“Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7)
For some time I have given thought to the question of those who appeal to the dead for help in life, a common belief and practice of many religions. The Lord has given a couple of verses in the Bible book of Acts, 10:42-43, in answer to this concern. The Apostle Peter speaks there to earnest seekers of truth. Are you a seeker?
“It is He [Jesus of Nazareth, vs. 38] which was ordained of God to be the Judge of living and dead”
The sure word of God is that He has appointed Jesus Christ as “Judge of living and dead.” Please hear it my friend. The Lord spoke in a similar way many centuries before in Psalm 2. There He speaks of that One He calls “My Son” (vs. 7). Of this One He says, “Yet have I set My King upon My holy hill of Zion” (Psalm 2:6). God has “set”, appointed, anointed His Son Jesus Christ as King and Judge. Before Him all will stand, both “living and dead”; those yet alive among men; those long dead; those yet to live. Every soul of every age is among the “living and dead”. The Apostle Paul agreed, speaking as well of “the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick [living] and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom” (II Timothy 4:1-2).
That the dead shall be judged tells of both existence and judgment after death, and examination before that one appointed Judge of all. Deny it if you insist. God has spoken!
Peter went on to bring the good news,
“To Him [Jesus] give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins”
Though Jesus Christ is Judge of all, He is also the Saviour of man. There is “remission” or forgiveness of sins offered to “whosoever believes in Him”. For the Judge Himself came and received in our place the punishment for our sin against God. This was God’s purpose in Christ’s death on the cross. And He now offers forgiveness of all sin, of every crime against God, full pardon and release to every soul willing to believe in Him as their own Saviour. “All the prophets witness” of that Saviour and Judge Peter said. Will you hear it neighbour? In fact the Apostle John wrote that the very “Spirit of prophesy” is “the testimony of Jesus” (Revelation 19:10). He is the central theme of all of God’s prophecy.
Jesus is as the ark of Noah. All who believe God’s warning of coming judgment may find refuge and rescue in Him from the coming storm of God’s wrath (Genesis 6-7).
Jesus is as Joseph in the book of Genesis, rejected by His own people, but then finally rising to rule over his rejecters, and all mankind.
Jesus is the Passover Lamb, whose blood must be applied to your life if God’s coming judgment would pass over you (Exodus 12).
Jesus is as the rock struck in the wilderness, gushing forth streams of refreshment through His wounding (Numbers 20:11). As Moses struck that rock in rage, bringing refreshment to all, so Jesus was struck in Israel’s rage, resulting in the spiritual refreshment of all who believe on Him.
Jesus is that “Prophet” Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18, who must certainly be heard, rather than listening to the many false voices speaking of unseen things. And among the many false sources Moses listed in Deut. 18, who dare to speak in the place of that Prophet, are those who say they speak for the dead. God so strongly warns every soul against refusing to hear His own Son and highest Prophet (Acts 3:20-23).
Jesus is the voice of Wisdom crying to the simple ones to come and hear to their blessing (Proverbs 8).
Jesus Christ is that rock of Daniel’s prophecy, coming down to crush the earthly kingdoms of men, and then filling the whole earth (Dan. 2:34-45). This will come to pass when Jesus returns to His earthly kingdom.
Jesus, as the prophet Jonah in the fish, was held for three days in death before He arose from the dead.
We could go on, touching on every book of the Old Testament, finding prophecy of that exalted King and Judge and Saviour who came and will come again. Indeed all of the prophets spoke of Him. Jesus Himself said, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning Me . . . and beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27, 44). The whole combined testimony of Old Testament and New, like the rays of the sun, centre upon Jesus Christ as King of kings, Judge, and Saviour, offering rescue from sin’s punishment to every soul who believes upon Him.
Now let’s imagine ourselves looking in on a courtroom scene as two men solemnly stand before a judge. The two were arrested, tried, and convicted of murder. Of this crime both have been proven guilty. One of them was more the leader in their crime, the one named Thanatos, and the other more the follower, the one called Zoe. Yet they are both guilty and have been rightly convicted so. They now stand before a judge who has just passed the death sentence upon them in the stunned silence of that courtroom. Both men now look death in the face for their dark crime.
It is then discovered that there are still unknown details about this case, which did not come out in the trial. Details which would even more shame the name of Thanatos. Information which Zoe offers to reveal to the judge. And immediately Thanatos turns and threatens the other if he doesn’t keep his mouth shut. You look on then as Zoe turns to the one threatening and laughs out loud! And you understand why. Both of them stand convicted of murder and sentenced to death, with absolutely no power of their own even over their own lives. They have no authority over anybody any more. For they stand equally condemned before their judge. And this one would threaten the life of the other? What a joke! They’re already condemned together! The destruction of the one as sure as the other. This vicious threat has no teeth, for both stand on even ground. The only one with power here is that judge before whom they stand.
Now let’s change the scene just a bit. Let’s alter the names of these two criminals to the English meaning of “Thanatos” and “Zoe”. Let’s call them “Dead” and “Living”, leaving everything else the same in their trial. Again, both stand before their appointed Judge. And now think man. What power has Mr. Dead over Mr. Living, with both standing on level ground before the Judge of all? What power does Mr. Dead hold, to so threaten Mr. Living with anything? He holds none!
By what teaching of God’s Word, the Bible, would we think that the dead hold some power over the living? Both stand before the appointed Judge of “living and dead”. All power is given to Jesus Christ in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). He holds all authority over any thing or being claiming power on earth. Please understand that the dead have in fact proven themselves weak, for they could not even hold onto their own life! Only Jesus has proven His power over all, in His victory over death through His resurrection.
We have a Zulu friend who told of an accident happening close to her once. She was soon informed by some among her people that this accident was a message from her dead father, and that she must kill a cow in behalf of this ancestor. She was to make a feast and appeal to the dead for help. In fact it was made clear to her that she would be sorry if she chose to ignore this demand from the dead, for a worse tragedy would surely come.
What do such ideas imply? Ancestor spirits of the dead are thought to have power over the living, that they could make such demands, bring such trouble, resolve trouble, and expect such appeal to them and privileges. Do you not see how the power of Jesus, the only One truly appointed of God to a place of power, is intruded upon by such thinking? Folks are forced in this way to live in fear of ancestor spirits, thinking they have power over the living. But God in His Word puts dead and living on level ground before Him! Do you see how this fear intrudes upon our fear of God, the only One the Word of God says we should fear? “Fear not them”, Jesus said, “But rather Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
We do not find in the Bible any idea of God working together with the dead in ruling the affairs of the living. We find no example in the Bible of the spirits of the dead strong to make such demands of the living, or that we must plead to God in their behalf. God never says we need to please the dead. The Bible speaks only of seeking to please the Lord alone.
Please understand who is happy for this belief that the dead hold power over the living. Please understand how only Satan, that evil enemy of God, would be eager for such teaching, for it robs from the glory and fear due the Lord alone. The evil one ever tries to step into that place given only to God’s appointed Judge and Saviour.
The Bible teaches that Satan is a real being, whose greatest ability is his clever deceiving of mankind. Jesus said of that evil one, “he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Even so with every lying “religious” belief that evil one begins, trying by any and every means to ruin God’s true purposes through Jesus Christ.
Is there any Bible support for the idea of power among the dead over the living? Absolutely not! Please my friend, I earnestly ask you to understand that when traditional teaching denies the truth of God it must be given up. Only a stubbornly proud heart would cling to what is not true simply because of tradition. If God has spoken the truth in His eternal Word and men deny it, God is the One they deny.
Death grants no strength, it only proves the lack of it. The dead display their weakness in their inability to avoid death’s hold. Jesus is the only One who has shown His victory over death in His resurrection, and therefore He is the only One strong to help. God grants no power to the dead, for this would take away from that One to whom He has given all power. God allows no fear of the dead, for this would take from our fear of Him, which is the great focus of the Bible. Fear God! Hear God! Why appeal to the dead who are weak, when the Strongest Strong One offers Himself as your Saviour and Helper? In “Jesus the Son of God . . . we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16). Jesus is man’s help and comfort in trouble!
But wait. Should we not ask this same question of others among us who believe the dead have power? Why appeal to Mary, the human mother of Jesus, as helper or mediator, as some would have us believe? God never gives Mary such an exalted role in His eternal Word or grants her such power! She is indeed honoured in the gospels for her evident godliness, as many another godly man or woman in the Bible. Nothing more! The idea of calling upon Mary as one who holds special influence with God or among men is merely another form of ancestor worship. Where do such views arise, except from the dark heart of the evil one, using the traditions and teachings of men? “There is . . . one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5).
The same is true of the so-called “saints” of the catholic church. Merely dead among the dead. The same for the spirits the occult mediums imagine they’re calling up for help in the dark arts of spiritism, necromancy, fortune telling, etc. Indeed the same for all who in any way imagine the dead able and available for our help or comfort in life. All who so dabble with “the dead”, and all who claim to speak for them, are actually dealing with Satan’s evil angels, coming in the clever disguise of dead ancestor, spirit guide, saint, or madonna.
None among the dead stand on anything but level ground with the living before Jesus Christ our Judge. There is nothing in the Bible that shows any ancestor standing any higher. All are equally accountable before that One who is Judge of all, and yet who is the willing Saviour of men, offering forgiveness of sin to “whosoever believeth in Him”.
Satan is alive and active and ever “seeking whom he may devour”, laying out his clever deceptions as a spider spins her web, taking every unwary soul he can with him to hell’s destruction. How great is the hate with which that evil one hates God and His exalted Son. He seeks by every possible means to diminish Jesus Christ before men, ever working through those lying voices who insist that the true God has no Son, or that the Son is less than God, or who step in on Christ’s highest role as the only Helper and Saviour of man.
Oh please turn from calling upon the weak dead, who truly hold no sway over the living. All who try to trust in both the ancestors and God actually trust in neither, for if we keep a foot on the floor we are not fully trusting our weight to the chair. If you still hold to the power of ancestors, you do not really trust in Jesus Christ.
Make your appeal to the only true Judge properly appointed by God, that One so willing to be your Saviour, that One offering forgiveness of sins to “whosoever believeth in Him”. There is simply no hope for help from sin’s ruin apart from Jesus Christ.
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)
“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11)