Our dearly beloved Brenda ‘went home to be with the Lord,’ ” the minister informs his tearful congregation at her funeral. “Her suffering is over. She’s with God now, praising Jesus.” On the surface, the doctrine seems as “Christian” as the pope being Catholic and a rabbi being Jewish. Who would dare to doubt such a conclusion? Brenda was a firm believer in Jesus Christ. Of course, she went to heaven, right?
Before answering that question, let’s take a look at another scene.
It’s been a month since Brenda’s lifeless body was lowered six feet under. But for the flickering of a few eerie candles, the room is pitch dark. Madam Sophia—a psychic medium claiming an ability to contact the deceased—sits comfortably on a black sofa surrounded by a handful of bereaved relatives who aren’t churchgoers. The thick smell of incense fills the air. High above the creepy-looking house, the moon shines full. A lone dog howls in the distance. “Whom shall I bring up for you?” Madam Sophia inquires quietly.
“Brenda,” her husband, Ralph, responds nervously. “She died recently, and we have some questions to ask her.”
Suddenly, a ghost appears in their midst. “Hello, Ralph,” says the spirit, “what do you want to know?”
A lengthy conversation ensues between the small group of amazed relatives and the glowing entity from “the other side,” who looks like Brenda, talks like Brenda, and acts exactly like Brenda.
Sound far-fetched? Actually, it isn’t, for similar occurrences are increasingly common.
Now notice carefully. In spite of their many differences of belief, there is one fundamental idea that both Brenda’s pastor and Madam Sophia hold in common. Both believe that when a person dies, he or she is not really dead. The “soul” soars on to another place somewhere in the universe— heaven, hell, purgatory, nirvana, whatever. It’s out of this world and into the next. Alive. Conscious. Still able to communicate.
The large majority of human beings across planet Earth accept the idea that the soul is immortal, including most members of the world’s largest religions—Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, and Spiritualist. While these religious persuasions differ markedly in their understanding of where souls go on the day of their death, they all believe that every person has an immortal soul that goes somewhere after their physical bodies die and so-called “communication with the deceased” is call spiritualism.
What God said
Please put your hand over your pacemaker (if you have one) and get ready for a shock: this doctrine was actually the devil’s first lie, and it duped Eve in the Garden of Eden. I call it “the devil’s door to spiritualism.”
“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat,” God declared to Adam shortly after his creation, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16, 17, NKJV).* Notice carefully the last four words, “you shall surely die.” The Lord didn’t tell Adam that if he ate the forbidden fruit “only your body will die,” but rather, “you shall surely die”—meaning his entire person. God added the word surely for extra emphasis. His warning was clear: If Adam or Eve ate from the wrong tree, that was it. They would “surely die.” The word die means that they would be dead, not alive somewhere else.
What the snake said
A few verses later, the Bible reports that a serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4).
Did you catch that? It was the serpent that first said, “You will not surely die,” in direct contradiction to what God said. Most conservative Bible interpreters understand that this serpent was simply a medium through whom Satan spoke. So who told the truth, God or the devil? Sadly, Eve believed the snake and ate the fruit. Then she offered it to Adam, and he ate some too (verse 6). The result was sin, pain, and death for all humanity. Ultimately, that tiny act led to the death of Jesus Christ to fix the problem.
Sin is serious.
We should always believe what God says.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God repeated His warning that “you will surely die.” He said to Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (verse 19).
Once again God didn’t tell Adam that merely his physical body would revert to dust, but Adam himself. “For dust you are,” the Lord clarified, “and to dust you shall return.” The word you takes in Adam’s entire existence.
How Adam was made
In Genesis 2:7, the Bible says that Adam was formed from dust combined with “the breath of life.” This “breath of life” was not an eerie out-of body intelligence but rather a spark of life that God placed into all creation, including animals (Genesis 7:21, 22; Psalm 104:29, 30). It was this combination of dust plus breath that made Adam “a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, KJV). At death (which is the result of sin), “the breath of life,” also called “the spirit” that now animates human beings, simply “returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). But human consciousness doesn’t continue. It ceases (Psalm 146:4, KJV). That’s what God said.
The Bible is crystal clear that fallen human beings are not immortal. God “alone has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16; emphasis added). Human beings must “seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Romans 2:7; emphasis added). Only on resurrection day will saints “put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53). The Bible does not teach that the instant a person dies, his or her immortal soul soars off into outer space. Rather, the Bible teaches that human beings will live again only after they are resurrected from the dead.
Now here’s the scary part. If Christians believe that their deceased loved ones aren’t really dead but are alive somewhere, then this makes them dangerously vulnerable to being deceived by demons impersonating their dead relatives. After all, if Brenda really did go to heaven, then why couldn’t her ghost return at Madam Sophia’s beckoning to communicate with the living?
Why not? The biblical answer is not that she would not, but that she could not. “The living know that they will die,” wrote Solomon, “but the dead know nothing” (Ecclesiastes 9:5).
That’s why communication with the dead is impossible. David said that “the dead . . . go down into silence” (Psalm 115:17). They wait for “the resurrection at the last day” (John 11:24; 5:28, 29).
What about the New Testament?
Wait a minute! you might be thinking. What about New Testament passages such as “absent from the body and . . . present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)? What about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16), and Jesus’ promise to the dying thief that he would join Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43)? Don’t these texts teach that believers go to heaven at the moment of death?
No, they don’t. Briefly, when you compare 2 Corinthians 5:8 with verse 4 and then with 1 Corinthians 15:51– 55, it becomes very clear that Paul’s “away from the body” statement meant that believers will be “present with the Lord” on resurrection day, not before (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
The story of the rich man and Lazarus was clearly a parable, not a factual account, for what other explanation can we give for Lazarus ascending into “Abraham’s bosom”?
Finally, if you remove the punctuation from Luke 23:43, which was added hundreds of years after the New Testament was written, then Christ’s actual promise to the thief on the cross would be, “Assuredly, I say to you today [right now], you will be [in the future] with Me in Paradise.” We know this is what Jesus meant because He didn’t go to Paradise that day, but into Joseph’s new tomb (Luke 23:52, 53). After rising from the dead, Christ told Mary, “I have not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17). Thus Jesus Himself did not go to heaven until after His resurrection.
“A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on,” wrote the preacher Charles Spurgeon. According to the Bible, the immortal soul doctrine is one of those lies. Yes, it’s popular; and, yes, millions believe it. But the fact is that this doctrine was the first lie uttered to humanity by a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Unfortunately, Eve believed it, and so do most people today, including psychic mediums like Madam Sophia, and even Christian pastors.
The Bible sounds the warning that “the great dragon . . . , that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan . . . deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9; emphasis added).
The devil’s door
Many ancient medieval churches still standing in England have one special door built into their north side called “the devil’s door.” Reasons for this vary, but one thing’s for sure: if you believe in the immortal soul doctrine, such a belief can easily become the devil’s door into spiritualism for you, duping you through Lucifer’s legions impersonating dead people (Deuteronomy 18:11; Job 7:9, 10; Revelation 16:14).
My advice is this: believe what God told Adam about sin and death, and decline the medium’s invitation to step through the devil’s door.