What Does The Bible Say About Communicating With The Dead?

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

In an age where people claim to be more in touch with the spirit world, many people believe we can communicate with the dead and the dead can communicate with us. This belief has resulted in a flood of books, shows, and spiritual advisors who draw people in by claiming they can communicate with their dead loved ones. Their demonstrations are often impressive, but it is important to know if they are real. To know for sure we should find out what does the Bible say about communicating with the dead.

What is death?

Medically there are two major types of death. The first is clinical death, which occurs the moment the heart stops or is no longer able to circulate the blood. This causes the body to undergo changes that leads to the second type of death, biological death.

Biological death is the point when the brain can no longer function. This is usually about 4-6 minutes after clinical death. However, sometimes it is longer periods of time like when drowning in cold water, which slows down the metabolism and enables the body to survive longer.

If a person is past the point of recovery from physical death, there is no way to communicate with them physically. They do not know anything, cannot move, and have no memories. They do not experience the trials and emotions of living in the world (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6; Romans 6:6; Romans 8:10).

Other than these two, there is a third type of death known as spiritual death. Spiritual death is unrelated to medical death. The body is alive, but the Holy Spirit (God) does not live in them. Without the life sustaining power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 6:23; 1 Corinthians 15:56; James 1:15), we do not have eternal life (John 3:16, 36; 1 John 5:12). We receive the Holy Spirit who gives us everlasting life when we trust Christ as our Savior (Ephesians 1:9-17; 2 Corinthians 2:21-22).

In the Old Testament we are warned about those who practice dark arts as follows:

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 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 charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, 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. For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) (See also Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:6, 2 Kings 21:6, and Isaiah 8:19)

Consulting with familiar Spirits and necromancers

Deuteronomy 18:11 mentions those who consult with familiar spirits and necromancers. Familiar spirits are trusted spirits that are thought to be friendly or familiar. However, they are not people, but demons (Leviticus 20:1-6, 27; Isaiah 8:19; Isaiah 19:3; Isiah 29:4). Likewise, necromancers, often called mediums, are those who try to communicate with the dead. Neither are not part of God’s family and they not His children by faith in Christ (Galatians 3:26). Instead they are part of Satan’s family, which includes those who deny Christ (John 8:34-44; Acts 3:6-10; 1 John 3:8-10).

"...when someone claims to speak with the dead, they are perpetuating a lie or a false miracle. "

“…when someone claims to speak with the dead, they are perpetuating a lie or a false miracle. “

Saul’s attempt to speak to Samuel who was dead

An example of someone who tried to speak to the dead is found in 1 Samuel 28. The prophet Samuel had died and King Saul learned that the Philistines were gathered together to go to war against Israel. Saul feared greatly when he saw their army, so he prayed to God for advice, but God did not answer.

Saul became desperate and told his servants to find a woman with a familiar spirit. Once a woman was found, Saul disguised himself and went to her at night. He asked her to call upon the spirit to bring up someone. She refused out of fear of what would happen to her if she did it, but Saul swore upon the Lord’s name she would not be harmed.

The woman asked who he wanted her to call up and Saul told her Samuel. Immediately she had a terrifying vision. Saul asked her what she had seen and she said she had seen “gods coming out of the earth” and an old man covered with a head covering. Saul “perceived” it was Samuel and he bowed down to the ground. Then the old man, whom Saul could not see, chastised him for disturbing him. Despite this, Saul asked him what to do about the Philistines.

The old man said that God departed from Saul and was His enemy because he had not obeyed the Lord. He added that Saul and his sons, would be captured by the Philistines. When Saul heard this, he was consumed by fear and fainted. Later we learn that Saul was captured and he and his sons were killed.

The problems with Saul’s alleged conversation with Samuel

There are numerous things to consider about this account. First, is that the vision was only visible to a woman with demons (1 Samuel 28:13). The “gods” that she saw were not of God, they were of Satan. We know this because there is only one true God and no others (Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 45:5-6). Also, worship of any other god is worshiping of devils (1 Corinthians 10:20-21).

Second, the voice that Saul heard was a delusion. We see in Isaiah 66:4 that God can send people a delusion if they disobey and do evil before Him. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, we find that God will send strong delusion to those who reject salvation through Christ so they will believe the Wicked One (anti-Christ) and be damned. Likewise, Saul had prior demonic encounters so he was susceptible to being demonically influenced (1 Samuel 16:14-23; 1 Samuel 16:23; 1 Samuel 18:10).

Satan has the power to create miracles (2 Corinthians 2:13-15; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:11-14). Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 7:23-23 when He said that people will come to Him claiming they prophesied, cast out devils, and did wonderful works (miracles) in His name, but He would tell them He never knew them; these people are deluded.

Third, Saul used God’s name to assure the woman that she would not be harmed (1 Samuel 28:10), which was a lie. God had stopped speaking to Saul through dreams, by Urim (Exodus 28:30), and by prophets so using a necromancer to get advice from Samuel the prophet was not of God. We are told in John 8:44 that there is no truth in the devil because he is a liar and the father of lies so God would not use a demon to raise up Samuel to give Godly advice.

Fourth, demons know Jesus and what their future holds. In Matthew 8:28-33, Jesus met two men who were possessed by devils (demons). The devils called Jesus by name and asked if He was there to torment them before the time. They were referring to a future event when they would be tossed into the Lake of Fire to be tormented forever (Revelation 20:7-10). Therefore, it is not unlikely that a demon knew what Saul had done and that he would die along with his sons.

Lazarus and the rich man

We can learn from the true story of Lazarus and the rich man (parables do not use formal names) in Luke 16:19-31. Lazarus, a beggar, died and was in paradise with Abraham. The rich man died, but was in torment in Hell. The rich man asked Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him water as he was tormented in the flames. Abraham told him that there is a great gulf (abyss), which separated them, that could not be crossed.

The rich man asked him if Lazarus could go warn his family about the torment of Hell. Abraham told Lazarus they had Moses and the prophets (God’s Word) to tell them. He added that if they would not hear Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if someone rose from the dead and told them.

We learn from this account four things:

  1. The dead are in a place that is isolated
  2. The Word of God contains all that we need to know pertaining to life and eternity
  3. The dead cannot communicate with the living
  4. If someone rose from the dead, some would still not believe what is said

Conclusion

What does the Bible say about communicating with the dead? First, we should not attempt to do it. Second, when someone claims to speak with the dead, they are perpetuating a lie or a false miracle. Finally, the dead are in one of two places: believers are absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) and non-believers are in torment, bound in the darkness of Hell (2 Peter 2:4) waiting for their final judgment (Revelation 20:12-15). Either way we cannot communicate with the dead.

Related reading: Can People Communicate with the Dead?

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie G. Patmon August 9, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I know that we do not converse with the dead. I know also that the devil is the father of lies, so if something shows up as a dead person,talking to me I know where it is coming from, Satan, and not my Father in heaven. However we die, our spirits, hearts, mines, souls and breaths, are gone on back to God. There is nothing left to speak too. Follow the Spirit of God, you will not walk the wrong path.

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Dr Michael Williams August 9, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Thanks for the comment Annie. Yes, the Word of God can separate our soul and spirit from our body. However, where that soul goes depends on if it was sealed by the Holy Spirit. Those that have trusted Christ are in the presence of the Lord in Heaven. Those who have not are in torment. Praise God for His unspeakable gift!

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Arold August 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm

The question is why would God use a dead person in order to communicate with living people? There is no relation at all between dead people and living people. I am wondering why do Catholics engage in this type reprehensible, unbiblical behavior?

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Pamela Rose Williams August 11, 2014 at 5:53 pm

Great question and observation Arnold … just wanted to point out that it is not only Catholic people who engage in this stuff.

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S. Keegan August 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm

We cannot lucitly communicate with the dead in the manner of spiritualists, but at least as regards our brothers and sisters in the Faith who have gone before, we do have some form of communication available to us, albeit one-way: prayer. Not, of course, that we are ever permitted to worship the dead, such is due only to God, but we may request their continuing prayers and interventions on our behalf before God. Just as it is entirely appropriate to request the prayers of our friends and family here on earth, so too may we request the prayers of our larger, extended Christian family in Purgatory and Heaven. The Church extends from this world into the next, and the faithful’s prayers to and worship of God ascend to Him unrestrained on either side of the veil.

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Francis from the house of Colosimo January 22, 2016 at 7:34 pm

Dear S. Keegan,
I have come out of the 37 years in the Roman Catholic Church, and the Lord stopped a high powered rifle going off in my head in 1983, when Satan had lied to me about myself so much, so that I believed his communication via clear thoughts, all negative and destructive, e.g., “you’re no good, you’re a failure, you will never amount to anything, finally, give yourself peace, do away with yourself,” and etc. It was only recently, after many years as a Christian, (saved via my love for and faith in Christ and no other way, in 1986), that I realized, that it was an outside lying voice (Satan), saying you, you, all the time and not I saying me or I ‘am’ a failure. As a religious person a Catholic, I did not have the fullness of the Holy Spirit which is given as a free gift only after you believe in Jesus, making him your Lord and Saviour. So dead and demonic religion such as is the Roman Catholic Faith, takes you no where and builds you up with satanic lies. I felt to introduce these facts, prior to stating to you, that purgatory is one of these lies, found in the Vatican’s (catholic Church’s) added books in the Holy Bible, being 2 Maccabees chapter 12, verses 43-46. These are there to confuse you and take you away from God’s truth, that is found in Hebrews chapter 9 verse 27, where it states, “And, as it is appointed for man to die once, but after that comes judgement”. Death and judgement, you see NO PURGATORY, as this was an inclusion into the catholic faith to rob the billions of suckers out of trillions, upon trillions plus dollars with this lie, (praying to get your dead relatives and friends out of purgatory, and paying to the church your hard earned funds to get them out earlier, when it does not exist). Secondly verse 28 states, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. He died once, another lie of the Vatican, where they think that they can sacrifice our Lord at every mass, so another added revelation, when we say happy Christmas, we are actually saying happy Christ death, as the mas part in that word Christmas comes from the word mass. No one can pray for the dead, as they are dead and gone from the earth, and my research suggests the Bible talks about soul sleep, until the Lord calls us up to judgement. So with all the false religion, our Lord says, come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues`, as per Revelation, chapters 17, and 18. God bless you with our Lord’s truth found in the Authorized King James Bible, and finally, check out these scriptures re. our precious Lord, his truth, and how we should treat him, Gospel of John 8:31, and 32. and Matthew 10:32, and 33.

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Sherrine January 5, 2016 at 11:53 pm

Can a dead person communicate to a loved one in a dream?

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Keith Owens April 19, 2018 at 7:20 pm

Hi. No a dead person cannot communicate through a dream. They are gone to one of two places. God does not permit them to come back. If that is happening, it is a demon deceiving the dreamer. If that person is born again, tell Jesus what is happening, turn it over to Him, and take authority and stand against the devil. Stand on God’s Word.

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Jack Wellman April 19, 2018 at 7:24 pm

Thank you Mr. Owens.

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Maxer January 31, 2016 at 10:54 am

Anyone who judges another is blind already. To put down another with ill words and hatred has Satan in them. The true believers know , they will know you buy your fruits. No matter what Religion you choose, God knows your heart. Not one of his children will be left behind. Do not worry brothers and sisters about the why, only focus on Christ.

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Ann May 11, 2016 at 11:00 am

The Holy Spirit is a Comforter,
he will speak to us concerning our loved ones he will comfort us with simple easy to understand words and they have power to settle our hearts.

Our love ones are surly alive and in his care even after the body goes back to the dust.

We all know what our love ones would say to us, they would say the same things they would say if still in this viable world.

They would say I love you I miss you i’ll see you soon
and that God is able and will most certainly raise us up.
the Trumpet shall sound and all in Christ shall be raised
incorruptible and this mortal shall put on immortality ….1 Corinthians 15:53 The sting of death is taking away and thrown into the fire.

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Jeff September 22, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Is there a certain “type” of person that would be best to talk to about this in person or in a more indept way?

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Jack Wellman September 22, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Hello Jeff and thank you for our comment/question? Why not speak with your pastor about this? it must be important enough to bring to his attention, right, so why not speak with your pastor or another church leader about this?

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Kristen Michele Crozier November 21, 2016 at 11:48 am

Thank you, Ann! I came here looking for exactly that reminder and information.

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dianne December 5, 2016 at 12:06 am

is it possible that the dead girlfriend can communicate her boyfriend thru chatting on messenger..according to him the girl wants him to be with her, where she was now.. it was 5 days ago when the girl dead because of heart attack..but mostly of her family believe that the girl commit suicide because of depress of her boyfriend, because she wants him to go to there place and meet in person, they became girlfriend and boyfriend in social media facebook, and the boy refuse to go straight on there home town because he needs to go to the place where is his uncle lives..please help me..is it possible that the dead girlfriend can communicate her boyfriend to messenger.

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Jack Wellman December 5, 2016 at 7:42 am

Hello Dianne. It is not possible because the dead cannot come back once they are gone and only a demon can imitate people that are dead. This is a great sin to God to try and communicate with the dead and even to even think about it. Talk to your pastor about this, or do you have one? The Bible says, “The dead know nothing” (Eccl 9:5).

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Linda Thomson April 20, 2017 at 10:55 am

I do believe some people on the earth plane can contact loved ones who have passed over, our souls or spirits do go on as we are all part of God, we are immortal and our spirit can stay on the other side if they so desire but usually will reincarnate to learn more and eventually once we have learned all we can from here we will stay on the other side and progress there, learning more all the time until eventually we will once again join with God. There is no such thing as burning in hell forever – what a load of rubbish, if that is so where is the loving and forgiving father we are told that God is if he/she/it is not prepared to let us learn by mistakes and evolve to become better!!

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Jack Wellman April 20, 2017 at 11:10 am

Hell Linda. Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven (twice as much) and so Jesus’ teaching is not rubbish. He said there is a fire that is never quenched and that “their worm never turns” so you need to study the Bible as there is no reincarnation. Please seek counsel and read your Bible. You are not knowing who God really is.

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Peter June 27, 2017 at 4:01 pm

When my wife of 40 years died in my arms in a hospice, my world changed forever. For the next 18 months I suffered from self-imposed, unfound guilt and a deep sadness that she was unable to enjoy the final years we had worked together to achieve. A friend suggested a medium, which I initially rejected, but after hearing his story I decided to move forth. I went in a total skeptic, but with an open mind. So many facts were shared with me that were known only to my wife and I that I soon realized that they were coming from her. Once that occurred, for the next hour we had the most important and relevant discussion of our lives. She removed all my guilt, but also said things to me that were important to her that she was unable to say in her final days. From that point on my healing began, and I was able to move forth with my life.
Understand that with an engineer’s mentality I needed facts to prove that, without a doubt, this was real. Over the next 3 years I was given more incredible evidence as she communicated with me directly and sometimes dramatically. It moved me from a “belief” in the afterlife to a knowing. It also brought me closer to God.
Over the last 9 years since her death, I have studied spirit communication at length and attended two conferences on the subject. At these conferences I have met doctors, nurses, scientists, pastors, hospice workers, grief counselors, and, yes, mediums, shamans, and others who work directly in the field. There is an overwhelming feeling of love and beauty and a true desire to relieve suffering. Today I experience peace and a sense of joy that I can only describe as wondrous, incredible, and a gift from heaven.

Today I believe God wants me to share this with others who are suffering, as I am frequently brought into contact with others who have lost someone recently. These connections happen in such strange ways that I believe they are guided. I simply share my story and make no attempt to influence their actions. Those who move forth to connect with their loved ones have told me that their lives have changed in a beautiful way. I have interpreted this as God’s grace and way of relieving suffering.

I share this not as an argument, but simply one person’s journey and his understanding of God and his beautiful spirit world.

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Jack Wellman June 27, 2017 at 5:28 pm

Thank you Peter. I appreciate your honesty, but the Bible forbids our trying to communicate with the dead. Eve thought the forbidden fruit was beautiful…many adulterous couples have affairs that they say are “beautiful” so personal, human experience is never, ever a determining factor in our decisions. Christians must obey the Word of God, no matter what sense of “incredible, wonderous, joy,” it may feel like, it is NOT “a gift from heaven.” Please repent of this sir. God says it is sin, and human personal experience means nothing compared to that. People on the Titanic had a wonderous sense of peace and joy and faith about that trip and that ship and we know what happened.

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Brenda August 20, 2017 at 12:06 am

Peter, thank you so much for sharing your story. My family member died recently and my parents died many years ago. I get great peace knowing that I get signs of communication from them. I feel sad that Mr. Wellman is do negative about this.I feel that the Bible has been interpeted many times by human being, as well as the fact that we all do not believe the exact same thing. We believe to the best of our ability and as I do not tell my friends who feel the same way as Mr Wellman about his beliefs, I would like others to respect that I am taking my beliefs seriously and to the best of my ability. I believe that God knows this and that everyone does not have to take the same road to God.

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Jack Wellman August 20, 2017 at 7:59 am

Thank you Brenda. It’s not a person’s belief that I am against but the idea that our lost relatives can come back and appear to us and to try and communicate with them is sin. It’s not that I am right but the Bible says this is sin, and that’s more important than what you or I believe. You cannot justify this practice.

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Mercy January 28, 2018 at 9:11 pm

Please join me in praying against seeing the image of a late friend in my dream

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Jack Wellman January 28, 2018 at 9:36 pm

I will do just that Mercy. I am praying right now in fact.

Rhonda October 29, 2018 at 11:35 am

Explain when someone has a loved one to come to them from Heaven and help them? I have many stories told to me that I can’t imagine would be anything negative . One of many was when my uncle had cancer and was bed fast ..my aunt hears toilet flush and ran to the room knowing he could not walk ..she asked how he got to bathe and he replied “Grover helped me” (her dad) My mother was washing dishes one day and heard a voice say to her “be prepared” and she asked for what and suddenly felt peaceful.the next day or shortly after her father died of sudden heart attack. These are nothing compared to many many stories where loved ones from the other side helped others. How could this benefit the devil? I have heard friends who have been in near death/earth accidents and experience a loved one helping them and even hearing and seeing them? Is this Satan helping us? I don’t think so! These events brought people closer to God? Why would Satan want to bring us closer to God? I can’t inagine

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Jack Wellman October 29, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Hello friend. Satan is clever and he disguises himself as an “angel of light” the Bible says, so be careful with these things. There is no proof a loved one comes from heaven to help us. God is our only help and hope, not those who are not here! You said “have many stories told to me that I can’t imagine would be anything negative” but your stories and the Bible is no contest. We are to abstain from these things so “your stories” or the Bible…which do we believe? God’s Word is never wrong. Human stories often are. Have you say repeatedly is “I hear” or “I have heard” but what about God’s Word says!? Please repent of this and distance yourself or you are playing with fire…

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