Tom: Today we’re going to discuss apparitions, religious or otherwise, which seem to be capturing the hearts and minds of more and more people these days. Apparitions are ghostlike figures which appear briefly and then disappear, which raises some questions, the most basic one being, “What is a ghost?” That is, what are some of the common ideas about ghosts and how do they square with the biblical perspective? Dave, you got some thoughts on this?
Dave: Well, the common idea of ghosts, I guess, would be that these are the spirits of the dead, some dead relative or whatever, who’s come back to visit you. You have all kinds of instances where people even claim their lives have been saved by some relative warning them, or they have seen this figure at the moment of his death and didn’t know the person was dying. You have other cases where you have a haunted house, and they claim that the people who died in the house don’t know they’re dead, and they wonder why somebody else is living in their house. Maybe they died in an accident suddenly…
Tom: Or somehow their lives are trapped here, their spirits are trapped here, and they’re not released to the next dimension.
Dave: …so you bring in a psychic who explains to them, you know – or someone who maybe was murdered and is in the house and is haunting the house, and the psychic comes in and says, “Yes, I get the vibrations of a body buried under the floor of the basement in the northeast corner.” And what do you know? They go there, and sure enough there is a skeleton there, and when it gets a decent burial then it doesn’t haunt it anymore.
Of course, the idea is that Satan is trying to get you to believe that you don’t really die, that you just continue – spirit survival – and there’s no judgment. These are not the spirits of the dead; they’re not flitting about on the astral plane communicating. That is a delusion, and the Bible tells us you’re either in heaven or in hell. When the rich man died, it says, “In hell he lift up his eyes, being in torment.” The beggar was taken to paradise, and in fact Jesus said to the thief on the cross, “This day you will be with me in paradise.” That is, the soul and the spirit of the thief, because he had come to believe in Jesus. He didn’t say, “You’re going to be out there somewhere, you know, flitting about, and being My messenger out there.”
Then of course in 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul says, “Those who sleep in Jesus [that is, those who died] will God bring with him.” So apparently they’re in heaven, the soul and spirit, and at the Rapture He brings the souls and spirits of the dead who died in Christ with Him to be reunited with their resurrected bodies.
Or in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul says, “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” So there’s nothing in the Bible that would give you an indication that the spirits of the dead are going about communicating and appearing and so forth.
And furthermore, Deuteronomy 18 and other scriptures warn us not to be involved in necromancy, the attempt to communicate with the dead. Why would that be? Because these are not the dead, and they are not communicating. But these are demons who are impersonating them.
Tom: So there are all kinds of scenarios that seem to deliver convincing information. For example, going back to the haunted house situation, which there was actually a body, or that there is information given that only – you would think that only the people who had died would know, that’s part of the game plan. Spirit entities – demons, that is – they’re around. They know what’s going on. They’ve been around for a long time. They have a history of individuals.
Dave: They can seemingly – I wouldn’t say materialize, but somehow manifest themselves. They seem to be there. How they do that, I don’t know, but the Bible does indicate that. Satan can transform himself into an angel of light. And angels we know appeared – they seem to have appeared like men, looking like men. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – I believe that was Jesus in His pre-incarnate state…
Dave: …there – He was with them in the fire. But, you know, angels appeared to Abraham and so forth. So that could be. Now, we can tell who they are (well, in a lot of ways) by what they say – also by judging them from the Scriptures. For example – well, you haven’t gotten to angels yet, but…
Tom: No, we’re going to talk about that next.
Dave: Yeah, but angelic apparitions would be another form that demons would take, not necessarily pretending that they’re spirits of the dead, but now that they’re angelic messengers from God. Now, I would be very suspicious of someone… You remember Pastor Buck? The angels were appearing to him constantly! They even set up a command post on his lawn for their spiritual warfare…
Tom: According to him.
Dave: …according to him. And even his dog saw them. I don’t find anything like that in the Bible. And why would they set up a command post, and why is he so important?
Now, Benny Hinn is even more important, apparently. He tells us, and let me quote him: “I’ll never forget 1974. I am telling you the truth, I am not lying. Every night for a whole year angels appeared in my room.” Now, that God’s messengers would come 365 consecutive days – what were they doing? He doesn’t even say. There is no importance, no messages, no purpose in this? Now, if he’s not lying, then he really saw something. But I could tell you on the authority of God’s Word it wasn’t angels. Angels appear very rarely in the Bible, and they come for a purpose, not just to spend a pleasant evening visiting you in your room night after night after night.
There are many examples of people who think they’ve seen angels. In fact, we have a very popular program on TV now about angels, and if you watch it, the message that comes through is once again that there is no death, you know. There’s nothing about the gospel. There’s nothing about receiving Christ as your Savior. There’s nothing about heaven and hell. But it’s just sort of a moral message, and if you’re moral, they will come and they will help you.
Tom: Dave, about angels: there are so many ideas out there that sometimes I worry about our program, that maybe we’re running too fast or maybe ahead of some people who haven’t really had a biblical understanding of – well, for example, angels. In the comic strips, for example, you have Family Circus, and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that…
Dave: I haven’t. I don’t read the comics, Tom! I used to when I was a child.
Tom: I see, I see. Well, I don’t know what my problem is then! But I like them! In this particular cartoon series, Family Circus, the guy usually has drawings that have a spiritual implication. And one of the things that he likes to do over and over again is take spirit entities – the grandfather, grandmother who has passed away – and have them return. I remember just a couple of weeks ago they had a grandfather out for his walk, and he was missing his wife, or it was the other way around. But anyway, they had them dancing – a spirit entity dancing with…and it was, you know, kind of consoling and comforting and so on, but that’s erroneous. That’s a false idea.
There are other ideas that people have that, when you die and go to heaven, you become an angel.
Dave: Right. Angels, first of all, are spirits. It says, Hebrews 1: “He makes his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire.” But the promise to those who believe in Christ is they will have their bodies resurrected. So obviously they don’t become angels.
Now, there are all kinds – here’s a lawyer: he says, “I…” (he’s a 33rd degree Mason, by the way) “I went to sleep before my surgery and woke up 58 days later. A man standing immediately to my left in clerical collar and fedora hat (he stood there constantly for hours) was my guardian angel.” So he picked up a guardian angel.
Interestingly, what we were talking about earlier, and you were just referring to (the supposed communication from the dead), here’s Michael Jordan, NBA all-time great, says, “When I feel confused and I’ve come up with a solution, I feel like I’ve gotten spiritual input from my father.” His father was murdered in 1993, tragic situation. But nevertheless, Michael Jordan’s father is not communicating to him. But he is under the impression somehow that he is getting some communication from his father. How much better to get communication from God through His Word? However, Phil Jackson has led Michael Jordan and a lot of other players into Zen Buddhism and other forms of the occult, as we document in Occult Invasion. So that would be one explanation of why he would come up with these ideas.
Tom: But, Dave, a challenge here would be the witch at Endor in the Scriptures. Here you have Saul: he’s got this problem. He needs counsel, he needs insight, and the only one he would trust is Samuel, but Samuel has died. So now he has to go to a witch, to a medium, which is condemned by God, yet a spirit entity manifests itself.
Dave: Mm-hmm. I think that was an exception to the rule. They can’t come back, but God could allow it. And it would seem that, of course, there would be some theologians who would disagree, and we have to study the Word of God ourselves and come to our own conclusions. We’re not asking anybody to believe what we say, but check us out from the Bible. But the fact that the witch was shocked would seem to indicate that something happened that she had never seen before.
Tom: Right, this wasn’t the kind of manifestation she was used to.
Dave: Right, and what the apparition said was true came to pass. Now, that is not necessarily the criteria, but…
Tom: But what the apparition said was true to God’s Word and it was fulfilled. And that, again, is a major criterion that we keep talking about.
Dave: As a matter of fact, it was a judgment from God for Saul even dabbling in this sort of thing. That’s not what an apparition is going to do if it’s demonic.
Tom: Right. Dave, you know, again, one of the reasons for our audience that we’re addressing this is there are so many ideas out there, and a lot of them are kind of feel-good messages – they warm your heart, people are sincere – but the question is: are they biblical?
Dave: Well, Martha Williamson, who is the executive producer of Touched by an Angel, hopes that her one-hour programs are “ecumenical,” she says. I’m quoting her: “I’ve never believed that God has a specific denomination.” In other words, it doesn’t really matter what your specific beliefs are. She says, “One of the reasons I believe angels are so popular today is because angels are non-threatening. So you get angel cookbooks…it becomes an angel religion,” she says. So instead of having the fear of God who created us and who has some moral standards by which we must live, and who says “the wages of sin is death,” and we are separated from Him by sin, and there’s only one way of reconciliation to God and that is through the death of His Son who paid the penalty that His law requires for our sins, and we must believe in Him – the angels come along and they just sort of help you out, and make you a better person supposedly, but there’s really nothing… In fact, it is anti-Christian. It is anti-gospel. You don’t need the gospel anymore, you just can think, “Well, there’s an angel going to come along and they’re going to help me.” Even Time Magazine said, referring to this program, “These mighty angelic messengers and fearless soldiers have been reduced,” that is, what the angels are in the Bible, “have been reduced to bite-sized beings easily digested. The terrifying cherubim have become Kewpie doll cherubs. For those who choke too easily on God and his rules, angels are the handy compromise, all fluff and meringue, kind, non-judgmental, available to everyone like aspirin.” So we’re really promoting a delusion.
Tom: Right, but on the other hand, Dave, the Scriptures are pretty clear: believers have ministering angels, isn’t that correct? Young children have guardian angels. That’s my understanding.
Dave: The Bible says that His angels are ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who shall be the heirs of salvation. That’s true. We’re not going to deny that. But I don’t think that they’re appearing to people all the time. And furthermore, they come as God’s messengers. Furthermore, the Bible tells us it has not been committed to them to preach. They don’t come proclaiming messages, but they would come to help us, to maybe rescue us from some situation, life-threatening situation.
Tom: And also the danger here is, Dave, people are focusing on angels. That’s a problem. That’s what sets up the delusion. Nowhere in God’s Word does it tell us that we’re to put our focus, our attention, on them.
Dave: Yeah, there’s some people in the charismatic movement – and again, we’re not trying to be critical, but we just say check it out from the Bible – and you know who some of these people are. They say you can command your angel, you can talk to your angel, you can even command them to go out there and get money for you, you know? I don’t find that in the Word of God. So it would be very dangerous, as you said, to begin focusing on angels, and putting our hope and our trust in them. That’s not what we are to do, but unfortunately, this whole idea of angels and the programs and the books and so forth are leading people in that direction.
Tom: And not only is that popular, Dave, but this – we’re talking about apparitions here – the news media has covered it over and over again. The growth of the interest in the apparitions of Mary are just phenomenal. I mean, the places where she is – it’s claimed that she’s appeared…the places – you know, Lourdes, Guadalupe…. Guadalupe: 5 million people a year annually visit Guadalupe. And there are messages that come forth from these so-called apparitions of Mary.
Dave: Well, there are – in France alone, there are about (my last count) nearly 950 specific sites where Mary has supposedly appeared. Lourdes you mentioned; that would be the most famous. And you have Fatima, and then you have Medjugorje, where Mary…. Now, there’s a little bit of a difference here: in most of these cases, you can be there, thousands of people can be gathered around, and the seers (supposed) who are seeing Mary, they see her, but nobody else sees her. That’s a bit of a problem.
Tom: They’re in a trance, or an altered state.
Dave: They seem to be.
Tom: Well, in Medjugorje, just to throw this in, I mean, they’ve run tests, they’ve stuck pins in the individual, even to the point of a burnt cigarette or a lit cigarette, and it phased them not.
Dave: Unfortunately, some of the things the apparitions of Mary say – and again, please, if there are Catholics listening, we’re not trying to offend you, but you know, many of these apparitions are not even accepted by the Catholic Church. Catholic Church has not accepted the apparitions at Medjugorje in Yugoslavia…
Tom: Well, officially, although…
Dave: …officially, although a lot – many Catholics have…
Dave: …priests and even bishops. We could give you a lot of reasons why. In fact, if you want further information specifically on Medjugorje, you could ask for it, and we would be happy to send it to you.
But here’s Our Lady of Medjugorje. This was December 25, 1996. She said, “Today I am with you in a special way, holding little Jesus in my lap. I am your mother.” Little Jesus is not little Jesus! Jesus was a mature man in His 30s when He died on the cross for our sins and He is resurrected, glorified at the Father’s right hand. And yet He also appeared with Our Lady of Fatima on a little cloud of light, a little baby “Jesus,” and he said, “There will be no peace in this world until the world is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of my Mother Mary in reparation for the sins committed against her.” Now, that is not what Jesus would say at all. That is not biblical. The sins of the world are not against Mary, and you don’t make reparation to Mary to bring peace to the world. Jesus is the Prince of Peace and He made peace by the blood of His cross. Furthermore, He doesn’t come as a little baby.
And then some of the other things that the apparitions say…for example, Our Lady of Medjugorje said, “With the rosary you will overcome all the troubles which Satan is trying to inflict.” Our Lady of Fatima said, “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. To whomever embraces this devotion, I promise salvation.” This is the message of Mary that is not the message of the Bible. Salvation does not come through devotion to Mary’s immaculate heart even if she had an immaculate heart, which she did not. You will not find that concept in the Bible at all. So Mary – Fatima, Our Lady of Fatima – said, “Many souls perish and go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifice for them.” No one to make sacrifice for them? Jesus made the sacrifice upon the cross! So…
Tom: Dave, we have here doctrine that’s being given, false doctrine that’s being given by an apparition. Whether you regard it as Mary, it doesn’t make any difference. These are ideas, these are beliefs, that are not true to God’s Word. You know, nearly all – if you go through the messages from the apparitions of Mary all over the world, you find basic doctrines. For example, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which you just referred to, which Pope Pius IX made official dogma, that didn’t come from the Word of God; it came from an apparition, and then it was after it became dogma [that] it was supported.
I’m looking at 1917 – we have Our Lady of Fatima: she says, “In the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” Now, that’s not biblical, but it’s Catholic doctrine which they got from…Oh! This is Catherine Labouré in 1830 – this is prior to it becoming dogma: in a visitation from Mary, she was instructed to pray, “Oh, Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.” And of course Pope Pius IX makes it dogma in 1854, so that’s, you know, 24 years later.
Dave: Unfortunately, you have a lot of false teachings coming from the apparitions. Another one that comes in most all the apparitions is Mary says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. My presence will be with you.” Now, how can Mary be with millions, hundreds of millions of her own Catholics, all around the world? It’s not possible. She’s not omnipresent. She’s not God. But if you believe the apparitions, you would be looking to Mary, and some of them, Tom, are really…we haven’t even had time to talk about them. I think maybe we ought to come back, I don’t know, but some of them are very impressive who are seen not just by the seers…
Tom: And healings, and miracles…incredible!
Dave: Seen by thousands of people at one time.
Tom: Yeah. We’re out of time for today, but we’ll pick up on this next week. But again, here our heart is we want all – doesn’t believe what Dave says or T. A. McMahon, we hold God’s Word up to be the discerner of truth.
Tom: So get into God’s Word, check these things out. I mean, for those of you who are Catholics, as Dave said, the Church doesn’t accept all of these things. They test them. Well, we’re encouraging people individually to test these things by God’s Word.