Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saul, Samuel, Soul Sleep and the Witch of Endor

Here is the biblical story of Israel's King Saul and his consulting a medium to conjure up the dead soul of the Prophet Samuel. It's found in I Samuel 28.

The Philistines were encamped, ready to attack Israel....

When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, not by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, "Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, so that I may go to her and inquire of her." His servants said to him, "There is a medium at Endor." 
So Saul disguised himself and put on other clothes and went there, he and two men with him. They came to the woman by night. And he said, "Consult a spirit for me, and bring up for me the one whom I name to you." The woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the wizards from the land. Why then are you laying a snare for my life to bring about my death?" But Saul swore to her by the Lord, "As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" 
He answered, "Bring up Samuel for me." When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!" The king said to her, "Have no fear; what do you see?" The woman said to Saul, "I see a divine being coming up out of the ground." He said to her, "What is his appearance?" She said, "An old man is coming up; he is wrapped in a robe." So Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance. 
Then Samuel said to Saul, "Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?" Saul answered, "I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams; so I have summoned you to tell me what I should do." Samuel said, "Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? The Lord has done to you just as he spoke by me; for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand, and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord, and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you today. Moreover the Lord will give Israel along with you into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me; the Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines." 

And indeed, the next day on Mt. Gilboa, Saul, his sons and his arm bearer were killed. 

So many points and so little space.... (as tempting as it is to point out may things... I will stick to only three)

As an Adventist I was raised to read the inerrant, infallible Word of God in a way that ignored the obvious meaning of the text. I was taught that Samuel was not really raised and that it was some type of demon posing as Samuel. 

But the text is obvious, clear and direct. The witch conjured up the prophet. I know that doesn't fit in with Adventist's idea of soul sleep (which it actually does quite well I would think. Samuel wasn't taken down from heaven? So why the problem with Samuel protesting that he was asleep? As some translations record Samuel as asking why Saul disturbed or troubled his rest.) 

In any case, we need to point out several things in this story that counter what Adventists were taught: 

1. Adventists are taught that the witch cried out when she saw Samuel, because she was a fake and this time some ghost actually showed up! Not so at all! When you look at the context, the woman had just told the disguised Saul that she feared for her life, because the king banned mediums in Israel. 

Note that she didn't cry out, "Oh no! A real ghost!" This is what she said:

"When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!"

She felt terrified of Saul not Samuel.

2. Samuel gave a true prophecy. So either demons can give true prophecies or it was really Samuel. If demons can give true prophecies that should make those who follow Ellen White a little worried! If it really was Samuel, then wouldn't that make Adventists also reconsider their whole non-immortality of the soul stance? 

3. "...tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me,"

Samuel didn't see Saul and his righteous son, Jonathan in hell or in annihilation, but both the righteous son and bad father went to the same place. Hmmm.... ? Where could that be? Heaven? Well, it's either heaven or what the Bible calls Abraham's bosom... a kind of holding place until Christ's judgement or purgatory... For surely SAMUEL wasn't in hell. 

So, even though Samuel was in some resting place, his soul seemed to be alive, in some degree aware and able to be raised. Perhaps we might say this proves some type of pre-Christ immortal soul in the Old Testament. But keep in mind that Christians do not simply believe in an immortal soul (pretty much everyone did in the ancient religions). We believe in the resurrection of the body too! That is rather unique. 

In the New Testament, we see several texts that back up the idea that Christians have an immortal soul and eventually at Christ's coming an immortal body:

"to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life." Romans 2: 7 
"but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." II Tim. 1:10 
"For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." I Cor. 15: 53, 54.
Granted, searching the scripture to see a direct text about what happened immediately after death for the Christian--can be confusing because the Bible deals with God's immortality and His children's immortality and you're not sure if its the body's immortality or the soul's. But there does seem to be clarity on one point. Christians who accept Christ have been given immortality. And it does seem to be immediate for their souls, while later for their bodies. 

Can ALL scripture that deals with soul's being aware after death be symbolic? The Adventists will tell you that. But at some point, you have to wonder. For Jesus said (as recorded in Matthew 27: 32):
"I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob? He is the God not of the dead, but of the living." 
And then there is the parable of Father Abraham, Lazarus and the rich man having a conversation after death in Luke 16: 20-31. 

Okay, you think every single text so far is symbolic, not really telling us anything about the immortal soul, even when Christ himself tells us that His death brought immortality to light? 

What about this verse? It seems to be paralleling the story of Samuel. 

  • When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, "Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?" They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed. Rev. 6: 9-11

    These "dead" souls sensed something amiss on earth, the were disturbed from their sleep and cried out for justice.  They have some type of awareness. Also in Revelation, three times it talks about the prayers of the saints being offered to God. Are these martyrs under the altar (symbolically covered by Christ's atonement) not saints also praying? Are their prayers not being offered alongside those from the earth? For two thousand years, the church has always said yes to this question. 

    The Bible is clear that the people of God have always had some type of rest after death and with the possibility of being aware of what was going on in this world. This was taught by those early leaders who were anointed and entrusted to take over the church and spread the good news of the gospel to the world when the Apostles died. 

    Think about it.... even Samuel prophesied after his death....

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Two Kingdoms

Welcome to the Eternal Realtor Consultants.

Everyone knows that this life is going to end and where do YOU want to spend eternity?

We are experts in getting you the prime real estate you so desire and deserve. You put in an ENTIRE life of work, work, work and now comes the pay off. When your time on earth is done, don't stay 'boxed in" (just a little insider joke.) Our motto is, "think outside box!"

Were you promised happiness on earth? Freedom? A kingdom of your own where you can rule your own castle? Yes? Did you get it?.... We didn't think so!

So now we are here to give you some eternal choices. Nobody has any power to make that choice but YOU! Our salespeople are trained to give you the best choices without any pressure or deception. We give you the facts and YOU choose which prime real estate will be your kingdom forever and ever and ever and ever AND BEYOND!

Let's get started:

After this life, you will indeed get to be lord. And there are two choices for your eternal real estate. You have the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of hell. Both kingdoms for sure, but very different. But have no fear, both YOU and only YOU will freely choose and we promise you will rule your kingdom.

Let's take a look at the first and most popular of the post-mortem real estate. This is for the rugged individualist, the self-sufficient and enlightenment thinker. If equality and autonomy are your highest values, you will LOVE this place. And there is an unlimited space, so you never have to worry about this choice being taken from you.

Freedom Palace:
All the acreage is utterly equal, so your kingdom will in no way be inferior to your neighbors. Indeed, your kingdom is SO isolated that you will never even SEE your neighbor or his property. In this, your kingdom, you make the rules and you are responsible for no one--including yourself! There is nothing ever expected of you and you are utterly free to pursue your own personal dream without the slightest interference. To assure your own protection (as well as others who also choose Freedom Palace) and to guarantee each are given independent, equal and absolute power over their kingdom, we make certain that you are king over NO ONE but yourself. No messy situations with other humans or lifeforms and their needs and desires. Your kingdom is your own and no one can come in and touch it and ruin it.

So then, you ask, what exactly am I ruling if there is only me? Have no fear! You will be provided with stuff you spent so much time on earth wanting that you didn't get. On earth, were you proud to be a "material girl" or a mall crawler? If your bumper sticker read, "Who ever has the most toys wins"? Well.... in Freedom Palace--you win!!  This will be your heaven in.... well, for full disclosure we are obligated to let you know it was originally, technically, called "hades" but we prefer the term our the kings have given it.

You will have unlimited money to purchase anything from Amazon.nogov in which all you have to do is want it and it is yours: boats, any non-organic toy, techno gadget that you can dream up. Let's put it this way... you will spend an eternity gorging your self on inanimate stuff! It is consumers paradise always and forever consuming, consuming without end!

It is guaranteed that throughout all eternity your kingdom will stay exactly as you wish it with no one else to answer to or be responsible for.

Sound like heaven to you? Then choose the popular Freedom Palace.

Our second choice, not quite as popular, but just as loved--perhaps even more loved is the Church Victorious.

Church Victorious
This bustling kingdom, although full of kings, is also hierarchal. There is a Supreme Ruler who requires all here to live as loving lords and live in strict, in fact perfect, submission to His will.
And as lord of your new, everlasting kingdom, you will have many under you who you are responsible for. You will have duties of love and charity as YES will always be the answer to the question of "Am I my brother's keeper?" The motto here is, "the first shall be last and the last shall be first." It is an eternity of charity. You will not be restricted to your own kingdom, but will be able to interact with all areas except Freedom Palace.

This kingdom is about giving more than that which you receive and your reward will be seeing the Supreme Being face to face and absorbing Him into you so that you will spend forever becoming more and more like Him. You will find peace and relaxation in a communal atmosphere in which you can take those people skills you have learned and love for all eternity. It is a givers paradise, as you will create and produce forever expending the light and grace you were given from God.

So there are your choices? In both kingdoms you will be an eternal lord. In both you will get your way, in both utter freedom. Sounds good right? Your only choice is whether you want a kingdom of consuming or a kingdom of giving.

While we don't want to pressure you as Eternal Realtor Consultants we cannot, but we must warn you that while your ultimate decision is absolutely your free choice, the kingdom you choose to live in while on earth today will absolutely influence you. Learn to love the kingdom you will ultimately choose now, so you can be preparing yourself to enjoy eternity.