A covenant with hell
The Bible Condemns Witchcraft
In this chapter, we will learn what God has told us about these matters. This is so important that He has given specific warnings. We dare not ignore those warnings and run on heedlessly down a road that will lead us to destruction.
(1) What does the Bible says about Satan? (2) Who are these “spirits” that appear to people? (3) Why must we not have anything to do with them? (4) What are the two main lies of Satan?
What does the Bible says about Satan?
It is imperative that we understand the identity and the character of these strange supernatural powers. We need to have clearly before us what God says about them and His warning prohibitions against them. Only in this way can we be protected from the deception and terrible retribution that will come from making friends with them.
Special information and unmistakable warnings are to be found all through the Old and New Testaments regarding Satan, demons, evil spirits, familiar spirits, necromancy (trying to talk to the dead), sorcery, witchcraft, divination, and wizardry.
Satan before his fall from heaven was named Lucifer (Isa. 14:12-14), anointed cherub, and covering cherub (Eze. 28:14, 16). Since his fall he is called accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10), adversary (1 Peter 5:8), Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24), devil (Rev. 12:9), enemy (Matt. 13:28, 39), father of lies, liar, and murderer (John 8:44), old serpent (Rev. 20:2), power of darkness (Col. 1:13), prince of this world (John 12:31), prince of devils (Matt. 12:24), prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2), god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), spirit that worketh in the children of disobedience (Eph. 2:2), tempter (Matt. 4:3), and wicked one (Matt. 13:19). It is clear that Satan is real, and God wants us to have nothing to do with him!
Satan was once an angel of light. His name, being Lucifer, means “light bearer” (Isa. 14:12-14; Eze. 28:13-19). But rebellion against God in heaven changed him into a demon of darkness. When he was cast out of heaven, the angels who sided with him were cast out with him (Rev. 12:7-9).
We want to know more about these angels who were cast out of heaven with Satan.
The New Testament constantly tells about the reality and personality of these angels who are called demons. They are also called “spirits,” “unclean spirits,” and “wicked” spirits (Mark 7:25-26; Luke 10:17, 20; Matt. 12:43, 45). In the Gospels (which is Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), the term, “unclean spirits,” is used interchangeably with “devils” (Mark 1:27, 34; 3:11, 15; 6:7, 13). They are the devil’s “angels” (Matt. 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4) and are so numerous as to make Satan’s power operative practically everywhere (Mark 5:2, 8-9). They are capable of entering and controlling both man and beast (Mark 5:8, 11-13). Satan and his fallen angels have the ability to impart information, to change their appearance, and to personate others (2 Cor. 11:13-14). “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).
Demon influence and possession are constantly portrayed in the New Testament. These demons are unclean, sullen, violent, malicious. They know Jesus to be the Son of God, and are compelled to recognize His authority (Matt. 8:28, 31). —That is an important truth to remember!
They inflict physical maladies (Matt. 12:22; 17:15-18; Luke 13:16) and cause those disorders of the mind induced by demon control. Christ while on earth cast out devils by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28).
A succession of instances of demon possession appear in the New Testament—the two Gergesenes, the dumb man, the blind and dumb man, the Syrophenician’s daughter, the lunatic child, the man in the synagogue, and Mary Magdalene. These devils were cast out by Jesus (Matt. 4:24; 8:16; Luke 8:2). Power over demons was also given by Christ to His disciples, and they too cast them out.
Demons are always—without exception—the adversaries of man (1 Peter 5:8; Matt. 12:45) and they bear false messages. Nevertheless, they “believe [that God exists] and tremble,” and are to be judged (James 2:19; Matt. 8:29) and punished (Luke 8:28; 2 Peter 2:4; Rev. 12:7-9). Of this they are very much aware.
Next, we want to learn what the Bible teaches about sorcery and witchcraft. The Scriptures are very clear about this!
Of the various occult activities being done in Bible times, sorcery (witchcraft) was most widely named as practiced among the nations. Sorcery is divination through the assistance of evil spirits. It was practiced among the Egyptians (Isa. 19:3, 11-13), by the Ninevites (Nahum 3:4), and also by the Babylonians (Isa. 47:9-13; Eze. 21:21-22; Dan. 2:2, 10, 27). It was likewise exercised by such individuals as Balaam (Num. 22:6-7; 23:23) and Jezebel (2 Kgs. 9:22). In New Testament times it was practiced by Simon Magus (Acts 8:9, 11), Elymas (Acts 13:8), the damsel at Philippi (Acts 16:16), and the sons of Sceva (Acts 19:13-15).
Are we told to avoid these things?
God expressly forbade us to consult “familiar spirits” (Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27; Deut. 18:10-11; Isa. 8:19; 19:3) or to have anything to do with necromancy—which is trying to contact dead people (Deut. 18:11; 26:14; Isa. 8:19). Wizardry was similarly prohibited (Ex. 22:18; Lev. 19:31; 20:6, 27). And, under the theocracy, witches were to be destroyed (1 Sam. 28:3, 9).
All divination was strictly forbidden (Lev. 19:26-28, 31; 20:6; Deut. 18:9-14). All contact of this sort was denounced, as was all divining by means of “familiar spirits” (Lev. 20:27). Sorcerers were strictly forbidden (Ex. 22:18; Deut. 18:10-12), with warnings against their deceptions (Jer. 27:9-10) and their punishment foretold (Micah 5:12; Mal. 3:5; Rev. 21:8).
What does the Bible teach about those who practiced witchcraft and other satanic arts?
According to Scripture, many in ancient Israel “sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord (2 Kgs. 17:16-17). By their sins, they gave themselves into the control of Satan, who then used them to capture still others who sought them for advice! They did this by necromancy, witchcraft, sorcery, familiar spirits, etc., and thus became the slaves of the demonic powers behind the occult and mysterious rites.
Because of their evil influence, and the reliance of some upon them and the “spirits,” witchcraft and wizardry were sternly forbidden.
Spiritualists are an abomination to God—“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch . . or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God.”—Deuteronomy 18:10-13.
Have nothing to do with them—“Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”—Leviticus 19:31.
Do not listen to their lies—“Therefore hearken not ye to . . your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers . . for they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far from your land.”—Jeremiah 27:9-10.
God will judge them severely—“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers.”—Malachi 3:5.
God does not want them to continue to live—“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”—Exodus 22:18. “A man also or a woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death.”—Leviticus 20:27.
We should not ask advice of an evil spirit. King Saul died because he did this—“Saul died for 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 inquire of it; and inquired not of the Lord; therefore He slew him.”—1 Chronicles 10:13-14. (See 1 Samuel 28:7-15).
We are commanded not to go to them, lest we be defiled—“Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”—Leviticus 19:31.
Those that go to them will be cut off—“The soul that turneth after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a-whoring after them, I will even set My face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.”—Leviticus 20:6.
Spiritualists will not go to heaven—“Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies . . I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”—Galatians 5:20-21.
They will be put to death—“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death.”—Leviticus 20:27.
Go to God and the Bible for counsel, not to spiritualists—“And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter; should not a people seek unto their God? [instead of] for the living to [seek guidance of] the dead? To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.”—Isaiah 8:19-20.
In the last days, many will be deluded into placing confidence in spiritualists—“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.”—1 Timothy 4:1.
The trouble began when Lucifer rebelled in heaven and chose to disobey God’s holy law.
In the book of Revelation we are told:
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found anymore in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”—Revelation 12:7-9.
The titanic struggle between the dragon—Satan—with his rebellious angels, and Michael—Christ—with His loyal angels, resulted in the expulsion of the rebels from heaven. Peter says: “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down” (2 Peter 2:4).
Jesus said: “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” (Luke 10:18).
The issue came to its terrific climax at Calvary. Here the King of love and the king of hate met in mortal combat. Through those dark and agonizing hours Jesus struggled against the combined powers of hell. On that hill outside Jerusalem the conflict of the ages reached its most desperate height. But, in spite of all the devil could do, the Saviour of the world held to the principles of godliness and won a glorious victory. That crucial cry from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30), was no moan of despair; it was a shout of triumph. Finished indeed was the contest of the ownership of this world.
That mighty shout, “It is finished,” which rang from Calvary’s hill, sounded the death knell of Satan and his hosts of demons. The battle had been won, the enemy unmasked, and the king of hell dethroned. And it was the Creator Himself who descended to the battlefield of earth and broke the stranglehold of evil.
When Jesus died, it was no mere human sacrifice; it was God offering Himself for lost men. Having died in the place of man, He became the Redeemer of the lost race. At the completion of that sacrifice, a mighty shout was heard in heaven: “Now is come salvation . . for the accuser of our brethren is cast down” (Rev. 12:10).
That song of praise from the angelic host reverberated to the very edge of the universe. The battle had been won, assuring us that evil will ultimately be eradicated from the universe. But in the meantime the conflict between truth and error, between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness, has continued and will continue until our Lord returns in glory. The time is coming when Satan and all his followers will forever be destroyed.
It has ever been Satan’s studied plan to destroy confidence in the Bible. In these last days we can expect the enemy of God and man to come, as the apostle said, “as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) and “with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness” (2 Thess. 2:9-10). The Scripture says Satan is out to “make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev. 13:7). That expression, “make war,” is found sixteen times in the New Testament and nine times in the book of Revelation. These references are always in connection with the terrible conflict between light and darkness, between holiness and sin.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”—Ephesians 6:12-13.
To be able to stand in the evil days just ahead can only be done by clinging to the hand of Christ. The war will intensify as we near the close of time. The power of spiritualism will intensify and will deceive many.
If we are to fully understand the deadly nature of witchcraft and spiritism, we need to know about Satan’s first two lies.
Satan’s first lie is this: If you sin, by disobeying what God commands, you will not surely die, but live forever. His second lie is this: If you sin, you will become as God, knowing the glorious things that He has hidden from you; you will learn the occult.
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”—Genesis 3:1-5.
Instead of dying if you sin against God’s requirements, the Devil said, you will live forever and become God!
Let us now examine these two lies, which Satan has been telling people for thousands of years.
The authoritative National Spiritualist Association Yearbook declares: “Spiritualism is God’s message to mortals, declaring that There Is No Death. That all who pass on still live. That there is hope in the life beyond for the most sinful. That every soul will progress through the ages to heights, sublime and glorious—to God himself.”
“The Teachings of spiritualism will go on conquering until the whole world shall know and rejoice in the great truth: ‘There is no death’ and all God’s great family are linked in glad communication and fellowship.”—A.B.C. of Spiritualism, Question No. 100.
The site of the original Fox cottage, where modern spiritualism was born over a century ago, has this monument proclaiming the error that spiritism is based on: “The Birthplace of Modern Spiritualism . . March 31, 1848. THERE IS NO DEATH. THERE ARE NO DEAD.” (Full caps are theirs.)
The well-known research writer, Dave Hunt, explains:
“Spiritism in Western Europe, England, and North America generally involves séances in which communication is received from spirits that usually claim to be dead relatives of the people present in the séance. However, Jesus taught that the dead cannot come back to speak with, or appear to, the living (Eccl. 9:5-6) . .
“A common thread of deceit runs through all the messages delivered by alleged spirits of the dead, regardless of the culture, place, or time in history, and by whatever means they communicate—whether in a seance, through a ouija board, during a hypnotic trance, or in spontaneous appearances. The spirit communicators (including alleged space beings) invariably repeat and elaborate the same lies the serpent told Eve. Their very claim to be spirits of the dead is a denial of what God said about death and an obvious attempt to support the serpent’s promise: ‘You won’t really die!’ The idea is always given that death involves no judgment and no heaven or hell, but is like stepping through a door into another room of life, where we continue to learn our lessons and to progress ever higher on our way to full godhood.”—Dave Hunt, The Cult Explosion, p. 145.
The lie goes back to the very gates of Eden and the beginning of the human race, when through the medium of an apparently talking serpent, Satan, the father of lies, assured our first parents that they should “not surely die” but that they should “be as gods” (Gen. 3:4-5). This dual deception was spread abroad among the heathen nations as they developed and became part of the pagan religious structure—whether of pantheism, polytheism, or animism. Cults and incantations, necromancy and witchcraft, familiar spirits and diviners—all flourished in heathendom, blighting the world. It was adopted in the great civilizations of antiquity: Egypt, Greece, India, Persia, and Rome. And now it has spread to the Western world.
The Serpent said to Eve: “Ye shall not surely die . . but ye shall be as gods” (Gen. 3:4-5). The Egyptians believed the lie and buried with their kings a retinue of servants for life in the next world. All pagan religions deny the reality of death. The soothsayers in the séance bring up the supposed spirits of the dead. The occult teaches the transmigration of souls. There is indeed a spirit world—but the spirits are not those of our departed dead. They are the evil angels, “the spirits of devils working miracles” (Rev. 16:14), to deceive as many as possible.
The Bible says, “The living know that they shall die, but the dead know not anything” (Eccl. 9:5). “His sons come to honor, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them” (Job 14:21). But spiritualism declares: “There is no death; there are no dead” (Mrs. M.E. Cadwallader, Centennial Book, p. 68).
Clyde A. Dibble, a well-known spiritist writer and practitioner said it this way: “We do not communicate with the dead but with the living . . The evidence is increasing that they are not silent and away, only that many are still blind, deaf, and insensitive spiritually to those other dimensions of the spirit.”—C.A. Dibble, The Summit of Spiritual Understanding, June 1964.
In the same issue of that journal, Arthur A. Meyers wrote about the other of the twin errors:
“Infinite Intelligence is not a formulated divine creature [he is saying there is no actual God] . . It is instead an Infinite Intelligence. —You are that Power; you are God.”—A. A. Meyers, ibid.
The devil has said, “You are God and you will not die.” The question each must decide for himself is, Whom shall we believe? God or the devil? Our decision determines our destiny.
The Bible says:
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”—Ecclesiastes 9:10.
“Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.”—Psalm 146:3-4.
How could departed friends, whose thoughts have perished, communicate information to anyone? They cannot and do not.
The doctrine of natural immortality is that all men have eternal life. But the Scriptures teach that man, apart from Christ, does not have eternal life.
Eternal life is not inherent in man. It is the gift of God, and is given only to those who accept Christ and remain true to Him till the end. Jesus said:
“The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life.”—John 3:35-36.
“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”—1 John 5:11-12.
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”—John 10:10.
The Christian has this everlasting life now—only by faith. It will become his by actual possession only at the Second Advent of Christ.
Who has immortality? This is an important question.
The dictionary defines the word, “immortality,” as a quality or state of being exempt from death. The Apostle Paul says we will “put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54) when our Saviour comes in glory, with all His holy angels with Him.
“We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
“So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”—1 Corinthians 15:51-55.
If immortality is something we must “put on,” it is evident we do not possess it now. God alone possesses immortality.
“[God] who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting.”—1 Timothy 6:15-16.
Immortality, then, is a divine quality. We do not have it innately. Apart from an acceptance of Christ as our Saviour, there is no such thing as an immortal soul.
We will become immortal, but not until our Saviour’s second advent. Then, and not until then, will those who have died in the hope of the resurrection be raised from their graves; from a state of corruption they will “put on incorruption.” At the same time the righteous who are living on earth will “all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52, quoted earlier). And that change will be drastic; for the natural body will then become a spiritual, or immortal, body that is made like unto our Lord’s resurrected and glorious body. This is clearly stated by John:
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.
“And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself [now].”—1 John 3:2-3.
In preparation for the glorious future that will be ours at Christ’s second coming, we are not to consult demons. But we should now, in the enabling strength Christ imparts, purify our lives by living clean, godly lives in accordance with the Ten Commandments, God’s moral standard of conduct.
Death, for God’s children, will come to an end. Not until our Saviour returns will death be “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54).
“For He must reign, till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”—1 Corinthians 15:25-26.
Spiritualists speak of death as a “friend.” But the Bible calls death an “enemy.” The difference is tremendous. Death is an intruder that came as a result of sin. But, when our Saviour returns to the earth for His people, He will bring an end to death for His redeemed ones.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and [for His faithful ones] there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be anymore pain: for the former things are passed away.”—Revelation 21:4.
The message of the resurrection was central in the preaching of the Apostles. They fearlessly declared our Lord’s resurrection. Because He died and rose again, “there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust” (Acts 24:15).
“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
“And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”—John 6:39-40.
Jesus was not talking about the soul’s survival after death, but rather a bodily resurrection from the dead. It is because the dead do not survive—and continue living—that a resurrection is necessary. But it does not take place until our Lord returns with all His holy angels in the skies, not before.
This truth of an awakening from the sleep of death is found in both the Old and New Testaments:
“Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust . . the earth shall cast out the dead.”—Isaiah 26:19.
“As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.”—Psalm 17:15.
Those words, “when I awake” are significant. All though the Bible death is referred to as “sleep.” In 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, and 2 Timothy 4 we repeatedly find the words, “slept,” “made alive,” “they that are Christ’ at His coming,” “sleep,” “changed,” “last trump,” “raised incorruptible,” “put on immortality,” “asleep,” “sleep in Jesus,” “dead in Christ,” “rise first,” “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
These were Christ’s words when He told His disciples that Lazarus had died:
“He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said His disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.”—John 11:11-14.
In obedience to Christ’s command, “Lazarus, come forth,” that dead man awoke from his sleep of death and was reunited with his family. The Lord did not call him from another plane or far-off world. But He called him from the sepulcher, the very place where they had laid him after he died.
The question is then asked, What is the “spirit”? The Bible says:
“Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.”—Ecclesiastes 12:7.
The spirit, or breath of life (ruach in the Hebrew), returns to its Source; the power by which man has lived goes back to God who gave it. The power to live comes from God. And it goes back to God at death. “In Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
Many seem confused about the spirit, not knowing how to define it. The Bible gives the answer:
“The body without the spirit is dead.”—James 2:26.
The Greek word for “spirit” is Pneuma. This is the source of our English word, “pneumatic.” Those with marginal references will see that pneuma is referred to as “breath.” This word, pneuma, is translated 288 times as “spirit.” But, whichever word is used in translation, breath or spirit, one thing is certain: Without it, the body is dead. Job said it this way:
“All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils.”—Job 27:3.
The spirit that returns to God at death is not an immortal soul. But it is the breath of life, the power by which we live.
When God created man, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). God did not breathe a soul into man. He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” When the power of God touched the inanimate dust, the lifeless form became alive—a living soul. It takes the breath, or Spirit of God, to make a living soul. So when the breath of life, the power by which we live, is withdrawn, death is the result.
This is emphasized by the psalmist:
“Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled: Thou takest away their breath, they die and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth Thy spirit, they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the earth.”—Psalm 104:29-30.
As mentioned earlier, the Hebrew word for breath and spirit is ruach. And this is also translated “wind.” In the Old Testament, ruach appears 379 times. But not in a single instance does it suggest that man has a separate surviving soul, capable of conscious existence apart from the body.
Without the breath, or spirit of life, man has no consciousness; his is the sleep of death. Paul wrote about believers who had “fallen asleep in Christ” (1 Cor. 15:18). How comforting is the thought that those of us who have died are at rest. When our Lord descends the flaming skies as “King of kings and Lord of lords,” He will command the spirit, or the breath of life, to unite with the inanimate dust. And the bodies of those who have trusted in Him for salvation, that have gone into corruption and apparent nothingness, will at the Creator’s word come forth glorified. They will spring forth joyfully to life, “caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).
The thief on the cross. Someone may ask, “But didn’t Jesus tell the thief on the cross that he would be with Him that day in heaven?”
Here is the verse, as given in the King James Version:
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise.”—Luke 23:43.
Actually, there are no commas in the original Bible; they were added later. Based on the context of events which followed soon after, the original Greek can read thus: “Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” Jesus promised that the thief would be saved, but not that he would go to heaven that day. He assured him that, “today—the very day that we are both hanging on crosses, I promise that you will later be in heaven with Me.”
We know that this interpretation is correct for three reasons: (1) The thief did not die that day. People did not usually die of crucifixion in one day, but Jesus died of a broken heart that afternoon and everyone was surprised that He had died so soon. When the soldiers came, they found Him already dead and the two thieves crucified with Him still alive. At sundown it would be the Bible Sabbath. So they took them down from the cross, because they expected their deaths after the Sabbath. It was against their custom to keep them on the cross after the Sabbath begins (John 19:30-33).
(2) Jesus did not go to heaven until after He arose from the dead on Sunday morning. He said, “I am not yet ascended to My Father” (John 20:17). Christ was buried before sundown on Friday (Luke 23:50-54) and did not rise from the dead until Sunday morning (Matt. 28:1-6).
“Jesus saith unto her, Touch Me not [Detain Me not in Greek]; for I am not yet ascended to My Father: but go to My brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God.”—John 20:17.
(3) This explanation agrees with other passages of Scripture about the state of the dead.
Wouldn’t you rather live forever with God, holy angels, and happy people,—than experience the future that is before those who take part in the satanic arts?
God has a heaven full of blessings for you. And you can begin to experience it right now, if you will give your life to Christ; repent of your sins; and, through the enabling strength which He alone can impart, put them away and obey all that God commands in His holy Word, the Bible.