Outside the City

It was once commonly thought that witchcraft and other forms of sorcery were not a problem in western countries that claimed to be Christian nations, but in recent times it has become evident that even leaders of governments and churches have been involved in various practices of sorcery.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he made reference to the experience he had in the city of Ephesus where he had stayed for a time. He said, “For a great and effective door has been opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” I Corinthians 16:9.

What was this great and effective door that was opened to him? Ephesus was one of the leading cities at that time from which the gospel could spread all over the world. It was one of the most magnificent cities, but it was also one of the most corrupt. A tremendous amount of superstition and sensual pleasure that held sway over the multitudes was practiced within Ephesus. Under the shadow of the idol temples in the city, criminals of every grade found shelter, and the most degrading vices flourished.

It is interesting how often in the last several thousand years that criminals have used some form of religion to escape the ravages of the law that would otherwise come upon them. Ephesus was famous for the worship of the goddess Diana and the practice of magic flourished. The great temple there was dedicated to the goddess Diana, or Artemus in the Greek and was regarded by the ancients as one of the wonders of the world.

Kings and princes had bestowed large donations upon the building and the Ephesians vied with one another in adding to its splendor. It contained a large amount of the wealth of the surrounding country. Inside the temple was enshrined a goddess, an idol which, according to tradition, was supposed to have fallen from the sky. Upon the idol were inscribed various mystical symbols that were believed to possess great power and it was believed that by entreating the idol, miracles would be wrought.

Some people believed that they had been protected from robbers and even from death by the idol. Numerous and costly books had been written by the Ephesians explaining the meaning and use of these symbols and about how to practice their worship rituals. The people thought that magic, magical rites, and the use of these religious systems, could solve all of their problems.

God chose the apostle Paul to show these worshipers of idols and the magicians something in great contrast to what they were practicing. “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them.” Acts 19:11, 12.

As a result of being involved with sorcery and magic, evil spirits had possessed many of the people, but through the influence of the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit worked miracles to deliver them. The manifestation of supernatural power that accompanied the apostle’s work made a deep impression upon the minds of these people who had been under the sway of sorcery.

The people had prided themselves upon their association and intercourse with invisible beings. The miracles of Paul were more potent than anything that had ever happened by the use of magic. It was seen that miracles performed in the name of the Lord could not be imitated by any of the magicians in town or by their enchantments. In this way the Lord exalted his servant even in the estimation of the idolaters themselves, immeasurably above the most favored and powerful of the magicians. The spirits of evil are subject to the God of heaven and He gave His servant authority over them. In fact, the God of heaven was about to bring even greater shame and defeat upon the magicians and those who despised and profaned His Holy name.

Sorcery was prohibited by the Mosaic law on pain of death. Notice what it says in the law of Moses about this: “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31. “And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people.” Leviticus 20:6. “A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.” Leviticus 20:27. To be involved with sorcery of any kind was to be condemned to death.

In Deuteronomy 18:9–12 the warning is repeated: “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.”

One of the main reasons the nations in Canaan had to be destroyed was because of their practice of sorcery. God said, “You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” Verse 13.

Sorcery was prohibited by the Mosaic law on pain of death, yet it had been practiced from time to time by apostate Jews. At the same time that Paul was in Ephesus, there were in the city certain Jewish people who claimed to be able to cast out evil spirits. Seeing the wonders that were wrought by Paul, they claimed to have equal power. They believed that the name of Jesus would act as a charm and they determined that they would also cast out evil spirits in just the same way as he had done. In Acts 19:13–17, this event is recorded. “Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.”

The discomfiture and humiliation of those who had profaned the name of Jesus was soon broadcast throughout all of Ephesus, in all of Asia, and in the territory that we call Turkey today. Unmistakable proof had been given of the sacredness of that name and of the peril that a person who should invoke it brought upon themselves while they had no faith in Christ’s divine mission. Terror seized the minds of many people and the work of the gospel made tremendous progress. Facts came out that had previously been concealed and unknown. However, there were some people who, in accepting Christianity, had not fully renounced all of their heathen superstitions. They were still trying quietly to practice some of their magical rites. When they were convinced of their error they came and made a full confession to the apostle Paul and publically acknowledged their secret arts as deceptive and Satanic. Many sorcerers abjured the practice of magic and received Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

“And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and multiplied.” Acts 19:18–20.

This public renunciation of sorcery turned out to be a grand victory for Christianity in the very stronghold of superstition. From Ephesus the news was widely circulated concerning the converts who had burned their books on magic. They showed that the things they had once delighted in they now abhorred. It was through magic that they had especially offended God and imperiled their souls, and it was against magic that they showed such indignation. This was given as evidence of their conversion. These treatises that they burned were treatises on divination that contained rules and forms of communication with evil spirits. They were the regulations for the worship of Satan, the directions for soliciting his help and obtaining information from him. By retaining these books the disciples would have exposed themselves to temptation. By selling them they would have placed temptation in the way of others. So, because they had renounced the kingdom of darkness, they did not hesitate at any sacrifice to destroy its power. The truth triumphed over man’s prejudice, over their favorite pursuits, and over their love of money.

It is supposed by some people that because of our modern civilization, these heathen superstitions have disappeared. But have they really? Both Bible prophecy and also the testimony of the facts show that sorcery is practiced today in this Christian age among Christian nations just as much as by old time magicians but in a different form. The ancient system of magic is in reality just the same as that which is now known as modern spiritualism. Satan is finding access to thousands of minds all over the world by presenting himself under the guise of departed friends. Through mediums people think they can communicate with the spirit of a departed friend or relative or the spirit of a famous person who has died. But the Scripture says, “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6. And in verse 10 it says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.”

The book of Genesis and the book of Job were the first two books of the Bible written. In both of these books the state of a person in death is explicitly and plainly stated. God Himself told Adam and Eve, “Dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19, last part. Concerning death the book of Job says, “As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, so he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house, nor shall his place know him anymore.” Job 7:9, 10. When people think they are talking to the spirit of the dead relative, they are actually talking to somebody else. They are indeed talking to a spirit, but it is not the spirit of their dead relative.

Job 14:10–12 explains when the dead person will wake up—when they will have consciousness again. He says, “Man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? As water disappears from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep.” While life exists, as we know it, until the end of time, they will not be aroused from their sleep until the Lord returns.

Jesus talked about this subject several times. He said that death was a sleep. “These things He said, and after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’ Then His disciples said, ‘Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.’ However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’ ” John 11:11–14.

Jesus also predicted when those that were dead would wake up. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.” John 5:28, 29.

Jesus said explicitly in John 6:40 when He will wake up the dead: “This is the will of Him Who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Today, true to his early cunning, when the devil appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent and in that form deceived the mother of our race, Satan employs deceptive devices to gain control of the minds of men, appearing to them as the spirit of a dead relative.

It is to protect men from the deception of Satan that the Bible explicitly forbids any such practice. Yet the Bible makes it very clear that in the last days people will be practicing sorcery again. In fact, the Bible says that it will be through sorcery that the whole world will be deceived in the last days. They will not know that it is the devil that is deceiving them for to be deceived means that there is no awareness of the deception. However, through sorcery, by communication with what people think are the spirits of the dead, or the apostles, or saints, or holy people from past ages, people believe that they are talking to the spirits of those who have died. They are not. Like King Saul, who believed he was communicating with the spirit of Samuel, they are talking to the spirits of evil angels.

Notice what the book of Revelation says about this: “And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.” Revelation 9:21. And then, talking about the end of time: “The light of a lamp shall not shine in you (referring to Babylon) anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.” Revelation 18:23.

The heathen oracles of ancient times have their counterpart today in spiritualistic mediums, clairvoyants and fortunetellers. The mystic voices that spoke to ancient peoples from Endor and from Ephesus are still, by their lying words, misleading the children of men. Things like secret associations, séances, and the obscurities and wonderers of the sorcerers of our time have replaced the mysteries of ancient heathen worship. These disclosures are eagerly received by thousands of people who refuse to accept light from God’s word or from His Spirit. They will not believe the Bible, but they will believe in magic and miracles. While they speak with scorn about ancient magicians, the great deceiver laughs in triumph as they yield to his arts in a different form. Satan’s agents still claim to cure disease today. They profess to employ electricity, magnetism, and so-called sympathetic remedies, but the truth of the matter is, this magnetic power of which they boast is directly attributable to the sorcery of Satan. It is by this means that he casts his spells over the bodies and souls of men.

The sick, the bereaved, the curious, are today communicating with evil spirits and they know it not. All who venture there are on dangerous ground for the Word of truth declares how God regards them. In ancient times the Lord said through Elijah to one of the kings that because he sought evil spirits instead of seeking the Lord, he was going to die. Today, the visible and the invisible world are in close contact. If we could lift the veil on the invisible world and behold what is happening we would see evil angels all over the world employing their arts to deceive and to destroy. Wherever there is an influence that is being exerted to cause men to forget God, it is there that Satan is exercising his bewitching power.

If we are seeking scenes of dissipation or irreligious pleasure, if we are seeking the society of the sensualist or the skeptic or the blasphemer, we are tampering with sorcery. Before you are aware, your mind will be bewildered and your soul polluted. It is not necessary to even have physical contact with sorcery to become involved. You can be influenced by it through the press, through video, the Internet, television and other mediums whereby communication is distributed to the masses.

The apostle Paul made an exhortation to the people in Ephesus that we need to pay attention to today. He wrote, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11. Spiritualism in every form is very dangerous.

The Lord has given strict warning in His word that His children are not to have anything to do with sorcery or communication with the spirits of the dead or anything of the like. In fact, this is so serious that in the very last book of the Bible, we are told repeatedly that the person who does this will not be in the kingdom of heaven. It says, “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8. In the final reckoning, “the sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolators, and whoever loves and practices a lie” (Revelation 22:15) will be outside the city; they will perish.

God means exactly what He says. We need to learn to fear God and give glory to Him, and realize that the hour of His judgment is come (Revelation 14:7). He is going to judge those who disregard His warnings and who worship and listen to the advice of evil spirits. Whom will you believe?

(Bible texts are from NKJV unless otherwise noted.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.