What is it like on the other side of death?  Is there some ethereal being bathed in brilliant light who draws us up to himself through a tunnel of intense but beautiful light, as some who have had “near death experiences” claim?  Is there even an afterlife; and if there is, what is it like?  Is it like the ancient Greek idea where the departed just become shades and seem to be quite miserable?  Do we sit around on clouds all day playing harps?  Do we come back to earth in a different form through reincarnation? Do we re-join the Universal Consciousness and become one with it?  Do we face an angry god who will plunge us into the most horrific torment forever?  Or is there nothing at all, and when we die we cease to exist in any form whatsoever?

Many people don’t think about such things now because it is too frightening; unknown and unknowable.  They don’t allow themselves to think so they push any thoughts of it out of their minds and replace it with some shadowy half-idea that has no basis for security except that it takes their minds off the subject, enabling them to delay facing it for as long as possible. 

There is a wide acceptance in Western society that there is nothing beyond the grave; that when you die, that’s the end.  There’s nothing “out there”, and when you die you cease to exist in any form.  There is no God, no supreme being to whom you must give account, no afterlife at all.  There is just….nothing.

The Modern Psychic/Medium Revival

But there are also many people who don’t believe there is nothing on “the other side”.  The fact that psychics and mediums proliferate demonstrates this.  These frauds have thriving businesses because people want to believe that there is more than annihilation at death; that their departed loved ones haven’t just been snuffed out of existence or are suffering in some way, but that they’re safe, at peace, and even happy.  They are convinced that their dear departed is watching over them somehow, and they can feel his/her presence with them, even influencing events in their lives at certain times.

Psychics and mediums differ slightly to each other in what they do.  The essential difference is that a psychic claims to be able to read into your future and offer guidance using means such as tarot cards, horoscopes, numerology, and so on; whereas a medium claims to communicate directly with the deceased and with spirits through séances etc.  But in practice, mediums and psychics often perform both roles – my grandmother was both a psychic and a medium. In this article I am mainly, but not exclusively, considering mediums so I will use this description throughout.

John Edward is probably the most recognised of the current rash of mediums but even he is, at best, a charlatan and con man, making his living cruelly preying on the emotions of people still trying to come to terms with the loss of a loved one.  Perhaps they’re stricken with guilt because their last words to somebody they loved were harsh; or wondering how their departed spouse or child is doing now; and so on.  At his meetings, he predisposes people to have low expectations in order that they will accept more readily his low success rate as he fishes for information from his gullible audience.  And gullible they are – I say this not unkindly though, because many of them are there because of deep emotional need.  Edward knows that they are on his side and will be patient with him as he tosses around names as bait trying to hook a fish…..”  I’m hearing the name Michael, or Mike, or Mark”….silence….. “or something with M” (in a large audience somebody will know somebody with an “M” in their name)….still no response.  “There is something about a car….” – no response – “a vehicle…he was in a car accident or he works on cars or he’s a racing driver”.  The longer the delay in somebody responding, the wider the net must be cast.  As his audience goes along with him they’re each trying to think of somebody they know who might fit the broad range of connections that Edward is giving out.  Eventually a poor soul says “I had a Marcus who collected toy cars”, and the trap is sprung; now he moves in like a tiger which has spotted its prey, and frames further questions in such a way that the victim is being manipulated into giving out more information – and his job is done because they are doing it for him.

An ancient scam

These modern day mediums use the same technique as the Chaldean astrologers who served at the court of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that greatly disturbed him, but he couldn’t remember just what he dreamed.  He called for the astrologers to not only tell him what the dream meant but the dream itself.  Just as the modern day medium fishes around to get his/her audience to unwittingly give them details that he/she can then build on, so these astrologers needed Nebuchadnezzar to tell them the dream so they could craft a suitable “interpretation”.  But he knew their deceitful ways; and he wouldn’t give them what they wanted, not only because he knew they were frauds but because he couldn’t recall it to his mind.  So he said to them “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, since you know what I have decided….You have conspired to present a false and deceitful interpretation to me until the crisis is past.  Tell me the dream, therefore, that I may be sure that you can also give its correct interpretation” (Dan 2:8-9 NABRE).   The astrologers admitted that there was not a man on the earth who could do this (Dan 2:10-11).  When God gave his prophet Daniel the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar was rightly astonished, and he said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is a God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery!” (Dan 2:47 NRSV); and he rewarded Daniel with many gifts and high office.

Contemporary psychics and mediums are liars and frauds just like the Chaldean astrologers, who ruthlessly take advantage of needy and vulnerable people; no depth is too low for them to sink as they make every effort to convince their victim they’re telling the truth, all the time comforting them with lies; at the same time, their hands are in the victim’s pockets, as it were, trying to extract their wallets.  These con artists and their methods have been exposed repeatedly, and we’ve even been shown this by magicians such as Derren Brown who can do exactly the same things as the medium; only they show that is a trick and not spiritual.  Yet despite this there are still many people who go to them for consolation, desperate to know about the person they’ve lost in death.

The Deception of Demons

We know, and the mediums know, that they are not speaking to the loved one of their client.  But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that they have contacted a spirit.  How do they know what kind of a spirit they have conjured up?  How do they know it’s not an evil spirit, a demon?  The nature of demons is to lie and deceive.  Speaking of the devil, Satan, and therefore his minions, Jesus said “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). 

So, if a medium really has made contact with a spirit, it is certainly not a “good” or “friendly” or truthful spirit or ghost because the only spirits that communicate with humans are malicious, evil, lying, spirits; and they are bent on the destruction of humanity as a whole, and of individuals.  They will tell the seeker what they want him/her to believe and will not be honest unless that will cause the seeker harm.  And they can reveal the most secret and intimate information about a person because they, as incorporeal beings, have access to such information.  These demons, invisible to the human eye, can gather information about their targeted individuals because they know them, having been around them for all or part of these people’s lives; thus, they will know information that no human could ever know, such as their victim’s grandmother’s middle name, or the name of the cat they had as a child, and so on.  In this way, the evil spirits deceive a person into thinking they really are communicating with the spirit of the person they want to speak to because it is the only one who would know this secret or information.

And such a deceiving spirit is not going to tell the person enquiring of the medium that their loved one is suffering in hell because of their sin, and because they refused to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Can you imagine a medium telling the enquirer, “Your husband wants you to start going to church immediately.  He’s telling me that it’s urgent that you seek Jesus and through him, get right with God.  He says he’s suffering in hell in utter torment and there is no hope. He’s saying he’ll never know the comforting presence of God; that he’s condemned to suffer for all eternity because he rejected Christ.  He’s pleading with you ‘Please, don’t reject Jesus any longer.  Repent now while you still have the opportunity!  Don’t put it off for a second longer.  Don’t trade an eternity of joy with God for a few moments of pleasure in your earthly life.  Nothing – but nothing – is worth even a moment of the suffering and torment I’m enduring constantly!’”.

No, that would never happen.  No deceiving spirit would warn a person to seek Christ and avoid hell because they hate them and wish them harm; no medium would do so either, otherwise they’d lose clients and their cash flow would quickly dry up.  The whole psychic industry is built on deception, and is geared toward plunging people into an eternity of torment and misery.  What business could be more wicked and have such devastating consequences?!

Besides, the bible is clear and adamant that the dead cannot contact the living, whether through a medium or not, because they are dead.  “For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.  Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun” (Eccles 9:5-6).

The Real Spirit World

In contrast to the modern-day psychics and mediums, there are records of people who could communicate with the spirit world.  This spirit world is not one of make-believe or fantasy or myth; it is real, and is very dangerous to meddle with.  The bible gives us examples of people possessed by demons, and whose lives consequently have been, as it were, hell; tormented beings who were made deaf, dumb, crippled, epileptic, lunatic, or superhumanly strong.  They were not able to get free of these devils but had to be set free by some other person who possessed the authority of God to deliver them (some examples can be found in Mark 5:1-20; 9:14-29; Luke 13:11-17).  The spirits in this realm are all intensely and totally evil, all hostile to God and humanity, and all possess immense power, some more so than others.  They are fallen angels, spirits who rebelled against God and who were cast out of heaven to earth, and who await with absolute dread the return of Jesus Christ, at which time they will all be cast into the Lake of Fire which has been prepared for them.  Their leader is Satan, also known biblically as Lucifer, Beelzebub, Belial, the Great Red Dragon, the prince of the power of the air, and other names.  He is known by many names outside of scripture as well, most of which I’m unfamiliar with, but Baphomet seems to be a prominent one.  And there are degrees of power and authority among them.  The Apostle Paul warns “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). 

Mediums Who Unexpectedly Encountered Real Spirits

The witch of Endor

There is an example in the bible story of King Saul.  Because of the particular sin he committed, he had been told by God that his kingship was to be taken from him and given to another.  God also removed his Holy Spirit from Saul and sent an evil spirit to torment him.  As Saul’s life began to unravel, and his kingdom came under threat from the Philistines, he sought the aid of a medium (1 Sam 28:7) whom we know as “the witch of Endor”.  When this medium was found, she asked him “Whom shall I bring up for you?  He answered, ‘Bring up Samuel for me’.  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice; and the woman said to Saul, saying, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!’” (1 Sam 28:11-12).

The narrative reveals that the woman was surprised when Samuel appeared, as if she wasn’t expecting him, so it is likely that she, too, was a fraud.  If this is true, she made her living by deceiving people, just as do all psychics and mediums.  The sight of this spirit surprised and terrified her.

The narrative continues “The king said to her, ‘Have no fear; what do you see?’  The woman said to Saul, ‘I see a divine being coming up out of the ground.’…..And Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’” (1 Sam 28:13, 15).  There is ongoing debate as to whether this really was Samuel, or a demon posing as him, because to bring him back would be to disturb his rest.  But I think the apparition really was Samuel; first, because the bible text says it was Samuel (1 Sam 28:15, 16; Sirach 46:20); second, because at the Transfiguration, we’re told that Elijah and Moses appeared to Jesus and Peter, James, and John (Mk 9:4).  If Elijah and Moses could appear on earth, then so could Samuel.  But whether it was Samuel or not is irrelevant – the fact is that it was a spirit from “the other side”.

Jesus Possesses the Keys of Hell and of Death

If we would have assurance that our loved ones are safe; if we would have eternal life and security for ourselves; there is only one name, one person, who can give us that certainty.  That One is Jesus Christ.  He said of himself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  And the Apostle Paul, writing of Jesus Christ, said “There is salvation in no name else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Psychics and mediums cannot give assurance of the whereabouts or safety of even one person because their very foundation is wrong.  Of such people, Jesus warned “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.  And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit” (Matt 15:14).  Jesus is the only person to whom we should go; he said of himself “I was dead, and see, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and of Hades” (Rev 1:18). 

“The Scripture quotations contained herein are made from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright, 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.”