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What the Bible says about Mediums
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 34:14-16

God does not stop with one form of idolatry because He again specifically warns in Leviticus 17:7: "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations." And again in Leviticus 20:6, "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."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great

Leviticus 19:31

The Bible is not in the least ambiguous about what God thinks on the subject of the occult. It plainly condemns the practice of witchcraft and similar sorceries. Notice Leviticus 19:31, for instance, which condemns consulting mediums: “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.” A few verses later, God adds, “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” (Leviticus 20:6). This is as good as a prophecy of Saul's demise. See also Deuteronomy 18:9-14, which names practitioners of witchcraft, soothsayers, interpreters of omens, sorcerers, conjurors, mediums, spiritists, necromancers, and diviners as abominations to the Lord.

The New Testament is just as condemnatory as the Old. However, instead of legislating against sorcery and the like—except where Paul lists sorcery as a work of the flesh, mentioned between “idolatry” and “hatred” (Galatians 5:20; see I Samuel 15:23)—the writers recount experiences of Jesus and the apostles battling against it. For instance, on the island of Paphos, the apostle Paul stood against Elymas the sorcerer, really a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus, saying, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). The episode in Acts 16:16-18 reveals that a slave girl diviner, who greatly annoyed Paul by following him around for many days, was in fact possessed by a demon, “a spirit of divination.” The second-to-last chapter of Revelation states plainly that sorcerers will be cast into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8; see also 22:15).

This is sufficient proof that God considers the practice of all forms of occultism to be a moral outrage. He is not by any means involved in them and wants His people to avoid them, forbidding them to consult them or dabble in them in any way. This most important point indicates that God had nothing to do with the events at En Dor, except to allow them to move His purpose along, removing Saul to place David on Israel's throne.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What Happened at En Dor?

Deuteronomy 13:1-5

This passage begins with the assumption that the prophet does foretell the future accurately or perform some other, humanly impossible work. Nevertheless, if that prophet's central message is to follow after a different god or to take a spiritual path that the true God has not said to take, that person is a false prophet. God states unequivocally that misrepresenting Him incurs the death penalty, and Revelation 19:20 says that this is exactly what happens to the False Prophet: He is thrown into the Lake of Fire.

The message of the false prophet is contrasted in Deuteronomy 13:3-4 with loving the true God with all of our heart and soul (life), walking after Him, fearing Him, keeping His commandments, obeying His voice, serving Him, and holding fast to Him. These elements indicate what God wants His people to be focused on, helping to define whether a man claiming to speak for God is truly doing so or not.

Verse 4 mentions obeying God's voice and keeping His commandments. This is a regular theme with God's true prophets: They always have God's law undergirding their messages. When the Old Testament prophets were sent to warn or inform Israel and Judah, they always pointed out the grievous ways in which the people had transgressed God's law.

False prophets, on the other hand, will not hold the moral line that God requires. Lamentations 2:14 says that the false prophets "have not uncovered your iniquity, to bring back your captives, but have envisioned for you false prophecies and delusions." False prophets will not connect the dots between the sinfulness of a nation and national calamity. They instead focus on something other than God's standard of righteousness.

This same principle appears in Isaiah 8:19-20. Both houses of Israel were guilty of seeking out mediums and wizards for spiritual guidance, and God's response is very telling:

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? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

God gives us a standard by which to measure the words of a prophet: the law and testimony - His Word. If the prophet's message contradicts what is already established as God's Word, it is evidence that he lacks spiritual understanding. If his words do not line up with God's law and testimony, he is not speaking the truth.

In summary, the hallmark of a true prophet is his upholding of the law of God, while false prophets dodge moral teaching and instead preach a message that appeals to the masses. God's truth - and His law in particular - is abhorrent to the natural mind (Romans 8:7), and thus it is quite common for God's prophets to be killed, while the false prophets enjoy widespread popularity and support.

The current trend of outcome-based churches serves as a good example. Their leaders preach a widely popular message, and thousands of people follow them. Yet, Jesus says in Luke 6:26, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets." Popularity is not a good measurement of God's pleasure with a leader!

Jesus Christ, the most perfect Spokesman for God who has ever lived, only had about 120 true followers when His ministry ended (Acts 1:15). This was not due to failure on His part, but because His Father's message could be wholeheartedly believed only by those whose minds God had already prepared to accept it.

"Purpose-Driven" church leaders will not preach the unadulterated Word of God because they know it is divisive. It would also thwart their goals of a large following and a large income. Thus, their messages do not involve repentance, sound doctrine, or God's law, except where it may serve to further whatever purpose is driving them. Their messages do not remind people of their moral responsibilities to God and brother, and thus if they claim to speak for God or say that God sent them, we can know from biblical patterns that they are, in fact, false prophets. Their large churches, as amazing as they might seem, are not accurate indicators of God's involvement or blessing.

David C. Grabbe
What Is a False Prophet?

Deuteronomy 18:15-18

God shows in many places that those He appoints to the prophetic office will always preach the keeping of His commandments as evidence of the source of their guidance. They will teach the conservation of truth, that is, past truth, even as they break new ground in terms of doctrine.

Isaiah 8:19-20 is an expansion on Deuteronomy 18:15-18:

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? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prophets and Prophecy (Part 2)

1 Samuel 28:11-14

The narrative tells us nothing about the procedure the woman went through in conducting the séance for Saul. We might imagine the classical setting of a fortuneteller's dark room, a few chairs around a table, a crystal ball sitting atop the table, and perhaps a lone candle flickering off to the side. Saul's séance was probably nothing like this. She may have pretended to scry in a bowl of water or maybe she gazed in the fire or perhaps she burned some incense in a censer and sought images in the smoke. She may not have done any of these things, but simply closed her eyes and fell theatrically into a trance.

All we really know is that, this time, the woman really sees something—Samuel, she thinks—and cries out at the sight (verse 12). Immediately, she turns to Saul and identifies him by name, asking, “Why have you deceived me?” The details of this verse confirm that the woman is a fraud: She pretends to be a medium, but she never really contacts the dead. Yet, this time is different, and it scares her.

Her client, she guesses, must be someone special, and who but Saul has enough pull with God and the prophet Samuel to cause him to appear—to her!—so long after his death? In addition, she suddenly realizes that, like the king, this man is tall—taller than any other man that she had ever seen in Israel (I Samuel 9:1-2). She immediately fears again for her life, thinking that Saul had tricked her into revealing herself as a medium.

That the woman is afraid of the apparition is a clue that she does not see a friendly spirit. Scripture contains a number of instances of people seeing angels, and in nearly every case, the angel speaks positive, soothing words (see, for example, Judges 6:12; 13:3; Daniel 9:22-23; 10:11-12; Luke 1:12-13, 29-30; 2:8-10; Revelation 1:17; etc.). On the other hand, when Job's friend, Eliphaz, has a demon-inspired dream and sees a spirit pass before his face, he feels extreme fear and receives no comfort (Job 4:12-21).

The text says that “the woman saw Samuel,” but upon further study, it is clear that she only thinks she sees Samuel. She had called for Samuel at Saul's request, and a spirit rose before her, so she assumes that it is indeed Samuel. However, when Saul presses her, “What did you see?” she replies more vaguely, “I saw a spirit ascending out of the earth” (I Samuel 28:13). Note that Saul sees nothing; he has to ask her what she sees.

The fact that the spirit rises “out of the earth” is a telling detail. The Bible consistently indicates that spirits that come from the earth are not from God, as His messengers come from Him in heaven (see Galatians 1:8; Revelation 10:1; 14:6, 17; 15:1; 18:1; 20:1; etc.). Spirits associated with the earth are demons, who come from Satan, the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4; see Job 1:6-7; 2:1-2; Luke 4:5-7; Revelation 12:9; 13:1-2, 11; 16:13-14). The writer of the book is indicating that this spirit is not Samuel but a demon impersonating him.

In Hebrew, the woman describes this being as elohim. She may have meant that the spirit was one of the “strong ones,” which is the meaning of its root, el, but that is unlikely. Here, the word is accompanied by a plural verb, so her actual words are, “I saw gods ascend out of the earth.” When elohim is paired with a plural verb, it is a scriptural indication of pagan gods (see Psalm 96:5; 97:7). Most likely, several spirits rose with the one she thought was Samuel. Would not the great prophet be accompanied by a retinue of angels?

Saul is not content with her vague answer, so he seeks more detail. She replies that she sees “an old man . . . covered with a mantle” (I Samuel 28:14), and from this meager description, Saul perceives that the spirit is the dead prophet and prostrates himself. Why is her scant description so convincing?

Samuel had indeed been an old man when he had died (perhaps as old as 92), a fact everyone knew. However, what sways the king is the mention of a mantle, a loose outer cloak (like an overcoat) that, it appears, had already become associated with prophets. Less than two centuries later, in the days of Elijah and Elisha, a prophet passing his mantle on to another would indicate the transferal of the office (see I Kings 19:16, 19). That Elisha later duplicates one of Elijah's miracles with the mantle verifies his status as prophet (II Kings 2:8, 14). Perhaps Samuel himself had begun this tradition by wearing such a mantle.

Whatever the case, Saul wants the apparition to be Samuel so that he could get some answers. These two nebulous details prove to be enough to sell him on the identification.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
What Happened at En Dor?


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