The idea that the spirits of dead people can visit, communicate with, or even haunt the living is a common theme in many cultures and religions. In Christianity, this concept is particularly associated with the occult and spiritism. However, the Bible has a lot to say on this topic. As Christians, it’s important that we understand the biblical perspective on alleged contact with the dead.
The Bible makes it clear that contacting the dead is strictly forbidden. Communicating with the spirits of deceased loved ones may seem comforting, but it is incredibly dangerous from a spiritual standpoint. Scripture warns that any spirits that appear to be human are actually demonic spirits. While their words may seem pleasant, their intention is always to deceive.
Christians must avoid any practice that attempts to conjure up the spirits of the dead. The Bible teaches that this displeases God and opens us up to demonic oppression. Instead, we must trust in God’s word and his promises concerning those who have passed on.
- The Bible forbids contacting the dead or seeking their counsel.
- Any spirit claiming to be a deceased person is actually a demonic spirit.
- Attempting to communicate with the dead displeases God.
- Christians must trust what the Bible says about those who have died rather than trying to contact them.
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the entire Bible says about contact between the living and the dead. We will look at key verses and passages on this topic in both the Old and New Testaments. We will examine the reasons behind the biblical prohibition against speaking with the dead, warnings about the deception of demons, and God’s promises concerning those who have passed away.
The Old Testament and Necromancy
The Old Testament makes it abundantly clear that contacting the dead is detestable to God. One of the strongest condemnations is in Deuteronomy 18:9-12:
“When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.” (NKJV)
This passage forbids a number of pagan, occult practices that were common among the nations living in Canaan. God did not want his people to have anything to do with these detestable practices. Of particular significance is the prohibition against being a “medium” or “spiritist” – someone who communicates with the dead. This is more commonly known today as necromancy.
In Leviticus 19:31, God again warns his people, “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” The phrase “familiar spirits” is likely a reference to spirits that are familiar with a person’s family or household. In other words, the spirits of dead relatives. Consulting with mediums ultimately leads to defilement and separation from God.
In Leviticus 20:6, God goes so far as to mandate the death penalty for anyone who consults mediums or spiritists: “And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.” During the time of the kings, Saul lost his kingdom because he consulted with a medium (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). Clearly, contacting the dead was no small offense in God’s eyes.
Why the Prohibition Against Necromancy?
Why does God strongly prohibit contacting the dead? First, it demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in God. Spiritists claim that the spirits of the dead have access to knowledge or information that can help guide the living. But this is a direct violation of Deuteronomy 18:10-11, which forbids anyone from using “divination” or “sorcery” instead of trusting God. Consulting the dead shows a preference for their guidance over God’s.
Second, it opens one up to deception by demonic spirits. While mediums and spiritists believe they are communicating with the actual spirits of deceased people, they are in fact communing with demons disguising themselves as the dead (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6, 27). These spirits convey false, misleading information designed to deceive. This is why Scripture calls this the “deceptions of the nations” (Leviticus 20:23).
Third, it fails to recognize that the dead are completely cut off from the living. Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 states clearly that the dead have no involvement whatsoever with anything on earth:
“For the living know that they will die; But the dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, For the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” (NKJV)
Isaiah 8:19 also mocks spiritists who claim to speak for the dead: “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?”
The biblical truth is that once a person dies, their soul immediately enters either heaven or hell based on their relationship with Christ (Luke 16:19-31; Hebrews 9:27). The dead do not roam the earth or communicate with the living. Attempting to speak with the dead reflects a lack of understanding about the finality of death.
King Saul and the Medium of En Dor
One of the most well-known biblical accounts of contacting the dead is found in 1 Samuel 28. King Saul, having repeatedly disobeyed God, faced an imminent battle with the Philistines. Afraid and desperate, Saul asked God for guidance but was met with silence. So Saul took matters into his own hands and visited a medium at Endor, requesting that she conduct a seance to contact the deceased prophet Samuel.
The medium, though deeply reluctant, did indeed seem to bring up the spirit of Samuel, who then pronounced God’s judgment on Saul:
“So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.” (1 Chronicles 10:13–14 NKJV)
While the medium claimed to have summoned Samuel, the truth is she actually contacted an evil spirit that deceived both her and Saul. This passage demonstrates how dabbling in spiritism opens one up to demonic deception. Though the spirit condemned Saul, this ultimately led to his destruction.
This account also illustrates that our sovereign God ultimately controls who lives and dies, not the dead or so-called spirits. The dead Samuel did not truly condemn Saul – God did. 1 Chronicles makes this clear, saying Saul died for his own unfaithfulness to God.
Warnings Against Spiritism in the New Testament
The New Testament continues the strong warnings of the Old Testament against any practices that attempt to contact or consult the dead. For instance, the book of Revelation lists those who practice spiritism among those who will be excluded from heaven:
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NKJV)
The Greek word translated “sorcerers” here is pharmakeús, referring to those who use drugs, spells, or potions in the practice of magic or spiritism. This encompasses mediums and anyone else who attempts to contact the dead. They are characterized as deserving eternal judgment.
The apostle Paul also warns against false teachers who come under the influence of “deceiving spirits” promoting “doctrines of demons”:
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV)
Consulting spirits under the guise that they are deceased loved ones is a dangerous doctrine of demons. It opens one up to believing lies and falsehoods. Paul says we must avoid such deception and cling to the truth of Christ.
Jesus’ Victory Over Death and the Grave
When confronted with reports of a man raised from the dead, Jesus corrected the prevailing idea that deceased souls could appear to the living. In Luke 16:27-31, Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
“Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house…’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (NKJV)
Jesus makes clear that souls in the afterlife cannot return to impact the living. If unbelievers will not listen to God’s Word, then nothing – not even a resurrection from the dead – will change their hearts and minds. Only through God’s Word can people be saved.
This interaction highlights the finality of death and the division between the living and the dead. Once we die, our eternal destiny is sealed in either heaven or hell based on our faith in Christ (Luke 16:26). There is no possibility of the souls in heaven or hell leaving those realms to visit earth.
Jesus affirms this division in John 5:28-29 when he declares that a time is coming when “all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come forth.” The dead remain in their graves until the resurrection. They do not roam the earth or appear to the living prior to that day.
Through his death and resurrection, Jesus conquered death and broke its power (1 Corinthians 15:54-57). Believers no longer need to fear death or the supposed wrath or influence of the dead. We can trust fully in Christ’s victory and his promises concerning eternal life.
Promises for Those Who Die in Christ
For Christians, the Bible offers many comforting promises concerning our deceased loved ones who died believing in Jesus. These promises give us confidence and hope that can help overcome any desire to try contacting the dead.
First, we have the promise of Jesus that all who believe in him will experience a bodily resurrection to eternal life (John 11:25). Death does not have the final word. We will be reunited with our saved loved ones in the kingdom of heaven.
Second, when a believer dies, their spirit immediately enters into the presence of Christ in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:6-8; Philippians 1:21-23). Though we grieve their loss, we can be comforted knowing they dwell with Jesus. The Apostle Paul said “to die is gain” for this very reason.
Third, in heaven there is no more pain, sorrow, or suffering – only perfect peace and rest (Revelation 21:4; 14:13). Our loved ones are experiencing indescribable joy and comfort with Christ. We do not need to worry about their condition or try to contact them.
Fourth, we have direct access to God through prayer and do not need any human or spiritual intermediaries (Hebrews 4:16). We can pour out our hearts to God and trust him to hear us, guide us, and comfort us. We do not need to seek answers from the dead.
Finally, those who die in Christ still take an interest in the affairs on earth, but only as observers, not participants (Hebrews 12:1; Revelation 6:9-11). The dead do not interact with or involve themselves in any way with the living. They are simply waiting in joyful anticipation of Christ’s return.
In summary, the consistent testimony of Scripture is that contacting the dead is extremely dangerous and displeases God. Though spiritists and mediums claim to speak with deceased loved ones, they are in fact communing with deceitful demons. As Christians, we must avoid these practices and trust what the Bible teaches about death and the afterlife.
Rather than trying to speak with the dead, we can find comfort in God’s promises concerning their state and our future reunion with them in heaven. Jesus Christ conquered death so we need no longer fear it or succumb to occult practices that claim to bridge the gap with deceased souls. Our hope lies not with the dead but with the living God. We can trust him to care for us and for those we love who have gone before us into glory.