Making Sense Of The Spirit World

By: Robert Heerspink

May 18th, 2008

Scripture Reading: Deuteronomy 18:9-14, 2 Corinthians 11:1-6, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, James 4:7

THE REALM OF THE SPIRIT

I was staying in downtown Chicago not long ago at one of the historic hotels in an area that’s known as "The Loop." The tower in which my wife and I stayed was built over a century ago. Of course, with all that history, you would expect some fascinating stories to be connected with this old building.

Before heading out for the day, we got to chatting with one of the guards. He told us that when he began work at the hotel some five years before, he was told that the best way to become familiar with the hotel was to simply ‘get himself lost’ down the rambling halls, and then regain his bearings. So that is what he did. He was in an old section of the hotel, a section undergoing renovation and not open to the public, when he heard the sound of a television in one of the rooms. He called down to the front desk. No one was registered for that room. He went inside. No one was there. He turned the television off. And then, he said, he felt a presence behind him. It was as though an ‘unseen something’ had jumped on his back. He turned around. And across the hall, he saw a padlocked door. The padlock on that door, he said, began to swing back and forth—seemingly of its own volition. Needless to say, he told us, he wasted no time regaining his bearings and heading out to a more inhabited location of the hotel.

"But the oddest thing," he said to us, "is that when I went back to look for that padlocked door, I couldn’t find it. There was no door opposite that room. No door. No lock. I thought I was confused, so I even checked other floors. But I’ve never found that door again."

What do you make of a story like that? A tall tale told by a guard to some gullible Chicago visitors? Perhaps. But perhaps not. I myself don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe that disembodied people prowl the halls of old hotels. But I do believe in the existence of a spirit world. I believe that world is just as real as the world in which I inhabit.

Now, I find that I am not alone in believing that such a world exists. Perhaps you believe in the realm of the spirit as well. You believe in what has sometimes been called the paranormal. And perhaps you find that world fascinating.

There is a resurgence of interest today in what are called paranormal phenomena. Organizations have been formed for the sole purpose of hunting down the realm of the spirits. Modern—day ghost—busters! What could be more exciting then going on a search for ghosts, ghouls, and goblins!

But if you are dabbling in such things, I’m deeply concerned for you. I’m concerned about your emotional and spiritual wellbeing. And I’ll tell you why. You’re getting your hands around things that are too hot for mere mortals to handle.

Now, you may rather vehemently disagree. Perhaps you’re dabbling in New Age, and have developed a total fascination for the realm of the spirit. I find that many who are attracted to the practice of the New Age movement see New Age as something of a game, almost an entertainment. Many New Agers don’t think for a moment that their practices might be dangerous. Their only question is whether a given practice "works’ for them—draws them closer to what they call enlightenment. But what if it’s not that simple? What if the practices of New Age knock upon a door mortals like you and me are suppose to keep closed?

Today, let’s explore the spirit realm. Let’s take a look at what needs to be avoided. But let’s also take a look at the one door to the Spirit world that you can’t afford to neglect.

DARK POWERS

Let me begin by suggesting that the spirit world calls for great discernment because there is a dark side—a shadow side—to the spirit world which can put you at great risk. In fact, the truth is, only when you understand the dark side of the realm of the spirit can you begin to fathom the power—yes, the real power—that lies behind New Age.

Many people who dabble in New Age are involved in practices that have as their goal the awakening of spiritual powers. Horoscopes are read. Crystals are manipulated. Channelers who claim an ability to connect with spirit beings are consulted. Maybe you think all such practice is nonsense—that New Agers believe in modern—day fairy tales. But I don’t think that’s so.

The fact is, New Age is powerful—and it is powerful because it taps into powers that should not be tampered with. I’m going to label this dark side of New Age, the occult. The occult is a pretty big basket. It describes everything from Tarot, to palmistry, to astrology—and much more. The word itself comes from the Latin and means literally "hidden." By definition the occult pursues hidden mysteries, hidden powers, hidden knowledge.

Now, The Bible offers a perspective on hidden things. The Bible recognizes there are many secrets to the universe that as God’s stewards, we are charged to discover for ourselves. We are told to go out into the world and subdue it. The realms of science, technology, the arts—they are all arenas for human discovery. But the Bible also teaches that there are some things that are off—limits to mere mortals. In fact, already in the Scriptures, The Bible says, "The secret things belong to the Lord your God!" Scripture teaches that especially in the realm of the spirit there are boundaries beyond which we cannot go. There are limits to our knowledge. There are limits to the powers that we can pursue.

Occult ignores those Biblical limitations. Occult wants to deliver what the Bible declares is out—of—bounds. Occult believes that both hidden knowledge and power are at the fingertips of those who follow New Age practice.

Occult practice seeks secret knowledge, first of all. What kind of knowledge? Well, above all knowledge of the future and of distant places. Telepathy and ESP are ways of knowing across distance. Tarot, palmistry, astrology are ways of seeking knowledge of future events across time. The occult seeks hidden knowledge.

And occult seeks hidden power. What kind of power? Why the power to manipulate our environment and our relationships with other people. This is the power to engage in magic. In America today, over 400,000 individuals identify themselves as Wiccans. Wiccans pursue magical power. Because all things participate in the same spiritual reality, the world can be manipulated by those who know how it’s done. Witchcraft literally believes that through proper rites and rituals, the power inherent in the universe can be controlled, shaped, and used for one’s own purposes.

THE BIBLE’S VIEW OF THE DARK SIDE

Now, let me make an observation about the occult. This stuff isn’t new—it’s old. This is really the stuff of ancient paganisms. And since that’s the case, it’s not surprising to find that the Bible addresses such practices directly. God says in Deuteronomy 18: "Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter to the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, who interprets omens, who engages in witchcraft, who casts spells. . ."

The Scriptures command us to keep away from occult practices. And why? Because the occult is nothing other than the Garden of Eden revisited. In the fall of Adam and Eve, we see our first parents making an illicit grab for knowledge and power for which they have no right. The result? Our world was broken. Occult practices continue that illicit power grab. Occult just taps into a lie that is as old as human history.

THE DARKER SIDE

But things get darker as you look into New Age. You see, The Bible condemns occult practice not because God is some killjoy who doesn’t want people to enjoy legitimate truth and power. No, God warns us against the occult because the occult opens a door to a spirit world that is filled with danger and evil. You see, the Bible clearly teaches that there is a vast spiritual army that wants to destroy God’s good creation—and us along with it. Its leader has an agenda spelled out in I Peter 5:8—"Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." The Devil and his cohorts want to destroy our lives today, as well as our eternal future with God.

We should not be surprised, then, that many New Agers tell us that as we move into New Age practice, we encounter spirit guides, extra—terrestrial beings, and spirit warriors from past eons.

Consider the experience of JZ Knight. JZ Knight was your rather ordinary housewife until in 1977 she had a visit from Ramtha. Ramtha supposedly is a being from Atlantis who first lived 35 millenia ago. He offered to grant great wisdom to Knight and others if she would become his channel. Today, JZ Knight runs what she calls Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment. A visit to her website offers seminars throughout the world where spiritual seekers can watch video—tapes of Knight channeling the wisdom of Ramtha. Knight promises, those who attend her seminars will learn to access the hidden abilities of the brain and be on their way to living a remarkable life.

It’s pretty tough to be opposed to such a pitch, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to live a remarkable life? I am sure that JZ Knight would tell us that her experiences with Ramtha have been positive and uplifting. In fact, New Age channelers tell us that the spirits they meet are creatures of great light and beauty! Isn’t that enough to verify their credentials?

Well, no. Because Scripture tells us to test the spirits. In his first epistle, chapter 4, verse 1, the apostle John writes: "Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God." And how do you test the spirits? Well, in II Corinthians 11, Paul talks about deceptive teachers who are about to lure the Corinthian Christians away from the truth. The teachings of these false apostles are very appealing, but that shouldn’t be surprising, writes Paul. After all, their deceptions only show they are in tune to their true Master. As Paul declares in II Corinthians 11:14, "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light."

Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light! I find those words uncomfortably close to the actual descriptions of the beings channelers encounter. They describe wonderful encounters with beings filled with light, glorious in appearance.

Well, of course! Do we think that if demonic forces were to show themselves, they would come dripping venom and carrying pitchforks? Wearing nametags that identify themselves as a legionnaire from hell? C.S. Lewis had it right in his famous book, Screwtape Letters. The Devil doesn’t want to scare us as much as he wants to impress us! He wants to weave a web with his words to ensnare us in his demonic lies. He wants his lies to be more enticing than God’s truth.

So what does Ramtha say? That’s the key issue. What is the message of these spirits? Well that brings us to the key question: Do these spirits give witness to Jesus Christ?

The uncomfortable fact is that the message which comes from the spirit world, through Ramtha and others, is uncomfortably like the original lies of Satan in Eden’s Garden. "You shall not die, but you shall be as God, knowing good and evil."

THE GREAT ENEMY

Yes, there is a terrible enemy that stands behind New Age. It is the Devil himself. Before his own fall, this spiritual being was known as Lucifer—literally the "Light Bearer." But Lucifer refuses to keep his own place in God’s creation. He lusted for God’s own power. He wanted to rule worlds of his own. His rebellion against God continued in his game plan to wrestle this creation from the power of God. Lucifer—the angel of light—became Satan—the great Deceiver.

Now, let me tell you something about the Devil’s New Age game plan. The Devil doesn’t really care if New Age practices ‘work’ for you. He really doesn’t care if New Age makes you successful. He doesn’t really care if New Age gives you some temporary, illusionary peace of mind. The Devil is more than willing to masquerade as that angel of light, as long as he wins the war for your soul. All he cares about is that you refuse to give honor and glory to God through his Son, Jesus Christ—and that you put your confidence in him and his legions. All he asks is that you pay homage to him.

THE PATH TO GOD

But now, if we can’t enter God’s Kingdom through occult practice, if we can’t trust the spiritual messengers of New Age, what are we to do? Is there no guide by which to press through to the realm of God? Yes, there is. It’s on a road that God himself has created for us. This road to the spirit realm is trustworthy because God himself has thrown that bridge across the chasm of our brokenness and sin.

That path to God lies through faith in a particular person——through the one who said of himself: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." The path to God lies through Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the WAY to God. Real knowledge—real truth, is found in him. And real power—real life is found in him. Jesus offers all we need. We don’t need to toy around with the delusions offered by other spiritual paths. We don’t need to grab hold of power and knowledge that is not ours to control. No, Jesus Christ, who himself is God incarnate, is the Way to the realm of the Spirit. He invites you to walk that path to God by trusting in him.

Not long ago, someone shared with me the three components of trust. Trust, he said, is made up of three strong strands. There is first of all integrity. There is second, competence. And there is third, care. Trust exists when you’re sure of someone’s moral integrity. Trust exists when you’re convinced that person is really able to come through for you. And trust exists when we know the person we’re trusting really cares about us in a way that is deep and real.

Jesus Christ is the most trustworthy person you’ll ever meet. He fulfills all three criteria. Only Jesus is competent to assure your future. He gave his very life for you and stepped alive from the grave to win your forgiveness and make possible a life that transcends death itself. Only Jesus is a person of complete integrity. He has lived among us and felt our pain and grief—and yet is without sin. And only Jesus cares about us in such a way that he is by our side every step of the way to the moment when we stand before our Father’s throne and completely experience his grace and glory.

No alleged spirit guide that New Age offers has the credentials of Jesus Christ. No wonder he alone is worthy of your confidence. Only Jesus offers you the door into the very presence of his divine Father.

A RESISTANCE MOVEMENT

But what do you do if you’ve already dabbled with powers you should have left alone? What if you already feel yourself—gripped not by God’s grace but by forces that would pull you away from Jesus’ side? Well, here’s the advice of Apostle James in the fourth chapter of his letter to the church. In verse 7 he writes: "Resist the Devil and he will flee from you . . ." Resist the Devil. Why? Because the Devil is defeated. Christ has defeated him. And you can defeat him too.

Resist the Devil, writes James. But resist the Devil not in your own strength—in your own power, you wouldn’t have a chance! But resist the Devil in the name of the one who has won the victory for you! Resist the Devil in the powerful name of Jesus Christ. Resist the Devil, having placed all confidence in Christ’s power to break you free from demonic shackles. Resist the Devil—and live free!

About the Author

Robert Heerspink

Rev. Robert Heerspink is a native of west Michigan. He completed his undergraduate studies at Calvin College and holds the degrees of Master of Divinity and Master of Theology from Calvin Theological Seminary.  He has also received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Bob was ordained a minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church of North America in 1979, and has 26 years of parish experience, having served four churches throughout west Michigan.  He was appointed the Director of The Back to God Hour in 2006.

Bob has written several resources related to congregational stewardship, including the book, Becoming a Firstfruits Congregation. He is a regular contributor to TODAY, the monthly devotional of The Back to God Hour.

Bob is married to Edith (Miedema) and they have three children.  His hobbies include reading fictional and historical works, watersports, and occassional golfing. 

God took Bob to his eternal home on Saturday, October 1, 2011, after a brief battle with cancer.

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