Did King Saul Talk to Samuel After he Died?

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.

Why Heaven Needed Reconciliation

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:19-20 NLT

Why did God need to make peace with heaven? This verse right here may help us understand just how real the war in heaven was. Even after Lucifer was cast out, those who remained may have still had their doubts. Did God really love them, or did Lucifer have some good points about God just being a tyrant? On earth Eve was convinced God did not care for her and she needed to eat the fruit and disobey, if she really wanted to be happy. While all this was going on, is it possible some of the remaining angels in heaven still had some questions? Have you ever been loyal to a boss not because you thought he was fair, but because you did not see any way out? So out of fear you remained loyal to him, still wishing you weren’t in that situation? If so, what did it take for you to reconcile the situation so you could have peace at work and not just conformity?

When the Son of God died on the cross He was not just atoning for Eve taking a piece of fruit she was told not to. Eve’s disobedience was a symptom of her doubts. The Cross of Christ did not just take care of the symptoms of sin. The Cross took care of sin itself! The Cross removed all doubt about God’s love. All questions in heaven and earth are answered at the cross! There can be conformity while rebellion is still in the heart. The cross goes way beyond bringing us into conformity and outward obedience. The cross replaces our thoughts of rebellion with peaceful thoughts towards God.

That which alone can effectually restrain from sin in this world of darkness, will prevent sin in heaven. The significance of the death of Christ will be seen by saints and angels. Fallen men could not have a home in the paradise of God without the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Shall we not then exalt the cross of Christ? The angels ascribe honor and glory to Christ, for even they are not secure except by looking to the sufferings of the Son of God. It is through the efficacy of the cross that the angels of heaven are guarded from apostasy. Without the cross they would be no more secure against evil than were the angels before the fall of Satan. Angelic perfection failed in heaven. Human perfection failed in Eden, the paradise of bliss. All who wish for security in earth or heaven must look to the Lamb of God.-Ellen White, Signs of the Times, December 30, 1889

Some have the idea that once we get to heaven, God will flip a little switch in the back of our heads that makes us stop sinning. After all, we will be in heaven and so we automatically won’t sin right? Wait. Where did sin begin? Heaven! The reason why humans and angels will not sin, is the same reason why God reconciled both heaven and earth to Himself. The cross of Jesus. The cross cures the root cause of sin which is doubting God’s love. The reason there will be no sin in heaven is not due to a mechanical correction that the flip of a switch will fix. The reason there will be no sin in heaven will be because the cross will cure humans and angels alike from ever doubting God’s love, and thinking we need anything God has not given us. There will be no reason to rebel. Rules without relationship causes rebellion. The love of Christ on the cross removes our fear of God, so we are not afraid to have an intimate relationship with Him. With our relationship cured we will have no reason to rebel. We won’t be conformists. We will be free thinking moral agents who are at peace with God because God is love.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Judged by our Works?

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Since 1981, when I began preaching in high school, I have preached in many churches from Chiclayo, Peru, to Torrington, Connecticut.  I have spoken to large and small congregations with various needs.  I have illustrated to some conservative churches the need to be a little more liberal, and to liberal churches, how to be a little more conservative, as we all seek a Christ-like balance.

One Sabbath several years ago, I was preaching in one of the most conservative churches I have been in. No, “conservative” is not the word for it. Right-out legalistic is more like it! You’ll see why I say so in a moment.

I was preaching about how we are saved by grace – fairly fundamental Adventist Bible belief, so I thought. After the sermon I barely made it off the platform before I was greeted by a woman who had appointed herself to be the theology police for the church. She had a copy of The Great Controversy in her hand. Condescendingly she asked me if I had ever read The Great Controversy. I told her I had. She retorted, “How dare you then tell these people we are saved by grace when The Great Controversy clearly says we are saved by works! Your sermon today almost deceived even me. And if it almost deceived me I know you deceived everybody else!” (Did this woman maybe have a pride issue?)

Now let me stop before I go any further. If you have never read The Great Controversy, let me assure you that it does not say we are saved by our works. I have read the book several times cover to cover, and the theme I find over and over is that we are saved by grace and not by works, and that we should worship God according to our conscience and not according to man-made traditions and regulations. One of the star characters in the book is Martin Luther, who is applauded by the author for presenting salvation by grace and not works!

So, where was this lady coming from? Sure she was way off, but she had to get her idea from somewhere. She told me where it was. She told me to read the chapter, Facing Life’s Record, and I read:

The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment. –Ellen White, The Great Controversy, Page 480

True. Deeds are mentioned here, but if I remember correctly from diagramming sentences in my third grade English class, which I thoroughly hated doing by the way, “books” is the subject of the sentence, and the books determine the decisions, not the deeds.

However the Apostle John mentions deeds or “works” as well:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  Revelation 20:12

So do we have a conflict here? Not at all. In any investigative judgment you need evidence to determine your verdict. Our works provide evidence of salvation, but grace is the source of our salvation.

Speaking of Abraham, Genesis 15:6 says:

And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Abraham’s belief or faith was counted as righteousness. God said it is enough that Abraham believes in my saving grace.

But when Abraham’s name comes up in the judgment what evidence will there be that he believed? Especially since he lied about his relationship with Sarah in order to save him from Egypt’s ruler. He trusted a lie to save him instead of trusting God to save him. No evidence of faith there.

However if we go to Genesis 22:1-24, we will see the evidence of Abraham’s faith, when he obeyed God and offered up his son on the altar. Now we have evidence that Abraham believed in God’s grace! Abraham will not be saved by his works, but his obedience of God’s soul-shattering command later in life – his “works” – demonstrates his faith in God. And God could count his faith as righteousness.

Just like smoke is evidence of fire, works are evidence of  God’s grace at work in the life. Where there is smoke there is fire, and where there is grace there are good works. Let’s do a little detective work ourselves here, and investigate three passages.

Let’s begin with Romans 1:5.

By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name.

Hhhmm … Seems to me here that Paul is telling the Romans that the grace they received was to lead to their obedience. Hence their works of obedience are evidence of grace at work.

Our next clue is found in Ephesians 2:8-10

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Sure enough the passage tells us that we are saved by grace and not by works, but still we find God creating good works in us at the scene of grace. Let’s move on. We need more evidence.

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  Titus 2:11-14

Just as you see smoke where there has been a fire, so we again see good works where there is grace. Just like smoke is evidence there has been a fire, likewise living soberly, righteously, godly lives zealous of good works, is evidence that grace has been here.

If we trust God we will obey Him. Our works of obedience are presented as evidence in the judgment that we trust God’s amazing grace.

Satan may still point at Abraham’s lie in Egypt, but,

The character is revealed, not by occasional good deeds and occasional misdeeds, but by the tendency of the habitual words and acts.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 57.

When your name comes up in the judgment, will there be evidence that God’s grace was allowed to penetrate your heart?

Now there is also such a thing as false evidence. Legalistic works done for the glory of self would be false evidence that the Judge can see right through.

Yet a faith that works by love (See Galatians 5:6) is the exact evidence that will convince the Judge that we have received His amazing grace. I hope the lady who confronted me that day, with the Great Controversy, understands that doing works in order to be saved is just conjuring up false evidence. The faith that saves us is the faith that is motivated by love and grace and not a hope of reward and self-glory.

It’s just like the little girl standing by the side of the pool. She can’t swim, but her father promised to catch her if she jumps in. If she jumps we know she believes in her daddy. If she refuses to jump it is clearly evident she does not believe in her daddy.

Abraham showed a lack of faith in God’s love when he trusted a lie instead of God to protect him in Egypt. Yet when Abraham placed his son on the altar the whole universe saw the evidence that God’s grace was now in Abraham’s heart.

The Bible is clear. We are saved by grace and not by works. The Bible is also clear that where there is grace, there are good works.

A smoking gun is evidence that it has been put into action. Good works are evidence of grace put into action. Where you find smoke you find fire. Where you find grace you find good works.

Good works, done out of love, are evidence that we have been saved by amazing grace.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on the sanctuary here.