says, “then understood I their end.” The problem of evil cannot be answered without considering the future of wicked people. The prosperity of the wicked and the suffering of the innocent is very brief. This does not mean suffering is insignificant. This means the wicked will never get away with their wickedness. The time of evil is going to come to end. The time of judgment is coming. No one ever gets away with anything. The murderer who dies in his sleep at an old age does not get off the hook. He will be judged by God and will pay the full penalty of his heinous sins. God’s justice never fails. Every sin will be fully punished.

But why do evil things happen in the first place? Evil happens because man rebelled against God. Man sank so deeply and so thoroughly into sin that only 1,500 years after the first sin, God wiped the Earth clean with a huge flood. Noah’s flood shows the severity of the problem of sin, and also points to the problem of God’s judgment.

The holiness of God is not limited to hatred of the really bad sins like murder and rape. God hates all sin. Murder is no more deserving of judgment than lying. If God were to remove evil from the world today, all evil would have to be removed. Gossips and rapists, angry men and genocidal maniacs, drunkards and murderers, all will be judged. Which is also the reason God has not yet removed evil from the world.

Why doesn’t God just punish sin now? What is He waiting for? The answer given repeatedly in the Bible is that God will punish sin, but not yet. God delays judgment so some will have the chance to repent. When God judged the world in the flood, the waters did not just destroy the most violent. The flood took away all but the 8 on the ark. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah did not spare those who were not as bad as the rest. God’s judgment will be upon all evil.

Most people do not actually want God to remove all evil from the world. They want Him to remove the really bad sorts of evils, but leave us with the evils we are comfortable with. Sin is not a minor a problem, like a sprained finger. Sin is a cancer that corrupts all creation. The terrible things that happen remind us that sin, all sin, is a horrible curse afflicting the world. God is not overlooking any sin. He will punish all.

How can I give thanks for everything?

How does a Christian give thanks for terrible events? Fatal disease, personal tragedy, national catastrophe, evil men and inhuman atrocities are just some of the grim things that are always occurring in this world. Should a Christian give thanks for things like murder or child abuse?

The Bible commands Christians to give thanks in every thing, give thanks for every thing and give thanks all the time.
“In everything give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
“Giving thanks always for all things.” (Ephesians 5:20)
“In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” (Philippians 4:6)
“Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Colossians 3:17)
“By Him therefore let us therefore offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)

How can a compassionate Christian obey these commands?

Giving thanks for bad things is not treating evil as if it is good. Nor is it trying to excuse evil. Evil will always be a horrible tragedy. Giving thanks for calamity does not deny the painful reality of suffering. Instead, giving thanks for evil recognizes the good purposes of God that are being accomplished in even the most terrible evnts. Consider the most inhuman evil ever perpetrated in the world. The rejection of the Son of God followed by His unjust execution is the most horrible thing to ever happen. Yet Christians always thank God for Jesus’ death on the cross. In the Lord’s Supper Christians gather to remember and give thanks to God for the death of Jesus. Jesus Himself gave thanks at the first Lord’s Supper. Though He knew the suffering waiting for Him Jesus gave thanks to God in that time of great personal agony. Jesus did not deny the horrors of what was coming. He knew them, looked them full in the face and thanked God. Christians can thank God for terrible things without acting as if evil is good or pain is pleasant.

Giving thanks is not just about the thanking God for the pleasant things we receive from Him. It is easy to give thanks for answered prayers, a nice home or a pay raise. Giving thanks is about more than the blessings of God. Giving thanks is about recognizing God’s good hand in everything that happens. Giving thanks looks above the circumstances to acknowledge the holy God who is accomplishing His good purposes in all things.

Christians can give thanks because we recognize that temporary benefit is not the most important thing. We can be grateful for painful circumstances because we know they are working in us eternal good. (2 Corinthians 4:17) God’s primary interest is not in increasing our comfort or in helping us achieve our dreams. God’s concern is for our eternal gain. Giving thanks looks beyond the present to the promised. Continual thankfulness looks past the temporary to the eternal good that God is working.

We give thanks because God is good, God is sovereign, God is accomplishing the eternal plan promised in Scripture, God is redeeming men and God is using every situation to change the Christian into the likeness of Jesus. We give thanks because no matter how much the situation changes, God is the same and He is always accomplishing what is best for those who love Him.

Do adult children have to honor their “bad” parents?

Child abuse and neglect are widespread problems in our nation. Many adults today grew up in households where one or both parents did not parent as they ought. The Bible commands children to honor their parents. In situations of abuse or neglect this becomes a very difficult command to obey.

The fifth of the ten commandments says, “Honor thy father and mother.” This command is repeated for modern day Christians in Ephesians 6. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for teaching a tradition that justified not honoring parents. The Bible clearly expects children to honor their parents.

To honor someone is to highly value them and to treat them in a way that shows they are valued. This is not the same as obedience. Obedience does what it is told. Honor treats the parent with respect appropriate to their position. Honor will not mock, will not call names, will not yell and will not hate. Proverbs 23:22 says, “Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.”

Young children or those still be supported by their parents are not the only ones required to honor their parents. Honor is owed the parent even when the child supports them. A child never reaches an age when he does not owe honor to his parents. In New Testament times some Jews would dedicate all their possessions to God. The tradition of the Pharisees allowed the person to continue to use those things for himself. If a parent had a need the child could refuse to meet that need because his possessions had been dedicated to the Lord. This pious sounding selfishness overthrew the fifth commandment. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this teaching, “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6)

Jesus taught that adult children were under obligation to honor their parents. Even children with their own households and possessions are obligated to honor their parents. This implies, as well, that ensuring older parents are properly cared for is an essential part of honoring them. Giving to parents that have need is the obligation of any child. Refusing to care for parents is a refusal to honor them.

Is it appropriate to treat abusive, foolish or bad parents with respect, value and compassion? The Bible gives no exceptions to the command to honor father and mother. A similar instruction is given to Christians, commanding them to honor all governmental authorities. Most of the New Testament was written durign the reign of Nero who has gone down in history as one of Rome’s most infamous Caesars. Yet, the New Testament clearly teaches that Christian’s are to honor their rulers.

Despite the many corrupt rulers in the Roman Empire, no exceptions were given to this command. Honor is given to civil authorities because they are given their rule by God for the good of all men. In similar fashion, parents are entrusted by God with the care of their children. Honor is due them for their position and their responsibility. Parents will not always act respectably, but they must always be valued because they are your parents.

Does the Bible forbid suicide?

Suicide is always tragic. Often it is the last despairing step of those who have lost all hope. Christianity has long taught that suicide is a sin. Now the wrongness of suicide is being questioned. What does the Bible say about suicide? Though the Bible mentions seven acts of suicide it does not specifically condemn any of those acts. The context of several of those accounts, like that of Saul and Judas, gives the impression that suicide is the act of a wicked man.

An understanding of the Biblical view of human life is essential to answering this question. All human life is sacred. Space does not allow a full exploration of this idea, but from the very first mention of man the Bible makes clear that human beings are unique creations. Man was created in the image of God. The destruction of that image is a great evil. God told Noah after the flood, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” (Genesis 9:6) In Numbers 35 God instructs Israel how to deal with murder and murderers. He impresses upon them the seriousness of taking a human life, “for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.” (Numbers 35:33) Any violence against a person is an assault against the image of God. This is why God forbids murder. This is why suicide is a sin.

The Bible’s commands against killing people must logically include killing oneself. The same reasons that make murder a sin, the desecration of the image of God and the extreme selfishness necessary to murder another, are the same reasons suicide is a sin. The individual has no right to plot the destruction of any human life. The person has no more authority over whether he lives or dies than he does over whether his neighbor lives or dies.

Suicide is an extreme act of selfishness. Whatever other motivations are behind suicide, the person ultimately decides to value his own escape from discomfort over the grief it will cause those left behind. Suicide sees the person’s own suffering as more important than anything or anyone else. Suicide declares “I will make the decision when my time on earth is done.” Such arrogant selfishness violates the command of God to love Him supremely and to love others selflessly. (Luke 10:27)

The example of the Psalmist is instructive of how to consider despair and death. David knew the brevity of life and many times felt the approach of death. His life was by the violence of men and grief of soul. In all things, David trusted the Lord. David went through times as dark and difficult as any faced by a person, yet he trusted the Lord. He gave no voice to suicidal thoughts, but said “My times are in thy hand.” (Psalm 31:15) His example shows how to respond in those times when, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:15) The right response is, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation; but I hope in Thy word.” (Psalm 119:81)

Suicide is not unforgivable. But, whether it be through a self-administered gunshot or a physician administered lethal dose, the willful killing of self is a sin.

What is “evil”?

President George W. Bush gained a lot of media attention when he called certain countries an “axis of evil”. Though the word doesn’t seem to get a lot of press coverage today, evil still exists. Anyone with a bit of familiarity with current events knows the existence of evil. We all know evil when we see it, but what does the Bible say about evil?

In normal use today the term “evil” is usually reserved for things that are really bad. Cheating on taxes is bad, but most people would not call it evil. Genocide is not just bad or wrong, it is evil. Though most rational people acknowledge the existence of evil, not everyone is agreed on the nature of evil. Some describe evil as an outside force working in this world. Satan is believed to be nothing more than the personification of evil. The Bible describes Satan as evil but never mentions evil apart from an act or an individual. Evil in the Bible is not an impersonal force. Evil is not an outside agency working upon people and events of the world.

Evil describes beings and actions. Angels are evil. People are evil. Deeds are evil. That which is evil is diseased and corrupted. It is infected, rotten and malignant. Evil is a corruption of what should be. Evil is not passive. Evil implies a willful, intentional action. Evil is not like a man being tripped. Evil is active in turning from the right path to follow a forbidden one. Evil is a moral description of a being’s or a deed’s corruption or sinfulness.

The Bible most often uses the word evil to describe something that is morally corrupt, but there are times when evil is used to describe something that is afflicted or destroyed. When God punished Jerusalem for her idolatry it is said He brought evil upon the city. God did not sin against Jerusalem. He brought destruction, sorrow and misery to the city as judgment for its sin. Evil describes events have bring ruin and calamity. They are evil in consequence though not evil in morality.

The presence of evil is a constant reminder that humans are moral creatures. People have a conscience and know the difference between right and wrong. The existence of evil is a testimony to the fact that things are not as they should be. The problem of evil points men and to women to God who will eradicate evil.

Though most people do not think of themselves as evil (the latest gunman probably did not think of himself as evil), all are evil. Everyone is corrupted by sin. No one is as God designed humans. All have turned from the proper path to follow their own corrupted desires. Evil is a reality, but not just in the world out there. Evil is a reality in the hearts of every person. Every heart has been corrupted by the rottenness of sin. This is why man needs a Savior. The wonderful news of the gospel is that through Jesus evil men are forgiven of their sin and made righteous. Evil exists, but God’s grace is much greater than the worst of evils.

Are Encounters with Aliens True?

You may know someone who has been abducted by aliens. Since the late 1940’s tales of personal encounters with alien beings have circulated across America. Some accounts are entertaining, some strange, some disturbing and some terrifying. The widespread accounts of meeting aliens challenges the conclusion of those who deny the existence of intelligent, extra-terrestrial life. What is happening to these people? Can the accounts of alien encounters be explained? 

Since aliens do not exist they cannot be appearing to people, hovering overhead in strange craft or kidnapping hapless humans. Explanations of these events are possible without involving creatures from other planets. The possible explanations are as varied as the tales. Without doubt some of the stories can be written off as intentional lies intended to profit the teller in someway. Whether it be to sell a story or to impress friends some people have created alien abduction stories for their own purposes.

Another probable answer to some of the alien encounter stories is simply mistaken identity. Bright lights, weird shapes and strange noises can all be misintepreted as seeing an alien creature or vessel. A steady stream of alien stories, television shows and movies has primed minds to assume any strange or unexpected sight is an alien. Even those who don’t believe in aliens look at strange sights in the sky and wonder if they are seeing a UFO. Many alien sightings are nothing more than the result of someone leaping to the wrong conclusion. 

Other answers are not as simple to address, but are nonetheless plausible. Some stories of alien abduction have to be chalked up to various mental problems. Hallucinations, vivid dreams, mental handicaps and mental health disorders  explain some of these stories. The use of mind altering substances can have sufficient impact on a person’s senses that it creates false sensations- visual and auditory hallucinations or the inability to distinguish dreams from reality.

Mundane phsyical possiblities are not the only explanations for alien encounters. Satan is actively working on this earth to deceive people. Nothing says that Satan and demons cannot appear to people like strange alien creatures. Satan hates mankind. He desires to keep people blinded to the truth of the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4) He delights to add to humanity’s sorrow and confusion. (1 Petre 5:8) Satanic manipulation through demonic manifestation is a possible explanation for some experiences with aliens. This is not to say that all descriptions of alien encounters are demonic. Nor does this mean that those who see aliens are demon possessed devil worshipers. However, the spiritual realities of this world cannot be ignored. Satan is a crafty enemy of man who will stop at nothing to bring additional misery and trouble upon mankind. Any lie will suffice if it causes people to question the truth of the Bible. (Genesis 3:1-5)

Man does not know all there is to know about the heavens or the earth. Discoveries will continue to be made that will astound humanity. Though the universe is filled with strange wonders, theological and practical considerations lead to the conclusion that man is the only intelligent physical creature inhabiting the universe.

Finally, we must remember how easily the senses are deceived. Hunger, fatigue, stress, emotional disturbance, mental problems, drugs and alcohol all affect the perceptions of individuals. Experience should be supported by verifiable, reliable evidence. All experience must be examined and interpreted by the truth of God’s revealed Word. 

Is this world hell?

Life is full of trouble. Disease, poverty, malnutrition, natural disasters, oppressive government, wicked men, slavery and war bring severe suffering on humanity. The world is undeniably filled with searing pain. Some people see the misery endured during life and conclude that hell is experienced in this lifetime. Hell does not await after death. By their choices people create their own living hell. Wicked people bring hell to others.

The troubles of this life are terrible. Some people experience anguish that cuts deep into the soul. The book of Job says, “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:7) The Word of God never denies nor minimizes the suffering experienced in life. The Bible also never teaches that hell is experienced during this life.

The Bible consistently describes hell as the place of suffering and judgment after this life. Jesus teaches extensively on hell. All of his teachings on hell point to it as a place of future judgment. He gives stern warning to men to fear God who is able to destroy body and soul in hell. He warns His hearers to do whatever is necessary to avoid going into hell. He never suggests that men will suffer hell in this life.

Luke 16 speaks most clearly to this question. In that passage Jesus tells the history of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. “The rich man died and was buried; and in his hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” (Luke 16:27-28) The rich man lived his life and when his life was over he went to hell. How much more plain can it be? Jesus always described hell as the place of judgment waiting for men after death.

As bad as things are now hell will be much, much worse. The trouble of this world should warn us. For those under the judgment of God this life is as good as it gets. After this life is over the only thing awaiting is judgment, darkness, torment, and suffering beyond description. Jesus describes hell as a place “Where the worm dieth not and the flame is not quenched.”

If there is no hell, there is no logical or Biblical reason why there should be a heaven. The Bible presents a consistent testimony regarding the fate of men after death. The unsaved will suffer eternally in hell. The saved will rejoice eternally in heaven. If this life is all the suffering men will face, the Bible is a fraud. If hell does not exist Jesus wasted his life and died to no purpose.

The troubles of the world should remind us that we all long for something better. We know this world is broken. Right now the creation groans in agony. Suffering reminds us that things are not as they ought to be. God promises a day of redemption and judgment. Sorrow should lift our eyes upward to God who will one day remove all sin and all suffering. Distress should drive us to the feet of the One who punishes all evil and who saves all who seek His mercy.

Does God want people to be vegetarians?

America is consumed with food. No one is particularly surprised when surveys show that many Americans are overweight. Oddly enough it seems at times that the “healthy” people are most concerned with what they eat. Whole new markets have opened up to meet the demand for local grown, organic, fair trade, specialty suppliers.

The increase of health conscious eaters has produced a rising number of people who refuse to eat meat. Some Christian groups teach that God intends all men to be vegetarians. Others, Christian and non-christian, believe it is immoral to kill and eat an animal. Did God intend for people to be vegetarians?

The original creation was perfect. Before Adam and Eve sinned there was no death in the world. (Romans 5:12) Neither men nor animals died. When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden He told them He had provided every herb of the field and every fruit of the tree as food for men and animals. (Genesis 1:29-30) Because there was no death we know that no creature ate meat before the fall.

After the fall God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden. He cursed Adam’s work with thorns and thistles. Much labor would be required for the earth to be fruitful. “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;” Though Genesis 3:17 does not say so directly it seems that God intended men to continuing eating of the produce of the earth and not meat.

The next mention of men’s food is found after the flood of Noah. When Noah and his family had exited the ark and made sacrifices to God, God blessed Noah. God told him, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3) God clearly says that animals as well as produce will be food for men.

In the days of the Israelites, God again acknowledged that men would eat meat. He gave a list of animals that the Israelites were permitted to eat. He gave a list that the Israelites were forbidden to eat. God commanded the Israelites to eat meat on certain occasions. The passover feast was an annual feast given to Israel in celebration of God delivering them from Egypt. During that feast every family was to kill a lamb in the evening and eat all of it before the next morning.

The Bible never forbids men from eating meat. Before man sinned he did not eat meat. Now God has given to man flesh to eat. Vegetarianism is not sinful, but it cannot be viewed as a more Godly lifestyle choice. In 1 Timothy 4 those who would forbid other Christians from eating meat are said to be promoting “doctrines of devils.” Instead of forbidding carnivorey remember, “For every creature of God is good and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” Therefore “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5) If you eat meat do so with thanksgiving and to the glory of God. If you do not eat meat do so with thanksgiving and to the glory of God.

Are some sins worse than others?

Jesus said that if a man lusts after a woman he has committed adultery with her in his heart. If a man is sinfully angry with another he faces condemnation similar to that of a murderer. The entire human race was plunged into sin and condemnation because Adam and Eve ate one piece of forbidden fruit. Does this mean that all sin the same? Is committing murder as bad in the eyes of God as telling a white lie?

Sin is always wrong. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount point to the severity of all sin. God in His holiness does not overlook a single sin, no matter how small or how justified it may seem to a person. No circumstance will ever exist where it is better to sin than not to sin. God hates all sin. Whether or not all sins are equal all are evil. The relationship of sin to other sin and the varying degrees of response to sin never justify committing sin.

The Bible speaks directly about the degrees of severity in sin. Sins can rightly be classified as greater or lesser. Jesus told Pontius Pilate that the priests who rejected Him and turned Him over to Pilate for execution had the greater sin. “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” (John 19:11) Though Pilate gave the official command to crucify Jesus and the Roman soldiers carried out the command it was the Jewish priests whose sin was greatest.

Evidence for different severities of sin is seen in the differing levels of judgment upon sin. Jesus warned cities of Galilee of the greater judgment waiting for them because they rejected Him. (Luke 10:13-14) Hebrews says, “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:28-29) Those who have greater knowledge of right and wrong are accounted as having committed a greater evil when they sin.

One word of caution must be given. Men often fail to measure the severity of sin according to God’s standard. God is not unjust because He regards sin differently than we do. We consider sin differently than God does because we have been infected by sin. Our ability to make a proper judgment about sin is compromised by our own sinfulness. God’s measurement of sin must be the one that controls all understanding about sin.

All sin is terrible. Some sins are more terrible than others. God alone determines what is sin, how serious is the sin and the consequences of sin.