Vol. 20 New Series February, 1958 No. 1

1. JOHN 4
What does John mean when he says, "Try the spirits whether they be of God"? Who or what are these spirits? Does he refer to unseen beings, good or evil? Are we expected to approach and interrogate unseen spirits, perhaps through a medium? Did the Lord ever do such a thing while He was on earth? And why, too, does John go on to say, "seeing that many false prophets have been coming out into the world" ? What is the connection between false prophets and spirits?

The subject of the passage is mentioned in verse 6, "the spirit of the truth and the spirit of the deception." John's aim was to make his kinsmen aware of the two spirits which are active in the world. He shews how divine spirit may be recognized, and how the antichrist spirit may be recognized. The false prophets are of the world, therefore of the world are they talking, and to them is the world hearkening.

John writes much about the world, and mentions the word over one hundred times, more than half of the occurrences in the New Testament.

Worldiness as it now exists could only come into existence after the Cross. God's people should be crucified to the world. John recognized this feature in a special degree. He realized the antagonism of the world-spirit to the divine spirit.

It is entirely false to imagine that John is suggesting that believers, and Gentiles at that, are permitted to communicate with spirit beings. Would you care to be cross-examined regarding your character by a complete stranger? Besides, turning to familiar spirits or to mediums is sternly forbidden by Lev. 19:31, because these spirits defile enquirers and render them unclean. King Saul died for his unfaithfulness in seeking for guidance by means of necromancy (1. Chron. 10:13). Seeking unto the dead is an abomination to Jehovah; it led to the Israelites being dispossessed (Deut. 18:11-12). It would bring loss to a believer at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When Paul said of the Corinthians that they were "zealots for spirits" (1. Cor. 14:12), he certainly did not mean that they were zealous in approaching mediums or dead people. At one time they had apparently indulged in that, but now, so as to provide them with a better employment, he tells them to edify the Ecclesia, by benefiting the spirits of believers.

Here the Revised Standard Version renders thus: "since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church." Rotherham reads: "since ye are envious of spirits." The King James version margin also reads, correctly, "spirits."

In "Man's Day" Philip, Mauro shews the contrast between the two spirits very clearly (1. Cor. 2:12), connecting this verse with 1. John 4:5, 6. Believers do not sufficiently test the two spirits, especially the spirit of the world. Here is what Mauro wrote concerning the world, and it is even more true now than it was in his day: "The world itself is a gigantic and complicated deception, whose promises are not fulfilled, whose honours quickly fade, whose prizes are cheats, whose pleasures do not satisfy, whose riches corrupt, whose praises are insincere—in which, in a word, the real value of everything is disguised and misrepresented."

It is now being claimed that God is speaking, not only through His own Word, but through a French Jew named Michel de Notredame, who took to himself the name Nostradamus (1503-1566), and published a book of his prophecies. As an astrologer he gained some fame. It is being said that he has recently been giving prophecies which have been proved true to the letter, covering recent happenings in Europe. Gullible souls believe this is God speaking, being totally ignorant of the fact that personating spirits are capable of tricking them. The Greek word daimOn (demon) means a learned, knowing, or skilful one. Countries like Russia, where there is not even a pretence of morality, are demon-ruled, hence demons know what course their dupes will take.

Here we meet with the old Satanic lie, "Dying ye shall not die," or, "Dying ye shall not be dead." It is claimed that Nostradamus is alive and well, up in the Fifth Heaven, a Prophet of God.

I have been severely scolded for clinging to the "antiquated notion" that the Word of God is only to be found in the Scriptures. Yet it is admitted that the Word of God must be the Supreme Court. "Supreme"? Why, it is being set aside. A dead and buried man is now said to be imparting revelations from God, in spite of the fact that, for us Gentiles. Paul was to "complete the Word of God" (Col. 1:25). There might now be, for all we know, one thousand "dead" persons declaring new prophecies which most of us will never get the opportunity of hearing. How can God's Word remain "supreme" if it is being cunningly superseded by the prophecies of men who have been dead for almost four hundred years?

Of old, men and women have been burnt at the stake, even here in my own city, for believing the Sacred Scriptures; but not for believing in a lying spirit.

When ancient Israel took to seeking after familiar spirits and mediums, Jehovah warned them, time after time, "Seek ye unto Jehovah," and, "Seek ye out the Book of the Lord" (Isa. 34:16). But now the Book of the Lord seems not to be sufficient. We live in an age which is Science-mad. Philip Mauro said in "The Number of Man," that "There is no such thing as Science." Science can never be complete Knowledge, until mankind knows God. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of Science. The end of Science is, or should be, the knowledge of God.

The presence of the Man of Lawlessness will be in accord with an operation of Satan, in all power and signs and false miracles, and in every seduction of unrighteousness to those who are perishing, in requital for their not receiving the love of the truth, for them to be saved (2. Thess. 2:10). Therefore God is sending them an operation of deception, for them to believe in the falsehood (v. 11).

The Differentiator, for years, has been "Devoted to reverent research of the Sacred Scriptures for the purpose of the upbuilding of the Body of Christ." But not for research into Spiritism, which we have been asked to consider and probe into.

I have been taunted with being "too wise in my own conceits," for not believing that any prophecy which stands the test of Deut. 18:22, 1. Sam. 3:19-20, Jer. 28:9, and Ezek. 33:33 can be depended upon. I have, however, already dismissed Deut. 18:22 by referring to Deut. 18:11-12. Besides, prophecy in the sense of foretelling the future was a gift peculiar to the nation of Israel. Gentile "prophets" of whom Paul writes were men who spoke the truth of the Scriptures. God is not now inspiring human beings to prophesy the future, apart from the Scriptures.

What we should like to learn is, whether Michel de Notredame prophesies of worldly things, or about God's Christ and His People. Does he even go farther than Paul in his view of the heading up of the Universe by Christ?

As a member of the Body of Christ, I am bound to every other believing brother or sister by a tie which cannot be broken, and therefore I may not ignore anyone. Thus it grieves me most deeply to learn that some brethren have left their first love and are now running after spirits, having seemingly found the Sacred Scriptures to be deficient. The craze today is for something newer than the latest thing, just like the Athenians in Acts 17:21. The author of "Jesus and the American Mind" (1930) tells how, early in the nineteenth century, there were in the United States, not more than 200 different items being urged upon the public by sellers, whereas in the year 1930 there were about 32,000 different items. If all different brands of one type of article are reckoned, the figure would have been about 365,000. Much the same must be true in Britain.

In spiritual matters we find much the same thing. Every Tom, Dick and Harry has confidence in his own opinions, especially as the old translations of the Bible have been shewn to be so erroneous. If the wise old Doctors have proved themselves to be at fault in very important points, perhaps Tom, Dick and Harry can set them right. Each one thinks himself quite entitled to his own opinion. But that is not true. Every one cannot be correct. Each single one of us is far wrong in many things, and we ought, all of us, to admit this candidly. If we do not, then we are not to be trusted.

Just at this point a reader wrote me for an explanation of, 1. Sam. 28. Did King Saul actually converse with the real Samuel, or, as the New World Version puts it, with "Samuel"? Certainly at first sight one might think that the real Samuel appeared and spoke to Saul. But a closer examination of the passage will deny this.

We observe first, that Jehovah had ceased to give Saul answers, either through dreams, or Urim, or through prophets.. Accordingly, the sight of a great Philistine army made Saul tremble. To whom could he turn? He had banished the mediums and wizards out of the land. Nevertheless, he disguised himself and sought out a well known medium. Saul requested her to "bring up" Samuel. But even before she could begin her incantations, she was terrified to behold "Samuel." Evidently the spirit which was to impersonate Samuel had been ready for her, and may have made some sign or said something which made her suspect that the visitor was no less than King Saul, whom she at once accused of deception.

What is not stated, is that Saul actually saw this "Samuel." The description given by the woman was what Saul recognized as Samuel. Saul was desperately in need of getting Samuel's advice, if only he could contact him, so he eagerly accepted the medium's statement that "Samuel" was present. When people are too eager, they lose their caution. It was enough that the apparition looked old and wore a mantle. Surely that could be no one but Samuel.

And was it not just like "Samuel" to question the King by asking, "Why do you disturb me, to cause ME to be brought up?" This sounds a very natural complaint on the part of Samuel. But it is exactly the opposite of what Samuel the Prohet would or could have said. Why? Because it is quite incredible that Jehovah should have declined to answer Saul in the ordinary way, and later on given Saul an answer through a method which was altogether forbidden, by means of a medium who went in for necromancy or seeking the dead. God's Law stated quite clearly, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch (or medium) to live."

Therefore, although it is not God here who gives Saul his answer, the impersonating spirit is able, from his past knowledge of Samuel, to state just what Samuel would have said to Saul. Saul must have been sure that it was Samuel, who spoke to him, as he collapsed completely because of "Samuel's" dread tidings.

The popular idea has always been that the personality at death continues to survive in the underworld. Much of Christendom is still plagued and dominated by this pagan idea. Yet nowhere throughout the Bible is it taught that human spirits in the underworld are receiving either rewards or punishment.

Christians are told to resist the Mischief-maker and he will flee. But mediums yield themselves up to evil spirits, and become entirely dominated by them. Mediums are never holy or honourable or humble.

We can now understand why "Samuel" is represented as asking why he had been disturbed or disquieted by being "brought up." Popular belief was that the dead survived in some form in repose, but could be "brought up" by mediums.

Yet if Samuel the Prophet had really been sent of God to warn King Saul of corning disaster, how comes it that he is said to have been "disturbed" or "disquieted"? Would not any faithful Prophet of Jehovah obey His instructions without delay or question, as a matter of duty? This fact alone proves that it was not the real Samuel the Prophet who gave Saul his answer.

If perchance anyone should question the possibility of a personating spirit prophesying what actually turned out to be the truth, I suggest comparison with the case of Balaam (Numbers 22 and 23), who, though he loved the wages of unrighteousness (2. Peter 2:15), and probably did not wish to prophesy good of Israel, was obliged by Jehovah to do so. God had told Balaam that should the princes of Moab call him, he should rise up and go with them. But Balaam was perverse, in that he went off with them without being called by them (Num. 22:20-22), thus disobeying the God to whom he always claimed to be so faithful.

A.T. Last updated 15.10.2005