Should we pray for the dead?
Communicating with the dead is a large area of discussion that goes beyond praying for the dead. The short answer is no, don’t pray for the dead.
Can the dead appear and speak to the living? Can the dead transcend death and the judgment, to interact with the living at all?
Before we go any further, lets point out an exception to this rule as depicted in scripture, the Transfiguration of Christ with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36; Mark 9:2-9). In this instance, God Himself permitted the encounter for the glory of Jesus the Christ to establish Him as the son of God with the Disciples.
In addition, Elijah has not died yet at the time of this encounter. Elijah and Enoch are the only two people to have not seen death according to the scriptures. They were both taken by God, and have not died nor will experience death until an appointed time down the road. Elijah during the transconfiguration was not back from the dead, as Moses was (Genesis 5:23-24, Heb. 11:5-Enoch; 2 Kings 2:11-Elijah; Deut. 32:49-52, 34:1-7-Moses; Hebrews 9:27- All must die; Revelation 11:3-12-Two witnesses).
There is one account in scripture, where a living person attempts to talk with the dead (1 Samuel 28:7-20). Samuel was a prophet of God, He dies and Saul, King of Israel, wanted to learn about the future events of an impending war. Saul would typically consult Samuel and God would speak through Samuel and tell Saul what He wanted Saul to do.
Every war Saul was in, God would deliver his enemies into his hands because Saul was the anointed King of Israel. But at the point of this encounter with a witch, Saul was no longer the anointed of God. God had instructed Samuel before his death, to anoint David as King of Israel because Saul sinned against God’s word. Saul was on his own and for this reason, Saul sought out a witch to speak with Samuel, who was dead.
The first thing we need to do, is establish some facts. The first of which, was Samuel dead?
“Now Samuel was dead” (1 Samuel 25:1, 28:3). Saul knew that it was against God’s word to seek out familiar spirits or witches.
“And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits and wizards out of the land” (1 Samuel 28:3).
Saul knew it was wrong and had already moved those that did such things out of Israel, Saul knew what they were doing was an abomination to the Lord, according to the law.
“A man also or woman that has a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:27).
Saul sent his servants to find a woman who had a familiar spirit, a witch (1 Samuel 28:6-7).
Jesus revealed the realities of life after death during the dispensation of Saul’s lifetime, which applied until Christ’s resurrection (Luke 16:19-31). This is the only account where Jesus used names of real people instead of speaking metaphorically in a parable. Jesus did this so people would know this was not a parable, but that he was revealing what is real about Hell and then, Paradise.
Hell and Paradise existed in proximity. This was true during Saul and Samuel’s lifetime. During this period in time, Jesus had not yet come, so everyone who died believing on the coming of the Messiah, died in faith.
“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off” (Hebrews 11:13)
This means that everyone who died in faith went to Paradise, which was a temporary holding place for believers until the resurrection of Christ. Paradise was referred to as Abraham’s Bosom (Luke 16:22-23).
After the resurrection and ascension of Christ and the believers, Paradise was emptied and Hell expanded.
“And the graves were opened and many of the bodies of the Saints which slept arose, and come out of their graves after His resurrection” (Matthew 27:52-53)
Note: Those in the Catholic faith hold onto this teaching with a twist. They teach that Paradise remains but they call it “Purgatory”. In short, there is no such place in the scriptures that supplant what Jesus said about Paradise. Purgatory is inconsistent with what Jesus said.
After the Saints left their graves, they walked around a bit on the planet surface as evidence of the resurrection. The expansion of Hell is predicted by Isaiah.
“Therefore Hell hath enlarged herself and opened her mouth without measure” (Isaiah 5:14)
Since the resurrection, everyone goes directly into their judgment. There is no more Paradise you go to Heaven or Hell instantly. The Luke 16 account, describes that people who lived during the dispensation of Samuel and Saul went to Hell or Paradise. There was no provision for the dead to pass from one reality to the next. Jesus made it a point to give details on this fact as well.
“A Great Gulf Affixed” (Luke 16:26)
Man is not and was not afforded the capacity to travel beyond the Gulf to Heaven, Earth, Hell or Paradise as they pleased. Therefore, it was impossible for Samuel to appear at all to the witch or to Saul.
God’s view on Familiar spirits is that they are abominations to Him (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). The Hebrew word for abomination is “Ebah” meaning, something disgusting. In (Leviticus 20:27) God commanded those with Familiar Spirits to be put to death.
God in no way condoned what Saul was doing in speaking with a witch or a familiar spirit. Would God break His own law to allow Samuel to transcend His law or to permit Samuel to talk with Saul? Saul, who was out of favor with God and in sin by doing this in the first place.
Comparing the scriptural evidence of the account in (1 Samuel 28), we should consider some other points as well:
1. The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul. Saul was rejected by God, because Saul did not destroy the Amalek’s as God commanded (1 Samuel 15:1-28).
2. Samuel was to anoint David to be King of Israel (1 Samuel 16:11-14).
3. Saul’s Kingdom had been stripped from him and given to David (1 Samuel 15:28, 16:1-3).
God refused to speak to Saul, so Saul seeks out a witch (1 Samuel 28:6-7). This witch was working through Familiar Spirits. Demons can imitate the dead. They use known information involving a person, place or thing. They use this knowledge to deceive the living. This account with Saul and the witch was a modern day séance.
The witch states that she saw gods ascending out of the earth (1 Samuel 28:13). These gods were evil spirits, demons. Saul himself never “saw” these spirits, but asked the witch for a description of what she saw (1 Samuel 28:14).
When the witch gave Saul the description of an old man covered in a mantle, Saul “perceived” that the witch was describing Samuel. The word “Mantle” in Hebrew is “Melyl” meaning coat, robe or cloak. The word “perceived” in Hebrew is the word “Yada” meaning to acknowledge, familiar friend. In other words, Saul guessed that the witch was describing Samuel, particularly because Saul had put his face on the ground, he could not see anything in this position.
The information that Saul received from the witch was relayed to Saul by the witches own mouth. This is sacrosanct to séances, where one is supposedly consulting with the dead through a medium or soothsayer. The medium relays information from the dead to the living. The dead never actually audibly speak through the air with a voice in a séance.
Demons can speak through a medium because they are servants of demons. They can be possessed and often are in order to share the things the demons say through them. For those with the theological view that Samuel actually made an appearance from the dead, it comes from the accuracy of a prediction the witch tells Samuel. That Samuel and his sons would die the next day in battle (1 Samuel 31:2-7)
The details of the prediction by the Demonic Spirit speaking through the witch to Saul, was information that was predominately known in Israel already. Long before this encounter with the witch, the Lord’s anointing had departed from Saul, so it was no stretch to predict that Saul and his sons would lose the battle and be killed the next day.
The witch told Saul that he and his sons would be with Samuel the next day. Mind you, the witch and the demon were “pretending” to be Samuel, and Samuel was supposed to be in Paradise. The real Samuel “was” in Paradise. The reality is that Saul was going to join the demon who was pretending to be Samuel. The demon was actually telling Samuel he was going to be in Hell the next day.
Angels and demons have access to certain information about the future. Throughout history God has used Angels to relay information to men. When an Angel has information it is “Not” prophetic to the Angel, only to us. When an Angel tells us about something in the future, to us that is prophesy, to the Angel its simple knowledge. God and Angels exist in the eternal now as do demons.
Angels don’t forget anything they see, have heard or experienced, from the time of their creation before the foundations of the world to now. They know what has been revealed to man in every aspect, albeit demons do not understand the spiritual context of scripture, to them they are just words, hollow of spiritual ramifications. Scriptures are inspired words of God to man by the Holy Spirit.
Angels and Demons alike know what has been revealed on Earth, they also know what has been revealed to them in Heaven. Angels do not have the veil of this life’s existence as the veil applies to mankind, meaning they can see both realities seamlessly, this life and the Heavens, carnally and spiritually.
In the fullness of Gods character and His word, it would not be possible for the living to be able to commune with the dead, with the exception of the transfiguration, which was a special accommodation of God for Christ.
All those who operate with Familiar Spirits, are those who were given a gift that approximates the gifts of prophesy and other gifts of the Holy Spirit, as in the gift of wisdom and knowledge. But they are operating in a counterfeit manner, as did Balaam, and as such they do not see clearly. Often these type of prophesies are intended to deceive a person, to create a doorway so demons can work through and in these people’s lives unbeknownst to them.
In the end, the dead have nothing to do with the living, nor do they care about the living anymore...
“For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything, neither have they anymore reward for the memory of them is forgotten”
“Also their love and the hatred and their envy is now perished, neither have they anymore a portion forever in anything that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6).
Under the sun is where living men dwell, which is Earth.
“For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, wither thou goest” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
The dead have no more relationships with the living. All of their life issues cease at death. They also know nothing of the future. Their knowledge of this life stops at death. In other words, Moses, Abraham, and Adam, don’t know what television, cell phones, cars or the internet is.
They never saw it. They cannot even relate to it outside of a conversation they may have in Heaven with one who died more recently who interfaced with such things.