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Can We Talk To The Dead?

“The only thing that dies is the ego. All ego must die anyway…. In killing someone physically, you are only releasing the soul. Life has no boundaries, and death is only an illusion.” - Vincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry, Helter Skelter

When the above words were written, not very many people would have agreed with them. But a sea change has occurred in recent years – much of it attributed to the influence of the New Age movement. Though this movement isn't mentioned much in the media these days, its influence pervades our society even more fully than it did a few years ago when it was the current hot topic.

The Spirits' Message

Before the New Age movement became popular, it was spiritualist mediums who tried to win people over to the idea that death is just an illusion. In the 1950s, Arthur Ford, the leading spiritualist, taught well-known author Ruth Montgomery how to make contact with spirits through automatic writing. Montgomery believed she was receiving messages from her deceased father; she wrote several popular books based on the messages she received.

Within a few days after Ford himself died, Montgomery received a message she thought came from his eternal spirit in “a world beyond.” The message: ”'Death is no more than the passage through a beckoning door. It is so brief, so transitory as scarcely to be noted, for it is what lies beyond the door that counts. The body, let us say, is tired and weakened. At a certain point the heart stops, not merely because the body mechanism will not function, but also because the soul has slipped off through the opening door.”'

Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull may have done more to spread New Age ideas about death and reincarnation than any other book. In the 1970s, it topped the bestseller list two years in a row - and unlike many other bestsellers, it is short enough that most purchasers probably read it! It carries the same message about death as Bach's 1977 book Illusions, which expresses his view succinctly: “Dying is like diving into a deep lake on a hot day. There's the shock of that sharp cold change, the pain of it for a second, and then accepting is a swim in reality [sic]. But after so many times, even the shock wears off.”

Bach continues to hold high honor in the ranks of notable New Age teachers. During the 1990s, he hosted a discussion area called “Illusions and Beyond” in one of the two New Age forums on CompuServe, a highly popular computer online service in the world. In these online forums, people from all over the world discuss with him the New Age perspective on the meaning of life.

Other postings in this forum include messages from the spirit being Lazaris, who speaks through New Age channel Jach Pursel. Lazaris is a great hit with many Hollywood notables. He supposedly delivers his messages from another “dimension,” assuring his listeners that once they've broken free of the bondage of their bodies (he likens death to trading in a beat-up old clunker for a new car), they will experience the ultimate healing - no more pain, no more physical limitations.

The New Age movement has made some positive contributions. But that's no reason to buy into the whole system of thought it presents. And we must be particularly careful of messages that purport to come from spirit beings. There are many deceptive, satanic spirits whose purpose is not to enlighten, but to deceive.

Enlightened or Just Gullible?

Recently I watched a television talk show in which a man who claimed to be able to communicate with the dead spoke with several individuals who had recently lost loved ones. Having read a little about sham artists, I could easily detect his methodology. He asked leading questions that encouraged his subjects to divulge information, and then he used the information he had gathered to convince these people that their dead loved ones were communicating with him. His message: Everything is OK on the other side, so don't worry. When we die, we go to a place where everyone is friendly and nice and there are no more problems.

The truly amazing thing about his performance was not what he revealed about the dead, but what he revealed about the living. After his act, the program's hosts opened the telephone lines to poll viewers about what they had seen. I nearly fell off my chair when the hosts announced that more than 90 percent of viewers believed that the man had actually communicated with the dead.

A generation ago, a television host brought spiritualist Arthur Ford into his studio to conduct a seance. That broadcast sent shock waves around the world; in those days, seances were regarded as satanic, evil, the purview of witches and mediums who had sold their souls to the devil. But today, such acts are carried on daily without creating even a ripple. And the majority of viewers drink it in, accepting what they see with no questions asked - thanks to the influence the New Age movement has had.

But let's not pass judgment on this activity simply because it used to be thought of as evil. After all, people used to think tomatoes were poisonous too!

Let's examine it, first of all, in the light of what the Bible teaches, and then compare the biblical and the New Age viewpoints to see which is more reasonable and helpful.

First Lie, Final Lie

From the start to the ending, the Bible explains the fact about life and death. The devil's first lie to Eve was to try to influence her that she could remove herself from God through disobeying him, but still live for all eternity. “You will not surely die,” the devil promised (Genesis 3:4). Adam and Eve's welcome of the lie is the origin of all the evil, suffering, and pain we see in the whole world now.

The book of Revelation says that we find Satan still peddling the same lie – but in a different form. Revelation 13 indicates that he employs human individuals to declare that all people who follow God will die and that only the people who pledge their allegiance to him will be allowed to live (verses 15-17).

Revelation 14 and 20, though, says that those who bow to the devil will suffer not only the first, but also the second, death! On the other side, only those people who follow God go on from this world to a superior life with Him (Revelation 7:3, 4; 14:1-3).

So the Bible indicates that those people whose life has ended do not all go to a place of paradise in the presence of God. It describes clearly between the fate of the people who faithfully follow and served God on earth and the people who did not worship Him.

Before you take the words of spirit mediums and New Age teachers that we must go forward such outdated perceptions to an alternative, more free understanding, please do the following exercise.

Visualize the selfish, hard-to-tolerate, and most hate-filled person you have ever met or heard of - someone like Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin or just the co-worker whose office is next to yours at the office. Then question yourself: Would I love to live in “the world beyond” and realize I am living next to the house of that person?

Visualize a suicide bomber who blows up a military camp.

Visualize the bomber being brought immediately to “the world beyond” as the bomb explodes - and reaching on the same time with an angry group of soldiers he has just killed. That is a barely delightful welcoming group!

Don't Talk to Spirits!

The Bible contains some pretty strong warnings about attempting to consult the dead or even consulting those who claim to communicate with the dead. To the newly forming nation of Israel, Moses said: “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, 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” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

Later, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “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? To the law and to the testimony (i.e., the Word of God)! If they do not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn” (Isaiah 8:19, 20).

The Bible's picture of death gives us insight as to why it offers these warnings. Jesus called death a “sleep” (see John 11:11, 14), and the Bible makes clear that those who are dead are unconscious - as unaware of what's happening on earth as someone who is in a deep sleep.

These warnings are important because the Bible also says that earth's last days will be marked by deceptions involving the devil, “spirits,” and evil angels (see Matthew 24:23, 24; 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10; 1 Timothy 4:1; Revelation 13:13, 14).

A Better Plan

God has a better plan than that for our future. The Bible teaches clearly that when a person dies, he or she passes into a restful state Jesus called sleep (John 11:11). When Jesus returns to earth, He'll call the dead to life again. But even then He won't throw the good together with the evil. Only those who have surrendered their selfishness to His love, who have allowed Him to substitute His forgiveness for their anger, will be given eternal life (see Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29). Those who haven't undergone this transformation will be left outside the holy city (see Revelation 22:15) – and outside the city is the lake of fire that will ultimately annihilate all sins and sinners (see Revelation 21:8).

Life in the next world, the place we call heaven, will not be heavenly because everyone had the objectionable aspects of their characters forcibly excised at death. Life there will be heavenly because only those who have willingly allowed God to make them loving and lovable here on earth will enter that place.

The apostle John is a good example of how this works. When he met Jesus, he was known as a “son of thunder,” probably because he was the type of person who wished he could call fire down from heaven on anyone who spurned him (see Luke 9:51-54). But by the end of his life, the Holy Spirit had transformed him. He made love, not vengeance, the theme of the gospel and the epistles he contributed to the New Testament. I think that in heaven I would much rather live next door to the transformed John than to a merely transported Hitler or Stalin - or anyone else, for that matter.

Where Does It Lead?

The great lie about death - that it is just a transition everyone goes through on their way to something better - is not new light. It comes from that first terrible day when sin entered our world. It can be traced through the darkened seance chambers of spiritualist mediums to the tongues of New Age channels who continue their communication with deceptive, satanic spirits. Ultimately, this teaching so devaluates human life that some of those who hold it can consider murder, suicide, and abortion positive solutions to human problems.

We can be thankful that God places an eternal value on every life. He doesn't want any to perish. In the Bible, He has revealed His plan for preparing all who will accept Him to live in peace and heavenly harmony for all eternity.

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