“Father, we’re grateful for today, we’re grateful for this morning, and we’re grateful for this very special time of the year where we celebrate the birth of Your Son into our world. It’s very easy in the midst of the season to get so busy that we forget what we’re celebrating, so help us not to be that way. Help us to keep Jesus as the reason for the season.
I ask that You’ll be with us during Sunday school. I ask for Your illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit. I ask for blessing on the main service. I pray that we would leave here with Your view of the future concerning the future reign that we’re destined for. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and glory.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name.” God’s people said, “Amen.”
Let’s find Deuteronomy 18:10. We’ve been continuing our study of the doctrine of the angels. We’ve covered the good angels, Satan, and the fallen angels. We’re now moving into an area called demonology.
We’ve seen the existence of demons—Old Testament and New Testament.
We’ve seen the origin of the demons. They are the one third of the fallen angels that fell with Satan.
We’ve seen the personhood of demons. They’re not just impersonal sources of energy; they’re actual beings with actual personality.
We’ve looked at the characteristics of demons in terms of their spiritual nature, their corruption, and the fact that when they manifest themselves and are visible in prophetic events, they look like hideous beasts, locusts, frogs, etc.
Two lessons ago we were looking at the powers of demons—how they have great strength, great superhuman intelligence, great mobility. But that doesn’t mean that they’re God—they’re not omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent.
The last time we were together we were looking at the works of demons. In other words, “What do they do?” One of the things we left off with last time is the direction we’re going to head in this morning. One of the things that demons can do, in addition to all the other things that we’ve spoken of, is they have the ability to allow people to tap into what I would call the occult.
The occult, once you tap into it, gives you what I would call superhuman abilities. That’s why it’s so attractive to people; it basically allows you to interact with things, or traffic in things, or engage in things that you wouldn’t have the ability to do without it.
There are four things the occult will allow you to do that we’re going to walk through this morning: divination, spiritism, magic, and something called pharmakeia. Then we’ll look at what God says we should do with these things if they’re in our lives.
Let’s start off here with number one. The first thing occult forces allow a person to do is allow a person to get involved in what’s called divination—or actual fortune-telling.
Satan has been around a lot longer than we have, and he can make pretty good guesses as to the future. He’d probably be a pretty good investor in the stock market. He’s not omniscient, of course, but he can give people senses or impressions of the future to such an extent that these people think they’re actually predicting the future. There are actually some examples of this in the Bible—one of them is Deuteronomy 18:10—where such practices are condemned amongst God’s people.
Deuteronomy 18 was written to the children of Israel as they were about to enter Canaan. Moses says, “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination [that’s what we’re talking about here, that word divination], one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer…” Divination is basically fortune-telling.
You might want to follow me over to Acts 16:16. On Paul’s second missionary journey he went to Philippi. There was a little girl who was a slave there, and she was making predictions because she had a spirit—or a demon—inside of her.
This demon—or this spirit—inside of her was giving her the ability to make what looked like very real predictions. Consequently, she was bringing in a lot of money into the coffers of her slave master. This little girl kept following Paul and Silas around and saying things.
In fact, some of the things she says about Paul and Silas are true, “These men have come to talk about Jesus,” etc. Paul got tired with the irritation, and he cast the demon from this little girl. And once the demon left her, her ability to predict the future disappeared. That bothered the slave-owner because the gravy train was no longer rolling in, and that’s what got Paul and Silas thrown in jail in Philippi.
Acts 16:16 says, “It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.” The whole story here is Paul exercising this demon out of this girl. Quite evidently—quite apparently—quite obviously—this demon inside of this girl was giving her the powers of divination—or the power to predict the future.
When you get into the occult, what you discover is that there are certain individuals that have—I would guess—superhuman qualities in terms of the future in terms of their insight. And Satan through the occult can provide that to people.
A second thing the occult gives people the ability to do (or at least the appearance to do) is to contact the dead. That’s a practice sometimes called spiritism. It’s a practice called necromancy where people apparently have the ability (at least it comes across this way) where they’re talking to someone who is deceased.
What I would like to show you is the Bible condemns that practice in the strongest terms imaginable. Here are the six or so major passages I could find in the Bible condemning necromancy. Once I read through some of these passages with you, then I’ll show you why the Bible condemns this practice.
Necromancy is condemned as early as Leviticus 19:31 as part of the Mosaic Law. You can follow me around to these different passages if you choose to do so. Leviticus 19:31 says, “ ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the Lord your God.’ ” There the medium or spiritist is condemned—Leviticus 19:31.
We were just over in Deuteronomy 18. Notice what Deuteronomy 18:9-14 says. God again is instructing Israel as they’re about to enter the land of Canaan, and He’s instructing them through Moses in what we call the Book of Deuteronomy. God says, “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations.”
There had been nations in Canaan at least for 400 years (probably even longer) practicing all kinds of things that Israel was not to practice—one of which was spiritism. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 says, “There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead [that’s necromancy]. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord your God will drive them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For those nations, which you shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.” Deuteronomy 18:11 is a very clear condemnation of the practice of necromancy—communication with the deceased.
In 1 Samuel 28:7-8 was the very thing that brought down Saul’s kingdom. Saul made a lot of mistakes, and you can see him in decline as you go through 1 Samuel. Probably the icing on the cake was his decision to consult a medium—someone who was involved in the practice of consulting the dead.
1 Samuel 28:7-8 says, “Then Saul said to his servants, ‘Seek for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.’ And his servants said to him, ‘Behold, there is a woman who is a medium at En-dor.’ Then Saul disguised himself by putting on other clothes, and went, he and two men with him, and they came to the woman by night; and he said, ‘Conjure up for me, please, and bring up for me whom I shall name to you.’”
This was a very sad time in Saul’s life where he’s no longer seeking wisdom from God and His sources, but he’s opened up to trying to get help from somebody who has passed on. That’s a practice called necromancy.
Second Kings 21:6 says this concerning one of the wicked kings of the nation, “He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him [that’s God] to anger.”
First Chronicles 10:13, commenting on Saul, says, “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the Lord, because of the word of the Lord which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it…”
One more. Isaiah 8:19-20 says, “When they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn [no light].”
There the prophet Isaiah is condemning those in his day—the seventh or eighth century, roughly—in the life of the nation of Israel who were consulting mediums or spiritists. And Isaiah basically says, “The messages you’re getting from these people that are supposedly contacting the dead are just whispers and mutters.” They’re getting something in terms of a communication, but it’s just a whisper or a mutter. “If you really want light, and if you really want truth, go to God’s sources!” That’s why Isaiah 8:20 says, “…to the law and to the testimony!”
If they do not speak according to this Word—God’s revealed sources—then they have no light in them to begin with. These mediums or spiritists gave people the impression that they were giving some kind of special insight, but they were saying things that contradicted the truth of God so their messages were to be discarded.
These are at least six verses that I could find condemning—in the strongest and harshest terms I can think of—the practice of necromancy or contacting the dead. Why does the Bible condemn this practice? The simple reason is because when people contact the dead, they’re really not contacting the dead. That’s the deception! They’re contacting are demons, because Satan comes as an angel of what? An angel of light.
You say, “Well, if I have a departed relative, are you telling me that that departed relative can’t speak to me?” That’s exactly what I’m telling you! And my opinion on it is really not the important one—it’s what God says! Let me give you a few verses on that.
Hebrews 9:27 says, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…” The Bible is very clear that the general tenor of things is once someone crosses from this realm into the next—the temporal realm into the eternal realm via death—that’s it! There’s no opportunity to come back; there’s no opportunity to speak from the grave.
If fact, remember the story in Luke 16:26, where the rich man wanted Lazarus to go back from the dead to warn his brothers who were on the same course in life that he had been on—a course of unbelief. Remember what Abraham said?
By the way, everybody looks at Luke 16 as if it’s some kind of parable. I don’t believe it is a parable primarily because in parables Jesus will say, “Learn the lesson of the parable of such and such.” He doesn’t say that in Luke 16.
Most people will point out to you that personal names are not used in parables. In Luke 16 you’ve got three personal names. Number one is Abraham. Number two is Lazarus. Number three is Moses, because there’s a reference at the end to the Law of Moses. So, I think this was a very real historical situation that happened where a man in Hades wanted somebody to go back and warn his brothers.
This is what we read in Luke 16:26, “And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.”
You put Hebrews 9:27 together with Luke 16:26, and I don’t think there is a scenario in place—unless God somehow sets aside the normal rules—where people can actually contact deceased loved ones. So, if they’re not contacting their deceased loved ones through the practice of mediums and through the practice of necromancy, who are they talking to exactly?
One of the things to understand about angels—demons being fallen angels—is that they don’t die. You see that in Luke 20:36 where Jesus makes a statement about angels—which I think would include fallen angels as well. “…for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” Jesus tells us very clearly that angels, once they were created, don’t die.
Now we know that a third of those angels fell with Lucifer. So when people involve themselves in the practice of necromancy, and they are given the impression by the medium that all they’re doing is consulting the deceased, I don’t believe there’s a biblical case that they are consulting the deceased. Who they are consulting is a demon who knew the deceased. See that?
Because demons don’t die! So they were around to see Uncle Joe—or whoever it is you’re talking to—and they know Uncle Joe’s temperament, personality, conversation style, likes, dislikes. In fact, those demons were so familiar with the person you think you’re talking to, that they can give you the impression that you’re actually talking to the deceased. Not understanding that you’re actually talking to a demon who was aware of the deceased—because demons don’t die!
This would be very fitting with how Satan works. In 2 Corinthians 11:14 Paul says, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” Satan loves to give people the impression that they’re involved in some great learning experience, some great spiritual experience, some kind of insight, some kind of acumen, speaking to someone that they love who is now departed. In reality they’re not speaking to that person at all; they’re speaking to a demon who knew that person—or was aware of that person—and is masquerading as that person.
If that’s all it takes to keep people away from the truth—to keep their eyes off the Bible, to keep their eyes off Jesus Christ—then Satan will give all of those experiences. The temptation of human beings is we want some kind of additional insight for our lives. So like those in Israel, we seek these things out. And God says, “Don’t do it because you don’t even know what you’re tampering with!” You are tampering with the realm of the demonic who are giving people additional powers that they wouldn’t normally have through something called the occult.
Now, I remember very clearly watching—I don’t know if it’s on the air anymore—the Montel Williams show. Have you guys ever watched the Montel Williams show? He would have a spiritist or medium come on named Sylvia Brown. And to my knowledge, Sylvia Brown has passed away.
But I remember—when she was alive—watching Sylvia Brown in operation with great interest. She’d be up there on the stage, and Montel Williams would be next to her. It’s interesting that when you go to Barnes & Noble—or a basic bookstore—to the spiritual section, it is interesting to me to look at how many Sylvia Brown books are out there available for people. She’s become very mainstream.
I remember watching her on the stage via television, and someone would come up to the microphone and say, “I really miss Aunt Sally!” Sylvia Brown was tapping into something, and she would say things like, “Aunt Sally wants you to know that she loves you. And she appreciates the fact that you always liked her stuffing that she made at Thanksgiving.” Really personal things!
I remember watching very carefully the reaction of the audience member, and they would immediately start to cry. So it showed me that this was not just an act that was happening here! I mean, Aunt Sally really did serve really good stuffing at Thanksgiving! So the person thinks, “My gosh, that’s Aunt Sally!” In reality, who is that? That’s a demon who doesn’t die, pretending to be Aunt Sally.
Sylvia Brown thinks she’s channeling—through necromancy—Aunt Sally, but she’s not channeling Aunt Sally at all. She’s channeling a demon who knew Aunt Sally! You see that? This is why the Bible says we need to stay away from these types of practices.
You might be saying to yourself, “I’m glad that’s out there in the world and it has nothing to do with Christianity. And I’m really glad that these things don’t take place in church.” Well, think again! I bring up this individual, Steve Berger. He and his wife—Steve and Sarah Berger—are pastors. They wrote a book. This is an older book (2010), so this has been out for a decade. This is not me doing tabloid journalism this is out there; it’s been out there for a decade!
The late Dave Hunt, with his Berean Call, did a whole analysis of this particular book. And it’s an example of how necromancy is actually being mainstreamed not just within American culture, but it’s actually being mainstreamed within evangelical Christianity.
It has to do with this couple—pastors. This is apparently a fairly influential church. A lot of popular speakers almost trip over themselves to get booked there (because I guess you can sell a lot of material and so forth). Something happened to them that I don’t wish on my worst enemy.
Something terrible happened; they lost a child through a tragic accident, which is a horrible thing! But then they come out with this book about their child named Josiah. And sometimes in the book they’ll refer to him as “Siah.” They talk about how Josiah is in regular contact with them.
I want to share a few quotes from the book so you can understand why the subject of necromancy is actually relevant. Necromancy is not only being mainstreamed into American society, but it is actually being mainstreamed into the church world.
The title of the book is Have Heart: Bridging the Gulf Between Heaven and Earth. It’s written by these heartbroken parents who have lost a child tragically, but then they start talking openly in this book about how this child regularly speaks to them, is in regular contact with them, etc.
On page 69 it says, “And then one night Josiah [that’s the deceased] showed up in a dream.” Now that doesn’t happen! Why? Because of the verses we read earlier, Hebrews 9:27 and Luke 16:26. If a child shows up in a dream, and that child is deceased, those are emotions tugging at you.
They go on, pages 99 to 100, “Josiah came into [the church] sanctuary… It wasn’t like he just appeared there. It was a sense of him coming into the aisle, and he got down on one knee and bent into my ear (the authors say)… Then, as quickly as he came, he left. It wasn’t that he disappeared; rather, it was a sense of him leaving the sanctuary… He had a sense of speed about him, not that he was hurried, but as if life on earth was much slower than in Heaven—it’s a different place, a different plane. I stood up and went over to my wife and told her, ‘Josiah was here.’”
I don’t doubt the fact that they had a real experience here. What I doubt is whether it was really Josiah. I think what it was is a demon who knew Josiah, pretending to be Josiah.
The book goes on. Pages 99 to 100 says, “God granted Josiah permission to make an appearance…it demonstrates his continued presence not only in our lives but in the lives of his friends as well.”
Another quote from the book, “Yes, the residents of Heaven are personally present, they are aware, and they are near!” The book goes on and says, “Yes, the residents of Heaven are personally present, they are aware, and they are near! We want all of us to continue to have relationship with Siah [their abbreviated name for Josiah] right up until the day that we are face-to-face in Heaven with him.”
I don’t doubt that you’re going to see him—if he was a believer—in Heaven one day. That’s not the problem. The problem is buying into this idea (or this worldview) that he’s making trips back and forth and speaking to you.
They go on and say, “We know that [Josiah] can see us, hear us…” I guess I don’t have too much of a problem even with that, but then they say, “…and even be involved [that’s a problem], not only in our lives but also the lives of his friends. We are continually hearing of Siah coming to friends in dreams…”
This is how they’re misinterpreting the “cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews 11. The cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 11? The standard interpretation of that is a) they’re either angels or b) they are the very ones in the hall of faith that were martyred—watching us. But they’re making it sound like Josiah (their deceased son) is actually one of those clouds of witnesses regularly making guest appearances into our world.
“The cloud of witnesses [of ‘Christian loved ones in Heaven’] is personal, and we believe it is part of their work in the spiritual realm to cheer on their loved ones still on the earth…” Then they say, “Our loved ones may show up in dreams or visits or other ways…” And then they throw in this little parenthetical expression which is very common amongst experientialists. They say this a lot, “…(who can limit God’s imagination?)”
So if you’re to stand up like I am doing and say, “That’s not a biblical practice, and you’re not actually speaking to your deceased son.” Then they put this label on you that you’re limiting God. I hear this all the time, “You’re putting God in a box.”
The reality of the situation is God Himself can’t do certain things; do we understand that? Can God make a mountain so big that He can’t move it? No! How do I know that? Because the Bible says He’s always sovereign over His Creation. So that is an example of something God cannot do, because God has defined Himself. He’s always sovereign over His Creation.
Can God lie? What you think? No! Because the Bible says it’s contrary to His character, “…it is impossible for God to lie…” (Hebrews 6:18) “God is not a man, that He should lie…” (Numbers 23:19) “…God, who cannot lie…” (Titus 1:2) Now is that putting God in a box? No! That’s allowing God to operate according to the parameters which He’s already identified in His Word.
So, when you say, “You can’t have a deceased person coming back and speaking to us—that’s not normal,” it is not putting God in a box! It is allowing God to operate according to the rules that He has revealed to us in linguistic form in the Bible.
But you’ll see this a lot: “You’re putting God in a box.” We say all of the time that you can’t be saved by your good works. “Well, who can doubt the imagination of God?” Well, I’m going to doubt the imagination of God in that venue because you can’t be saved by your good works because the Bible says that! It says you’re only saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! “Oh, you just put God in a box!” No, I didn’t! I’m defining God by the rules that He has established in His own Word.
“Our loved ones may show up in dreams or visits or other ways (who can limit God’s imagination?), but the fact is that we’re connected… There’s a thin veil, and we’re connected to them, forever, in Christ.” Notice, the little expression “in Christ” gets tossed in here. In other words, “This is a loving thing and a Christian-like thing to be involved in.”
This is something that’s happening not just in American culture; you’ve got the mainstreaming of necromancy within the evangelical church. The last quote here is from page 125—and these people went all over the speaking circuit with this book. “You don’t father or mother a child for nineteen years and then hear God say, ‘Oh, now you can’t talk to him. You no longer have a relationship with him until you see him face to face in Heaven….’ We still talk to Josiah, and it’s going to be so great when we’re together again.”
You’ll notice the pull at the emotional strings. (Paraphrasing) “We parented this child for 19 years. Are you telling me that God is going to cut us off from that child in terms of communication? What kind of loving person are you?”
So, the whole argument here is not logic based at all, it’s not Bible based at all, but this stuff sells because it yanks you in emotionally. And you feel bad for people that lost a loved one— particularly a child. You don’t want to stand up and be the big meanie and say, “You can’t communicate with them at the present time. And the entity you’re communicating with isn’t that child; it’s a demon who knew that child and is pretending to be that child because Satan comes as an angel of light.”
I’m not trying to pick on these people, and I’m not bringing up any information that hasn’t been in the public record for the last decade. I’m using this as an illustration of the mainstreaming of necromancy into the evangelical church. And there are speakers with big followings—I mean big! They can’t wait to get to this church and speak. They’re bringing their followers, their mailing lists, the gullible sheep that follow them into this so-called ministry—into this bookstore—without warning their flocks that in this bookstore is a book that these people wrote promoting necromancy!
You have to be careful who you show up and speak with because you could be deceiving a lot of people into embracing a practice without actually warning them about it. Because the name of the game today is you’ve got to get more clicks and more likes on Facebook; you’ve got to get more subscribes onto your YouTube channel, and you’ve got to get your mailing list to grow.
These kind of venues are very, very popular for a lot of Christian speakers to go to, and they don’t understand that the moment you get up on a stage with somebody like this you’re giving authenticity to whatever else they’re teaching. Unless they give you the freedom to give a very severe warning—which they wouldn’t give you because they wouldn’t have you back to speak there, right?
You can do something called tacit endorsement. It’s the very thing that Paul the apostle corrected Peter for in Galatians 2. Peter, when the party of the circumcision was present, would eat with the Gentiles; but when they left, he withdrew. Paul corrected Peter to his face in front of everybody because he was saying, “You’re a spiritual leader in this church at Antioch, and your public actions, whether you say anything or not, are communicating a message!”
One of the verses that has always perplexed me is 1 Timothy 4:1 which says, “But the Spirit explicitly says [in other words, the Spirit is trying to speak something clearly here as a warning to the church] that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons…”
Now, for years and years and years of my life I read that and would say, “Yeah, it’s pretty bad out there! Psychic hotline network—that’s bad stuff! Look at Sylvia Brown. Look all the bad things these pagans are doing!” But when you actually understand the context of 1 Timothy 4:1, that is a pastoral letter.
In fact, this is one of three letters that were written to pastors of churches. Timothy is pastoring the most influential church of the first century at this time—the church at Ephesus. When Paul writes this warning to Timothy, he’s not talking about necromancy and demonism taking place in the secular world in the last days; he’s talking about the practice being mainstreamed and coming into the church!
I have misread that for years! It’s a warning of something coming up within the church. You look at something like this and you say, “How in the world could the church ever open itself up to doctrines of demons?” Well, I’m explaining to you how it’s happening. It’s happening through books like this: Have heart: Bridging the Gulf Between Heaven and Earth by Steve and Sarah Berger.
They’re opening up a practice here which is becoming more normal within Christianity where people are speaking to entities that have crossed over into the next life. They are thinking, through emotional heartstrings, that they’re speaking to a deceased loved one; in reality they are not speaking to a deceased loved one! These pastors are speaking to a demon and receiving information from a demon who knew the deceased loved ones in Christ, because demons don’t die.
You say, “Would Satan be that clever to bring doctrines of demons into the church?” Of course he would! That’s exactly what Paul’s warning against here in 1 Timothy 4:1. That is what we would call necromancy.
Something else that the occult allows you to traffic in is the manifestation of miraculous powers—the ability to be able to do the supernatural. Flip back to Deuteronomy 18:11. We read that earlier, but I’m just highlighting different aspects of the passage. It is condemning “…one who casts a spell [that’s magic], or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead [necromancy].”
If you go back further to Deuteronomy 13:1-4 you see essentially the same thing. “‘If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, “Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,” you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.’”
“But wait a minute! They performed a sign or wonder that happened! They really gave me the liver quiver! They gave me a sensation or an impression that was true. So if the experience is true, it must be of God, right?”
What terrible epistemology—which is your doctrine of knowledge. Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. How do you determine what’s true? A lot of people will determine something is true by an experience.
Joseph Smith, I believe, had a very real experience with a fallen angel. The problem is that he received from that fallen angel the doctrines of Mormonism which contradict the Bible.
Mohammed, I believe, had a very real experience with the alleged angel called Gabriel—they pronounce it Jibril. But it was not an experience that was of God, because through that experience came the doctrines of Islam—which not only contradict the Bible but have enslaved the masses worldwide.
You never validate something is true by an experience! You validate something is true by, “Does it line up with what God has already said?” Because these prophets and dreamers who perform signs and wonders that actually happen will simultaneously say to you, “Let’s go after other gods (plural)!” The moment they say that you dismiss it as something demonic.
Because God can’t lie! He can’t say something on Monday and something totally different on Tuesday. The Ten Commandments are found just a few chapters earlier in Deuteronomy 5 and are recorded for the generation prior in Exodus 20. The first two commandments are “no other gods before Me” and “no graven images.”
The moment you follow a worker of miracles who says “let’s follow other gods” is the moment you’re contradicting the foundation of the Decalogue—the first two commandments. But you’ll notice that these entities give people the ability to tap into magic and things of that nature. If I’m trying to communicate anything I’m trying to communicate the fact that those are probably real experiences.
The fourth occultic form here is what is called pharmakeia. We’ve run into that—haven’t we—in our studies in the Book of Revelation? These are the sins that will characterize the earth during the Tribulation period, consequently bringing His judgment to the earth. “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders…”
We could talk about an awful lot on that list, couldn’t we? But the one I want to focus on is their sorceries. It’s translated sorceries, and the Greek word is PHARMAKEIA. What word do we get from PHARMAKEIA? Pharmacy. What do you get at a pharmacy? You get drugs at a pharmacy.
There is an occultic practice called sorcery (or PHARMAKEIA) which involves investing one’s body with artificial substances. I believe that once a person has gone down that road with artificial substances—mind altering substances—it opens themselves up to a dimension of things that would not be opened up otherwise.
I’m riveted by the story of Chris Herren. There’s a video out worth watching called Basketball Junkie. This was a guy who had the world at his fingertips as a high school and college basketball star. He spent some time in the NBA. He says he went into a dorm room at Boston College and was introduced to cocaine.
Of course, all the way through his high school career he had been involved in all kinds of other substances, but nothing at that level. This is almost a direct quote; this is the part of the movie that just sticks in my mind. He said that once he went down that road, “It opened a door that I could not shut for 18 years.”
Not only was it chemical dependency, but I have a tendency to think it opened a door into the spiritual realm that he didn’t have the wherewithal to understand, to grasp, or to wrestle with. That’s what we mean by PHARMAKEIA.
You look at some of the old Charles Manson tapes, “Helter Skelter,” the murders he committed, and all of these kinds of things, it’s interesting to watch how all of that is interwoven with the experimentation with mind altering substances. That’s, I think, what the Bible is condemning here, something called PHARMAKEIA.
Of course, the background for Revelation 18:23—which also mentions PHARMAKEIA—is Isaiah 47:9-13. God says, “But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day [speaking of Babylon]: Loss of children and widowhood. They will come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells. You felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ “But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away [Through what? Through spells]; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone; And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly. “Stand fast now in your spells And in your many sorceries With which you have labored from your youth; Perhaps you will be able to profit, Perhaps you may cause trembling. “You are wearied with your many counsels; Let now the astrologers [look at this], and those who prophesy by the stars [Stargazing—trying to determine one’s future by the stars. I’m glad Americans don’t do that!], Those who predict by the new moons, Stand up and save you from what will come upon you.”
This is the condemnation of sorcery (or PHARMAKEIA) which is interwoven with a lot of different things. Substance abuse being one of those things as well as stargazing, spells, and things of this nature. One of the things I shared when we were in that section of the Book of Revelation, I’ll share this with you again. One of the disturbing things to watch in my lifetime is how the use of drugs—things that used to be taboo culturally—is now suddenly becoming mainstreamed and normal within American society.
Every time I talk like this I get a bunch emails from people saying, “This drug helped me in this issue or that issue.” Here’s my response to that: “I’m not a pharmacist. I’m not a medical doctor.” I do have a PhD. But as my daughter says, I’m a Sunday school doctor, not a medical doctor. And I’m not here to give people advice about what they should do with substances and all of these kinds of things—which are now apparently very available over-the-counter.
I’m just saying you really need to be in prayer before you make a decision to move in that direction. Is this really what God has for your life? Because I think there are things that you open yourself up to that you may not be aware of.
There’s a website called CitizensCount.org which says, “As of July 2019, a total of ten states, as well as Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use.” When I was growing up that was always taboo culturally, but now it’s mainstreamed for recreational use in ten states.
I know you want to hear the States, right? Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Alaska, California (no surprise there), Colorado (that’s what they mean by Rocky Mount high I guess), Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Michigan. The website says most of those states allow both growing marijuana at home and selling it commercially.
Things that used to be off the radar are now mainstream and, as I tried to explain, even sometimes within Christianity itself. What do you do with all this stuff in your life? Things like palm reading, terra cards, ouija boards, psychic readings, astral projection, horoscope, even some video games. Like the one I was wrapped up in as a very young person, Dungeons & Dragons.
I remember the guy that led me to Christ was warning me about Dungeons & Dragons. It’s just a board game, yet it was like an all-consuming pattern in my life at the time. I was trying to gain these different levels—spending all this time with this board game. When he started to touch his finger on Dungeons & Dragons, I did what we all do—I dug in my heels!
He said something to me that has always helped me with issues like this. He said, “Look, Andy, I’m not trying to be a legalist. But let me just ask you a question. Your pursuit of that game? How is it enhancing your relationship with the Lord? Is your involvement with this bringing you closer to Jesus or further away from Jesus?” That’s how you analyze anything that you have in Christ.
You have a lot of freedoms in Christ, but as Paul says, “Not everything is necessarily edifying.” So ask yourself that, “Is this really bringing me closer to Jesus?” I would have to answer that in that case it was taking me away from Christ and the things of Christ, not towards Christ. I think a lot of these practices that people have—if you look at it from that grid—you’ll start to see that you could do without it.
What do you do with all those things? You have an example of it in Acts 19:19. This was probably Paul’s most prolific ministry in Ephesus, where lots and lots of people over a two to three year period were getting saved like crazy and they were growing in Jesus. You want to talk about magic arts? Ephesus had all of that stuff.
So you’re dealing with first generation converts coming out of the occult in Ephesus—out of the mystery religions. You have an example of what they did with all of their paraphernalia. It says in Acts 19:19, “And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver.”
We look at the expression “fifty thousand pieces of silver,” and it really doesn’t mean much to us. But what did it actually mean to them financially to give up all of this stuff? My trusted Ryrie Study Bible has a note under Acts 19:19 that says, “Magic. Magical spells written on scrolls. Fifty thousand pieces of silver.” He says, “If the silver drachma is meant, the value would have been the equivalent of 138 years’ pay for a rural worker.”
They grabbed all of this stuff that would’ve taken them 138 years collectively to work for, and they took all of it and they burned it. I like to use that passage because it shows you the mindset, I think, that the church should have towards these things. They’re not bringing you closer to Christ! In fact, they’re a distraction, and we ought to get rid of them!
My friend Christine Tan, a fellow doctoral student at Dallas Seminary (her father is Paul Lee Tan), is extremely smart. I was so proud of myself that I graduated before Christine because I got through my coursework faster than her. And I thought, “Well, if she’s smart, I must really be smart!” It turns out she was working on a whole other PhD somewhere else, so she graduated a year later with two PhD’s! Christine has always stood out to me. They visited us here at Sugar Land Bible Church.
Christine put together a list which I find so helpful because it lists various games—board games, videogames—that are so common today, and it shows you the potential demonic nature behind each of these games. If you don’t believe me, you can go to these various websites that she has to do research on your own. So, she’s not saying, “Take my word for it.”
But the first thing that she mentions here is Harry Potter. Now, I found this interesting excerpt from an article concerning the Roman Catholic Church and Harry Potter. It says, “A Roman Catholic school in Tennessee has banished JK Rowling’s universally popular series of Harry Potter novels from its library shelves after its pastor took exception to the portrayal of magic, warning the spells and curses the author describes are real and ‘risk conjuring evil spirits’ when read…”
Now, I don’t typically stand up here and reinforce Roman Catholic beliefs. In fact, we’re very critical of the doctrines of Roman Catholicism. But here you see an example of a leader of a Roman Catholic parish having enough sense to kick the stuff out of their library because it’s talking about how to cast spells!
“ ‘These books [he says] present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception. The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring up evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text,’ the Reverend Reehill wrote…” Here the writers of the article are making fun of this guy. They say, “…apparently in all seriousness.” I say, “There’s a guy taking a stand on something, and on this issue my hat is off to him!”
Christine Tan’s list here begins with Harry Potter. Then are some things that people might be familiar with—some of them you might not be familiar with. People put you on this guilt trip that you have to play all of these games to condemn them or critique them! Well, guess what folks? I don’t have to drink ocean water to know it’s made of salt!
There are links to Harry Potter research—if you want to do that. There is something called Twilight and something called Pokémon. Now, in California there was a guy so involved in playing Pokémon that he walked off a cliff because his mind was so focused on Pokémon.
I kept thinking to myself, “I would love to see the headline where a Christian says, ‘I was so consumed with reading the Bible that I walked right off a cliff!’ ” (
Now this one hurts: Star Wars (ouch!) High tech witchcraft, occult, yoga (she’s got some links there to yoga), hypnosis, martial arts.
You might be saying to yourself, “Andy, you’re really, really overreacting here!” Well, go to the websites yourself, do your own research, and run it through the grid! Is this taking me closer to Christ or further away from Christ?
Judy Cunningham brought in some books for me that I think are helpful from some trusted sources. She’s got some of these books out there on the rack if you’re interested in grabbing some of these. They’re also on the CD table.
Here’s a book on the practice of yoga written by a gentleman who I trust—who’s now with the Lord—Ray Yungen. Dave Hunt, who I trust on this issue, has a little book out called Yoga and the Body of Christ. You can check that out. And here’s a little book by Lighthouse Trails on Pokémon.
The reason I wanted to go over some of these things? I wanted to show that this issue of the occult actually can come right into your living room, and it could actually involve things that your children and your grandchildren are playing around with. And you may not even be aware of it.
Look at that, my verbosity allowed me to escape interrogation. What a shame! We’ll try to do some questions next time. Let’s pray.
“Father, we’re grateful for Your truth and Your Word and the things it speaks into our lives. You’ve left us not in darkness in these things, but You’ve given us some guidelines.
Help us to be a kind of people that want to grow closer to You, even if it means impinging upon things that we might be clinging to. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name.” And God’s people said, “Amen.”