--From James A. Scarborough, The Steppingstones (Merigold, MS: Merigold Spiritual Center) 21-37.
God had promised to send answers to questions put to Him. "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not" (Jer 33:3). Later on, Christ promised that if we seek we shall find, that if we ask it will be answered (see Matt 7:7). This was to happen when the seeker is ready for it, as Christ withheld a great deal even from His Apostles because they were not yet able to grasp it (see John 16:12).
The prayerful seeker is often drawn to churches, ministers, and Bibles for these important answers. The Bibles contain a portion of the truth revealed millennia ago, admixed with unknown amounts of human alterations. The ministers have learned and followed the creeds of their respective churches and cannot be expected to go much beyond that. The churches, themselves, come in hundreds of varieties, each one basing its beliefs on Bibles which disagree on both trivial and significant points, each one teaching doctrines reasoned by fallible humans from imperfect documents. Sometimes an article of devout faith to one church is the heresy of another. Once we attempt to understand beyond the basics of God, Christ, and Love, we find Christianity in a shambles and able to exhibit few, if any, clear answers. Surely, God is not the Author of confusion (see 1 Cor 14:33).
Accordingly, if God has indeed drawn the seeker to churches, ministers, and Bibles, these can only be regarded as way stations along the road to more of the truth. The remainder of the truth must come from God. If, in answer to our prayers for understanding, we are brought to a way station, we can choose to remain there indefinitely, but only at the cost of traveling no further on the road to the Truth God promised.
God did not intend that erring human agencies should be the sole dispensers of His Truth. On the contrary, Christ expressly declared that His spirits would bring the remainder of such truth as is comprehensible to man (see John 16:13). His promise confirms the Old Testament pledges that God would answer and supply the truth by His spirits (see, for example, Jer 33:3; Joel 2:28). It appears that these pledges will not be honored merely for the asking. More than that is required of us.
There were times when the people could not expect an answer from God: "And word from the Lord was rare in those days, visions were infrequent," (I Sam 3:1 NAS). The cause of God's silence was explained by the usual reasons: "these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be inquired of at all by them?" (Ezek 14:3).
Take the case of King Saul. When the King strayed from a life in the Lord, then God did not answer him (see 1 Sam 14:36-37), "neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets" (I Sam 28:6). God's conditions for His sending an answer are stated by Isaiah (Isa 58:2-9) and others, wherein He requires honest efforts toward living good lives in exchange for His communication. Thus God decides to whom His responses will be sent, and He decides by His own criteria. His judgment may be very different from ours, as evidenced by the conversion of Paul. This great Apostle had participated in the misguided persecution of the early Christians, yet the intent of his heart was clear to the Lord, who summoned Paul to be His servant. Paul later received truths promised by God and reaffirmed by Christ. Paul's letters say little about how he received instructions from the Lord, other than that God's spirits were involved. It is clear that Paul's instructions into the secrets of the faith came from above (see I Cor 2:13), for Paul was never sent to one of the Apostles for training, although the distance was not great. On the contrary, Paul represented himself to them as an equal, already one of them. Paul acquired his knowledge by inquiring of God, with God somehow answering. With this in view, we ask, "How does God answer?"
Although God promises to answer us, He does not generally answer in Person, but sends His responses via His agents. These agents are His spirits. In the Old Testament, a spirit agent of God is often called "the angel of the Lord," or simply, "the angel." In the New Testament the agent is usually called "the holy Spirit," as distinguished from "the evil spirit." A careful reading of both Old and New Testaments reveals that almost all communication from God is through His agents, even though the Scriptures might say, "Thus saith Jehovah." Although we are assured that the words were sent from God, He did not personally bring them except in rare cases.
As an example of this, consider the famous burning bush episode in Exodus. We read there that it was an angel of the Lord appearing as flame in the bush (Exod 3:2), but the angel speaks for God in His name (Exod 3:6). In our own experience, we have had someone relate a message to us from someone else. Though the message is brought by a messenger, not the principal sender, if it is delivered accurately we are truthful in saying that, in a sense, we heard from our friend and are justified in quoting him.
An example of a physical artifact being used by a messenger is found in the Biblical account of David's inquiry of God through Abiathar, the priest. Abiathar operated the breastplate attached to a garment called the ephod. As the breastplate was used to spell out the answer from God, the Scriptures relate that "the Lord said" (see I Sam 23:9-12), when in fact the Lord made no sound at all. Again, it is somewhat the same as communication between people. If we receive a letter from a friend, we say we heard from that friend and we might quote him as such. Actually, we heard nothing with our ears; we received a letter brought by the postman. The postman is the carrier of the message. Here he compares with the angel who carried God's message, delivered by whatever means.
In these and other ways, God uses intermediaries, angels, in virtually all of His communications with man. It is of great importance, then, for us to learn how God's spirit agents manifest themselves and carry out their assignments. The Bibles make frequent reference to the word of God coming to the prophets of old. However, the Bibles are usually silent as to how God's messages came, stating simply that they did come. How did the prophets receive their answers? There were many ways (see Heb 1:1).
According to television and movies, God speaks by using a resonant voice coming from the air. The Scriptures, however, do not support Hollywood's theology. On the contrary, communication by means of a voice from God was rarely employed. God almost never communicated in Person, but as a matter of course sent His messages by means of His spirit messengers called angels, or Holy spirits. Thus we can expect answers to our prayers to be brought not by God himself, but by His spirits, the inhabitants of His great spirit-world which we call Heaven. "Are not all angels simply ministering spirits sent out to help those who are to regain the salvation that is theirs by inheritance?" (Heb 1:14 GNT). We are not addressing the question of why God deals with man almost exclusively through His spirit agents, we are simply observing that He does.
Sometimes God does communicate by an audible voice. John reported a voice from Heaven that some hearers thought was thunder (see John 12:28-29), and a voice from Heaven spoke to Nebuchadnezzar (see Dan 4:31). The voice comes not from the empty air, however, but from a cloudlet, or small fogginess. In this regard, recall Moses and Aaron in the book of Exodus, especially regarding the cloud between the wings of the cherubim in the Tent of Meeting from whence the Voice spoke. The Voice speaking to Christ at the transfiguration likewise came from a cloudlet (see Matt 17:5).
The writers of the Old Testament do not carefully distinguish as to who spoke from the cloudlets, whether it was God, Christ, or an angel of the Lord. Sometimes the writers confuse the matter by saying it was God, then a few verses later say it was an angel (see Exod 13:21, 14:19). On another occasion, we first read that an angel is speaking, only to have subsequent verses begin stating it is God (see Exod 3). Sometimes we are not told who the speaker is, just that an unidentified voice spoke (see Num 7:89). In any event, if the message was delivered by an authorized spirit agent of God, the witnesses were truthful enough in reporting that "God said," especially in view of the witnesses' ignorance of whose voice they had, in fact, heard.
Another awesome way in which God sends His word is via angels materialized in solid form. This may involve only a part of the body of the spirit, such as a materialized finger which wrote a message on the wall for King Belshazzar. "Suddenly the fingers of a man's hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace" (Dan 5:5 NAS). This was not the hand of God, but that of one of His angelic spirits, for we read on that "the hand was SENT from Him" (Dan 5:24 NAS) (em add).
Materializations of the complete bodies of certain high beings did occur on special occasions. Gabriel materialized before Daniel and was referred to as "the man Gabriel" (Dan 8:15-17, 9:21). Moses and Elijah talked with Christ in the presence of Peter, John, and James (see Matt 17:3). An angel of the Lord sat down with Gideon and spoke with him (see Judges 6:11-18). The most frequent materializations of a high Spirit are those of Christ, Who appeared several times after His resurrection (e.g. Luke 24:15-31; John 20:14, 20:19, 20:26, 21:4). There were also angelic visitations to Abraham, Lot, and others.
How did the prophets receive their answers as they followed the instructions, "ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me" (Isa 45:11)? The methods God uses to communicate are much more diverse than the familiar examples given so far. God communicates with man in many and varying ways (see Heb 1:1). He might instill some inner urging or awaken our conscience. Occasionally, the answer to a problem simply occurs full-blown in our minds. However, it is difficult to know for certain where these vague feelings or fully developed ideas originate in every case, much less can we put exact words to them and claim that God spoke to us. There are ways God communicates in which He is much more explicit.
One method He uses is inspirational writing, wherein a person is caused to hear, or see in a vision, the words he is to write. The person then writes of his own volition, being fully aware of what he is writing. It can also occur that he knows only that he is writing, but not what he is writing. It may also be that he is not conscious at all, but is in a trance state. Upon awakening he learns the contents of what he has written.
King David used another method when he inquired of the Lord. This writer of many of the Psalms used the ephod with the breastplate of judgment attached to it: "But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God. Then David said to Abiathar . . . 'Please bring me the ephod [breastplate of judgment].' And David inquired of the Lord" (em add), and the Lord answered him (see I Sam 30:6-8 NAS). This breastplate was a golden planchette inlaid with jewels, each jewel representing both a letter of the Hebrew alphabet and one of the tribes of Israel. By these engraved stones, words were spelled out using the Urim and Thummim in a way resembling a modern Ouija board. The breastplate, or breastpiece, is also referred to in Scripture as a graven image.
This method of inquiring of God was in common use for centuries. It first began when God gave Moses detailed instructions for making the ephod and its attached breastplate (see Exod 28:6-30). Moses consecrated Aaron and his sons as priests (see Exod 28:41) with the special ability to operate the breastplate as the means of making decisions for the Israelites. Moses personally placed the breastplate on Aaron and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastplate (see Lev 8:8). Long after Moses, Micah "made an ephod and a breastplate of divination, and consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest" (Judges 17:5, Greber) (also see Judges 8:27 regarding Gideon).
Saul also had been answered on previous occasions by the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim. After straying from God, Saul inquired of Him unsuccessfully, for "the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets" (I Sam 28:6).
Inquiring of God today by using a breastplate would be condemned universally as Satanic. Is there a church anywhere whose board of elders would prayerfully consult a breastplate of judgment for any decision whatever? Yet, David did. Part of the reluctance of modern man to recognize God's ancient ways of communicating is due to our confusion regarding the activities of God's angels as compared with the way Satan's angels work.
There are many resemblances between the way God's angels bring His answers and the ways demonstrated by Satan's angels. Let us recall the great display of good and evil power in the duel between Moses and the Pharaoh's magicians. The works done by both good and evil forces were virtually identical. This is understandable if we but bear in mind that God made laws of nature which govern both the Earth and the spirit realm, and that these eternal, immutable laws cannot be broken by the inhabitants of either domain. The same methods are used by both sides.
It is like this: God made the laws of electricity. If someone wishes to broadcast the truth on television, he must comply with these laws. If, on the other hand, someone wishes to broadcast lies, he finds that the same laws of electricity apply, nevertheless.
Both the higher and lower forces were active in divination. Careful reading of the story of Joseph reveals that he "divined" by means of a silver cup, and that it was common knowledge that God sometimes communicated in this way (see Gen 44:5 et seq.). We are not told in this story exactly how the cup was being used, but we know that cups have been used for a long time for casting dice, casting lots, reading tea leaves, or the like. On another occasion, Joshua located the thief, Achan, by lot, implying that the method was reliable to the point of deciding capital punishment. Jonah was chosen as the cause of the storm (see Jonah 1:7-12), and Matthias was selected to replace Judas as the twelth Apostle (see Acts 1:26), both by casting the lots. None of the parties casting lots was involved in Satanism. Each was a servant of God. By way of contrast, when the soldiers cast lots of dividing garments of Christ, they were not using them to receive guidance from God. As always then, we see that we cannot decide whether a spirit phenomenon is from the good or the evil side by investigating the occurrence itself. The discernment can be quite difficult.
Thus, dreams and visions can be induced by Christ's forces, and also by Satan's forces. Such communications from the forces of God were common in Biblical times. Their contents were often quoted in our Bibles as words from God, saying "thus saith Jehovah." The book of Revelation is almost entirely the result of such a vision, as is much of the book of Daniel. Dreams and visions are of little use unless the Lord somehow reveals their meanings. Dreams, visions, and their interpretations were usually received by a man or woman especially gifted for that purpose. Such persons were referred to as seers, prophets, soothsayers, priests, conjurers, diviners, or other titles, depending mostly on the Biblical translation. These individuals might have had the gift of seeing events occurring at a distance, a gift exhibited by Elisha, Elijah, and Jesus. Elisha told the Israelites the secret plans of the spy in his household (see II Kings 6:8-12). Elijah knew that his servant had overtaken Naaman and received a reward for Elijah's curing of Naaman's leprosy (see II Kings 5:25-26). Jesus saw Nathanael by this gift of distant sight while Nathanael was yet lying beneath the fig tree (see John 1:48). A person with this gift of clairvoyance was often called a seer.
A common way of inquiring of God in Old Testament days was by consulting a prophet. A prophet was a person who had the ability to relinquish control of his body to a spirit other than himself, whereby the spirit could then converse with the people present by use of the person's human organs of speech. A person whose body is being so used is in what is called a trance. We read of Peter, Paul and other men of God going into trances and prophesying (see Acts 10:10 et seq.; Acts 22:17; Num 24:4). This illustrates how widely known that phenomenon was in their day. If the spirit using the body was a spirit sent from God, our Bibles call the man a prophet of God, or simply a prophet. If the spirit in control was one of Satan's spirits, the Bibles call that person a false prophet (e.g., I Kings 18:22; I Kings 22:23-24; Micah 3:5, 3:11; I Cor 14:32). A spirit, good or evil, may use the human body to produce a spoken message. If the message, so spoken, is in the native language of the listeners, the Bibles call it prophecy. This is the "ecstatic utterance" which we are exhorted to permit (1 Cor 14:39; I Thess 5:20). This is the influence of the spirit of prophecy we are instructed not to quench (see I Thess 5:19). The message, so given, will be in the prophet's own voice, although the accent may be different. As such, a hearer may suspect fraud or deception. As proof that the message does not come from the mind of the prophet, the spirit in control may speak in another language, or "tongue" (I Cor 14:21), not a lanuage known by the prophet. This is, then, a sign to the unbeliever that the message is genuine, that is, from the spirit (see 1 Cor 14:22). Speaking in this way, in "tongues of men and of angels" (I Cor 13:1), was a common occurrence among the Apostolic congregations, most especially those encouraged by Paul.
We note here that a special spiritual gift is evidenced by those persons speaking by the spirit in their own, or in other, languages. The degree of development of this gift is often minimal, however, resulting in an aimless babbling of syllables. Such glossolalia is the most common, present-day representation of the Pauline gift of tongues. It serves but poorly to illustrate the value of the gift. In this weak degree of spirit control, there may be no detectable message, no reliable way of separating spirit influence from humanly induced words and, above all, no way to test (try) the spirit (I John 4:1-2). Both the hearer and speaker are unable to verify the source of utterance, whether from the Holy spirit or from the evil spirit.
There are still other methods of communication not listed here which are used by the spirits in God's service. The variety of ways seem virtually endless. More often than not, we are not told how God communicated. For example, Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, had the following experience: "Twins were struggling in her womb and she said, 'Why has this befallen me?'. So she went to consult Jehovah" (Gen 25:22, Greber). We are not told anything about the special place where she went, but clearly she knew exactly where to go and what to do to consult Jehovah. This verse matter-of-factly says she went to consult Jehovah, as though it were an everyday matter which did not need further clarification. Where did Rebekah go?
Did she go to some special place to have her conscience moved by a vague feeling? Or perhaps to talk to a voice from a small puff of fog? Did she go to a man whose hand was moved by a spirit from God to write an answer for her? Could she have gone, as King David did, so consult a prophet who used a breastplate to spell out her answer? Could she have gone to find her own silver cup of divination, to read tea leaves or cast lots for an answer? Perhaps she went somewhere to be alone, where in the solitude she could pass into a trance state and see her answer in a vision. Or perhaps there was some place she could go where an angel would materialize and talk things over with her. Perhaps she consulted Jehovah by speaking to one of His angels using the borrowed body of a prophet of God.
These ways of receiving God's answers, as evidenced in the Scriptures, are unacceptable to almost all Christians of today. Such manifestations are generally viewed as Satanic exhibitions or, at the very least, delusions. The ways in which the words of God in the Scriptures came to the prophets of old are unacceptable to the very people who believe those Scriptures.
What did other Israelites do to inquire of God? "Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he used to say, 'Come, let us go to the seer'; for he who is called a prophet now was formerly called a seer" (I Sam 9:9 NAS). Over and over we read of the widespread dependence the Israelites placed on their prophets for inquiring of God. "Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?" (II Kings 3:11).
Priests who were also prophets, or seers, were not rare in those days. Samuel was a seer (see I Sam 9:19; I Chron 9:22) who, at times, wore the ephod (see I Sam 2:18), as did David's priest and friend, Abiathar (see I Sam 30:7-8). Zadok, the priest, was a seer (see II Sam 15:27), along with Nathan and Gad (see I Chron 29:29). The Lord used a number of others by whom He spoke to Judah and Israel (see II Kings 17:13). An Edomite slew eighty-five such men in the town of Nob, alone (I Sam 22:18). Only Abiathar escaped and fled with his ephod to take refuge with David (see I Sam 22:20-23). Women such as Huldah (see II Kings 22:14), Deborah (see Judges 4:4), and Miriam (see Exod 15:20), were seers or prophets (prophetesses). These men and women were able to receive communications from God as brought by His spirits using the aforementioned methods, and others. Their special talent, or gift, required more than just their being from the lineage of Aaron and Levi. Those with this latent talent needed development and training. Schools for the prophets existed for this purpose.
The prophetess, Huldah, ran a school for prophets in Jerusalem (see II Kings 22:14). Samuel was head of a school for prophets in Ramah. Schools for prophets were also located in Bethel (see II Kings 2:3) and Jericho (see II Kings 2:5, 2:15). Ezekiel headed a school for prophets, which attracted more students than he could accommodate. The student prophets approached him saying, "Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live" (II Kings 6:1-2 NIV).
At such schools, the prophet in training could learn divination by use of the breastplate and Urim and Thummim. He learned meditation and the skill of passing into a trance condition, in which a spirit from God could take control of his body and speak through it. Alternatively, in such a trance, the prophet might hear words from the Lord or see visions (see Num 24:4, 24:15-16). These ways in which God communicated to man through His prophets in Bible times are held in low esteem when they occur today. It is as though modern Christians pray for guidance, but insist that it be invisible and intangible. Our misunderstanding of the injunctions in Leviticus has contributed greatly to this ignorance.
Truly, the Scriptures forbid inquiring of the dead (see Lev 19:26, 19:31, 20:6; Isa 8:19), the dead being Satan, the Prince of Death, and all those fallen spirits who serve him. On the other hand, the Scriptures openly direct use to inquire of the Living God through Christ, the Prince of Life, Who will answer by His spirit agents, the living. Did Christ sin by "consulting the dead" when He spoke with the deceased Moses and Elijah? Of course not. Although departed from the physical body, Moses and Elijah are in the service of the living God and are numbered among His living.
Leviticus prohibits divination for contacting the dead, the evil spirits, yet divination was used by Samuel, Joseph, and other prophets of God (see Micah 3:7). Lots were cast by servants asking of God and, by the same token, were used by those opposed to God in the story of Haman in the book of Esther. In short, lots were used to communicate either with God or with the evil one. It is not the method used for inquiry which constitutes idolatry or consulting the dead. Instead, it is the source of the response which determines whether the response is of good or evil. This was the case when the Israelites asked Gideon to rule over them (see Judges 8:22-27 NAS). He declined, saying "the Lord shall rule over you" (verse 23). In order that the people could inquire of the Lord, Gideon made an ephod with its golden breastplate and placed it in his city. Unfortunately, "all Israel played the harlot with it there" (verse 27) by consulting the lower spirits. As another example, the righteous Daniel could not be forced into idolatry even at the risk of his life. It is inconceivable, then, that Daniel would break the Levitical injunction against inquiring of the dead. Yet Daniel was chief of the diviners, soothsayers, conjurers, and magicians, himself being especially gifted in those areas (see Dan 2:48, 4:9, 5:11. Translations vary).
God is the same now as then, and He can answer in the same ways. For the most part, it is true, He relies on ways imperceptible to our senses, but the more spectacular ways are becoming ever more common, as foretold for the last days by Joel, "I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions . . . I will pour out My Spirit in those days" (Joel 2:28-29 NAS).
The Scriptures reveal little about the details of the training that took place in a school for prophets, just as they are frequently silent about other day-to-day matters already familiar to the people of that time. Hence, we are told little of what transpired in the schools of Huldah and Elijah, in the same way that we are told no details of what took place in an early church service held by Peter and Paul. At the same time, we are told that spiritual gifts, such as the gift of prophecy, are widely distributed among believers. Like other gifts, they need development by the bearer of the gift. A concert pianist and an Olympic gymnast have in common their persistent practice and self-discipline in bringing to full flower the latent gifts that God bestowed on them. In like manner, God requires effort on our part if we wish to develop whatever spiritual gifts we carry. What do the Scriptures recommend we do?
Foremost among our actions is yielding to Him. Trust and faith in God are fundamental (see Matt 13:58, 21:22; Mark 11:24). A state of tense self-will prohibits yielding to the Spirit. Spiritual gifts seldom appear in a person or in a group where tension, inhibition, or fear are present, or where rigid and stilted forms of worship prevail. Attitude is most important.
Attitudes of love and forgiveness of others are vital (see Psa 66:18; Matt 6:14-15; Mark 11:25-26). We are told not to even enter a worship service if we have anything against another person (see Matt 5:23-24). Clean hearts and clean minds are conducive to receiving God's guidance (see I Pet 3:12).
The time of worship shall include song and music (see I Sam 2:1-10; II Chron 23:18; Matt 26:30; Acts 16:25; I Cor 14:15; Rev 5:9-10). Paul and Silas sang hymns of praise in jail. David played his music. Christ sang hymns. Music helps to quiet the mind and soothe the emotions.
If other people are present, it is fitting to join hands in prayer and song as a token of unity and love for one another and for God. Prayer and praise are our contribution to the conversation with God. Even Jesus prayed (see Luke 18:1-8; Phil 4-6; I Tim 2:1-3).
After our active part in the conversation is finished, we are to be quiet and receptive. Otherwise, we have a one-way conversation, which is not a conversation at all. Since a meditative state of consciousness may be attained, a quiet place away from worldly distractions is preferable. Jesus often prayed alone in a quiet place at a quiet time. The upper room of the Apostles was also such a place (see Matt 6:6; Acts 1:13).
Lastly, practice is required. Just as the pianist and gymnast develop their natural gifts by practice, so too does spiritual ability to receive God's response grow by steadfast application of ourselves to that end. This includes attempting to be always in a state of inner attunement with the Almighty, this attunement being meant by the admonition to "pray continuously" (Luke 21:36; Rom 12:12; Eph 6:18; I Thess 5:17).
By putting together these aspects of communication with God we arrive at a sort of prescription for worship. Such a worship service requires attitudes of love, forgiveness, trust, attunement, and faith. Our active contributions are song, praise, and prayer. Our passive contribution is a meditative and receptive inner calm while we await His reply. Except for this last component, the description applies to most church services.
In the churches we receive a sermon in the place of a direct response from God. Yet Christ promised a more direct reply by means of His spirits. This reply may be received in the meditative, passive state as a clear thought, a word, an idea, or perhaps a feeling. As the receptive gift improves with practice, the worshipper may receive visions, read words written in the darkness of his closed eyelids, or perhaps hear a faint voice not heard by other people present. If the supplicant has an even greater developing gift in this regard, he may pass into a trance and an agent of the Lord may use his body to deliver a message in his native tongue, or in another language. In special rare cases, the entire range of Biblical phenomena are possible, according to the will of God in the matter. It is this great gift of first-hand knowledge that has been rejected by modern Christianity through misunderstanding and fear. Despite the warnings against quenching the spirit (see I Thess 5:19), the spirit has been quenched.
Most churches preach against present day revelation of God's will by His Spirit in the ways described here. In doing so, such churches place themselves in an untenable position, for they unwittingly argue that Christ will not fulfill His promise to answer directly. In that stance these churches tragically stand in the front ranks of forces fighting to quench the Spirit of God. If personal revelation cannot occur, then the Bible itself is unacceptable, having come in just that way to its respective writers. It appears that God is not silent; we have chosen to be deaf.
If today's Christian were to see any of the events mentioned here, would he not be likely to reject them as being Satanic, as being the dreaded witchcraft and contact with the dead so strongly forbidden in Leviticus? How could he distinguish whether the communication comes from above or from below? Discernment is the critical gift here.
Discernment in the Biblical sense is more than simply good judgment. It is the gift of being able to distinguish between evil spirit influence and Holy spirit influence, "the ability to distinguish between spirits" (I Cor 12:10 NIV). Discernment can be difficult, indeed. If an angel appears praising God, it is easy enough to discern that this angel is one of God's spirits. It is quite another matter to feel inwardly drawn toward a certain course of action and to definitely know from whence the impetus comes--whether from a spirit of Christ, or from a spirit of Satan, or from one's own mind.
We cannot distinguish between guidance by God's spirits and Satan's spirits simply on the basis of the phenomena they cause when contacting us. The phenomena have the same appearance in both cases because both sides, necessarily, can operate only within the universal laws God established governing His creation. Both warring factions can induce visions, dreams, thoughts, desires, emotions, and attitudes. Both factions can spell out words using a breastplate. Both can speak through a person in trance. Both can cause audible voices or materializations at times. Paul mentions the ability to distinguish between spirits as one of the gifts that a Christian may receive from above. If the believer lacks that special gift of discernment, then he may rely on other means.
The spirit can be questioned directly if it is speaking aloud by controlling a human body. The same is true if it is speaking from a cloudlet. "Beloved, do not believe EVERY spirit, but test the SPIRITS to see whether THEY are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know THE Spirit of God: EVERY spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God" (I John 4:1-2 NAS) (em add). The next verse states that a spirit who will not admit Jesus was the Christ is a spirit from Satan. This is expressed more clearly as, "This is how you can find out whether a spirit comes from God; every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ appeared on Earth as a man, comes from God, while every spirit who seeks to destroy belief in Jesus as our lord incarnated does not come from God, but is sent by the adversary of Christ" (I John 4:2-3 GNT). In this way shall the spirit testify of Christ, for "he shall testify of me" (John 15:26; Tibbs' note: see also 1 Cor 12:3 where only a holy spirit or a spirit of God can say "Jesus is Lord").
If the spirit is merely influencing the human prophet, but not in total and sole control of his body, then the test of I John is not conclusive. In this case, the message can be, and usually is, influenced by the human instrument so that the words are not infallible. This is generally the case in those churches who practice speaking in tongues.
In the usual event that the spirit influence cannot be directly tested, we cannot reliably determine the source of the inspiration. In this case, a good deal of human judgment is required. We are told, "Do not stifle inspiration, and do not despise prophetic utterances, but bring them all to the test and then keep what is good in them and avoid the bad of whatever kind" (I Thess 5:19-22 NEB). We can further determine the nature of the spirits by carefully noticing the results of the inspiration, for "by their fruits shall ye know them" (Matt 7:20).
Let us suppose that a spirit agent of God testifies of Christ (see John 15:26) and also passes the tests of I John (see 4:1-3). Suppose, further, that the fruits of the spirit are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22-23 NAS), and that the spirit opens the Scriptures to understanding (as in Luke 24:27). If all these conditions are satisfied, then the spirit qualifies without doubt as a Holy one sent according to the promise of God. The truth given by this spirit would constitute a pearl of great price. Such contact has been made at various times since Christ.
The most outstanding such contact took place in the first half of this century, when an angelic being spoke at length with the priest, Johannes Greber. Pastor Greber was instructed to write the information given him in a book. The book would then clarify God's ways of communication so that modern man could understand them and recognize them in the pages of the Scriptures. The book would also explain the great fundamental questions of Christianity by simply quoting the explanations brought by the spirit from God. This book stands virtually alone as a unique source of knowledge about the beyond, and of Christ. As such, it cannot be recommended too highly as the key which unlocks the Scriptures. Pastor Greber's book, Communication with the Spirit World of God: Its Laws and Purpose, is available at a modest cost from the Johannes Greber Memorial Foundation, 139 Hillside Avenue, Teaneck, New Jersey 07666 (Tibbs' note: the Greber Memorial Foundation was defunct during the 1990s. See this website, "Home").
The Greber book unravels the knot of manmade doctrines which entangle the modern Christian. In so doing, the book confirms the truth of the prediction Paul wrote to Timothy: that men have turned to fables and doctrines inspired by demons (see I Tim 4:1).
We find ourselves today having no shortage of learned professors and theologians, but having a severe shortage of rational answers about the causes and course of our existence. It is as though we are "always wanting to be taught, but are incapable of reaching a knowledge of the truth" (II Tim 3:7 NEB). We often find that we are described by Paul's words regarding such people who "do not have the slightest understanding of the terms that they use or the things of which they speak with so much assurance" (I Tim 1:7 GNT). Understanding the terms used in the Scriptures is prerequisite to understanding spiritual matters. With this in mind, we turn to a brief study of certain Biblical words.