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Can we talk to loved ones who are departed?

QUESTION: When we lose someone close to us, a lot of us want to be able to talk to them and think that they can hear us. Is this biblical?

A: That’s an excellent question. It’s hard to lose someone close to you, because it leaves a huge empty place in your heart. The closer you were to the person who departed, the more intensely you feel the loss.

Therefore it’s quite natural to want that special connection to live on—even when the person has died. There are people who claim to be able to help you re-establish communication with those who are departed. Those people are called mediums and they were present in biblical times just like today. But God strictly forbade His people from going to them and using their services. There are several passages that speak of this. (Leviticus 19:31; 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:10-11; Isaiah 8:19)

There is nothing in the Bible that suggests that those who have died are in any way able to hear those who are still alive on earth—nor are they able to intervene in our daily affairs. There are certainly people who believe they can communicate with the dead, but their belief is not based on any biblical revelation.

Sometimes people will point to a story recorded in 1 Samuel chapter 28 as a proof that speaking to the dead is acceptable. Even though God had forbidden the Israelites from consulting a medium, King Saul foolishly attempted to do so in order to contact the prophet Samuel about his desperate situation. The Lord graciously allowed Samuel, even though he was dead, to deliver one final prophecy to Samuel—a prophecy of Saul’s own impending death. This story does not teach that the Bible is okay with speaking to and consulting the dead as some naively believe. (The verses I listed earlier will make this abundantly clear.)

God understands all about the emptiness in your heart created by your departed loved one. I would encourage you to talk to Him about it. God bless you.


  1. Pastor Paul, I agree with your theological point, but I think there's an error in your summation of 1 Sam. 28. I had always believed that the Witch at En-dor was carrying out a con similar to the one perpetrated by Mediums today, and that the figure claiming to be Samuel was a colleague posing as the departed prophet. It's not a major issue, and I may be entirely wrong. I'm a little sensitive on this subject because my Mormon relatives would often tell dramatic stories of "visitations" in the LDS Temple while doing proxy ordinances for departed loved ones who had never joined the Mormon Church.

  2. Will, I might otherwise agree with you were it not for the text of the passage. When the woman complied with Saul's request and began to call up the spirit of Samuel, her response to what she saw is quite revealing as are the words she used. The passage goes like this:

    When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!" The king said to her, "Don't be afraid. What do you see?" The woman said, "I see a spirit coming up out of the ground." (1 Samuel 28:12-13 NIV84)

    The first interesting thing about this passage is the woman's reaction. She was an experienced medium, and yet when she saw the spirit of Samuel she "cried out at the top of her voice." Why? What surprised her so much? Obviously she was used to seeing this sort of thing.

    The explanation may lie in the passage itself. The Hebrew word for "spirit" in this passage is elohim--which most normally is translated "God." That's why the New American Standard Bible renders the verse this way: "I see a divine being coming up out of the earth."

    Mediums and spiritists are not all cons. Some are quite adept at contacting "spirits" although they are not spirits of the dead as they claim, but rather demonic spirits. However, in THIS case, the woman was overwhelmed when she saw the spirit of Samuel, since this was something completely different from anything she had ever witnessed before. For the first time she was seeing a godly man (rather than just a demon) and it frightened her terribly.