January 16, 2004
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth
not to be ashamed rightly dividing the word of truth. II Timothy 2:15
Spiritualism, Part II
by Jack Northart
As mentioned in the last issue, spiritualism is the belief and practice of communicating with the so-called dead. This is a belief and practice that is gaining wide acceptance in our society today as well as among members of the Church. It is important that this be uncovered because the modern day Church has fallen into a trap of serious doctrinal error.
To reiterate from the last issue of The Grapevine, most of us maintain certain beliefs which we unthinkably accept as true without checking them against the truth of God’s Word. As Bible believing Christians, we are called to study to show ourselves approved unto God as workmen who need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth (II Timothy 2:15).
The Bible can be used by anyone to promote whatever cause or belief system that they want to. All one has to do is find a verse that seems to substantiate a belief and laud it to the sky by taking it out of context and giving their opinion and interpretation of a particular verse. The Word of God is clear on this sort of activity.
II Peter 1:20, 21
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private [one’s own] interpretation.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
To rightly divide God’s Word, we must be diligent in our study. We don’t “squeeze” the Word of God to make it mean what we want it to mean, but rather let it speak for itself. If there are many clear verses on a subject and one difficult verse, we don’t throw out the many clear verses and adhere to the difficult one. This is one major reason that spiritualism is widely accepted among Christians.
In order to communicate with a dead person, it must of necessity be possible to do so. This is where we will begin to search for the answers. Most Christians believe, as do others, that when one dies he is immediately received up into glory, commonly called Heaven or paradise, to appear before God. They are alive and conscious and have a joyous existence with Him and their loved ones. Such a belief is contrary to what the Word of God teaches. Ask yourself these questions: If a person is received into heaven immediately after death, why is the return of Christ and/or the resurrection necessary? If after death the Christian is already alive and with Him, why should Christ return to gather his Church? If death is an entrance to eternal happiness with the Lord, then death is not an enemy, but a welcomed friend. If death brings us into the immediate presence of Christ, then the Scriptures are void and our believing is in vain.
I Corinthians 15:16
The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.
Death has always been a universal enemy and a curse which affects every home at some time or another. We all have suffered the loss of a dear one. Our hearts ache and it leaves a longing for that person. The word death in the Bible is the Greek word thanatos, which is defined as “the natural end of earthly human existence.” Thanatos is not merely an instantaneous occurrence when one expires but a continuing state. Release from this state of death comes when Christ returns for his Church.
I Thessalonians 4:15-18
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep [dead]. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Oh what a glorious day that will be! To be together with Christ forever. Oh what a comfort!
If the release from death comes with the return of Christ, where are the dead until that time? The Bible says that they are in the “grave” which is translated from the Greek word hades, and from the Hebrew word sheol. Neither hades nor sheol is a place of destruction but rather a continuing state of the dead. More accurately, these should be translated “gravedom.” This is a place where there is no consciousness and thus no remembrance.
For in death [sheol] there is no remembrance of thee…
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Ecclesiastes 9:5,6, 10
For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
When a person dies, there is no consciousness. This is why it is referred to many times in God’s Word as ”falling asleep.” There is no awareness of time for the dead person. Thus the moment of a man’s death becomes, in a sense of time for him, the moment of Christ’s return. But within the dimension of time, the moment of a man’s death is neither the moment of the gathering together unto Christ, nor the resurrection. When a Christian man takes his last breath, his next conscious thought will be the return of Christ. I Corinthians describes how quickly this will seem.
I Corinthians 15:51,52
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed,
In a moment [Gr. atom], in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Although a person may be dead for hundreds or thousands of years, to him Christ’s return comes as quickly as an atom of time, or the twinkling of an eye. Until that time, they remain in gravedom, sheol.
What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave [sheol]?
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell [sheol]…
But God will redeem [to rescue by resurrection] my soul from the power of the grave [sheol].
They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave [sheol].
Likewise, Jesus Christ descended into gravedom when he died. If anyone should have gone to Heaven immediately after death, surely it should have been Christ. But even he went to sheol or hades. For three days and three nights he had no consciousness, as Matthew 12 and Acts 2 state.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
…he [God] would raise up Christ to sit on his throne;
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell [hades], neither his flesh did see corruption. This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.
As all who go to the grave, Jesus too would have totally decayed if God had not raised him from the dead. If he had not been raised, Jesus Christ would not have ascended into heaven, nor would he be coming back again; and without his coming back, there would never be a release of any of mankind from the grave and its corruption. It is with the return of Christ that we have victory over death.
I Corinthians 15:54,55
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
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