While we are looking at apparent “contrary passages” in Scripture, let’s take a look at another one not included in this week’s lesson. In 1 Samuel 28:1-25, even though Saul has outlawed mediums he goes to consult one. He wants to talk to Samuel, who is dead. Ironically, he never wanted to talk to Samuel while he was living, but now he does. Saul’s visit with the medium goes like this.
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. 1 Samuel 28:11-14 NKJV
At a careless glance it sure looks like Saul is talking to Samuel after he has died. Right? However, the Bible never says it was Samuel. Verse 14 says, “Saul perceived that it was Samuel.” What we perceived that we saw is not always what we actually saw. One synonym for “perceive” is “think.” So, Saul thought it was Samuel, but it wasn’t Samuel. Samuel was dead. At a careless glance it may look like Samuel actually appeared to Saul, but there is a big difference between perception and fact! I saw a documentary a few years ago about the first trip to the moon. One thing the astronauts had to be careful about was depth perception. Since the entire moon all looks the same, without any scenery or landscape, there is no depth perception. An astronaut may look at what he thinks is a little chughole, but in reality it is a canyon! You may think, oh well, there is not much weight on the moon, so no big deal if they fall into a canyon. They won’t get hurt. True, but they would also be stuck in that canyon with no way to get back to the spaceship. So, an inaccurate perception could be a fatal mistake. We are warned in the last days that Satan, through spiritualism, will be deceiving people to make inaccurate, fatal misperceptions.
The doctrine of man’s consciousness in death, especially the belief that spirits of the dead return to minister to the living, has prepared the way for modern spiritualism. If the dead are admitted to the presence of God and holy angels, and privileged with knowledge far exceeding what they before possessed, why should they not return to the earth to enlighten and instruct the living? If, as taught by popular theologians, spirits of the dead are hovering about their friends on earth, why should they not be permitted to communicate with them, to warn them against evil, or to comfort them in sorrow? How can those who believe in man’s consciousness in death reject what comes to them as divine light communicated by glorified spirits? Here is a channel regarded as sacred, through which Satan works for the accomplishment of his purposes. The fallen angels who do his bidding appear as messengers from the spirit world. While professing to bring the living into communication with the dead, the prince of evil exercises his bewitching influence upon their minds. He has power to bring before men the appearance of their departed friends. The counterfeit is perfect; the familiar look, the words, the tone, are reproduced with marvelous distinctness. Many are comforted with the assurance that their loved ones are enjoying the bliss of heaven, and without suspicion of danger, they give ear “to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” When they have been led to believe that the dead actually return to communicate with them, Satan causes those to appear who went into the grave unprepared. They claim to be happy in heaven and even to occupy exalted positions there, and thus the error is widely taught that no difference is made between the righteous and the wicked. The pretended visitants from the world of spirits sometimes utter cautions and warnings which prove to be correct. Then, as confidence is gained, they present doctrines that directly undermine faith in the Scriptures. With an appearance of deep interest in the well-being of their friends on earth, they insinuate the most dangerous errors. The fact that they state some truths, and are able at times to foretell future events, gives to their statements an appearance of reliability; and their false teachings are accepted by the multitudes as readily, and believed as implicitly, as if they were the most sacred truths of the Bible. -Ellen White, Great Controversy, Pages 551-552.
I knew an elderly Adventist woman, who lived in a small Adventist community. Her husband died and was buried in a cemetery just a block or so form her house. About every day, she would visit his grave and “talk” to him. One day she looked out her front window and perceived to see him walking up the sidewalk. He stopped at the window and stared at her through the glass. Being an Adventist and knowing the state of the dead, she knew it was not her husband but a demon. This scared her into realizing she had been putting herself on the devil’s playground by her excessive visits, talking to her dead husband at his grave. After this experience she never returned to his grave. After all, she did not need to talk to her dead husband. She needed to be talking to Jesus, who could hear what she was saying, just like Saul did not need to be talking to dead Samuel. He should have been talking to God.
I don’t know if a demon really personified itself as this woman’s husband or if it was just her imagination. She claimed it was real and not just her imagination. Either way, it was a direct result of spiritualism, acting like she was talking to the dead.
Likewise, Saul put himself on the devil’s playground by talking to dead Samuel, and allowing demons to personify themselves, making Saul think he was seeing and communicating with a dead man. The Bible does not say it was Samuel. It says Saul perceived it was Samuel. It was a deception. The Bible is clear that the dead know nothing. Meanwhile, we are free to talk to God who is all-knowing.
You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.