Death Discussions Part 2: Can We Talk to the Dead?
As noted in Part 1, Hollywood has recently released numerous movies and TV series featuring the living talking to the dead. Medium, Ghost Whisperer, White Noise, Sixth Sense, Supernatural, Revelations, and of course, Harry Potter, all depict communication with disembodied entities.
Just a few days ago, as I sat on a United Flight from Chicago to L.A.X., a friendly looking commercial popped onto a large screen. An attractive blond woman stood cooking in the kitchen. These words appeared: “6:30 am, prepare breakfast for the family.” The scene changed, and then came “7:30 am, send the kids off to school.” After another scene change, then: “9:30 am, clean the house.” Finally, “11:00 am, talk to the dead.” Then came the promotion for viewers to watch “Medium, 9:00-10:00 pm CT on NBC.” It all looked so homey, yet the Bible plainly says that that being a “medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead” is “an abomination to the Lord” (Deut. 18:11, 12, NKJV, italics added). This is serious stuff.
God doesn’t use such forceful language because He hates us. Not at all. He even cares about mediums and spiritists. The reason He speaks so strongly is because He loves us enough to warn us against practices which open doors to demons and fallen angels who can easily impersonate the dead. This will become clearer as we go along.
The only way to understand the truth about death, the dead, and the perils of trying to communicate with ghosts is to go back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis. The Bible’s first chapter clearly says that God made the world in six days, and rested on the seventh. On day six, the Lord “created man in his own image… male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). In the midst of a beautiful garden, the Lord placed two special trees called “the tree of life” and “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:9). These trees were designed to give Adam and Eve a choice, either to follow their Maker or a rebel angel who had previously been kicked out of heaven (see Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9). Notice carefully:
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree in the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:16, 17, italics added).
Here God warned Adam and Eve that if they sinned against Him by eating the forbidden fruit, they would surely die. No ifs, ands, or buts. This was the first warning God ever gave to the human family. And He meant it.
In Chapter 3, the drama begins. A mysterious serpent entered Eden and began slithering around inside the forbidden branches. Behind its beady eyes lurked an invisible, sinister force. A dialogue ensued between the snake and Eve. “And the serpent said to the woman, ‘you shall not surely die’” (Gen. 3:4, italics added). This was Satan’s first lie to humanity. It was a deception about death. God said that if Adam and Eve sinned, they would “surely die;” but the serpent said, “you shall not surely die.” Now two voices rattled around inside Eve’s pretty head. Which voice would she believe, that of God or the snake? Sadly, she believed the slithering reptile, tasted the forbidden fruit, and then gave some to her husband, and he ate (see Gen. 3:6).
After their sin, the Lord said to Adam, “In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19, italics added). Thus man came from the dust, and now he was destined to return to the dust. Now notice carefully:
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”– therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 3:22-24).
Don’t miss the significance of this passage. According to the text, eating from “the tree of life” would cause Adam and Eve to “live forever.” But now they were sinners. If they ate from the tree of life as sinners they would live forever as sinners, which would mean that sin itself would go on forever. God definitely didn’t want this. So He placed sentinel angels with fiery swords “which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Did Adam and Eve, in their fallen state, ever eat from the tree of life? Obviously not. Thus fallen human beings do not naturally live forever. Instead, they die and return to the dust, just like God said.
This next verse reveals the simple truth: “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died” (Gen. 5:5). God was right; Satan was wrong. Sin results in death. Adam and Eve sinned, and they died. So do we. At the end of life, we disintegrate into dirt.
Now don’t miss this point: The notion that we can somehow communicate with dead people today is based on the prior assumption that the dead aren’t dead after all, that they are really alive somewhere ‘beyond the veil.’ Based on Genesis 3:4, whose slick voice first promoted that idea? It was the voice of the serpent. Look again: “The serpent said to the woman, ‘you will not surely die.’” This was the devil’s line.
In Part 3 of this series we will examine more closely what the Bible says about man’s condition at death. Then we will discover exactly who and what our hope is. Okay, I’ll tell you now. It’s Jesus Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
To be continued…