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[This article was taken from chapter 7 of the ministry’s book Is There Death After Life?]
A vital principle of Bible interpretation that must be upheld in handling any subject in God’s Word is that any verses that are harder to understand must be analyzed in light of clear verses on the same subject. “Clear” verses are not just those that agree with one’s theological position. They are those that seem to be straightforward and literal statements of fact. Figurative expressions that seem to be contradictory can best be handled after the literal, factual position is determined. The Bible should be accepted literally whenever possible. When verses seem to contradict previously established facts, one is justified in exploring other possible meanings that are consistent with the whole Bible.
We have laid the solid biblical foundation that death is the total absence of life, that there is no part of a person (either “soul” or “spirit”) that “goes to heaven” when he dies and that the dead are actually dead and “sleeping” in “gravedom” until Christ’s appearing. We now turn our attention to some sections of Scripture commonly misconstrued to indicate otherwise. Let us remember that they must harmonize with those parts of God’s Word that we have already examined.
1 Samuel 28 (The woman of Endor)
As previously noted in Chapter One, 1 Samuel 28 describes the woman of Endor conjuring up “Samuel” from the dead for King Saul. It is important to note Saul’s original request: “Seek me a woman that has a familiar spirit” (1 Sam. 28:7). The context, specifically verses 7-9, along with other Old Testament verses already cited, shows that she did, in fact, perform this spiritual phenomenon through “familiar spirits.” These were evil spirits that manipulated her and impersonated Samuel, with whom they were “familiar.”
A key to understanding this record in Chapter 28 is in verse 13.
1 Samuel 28:12 and 13
(12) And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice, and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.
(13) And the king said unto her, Be not afraid: for what sawest thou? And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
In verse 13, the Hebrew word for “gods” is elohim, a word used in various ways in the Old Testament. Here it refers to an evil spirit that the woman saw, one that was impersonating Samuel. In verses 12-20, God’s Word reports this incident as the participants perceived it, and refers to this spirit as “Samuel.”
What “Samuel” (the familiar spirit) told Saul was not from the Lord, for 1 Samuel 28:6 says that God did not answer Saul at all. Only when Saul went to a woman who dealt with familiar spirits did he get an answer, but that answer was not from God. In fact, Saul’s going to the woman at Endor partly contributed to his death.
1 Chronicles 10:13
So Saul died from his transgression which he committed against the Lord, even against the word of the Lord, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it.
This conjuring up of familiar spirits is the same method used today for “communicating with the dead,” by which some find false and misleading comfort. The results can be as devastating as they were for Saul.
2 Kings 2:9-18 (Elijah)
2 Kings 2:11 says that Elijah “went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” This phrase in no way indicates that Elijah was taken to a place of everlasting life called “heaven.” The word “heaven” has several usages in Scripture. Phrases such as “the dew of heaven,” “the stars of heaven” and “the birds of heaven” all indicate a use of “heaven” that simply means the sky above the earth.
Elijah was taken from the earth into the sky by a wind; that is, he was moved from one place on earth to another. The other prophets understood this, and thus wanted to go look for Elijah. Elisha, however, knowing that God would have hidden Elijah, did not want them to look for him. 2 Kings 2:11 simply means that God supernaturally moved Elijah from one place to another, similar to what He did later with Philip in Acts.
Acts 8:39 and 40a
(39) And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
(40) But Philip was found at Azotus:
As a human being, Elijah eventually died and is awaiting the resurrection of the just.
Matthew 10:28 (Kill the body, not the soul)
And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [gehenna].
If nothing else, this verse clearly shows that the soul is not immortal, because it can be destroyed, but let us look at the verse more closely. The context is Jesus Christ instructing his twelve apostles before sending them out to preach the gospel of the kingdom to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 10:5 and 6). What he tells them in verse 28 is not to fear men inspired by the Devil, who may kill them, but who can do nothing more to them after that. The following parallel passage helps us understand the above verse.
Luke 12:4 and 5
(4) And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
(5) But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell [gehenna]; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
In context, verse five refers to the time of judgment of the unjust. It is God whom Jesus wanted his apostles to fear (which in essence is to respect) and to obey more than they would men who might threaten or even kill them. It is God (by way of giving Jesus Christ the authority to judge) who will judge all men and who can also “destroy” them forever in the lake of fire.
There are many more verses that are explained in the entire article. Please, read it, study it, live it.
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