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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
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About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Did Saul See Samuel's Ghost or Not? Part -VIII-

We identified two possible options concerning the narrative of 1 Samuel 28; either the narrative "literally" describes events as they were interpreted by Saul (i.e. a narrative that described things as they would have seemed from Saul's perspective), or it "literally" describes events as they actually happened.

We left the former option (Saul's perspective) hanging for now, and began to investigate the latter, specifically looking at what sort of theological allowances would have to be made in order to embrace the opinion that the deceased prophet really did show up.

We began by reasoning that in order for the vision of Samuel (that was given to the medium by her familiar spirit) to be a true portrayal of reality (as opposed to a deceitful invention by the familiar spirit) we would have to believe that when you die, your soul not only [1] lingers around somewhere, but that [2] it is also subject to the commands of the sort of spirits that God forbids people to communicate with.

In order to establish the possibility of this option, we needed to ask and answer the question: does the bible rule out the possibility of there being some intermediate place between death and judgment, and if not, then where does the soul reside after death?

The answer I gave was that scripture does not deny or preclude the possibility, so today we are going to look at the other half of that: does scripture teach that spirits have both the authority and power to command the souls of men [1] while they live, and/or [2] after they die? We want to learn whether scripture precludes this possibility.

Demanding Spirits

Let's begin by looking at the question of authority. In Mark 3:14-15 we read that Jesus, "...appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons." [NASB]. Two things we draw from that, the first is that normally people have no authority to cast out demons, and secondly that Christ who Himself had received authority from the Father (c.f. Matthew 28:18, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."), had given this authority specifically to the twelve. This same authority, if limited to casting out demons in chapter 3 of Mark, is possibly raised a notch in chapter six where, "He summoned the twelve and began to send them out in pairs, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits;".

What does that authority look like? We see a glimpse of it in Luke 4:36, where we read, "And amazement came upon them all, and they began talking with one another saying, "What is this message? For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out."". In Luke 9:1, the same scene is played out - authority is given to the twelve to cast out demons, but in Luke 10:19 the ante is upped when he says to the seventy, "Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you."

Jesus makes a point in talking to Pontius Pilate, that we want to take note of, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11 [NASB]); that being that in order for a creature to have authority over anyone or anything, God Himself has to grant that authority. Paul lucidly says as much in Romans 13, where he writes, "...there is no authority except from God".

All of which is to say that, in the New Testament at least, it seems that all authority is given by God, and that God gave Jesus authority over everything in heaven and earth, and then Jesus gave authority over certain spirits (the power of the enemy, etc.) to a limited group of people, first the twelve, and then the seventy, and that this authority gave the person the ability to command the spirits of the enemy - at least so far as to cast them out of people, so that none of the enemies power could over come that.

We haven't yet seen any indication that Spirits have authority over men, at least not until the book of Revelation. In Revelation 6:8 we read, "I looked, and behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth." Here Death and Hades are personified and given authority over a fourth of the earth to kill by war, famine, disease, and the wild beasts of the earth. The "earth" hear likely refers to those who are alive upon the earth during the pouring out of God's judgment upon it. Depending on your eschatological leanings, you might believe that the elect are floating around in the sky with Jesus by this time, or that the elect is still on the earth, safe and sound in the 3/4 of the population that these have not been given authority over.

Either way, we have an instance of what could be a spirit have some kind of authority over men - granted, it is bestowed only in the end time, and it is fair to reason that this means that this same authority is lacking prior to the end time.

I think most would agree that Hades and Death here, are only personified for the sake of the metaphor. Which means we don't have a "clear" example in this text of a spirit having authority over a person.

Again in Revelation 13, we read that the dragon (Satan) gives the beast his power, throne, and authority. That suggests that Satan has power, a throne, and some authority (though clearly that authority was given him by God, as we showed earlier), but of particular interest to our study is the text in verse 7 of chapter 13, "It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.".

There is not a lot of wiggle room in that statement. First, it suggests that the saints are not floating around in the sky with Jesus, but are still on the earth in the midst of all this apocalyptical calamity - but more particularly, that the beast will be given authority at that time to overcome the saints for (as we read earlier in the text) 42 months.

Here we -do- see some spirit given authority over men. But this authority is limited in scope - the beast has authority to overcome the saints. We ought not to be surprised that God gives the enemy this authority, for God gave Satan a similar authority over Job in the O. T.. The truth is, that even if this means that the enemy is given authority to murder the saints, it isn't really anything new. If Pontius Pilate could not murder Christ unless God gave him the authority to do so, we can extend that to every murder that ever takes place, or will take place. Unless God allows the murder, it will not happen. Can it be said that Jesus was the only Christian who was ever murdered? Of course not! Christians began to be murdered for their faith almost immediately - and plenty of Christians have been murdered for other reasons too. Which is only to say, don't think it some strange thing that God gives authority for the saints to be overcome - it isn't exactly a "new" thing. What is significant is that the time is short, 42 months; after which, presumably (and according to the text), all authority will return to God, and (I suppose) murders will cease to be.

While it is clear from this survey that there is a hard line between now and the end times in terms of what authority is given. We see also that all authority is given by God and that authority is always temporal (since all authority will one day return to God). That's important because it reminds us that there is no such thing as inherent authority.

Now, as to the authority to command living men to do things, while we see God giving authority to Spirits to compel men by deceiving them (c.f. 1 King 22:21, 2 Chronicles 18:20), that is not the sort of "compel" we are interested in. That is, we don't see any instances in scripture where God gives spirits the authority to control (as in force men) to do their will. He does give authority for men to be compelled according to their own will, but not against it.

That leaves us with the last thought, but probably the most germane one to our discussion - the question of demonic possession, since clearly, in the case of possession, an unclean spirit (a demon) is forcing a person to do something that they would otherwise avoid. In the text of scripture, let's quickly survey the sort of things that Spirits were given authority to do. Here are the things I found:

- spirits can deceive men with false information (1 King 22:21, 2 Chronicles 18:20)
- spirits can cause sickness/disease in a man (Job 2:7)
- spirits cause men to become extremely violent (Matthew 8:28)
- spirits cause muteness (Matthew 9:32, Luke 11:14)
- spirits cause blindness and muteness (Matthew 12:22)
- spirits cause someone to speak (Mark 1:23,34)
- spirits cause convulsions (Mark 1:25)
- spirits cause superhuman strength (Mark 5:4)
- spirits cause self mutilation (Mark 5:%)
- spirits cause a man to slam himself to the ground (Luke 4:35; 9:42)
- spirits cause a man to foam at the mouth (Luke 9:39)
- spirits cause sickness (Job, Luke 13:11)
- spirits give divinations (Acts 16:16)
- spirits cause a man to go around naked (Luke 8:27)

The list may not be exhaustive, but it gives us enough to work with. We see here that unclean spirits cause men to do all kinds of things. I mean, going about naked, screaming, foaming at the mouth, being tossed to the ground, not to mention the blindness, and sickness. Scripture doesn't say that -all- illness or calamity has a spiritual cause, but it doesn't deny the possibility either. When God judged King David's numbering of the nation by sending an angel of pestilence - David sees that angel as a person with a sword - gone out to slay, not unlike the final Egyptian plague; in fact, many times in scripture an angel is sent to destroy men, often through a plague.

We do see, therefore, that spirits have the ability to force living men to obey their will, but that this authority is something God allows, and could not exist without that allowance.

But we have no way to be certain that this authority extends beyond the grave. What is more? There are mitigating concerns that make it difficult to assume that is even possible. First, scripture speaks of an insurmountable gulf between Abraham's bosom and Hades, so that none can pass out of either and into the other. That suggests that once you are in Hades, or Abraham's bosom, you can't leave of your own accord, neither can anyone pull you out of where you're at. As the tree falls in the forest, and lays there, so too, as you enter into one of these places (assuming this is where we go when we die), it seems nothing but judgment day can bring us out of it.

Given that thought, the idea that a rogue spirit can drag anyone out of Hades or Abraham's bosom, seems... well, a very strained thing.

But what if one could? I mean, what if we are just over stating the point, and Spirits can drag people out of Hades and Abraham's bosom - could they do so against the will of the person? I mean, if on the earth certain men were given authority over all the spirits - could it be that when they died they lost that authority; that is, that the authority was given to their flesh, and not their spirit? I mean, aren't we supposed to be judging these spirits eventually?

The more we look at it, the harder it is to soberly imagine that a spirit could drag an unwilling person from this place; but what if the person were willing? Even though the rich man in Hades was certainly willing to leave the place, let's say that the rules in Abraham's bosom are different, so that Samuel could, if he wanted, go and talk to living people and whatnot.

Would he?

Before I digress, let's remember that we are not yet discussing the plausibility of such a thing, but only the possibility , and while the evidence strongly favors the impossible, that argument ends up being implicit rather than explicit, and that leave some room (though not a lot) for doubt. So while we cannot say for certain that Samuel's spirit could not leave Abraham's bosom, we can say that the deck is definitely stacked against it.

What to take away from this

It may seem we haven't done a lot in this post, but we have established from scripture the kind of authority we -know- spirits to have, and compared that with what they need to have in order to compel Samuel to leave Abraham's bosom and provide Saul with informatin that God Himself refused to provide through legitimate means.

We are already seeing that the argument that this truly is Samuel, requires a great deal of speculation, or at the very least, it requires us to believe something of this text that isn't supported elsewhere, and may even be contradicted implicitly elsewhere.

What we want to take away from this post is a growing appreciation of just how much weight this opinion really has. Is it really biblical? Is it really rational?

Perhaps we will consider some of these in the next post.
posted by Daniel @ 1:07 PM  
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