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This sermon is the first of 3 delivered at the 2023 Academy of Theology Conference hosted at Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa earlier this year.
Our responses to matters pertaining to the spirit world are usually influenced by our African traditional belief system(s). But what does the Bible say? Charlie Rampfumedzi helps us understand what spirits are and how Christians ought to view them, in light of the truth of God’s word.
The African mind attributes every bad occurrence to the involvement of spirits.
In Charlie’s words, “Every bad occurrence in your life, the first thing is you attribute that to the involvement of the spirits. That’s how the African mind and their lifestyle are shaped. Everywhere you go, whatever you do, the first thing that is right in your mind and affecting your mind – spirits.” “But,” as Charlie continues, “The truth will set you free.”
The Christian faith doesn’t deny the reality of the spiritual world. Indeed, most biblical authors recognise that Christians are engaged in spiritual warfare. However, in this talk, Charlie shows that this reality should be understood within the salvation and lordship of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we can know certain things about the spirit world, which God has revealed in scripture.
Entrust Yourself to the Greatest Power
As he says, “The Son, the Lord Jesus, will set you free and if the Son – Jesus Christ – sets you free, the Bible says you are free indeed. You will trust him and fully devote yourself to him – not live your life as if he exists – but realise that he really exists. He’s real. He’s real. What you accepted, what you have received, you have received the real deal – Jesus Christ.”
There are no spirits of human beings, saved and unsaved, on this planet.
Charlie concludes by saying, “Lastly, all Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit – all of them. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you? You are not your own. For you were bought with a price. You belong to someone else, to God, the Holy Spirit, the best teacher, the permanent, resident teacher who is with you, not two days, not three days, all the time. That’s why he’s the comforter. That’s the one we need as the followers of Christ. And that’s what we pray for, that through our gospel, those who are troubled by the spirits will receive the gospel and be indwelled by the Holy Spirit, not by other spirits.”
The makeup of this world is complex, but there are things we can say confidently regarding the spirits of those who’ve died. We can also take confidence in the lordship of Jesus Christ and empowering presence of his Spirit.
If you can’t listen or watch this sermon, you can always read the transcript below. You also might want to check out a few related articles:
Date: 19th August 2023
Location: 2023 Academy of Theology Making the Invisible Visible Conference, Christ Church Midrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Amen. Amen. It is indeed a privilege and a great honour to be with you. And especially the invitation that was extended as well to me, just to come and be with you and open God’s word. And even share what, I’m instructed, commanded to do, of which, by the grace of God, I believe I’ll will be able to deliver what the Lord has also laid in my heart and what I’ve prepared, so that we’ll be helped.
I’m not going through the names but yes, I give thanks to the leadership of Theology of Academy and their associates for having this kind of a conference. And thank you for coming as well because if it was not for you, chances are we were not going to have this conference. But thank you that you came, and you came with expectations. And our prayer is some of them will be met in this conference. And if not, we are still available. You can contact us.
I’m not going to preach. The leadership were asking me, “What are you preaching on?” I didn’t know that I’m preaching! But if they want me to preach, I do have a Bible with me, and I’ll preach. But I want to present what I prepared. And I will begin with the text of Scripture. There are two passages that I’m going to read in preparations for our topic.
Biblical Basis For Understanding The Spirit World
And I’m not just reading them in passing. These are serious, serious topics, serious texts that I’m going to read. They are serious in the sense that when you came here, some of you thought you just coming here to get information to help some people – that’s how some of you came. “There are people who need help. I don’t need help.” I think these texts that I’m going to read – they’re for you. You need help and you need it seriously. Seriously.
If you have your Bible, let me invite you to go to John chapter 8. John chapter 8. These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ as he was talking to the Jews, the religious leaders of the day. We’re going to start reading from verse 31 and I’ll continue up until verse 36. John chapter 8:31-36. The Bible reads,
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed him…” (John 8:31). This ministry is very passionate about contextualizing the truth in the context where they live. Now you can start doing the same thing as we read. So Jesus was saying to those Africans who had believed in him. Put yourself there. If I were to exposit the whole of this section you will learn that that aspect that he mentioned right there when he said “believe” – there are some people who believe but not saved and these are the kind of people is addressing here. They have facts. They believe the facts but they never leave the facts, they never practice the facts.
You notice what it says later, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine.” (John 8:31). We do have so many disciples. By the way, you should know that a disciple is not a synonym of a Christian. A disciple is a learner, is a student, is someone who sits under the instruction of another. What the Lord Jesus is looking for are disciples of Jesus. And, as preachers of the Word, as pastors, what we are commanded by Jesus is to make disciples of Jesus, not our disciples, not disciples of any other individual. You can be a disciple of someone else and not a disciple of Jesus. “If you continue in my word, (that’s what he said) then you are truly a disciple of mine.”
Verse 32, “…and you will know the truth (and that’s where the personal aspect comes in) and the truth will make you free, the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). I’ll come back to this. They answered him, these are the Jews, now you put yourself (there) again. They said, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say you will become free?” (John 8:33). You notice a denial which is so true in many of our Africans as well. These Jews are denying that they are enslaved, they are in bondage. And more so, they are trying by all means to deny the history. If they were to go to the history, they would realize that they were slaves in Egypt but they are denying that.
But Christ is speaking more deeper than that because he’s addressing the spiritual issue here and they don’t see that. He’s not talking about physical; this is spiritual. Listen to the next verse, “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.’” (John 8:34) Did you notice he said “everyone,” not “some.” Everyone who commits sin, he a slave, meaning sin is then the master of that individual. And if sin is your master, you will do what sin demands. You fulfil the demands of sin. You subject yourself to sin. That’s what a slave is.
(Verse) 34, “Jesus answered ‘Truly, truly I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever. The Son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36) You connect that with verse 32, “And you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.” That’s exactly why I said you are addressed by this text. What we need as Africans is genuine freedom. It’s true spiritual freedom. That’s what we need.
You ask yourself from this text in terms of what is it that we are to be freed from? Are we really not free? Are we not Christians? Are we not believers? Yes, we profess to be Christians. We profess to be believers, but do we live that out to such an extent that we can demonstrate that we are truly disciples of Jesus? We need to be freed from the bondage of spirits.
We’re now going to try … it is not only humbling but puts us to shame when we profess Jesus, but when we live our lives as if Jesus is not truly powerful. As if he is not really a saviour. I can really testify that 80%, even in this room, 80, 80, I’m not – that’s why I said I won’t risk, I’ll just give the statistics and you can prove me wrong – live in fear of the spirits.
Every bad occurrence in your life, the first thing is you attribute that to the involvement of the spirits. That’s how the African mind and their lifestyle are shaped. Everywhere you go, whatever you do, the first thing that is right in your mind and affecting your mind – Spirits. Spirits.
The truth will set you free. The Son, the Lord Jesus, will set you free and if the son – Jesus Christ – sets you free, the Bible says you are free indeed. You will trust him and fully devote yourself to him, not live your life as if he exists, but realize that he really exists. He’s real. He’s real. What you accepted, what you have received, you have received the real deal – Jesus Christ.
The truth will set you free from fear, from fear.
We fear the spirits, we fear death. But how about “abathakathi?” (witches) You go look around your household and immediately you will attribute something, “No, no, someone has done something here. That’s why these things are not progressing well.” And you live with that fear.
“The truth will set you free … and if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Let me take it to another text. Go to Ephesians chapter 6. Ephesians chapter 6. I’m going to read verses 10 to verse 20 and I will fly through this a little bit quicker, but I will pause a little bit in verse 12 and read towards the end because that has already given us the solution to where we are going.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (All these are answers to the question of the how, towards the end.) And put on the full armour of God so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10)
That’s 6:10. I’m now getting to verse 12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6:12) Now we are not wrestling against individuals, we’re not fighting against each other. You see the problem of Africans? When something happens the first thing that you’re thinking about in your mind is someone else, because nothing just happened in Africa. Somebody caused it and you’ll find that person later!
The Bible says we’re not fighting against each other. Let’s find out what the battle is. What are we really fighting against? “…but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). These are the enemies and who are these? The spirits. We’re going to find out and distinguish which ones are we talking about? Which ones is Paul talking about here? That’s my goal as well. If I manage to accomplish that, I think I will have done what I have prepared for.
This is where lies the battle. Our wrestling is with spiritual forces of darkness, that’s what we wrestle about and that’s why we need to understand this. “Therefore, take up the full armour of God so that you will be able to resist in the evil day and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with truth and having put on the breastplates of righteousness and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace. In addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit. And with this in view, be on the the alert with all perseverance and petitions for all the saints and pray on my behalf that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel for which I’m an ambassador in chains, that in proclaiming it, I may speak boldly as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:13-20)
I think the answer is already given right there. I’ll just remind you. If you noticed from verses 13 onwards, that’s the answer in terms of how to put this into practice. But let me then get into my preparations and go through this – they didn’t tell me the time but I think it’s an hour. It’s an hour. [Laughter] Yeah because you go to those events and the organizer gives you that liberty: “As the Spirit leads!” Well, I was waiting for that as well. “No, no it’s not an hour. As the spirit leads, keep going!”
Existence Of Spirits
Well, I’m assigned to address the nature of the spirits and how they interact with human beings. We’re dealing here, if I were to explain, with spirits and their communication with people. I said this in my opening statements that indeed our meeting here is not for those who are not here, but is for us. What we have to admit to begin with is that spirits exist.
I developed a conviction as well and it just needs to grow as I study and as I research and especially in the context of Africa: there are no atheists in Africa – doesn’t exist. If you claim to be an atheist and you live in Africa you’ve been influenced by secular education. And we wonder as well how you live your life.
There is no such thing in Africa. Africans are religious people and they believe in the existence of the supernatural, as an African. That’s why we cannot deny this topic. We start right there by that particular kind of an admission and we add as well in terms of the naturalist – we don’t have that in Africa. Africans believe that spirits exist. They believe that there are Supreme Beings and they are as well nature and even ancestor spirits. That’s Africans, that’s us, we believe that.
Now I also observed as well in terms of the topic before us, asking myself what is missing though? What is missing in this topic? What is missing as well in relation to our context right here in Africa? I find that what is missing, number one, is the lack of content. It’s the lack of content. Africans believe in spirits without content. Africans believe as well and even practice connecting with the spirits, without the content.
I did think about that as I was asked to present, to be more practical, I will then be more practical towards the end, but if we don’t equip our people and educate our people to a point wherein the Spirit of God will implant this truth in their hearts so that they develop a conviction that to live by – we’re not helping our people either. They’ll continue practicing things without content.
I notice as well that if they lack content therefore, we need to give them clarity on the spirits. We need to answer the question: who are these spirits? Who are they really? Do they know? I told you they lack content. We need to give clarity as well on the destiny of human spirits. That’s my main focus today. That’s the one I said if I managed to do that, that I would have done justice to my preparations.
What is the destiny of the spirits? Where do the departed dead go after death? Where do they really go? I can tell you that it’s a possibility that there’s still people, even in this room, who have no idea. They cannot answer that question. And if you cannot answer that question, how would you help someone who is struggling with that issue? And if you are to answer that question, it must be a conviction coming from the word of God as you have learned and you establish that in your heart that this is the truth. And then you can convey with confidence to someone else. That’s exactly what we want to do today. If we can do that, may God bless our efforts.
Thirdly is a conviction in the sufficiency of the word of God. And I try to choose those words carefully. Conviction is not just a mere belief, it’s a strong kind of belief. We are here today because of strong beliefs of the former saints who stood the ground and hold on to the truth. Men like Martin Luther who would say, “Here I am and here I stand.” That’s conviction. It drives a man and a woman. It can lead you as well to a point of dying for that particular truth. That’s conviction.
Albert Mohler, when he challenges leaders with that book on The Conviction to Lead; leaders are men with conviction. They have strong belief. They are willing to die for the truth. And that’s why, as Africans, we don’t want to suffer because we don’t have conviction. If we do have that, we’ll be in a position as well to resist and even deny some of the practices. Bafana mentioned some of those. I’ll touch on maybe a few as we go. What is lacking? Conviction in the sufficiency of the word of God. May God help us to develop that.
Our Interest In Spirits
I also wanted to address this in passing. I notice this is the question, the topic as well – why is this question or this topic really of great interest to Christians with African Traditional beliefs background? Why is this topic of great interest? There are few things. Let me touch that as well in passing, because you represent them. I rejoice in that I’m not just talking to proxies here. I’m talking to real people who are here and who represent this.
Number one is the influence of the African Independent Churches. If you come from the background of African independent churches, there is a belief in the spirits: not only belief practices as well and consultation that is going on again and again daily in those ministries and churches. Consultation and even contact with the ancestors. Some will even tell you in those churches if you are going through some challenges, they say what? “Take your Bible, close your Bible for now and consult your ancestors and make it right.” You’ll hear that.
Secondly is the practice of the Pentecostal churches. The practices of the Pentecostal churches is such that it is influencing a lot of people today. And immediately when they start talking about, “You have that access to the spirit world,” and you feel like definitely that’s what I want, because you know the background where you’re coming from, and you want that. You want that. Not when they start giving those prophetic utterances, “God told me.” They spend their time as well outside in the mountain somewhere there and, “I was with God.” “What do you mean we were with God?” “No, I was with him. Who are you to deny that? You were not there!” All those experiences that they bring.
Thirdly is the teaching of the Charismatic churches. The teaching of the Charismatic churches. They believe that all the gifts definitely are still in existence and, not only that, but they will spend most of their time as well thinking about that to a point wherein, if this mic is not working, well guess what, who caused that? The spirits! “You need to cast the spirit here that is disturbing this mic!” Okay what if there are just cords that need to be connected somewhere. We taught from our charismatic churches and we go with that and we leave with it.
In our present day you find the spread of this prophetic and deliverance ministries. The whole hour, others is two hours, of deliverance, not preaching of the word, just deliverance. The sad part with that is those people are not delivered. How do we know that? Because the next day they are delivering again. I thought you did it last week! If you are doing it the whole of this month, your whole church should be free by now because the same people are coming. There might be a few new ones who are coming. Now if you have delivered all your whole church and there are new people coming, there’ll be a handful – you just deliver them and then do something else. They have nothing else to do. It’s just deliverance, deliverance, deliverance, deliverance and it’s not working. It’s not working.
Well I find this troubling the increase and there’s an increase and we cannot help as leaders, as pastors but may the Lord help us as well to guide to get the solution of this: the claim of Traditional Healers, Sangomas that they have received Christ. and when you listen to their testimonies, they still connecting with the spirits. “Jesus came. I saw him and he told me this.” Now I said, “Which Jesus are you talking about? I think my Jesus is in Heaven and he’s preparing a place and he promised to come back. He’s not visiting earth and going back to heaven, visiting earth and going back to heaven, and then visiting individuals.” And when you ask them, you find different Jesus’s. Why can they explain and describe him as the same Jesus that the Apostle John saw? Why do we have different explanations of Jesus? It tells you that’s not the true Jesus of the Bible.
And we already see the growing number of young people, Bafana mentioned that as well, ages 12 to 22, claiming to be called by the ancestors. “I had a call from the ancestors.” 12 years. 15 years. Do they really understand? Do they really know what they’re doing? That’s why this topic becomes of great interest and because you will have this experience. Maybe you do find your child coming to you as Pastor, Dad, Mom, “The spirits are calling me. The spirits are calling me. I’ve got a call.” What do you do?
Lastly is the belief in African Traditional Religion. That belief is still bombarding our minds. Africans are preoccupied with spirits. We’re animistic in our beliefs. We believe spirits are everywhere – nature spirits. That’s why you will notice that even if you might get, maybe the boldness during the day to go to some graveyards, you can pass by there, but you’ll never do that at night. Never! It might be the shortest road to your house, you never do that. You’d rather take a long drive.
That’s a Christian claiming to know the Lord Jesus. And that Jesus of yours can do nothing about that particular thing. But later they’ll come and say, “He’s a conqueror.” But let’s see his conquering power at night crossing the cemetery. “I’ll never do that!” The Lord Jesus said “the truth will set you free … and if the Son sets you free, you’ll be free indeed.” You’ll be free indeed.
Biblical Teaching On Spirits
Okay, let’s rush and deal with some few things here. We have no problem in terms of the spirit world. I can take hours and hours taking you from one text of Scripture to the other in the whole Bible and I can spend time in the whole New Testament. Let me just summarize the whole New Testament by giving you all those portions, even though we’re not going to explain. But just to show you the seriousness of this topic and the fact that it is not what I just stated here that we do not have any problem in believing that Spirits exist – this is exactly what the Bible is teaching.
If you were to take the gospel to begin with you take the synoptic Gospel of Matthew up until Luke, you will learn that the Lord Jesus dealt with spirits. He delivered people from spirits. He cast out spirits, which is clear. The Bible is dealing with that.
You take the book of Acts and you learn from the Apostles and how they dealt with spirits. It’s in the Bible. I’m not going to take you to the verses. We’re not going to cover what I want to do. Go to the whole Pauline Epistles. You hear Paul talking about rulers, principalities and powers. What is that? There are spirits. He was aware of that. It’s in the Bible.
Now you can go to the general Epistles as well and you learn from the book of Hebrews, go up until the book of James, you’ll find as well that they’re dealing with spirits. James says, “Even demons believe, and they shudder.” (James 2:19)
He believes they’re there. All the Johannine Epistles, including the Book of Revelation, you’ll hear John as well speaking of spirits, of Satan, fallen angels and demons. It’s in the Bible, everywhere in the Bible. You cannot miss that. This is a very relevant topic for us. We cannot miss this understanding.
And then we believe that the spirit world really exists. The whole Bible teaches of the existence of God. It teaches of the existence of the holy angels. It teaches of the existence of the fallen angels, including Satan. It teaches as well of the departed dead, spirits of the departed dead. It’s right in the Bible.
What are we talking about when we talk about the spirit world? Let me then again bring this to your attention and we will bypass this as well. If it was not that I already interpreted the topic, where it’s going, I would have dwelt on something different. But I interpreted where it is going and that’s why I want to go there. But let me again, sort of, because I’m here to give some content. That’s my desire – to give some content.
When you talk of spirit world, we always narrow it down to ancestor spirits, and that’s what we are interested in hearing today. I said, no, you need a broader scope. Knowledge is key. Truth is key. Content is key. Do you know that God is spirit and he operates in the spirit world? But that’s not the topic of interest. If I say now that’s what I’m addressing, you’d say “Oh no! Did we pay for this? I wouldn’t pay for that! No, you missed the point.” No. You don’t know the point.
God is Spirit. He transcended. He is far above the whole of this universe. The whole universe exists in him and we are in him. And God that we serve is omnipresent. He is everywhere present in his fullness and he’s a God who’s near to us. He’s immanent. He’s very close to us. He’s here today. That’s why you don’t need a song to invite him to come. He was here before you came. That’s our God. He is spirit.
And we’re not interested in hearing of him. That’s not our interest. You see, if I had the opportunity to choose, that’s what I was going to dwell in, to let you know when you talk about the spirit world, you start with God. You need to understand him. You need to embrace the content of who he is and come to a point of embracing, as well, his existence. He’s the God who came in this world in the human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, same God, the same God.
You understand our Lord Jesus Christ, in his divine essence, is spirit. In his incarnation, he took the human flesh. That’s why he remains the God-man. He is still everywhere present in his divine essence but he’s localized in heaven right now because of his flesh. That’s Christ. He operates as well in the spirit world. When he promised to us that he will be with us until the end of the age, we didn’t believe those words. Why? Because we don’t understand his divine essence. “I will be with you until the end of the age.” He is Emmanuel indeed. God with us. He is God with us.
I also have to address the issue of holy angels, that they are spirits. The Bible says they are ministering spirits and ministering to us who will receive salvation. They don’t need that because they are holy but those who are saved, there are Holy Angels in the spirit world who are serving the Lord. Angels are always in the face of the Lord, in his very presence waiting for the next instruction. What do you want me to do next? What assignment is there for me? And they are willing to carry that assignment that God will assign to them. That’s the holy angels. There are myriads and myriads of them. They are everywhere present as well with regard to the assignment given by God.
There are also fallen angels. We’re going, we’re getting closer to our topic and then we close. There are fallen angels. Now let me clarify as well fallen angels. Fallen angels include Satan to begin with. He’s a fallen angel. Some of you are not aware of that. Satan is an angel. He’s a created being. He is not present. He cannot be here today in this room and be next door – impossible. He cannot be here in South Africa and be in the States at the same time. Impossible – doesn’t happen. If he’s here, he’s not in your room at home – for sure, for sure.
But you think of him and you think, “Oh no! Not that, not that one!” You attribute to him more existence and power beyond the one you received. He’s a creature. God could only ask him, “Satan, where are you from?” If I’m from, that means I move from one destination to another. And he honestly responded. In that regard, he honestly responded. “Did you see Job when you were busy traveling around?” “But which one? There might be a number of Jobs. Which one are you talking about? Can you describe him?” “Yeah, the blameless one, the upright one, that’s the one I’m talking about.” “Oh, yeah no, no. I saw that one.” Oh okay, he agrees.
He’s a creature. He can, he can only be in one place at a time and move to another and move to another. He cannot work with me and work with you at the same time. No, it’s impossible. But look how much we have exalted him, how much we fear him. And we subject ourselves as well in some ways to him and we’re not supposed to be. That’s why he’s happy. Wherever he is, he knows.
So I don’t want to go back to the aspect I mentioned – the charismatic movement as well – because if you cast him now here, that means he moves to another, to the next church. And the next church are casting him; he moves to another one because he found them casting as well. “Oh you’re casting here. I’m going to the next one.” Because we never stop casting as a sign that we don’t even know him, we don’t even know how he operates, we just speculate and we’re just wearing ourselves down, time and again. He’s a fallen angel.
There are demons who are called evil spirits, wicked spirits, all those are demons. They are fallen angels.
The Spirits Of The Departed Dead
Now let’s head to our topic because we do have a few minutes to cover. I think now you have a little bit of content, but we’re not done yet. The little bit of content I need to give you before we apply.
We look at the spirit of the departed dead. We look at the spirit of the departed dead. Let us go a little bit slowly right there because if I happen to really get you to this understanding, and you capture that in your mind, the application is easier. Not easier in the sense that you can do that now, but it’s easier for you to see because you’ll be clear with this.
There are two things that I need to really clarify: this has to do with the destiny of human spirits, the destiny of the human spirits. Because we want to see how does the spirit world connect with human beings. That’s the issue before us. How do they connect? And as I’ve already explained in my introduction, you’re not interested with God. You’re not interested with some, with Christ. No that’s not the issue. You want to understand the spirits.
And I’ve already dealt with the fallen angels who are evil spirits, demonic spirits, they are there. I will address them as well but I want to talk about these spirits of the departed dead that we call ancestors. That’s the issue today and that’s the issue I think you are here for, to understand how do they connect with the human beings? How do they relate with human beings? How do they really function? What exactly… how will I know these are the ancestors? How would I know?
Young people who are called, how will I know for sure as a parent that yes, this is the grandfather, the grand grand grandmother? How will I know for sure? What counsel do I give? How do I help them? That’s why it starts with us to understand that.
Two destinies. I have to go slowly here. There are two destinies for the spirit of the departed dead: two.
Destiny Of The Saved
Number one, we address the destiny of Christians. Where do Christians go when they die? Where do they go when they die? You are a believer. You are a Christian. You are a disciple of Jesus. Where do you go when you die, when you part ways with your body? Your body definitely we’re going to bury, but where do your spirit go? That’s the question we are to answer. And you are to get that right and you have to understand that and develop that conviction from the truth of the word of God.
Let’s start with a promise that Jesus gave to the criminal on the cross. What did Jesus say on the day when he was about to die and this criminal was also about to die? And see the truth here. Luke chapter 23:43. I’ll begin reading from verse 42. Jesus hanging on the cross, two criminals on the cross as well, one on the left, one on the right. After they rebuked each other, the one made a plea to Christ. And he was saying to Jesus, verse 42, “Jesus, (he called him by name) remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42) I know you are a king. I know you are going to come. I know you’re going to rule and you have a kingdom. I want to be part of that Kingdom. That’s change. That’s repentance. That’s conversion.
And he’s left with a few minutes, not an hour at this point in time. The Romans were coming because they know you can survive the cross. You can live for 3 days. Some can live even for a week. You just need to know how to breathe, pulling your muscles up a little bit and then down, you can survive for 3 days, right there. They know you live longer there. They come and then finish you up, come with the club and start to hit you. Then he knows that’s coming. He made a plea. The other one is silent, just like many people as well.
“And he said, (this is Jesus) ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise. Today, today you shall be with me in paradise.’” (Luke 23:43) Is paradise a place? Yes. Does paradise exist? Yes. But where is paradise?
Paul knew about this place. In 2 Corinthians 12 he mentioned this as well. Listen to the word of God here in 2 Corinthians. Let me read verses 3 and 4. You can start reading from verse 1 on your own, “And I know how such a man – whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know God knows – was caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible words which man is not permitted to speak. He heard inexpressible words which man is not permitted to speak.” (2 Corinthians 12:3-4)
Now if you’re reading, you will learn as well, because he mentioned in verse 2, just to give clarity in terms of where paradise is, because some believe that paradise is right here on Earth. And God will just renovate this world, set it apart, remove some big mountains and make it clean.
So, no. Verse 2 says, “I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago – whether in the body, I did not know or out of the body, I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven.” (2 Corinthians 12:2) Paradise is in the third heaven. That’s the heaven of God. That’s where Christ is.
If you remember the account of Stephen, when they were stoning him, he raised his head and he looked up and he said, “I see the Son of Man standing on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” And he pleaded with the Lord, “Lord, receive my spirit.” And he died. (Acts 7:55-60)
Where do spirits of Christians go? Paradise. Where is paradise? The third heaven. Do you believe that? If not, that’s the truth. That’s the kind of conviction you are to hold on: all Christians who passed on this life, they are in the third heaven in the very presence of Christ right now.
You notice I’ve already closed quite a number of arguments we’re going to raise, but I’ll make that statement later on. Paradise exists. It’s for us Christians. The Lord Jesus is waiting for us right there. He’s welcoming Christians when they die right there. You can live your life with great confidence that, when you die as a Christian, you are heading straight to the very presence of Christ in heaven, the third heaven in paradise. That’s where you’re going. That’s where you’re going. That’s where your spirit is going. Sounds like that is easier to note.
Destiny Of The Unsaved
But now we deal with the unsaved. Where do the unsaved Spirits go? Where do they go? That’s where you’ll check, do some kind of research and you go through different ethnic groups beginning in our country, in South Africa, and go beyond South Africa. Check the whole of Africa as well. One thing you’ll observe: there is no consistency in terms of the destiny of the spirits. None.
Some of the spirits in your own ethnic group or clan, they’re in the caves somewhere. Some are in the rivers somewhere, some are in the dense forest somewhere. There’s no inconsistency! And that belief is right there in the minds, in the hearts, and in the lives of our people.
No wonder when you see people lining up to a particular mountain, they said, “This is our mountain and this is where we do our rituals and pour our libation because we believe our departed dead are right there.” They honour particular rivers as a place where the departed spirits are.
Others will just tell you “No, we don’t know; but one thing we know they’re in a community somewhere.” Because the community issue in Africa is a big thing. No one gets lost. No, no they’re still part of us. They’re still part of us, and we don’t want to separate from them and they also don’t want to separate from us. That’s the belief we have.
But let’s find out what is God saying about this? What is really the Scripture saying about the departed dead? We do have a passage of Scripture that we use in Luke chapter 16. There are a number of other passages that I can use but let me use this and then lead towards the end. Luke 16:19-31 is a passage of Scripture that is used and we use this as well to make a point and we clarify this point. And there will be questions that are raised time and again in terms of the destiny of the spirits of the departed dead. Let’s read the first few verses there and then build up on that:
“Now there was a rich man and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendour every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores and longed to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table. Besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man also died and was buried.” (Luke 16:9-22)
Both of them died.
Now the point of Christ here in the whole of this parable or this story is that your destiny is not determined by your social status. You can’t say because I’m rich, definitely I’ll be with God. Because you are poor, definitely you’ll be lost forever. Your social status has nothing to do with your destiny. You got to know Jesus Christ, saved and be saved, rich or poor, regardless of where you’re coming from as well. It’s not a matter of a cultural background, it’s what God is doing with the hearts.
They both died. The poor man was right there in Abram’s bosom.
“In Hades, (translated hell in some of your Bibles) he lifted up his eyes being in torment and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things and likewise Lazarus bad things. But now he is being comforted here and you are in agony. 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.”
And he said, “Then I beg you Father, that you send him to my father’s house for I have five brothers in order that he may warn them so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” But Abraham said they have Moses and the prophets, (That’s the Scripture) let them hear them.” But he said, “No Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” But he said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.”” (Luke 16:23-31)
Here’s the point: if you die as an unbeliever you go to Hades, you go to Hades. Hades is a place where the departed spirits that are not saved, that rejected Christ as Lord and Saviour, they are confined right there. They are kept right there. And from this story or this parable that you read, you notice as well the plea that was raised by the rich man. And one thing that we can also, not only one but number of things we can observe, he’s asking Father Abraham but why can’t he himself go to his house? Why can’t he do that himself?
I want us really to pause right here because that’s the gist of our presentation and you can immediately get the point. The spirits of the departed dead they cannot come back. The spirits of the departed dead cannot communicate with the living.
It is highly impossible for them to do that. They are confined in a place and that confinement – to give you an understanding – they are waiting for their final judgment that the Lord Jesus will then administer to them. Then they will be separated from God for eternity. “Gehenna” which we call the Hellfire is a place that God prepared for all unsaved sinners. All the spirits of the departed dead who leave this world unsaved are having a place for eternal torment.
That means there are no spirits of human beings, saved and unsaved, on this planet. That belief, that practice needs to change and only the truth will set you free. And only the conviction that is coming from the word of God will help you to embrace the truth and live by the truth.
And I know for sure this is not an easy concept. You are still struggling with this even now in your mind, but the truth of the word of God remains. And that’s why I mentioned that you did well by coming because this is our prayer: that let God the Holy Spirit challenge your mind and challenge your heart with this truth and as you wrestle about this, may he bring you to conviction that this is the truth. This is the truth.
They cannot come back. They cannot talk to you. You are left with a question then, of which I must answer that question as well. Because people are claiming out there that they are talking to their spirits, their grandfather, some of the grandfather and grandmother appearing on their bedside, and they talk to them and they give instructions and they tell you about what to do next and you believe that.
But what does the Bible say? And the funny part as well, you’ll find you will believe as well that even the saved ancestors still come back. “Aren’t going to heaven?” They said, “No, no, no, they visited me.” “Who gave them permission to come back?”
Who Are The Spirits On Earth?
Now let’s address that issue in terms of who are those then who are visiting people, talking to them, instructing them? And in our African beliefs and practice, there’s one aspect here then I will cover that as well in passing: the belief in dreams, that our ancestors are visiting us and talking to us through dreams.
You notice immediately, you’re using the ancestors and even the ancestor spirits. And even Christians are saying,
“Yes, I had a dream my grandfather came and he told me this.”
“Ja, last night.”
“Was he a Believer?”
“Oh yeah, he was a believer. In fact, he was a pastor.”
“Was he a pastor?
“Yeah, he was a pastor.”
“I didn’t know that. He came back?”
“Yeah, he came. I was with him.”
“I thought Christians go to heaven.”
“You said he came back?”
“Oh yeah, I was with him.”
And you trust that. That’s the confusion. And it’s not just a mere confusion, it’s denial of the truth, it’s denial. We don’t want to live the truth but maybe because we don’t have the truth. The Lord said if you have the truth that truth will set you free.
As much as we don’t like this, and even our elderly don’t like this, it’s not whether they like it or not. It’s what God Said in his Word. The Bible is clear in that we have spirits around us. Remember Ephesians chapter 6? What we are fighting for? We’re not fighting against each other. We’re not fighting against spirits of the departed dead; they are not around here. We are fighting against spiritual forces. Those are demonic spirits, those are fallen angels. They are called wicked spirits, evil spirits. They are the ones who are roaming around.
They are the ones who are as well indwelling unsaved people. They take residents in the body of unsaved people. In fact, all unsaved people are vulnerable to demonic possession. It doesn’t mean all of them are possessed but they are available and the demons can possess them anytime they wish and they can use them anytime.
That’s what we have right now. That’s how these spirits who are in existence right now connect with unsaved people – through possession. For some it is a voluntary kind of a possession because you are attracted as well to so many things around, like when we talk about Satanism that is growing in our country. If you are persuaded towards that, guess what? That’s an invitation of demonic possession. It’s an invitation as well of demonic kind of realm in your territory where you are. So that they instill fear in your own life because they exist. Demons exist.
But it is a comfort and still hard to believe: Christians cannot be indwelled by demons; they cannot. The Bible’s clear. Christ and Belial cannot share the same house. Impossible. Impossible. That’s where you get the remedy. What is it that we can use to help our people? There’s only one remedy for sure, one remedy. First the gospel because through the gospel whoever receives Christ as Lord and Saviour, guess what? Immediately, Christ entering your body, he expels all the demonic possession at that point. You don’t need any other deliverance better than. There’s no deliverance better than that. You can pray and pray and pray but that person can remain possessed for hours and even for years, but when the person receives Christ as Lord and Saviour – immediately guaranteed deliverance.
And that’s what our people need. That’s what all those other people around us… what about this young girl and what… No, no, no, no, they need Christ. They need the gospel. Therefore we are to know the true gospel and to present the true gospel and that’s the gospel of grace, is the gospel of Christ crucified – the one who rose from the dead having conquered all the rulers and principalities and he uses the cross as a spectacle of victory. And he still delivering people even today. That’s the Christ we need.
But we need to understand these points: no spirits of any departed dead is moving around. Those who testify about them coming, they will say, “Yes I heard the voice. Yes, the demands that they’re giving is exactly the same demand that I know, because they were asking for these clothes, they were asking for this item here.”
Okay, well demons are everywhere. If they were watching that particular individual – your father, your grandmother or grand grand grand grandfather – they know what they like. They know their interests. They would be, they’ve been watching where they were going as well. And now when the demands are raised you immediately succumb to that.
There’s a strange strange thing that concerns me as well and it should be a great concern to all of us: when they start making demands of some things which they’ve never owned. Does that not tell you this is not your people? You know your grandfather died, he never owned a goat. But when he comes back, he’s demanding a goat. And he cannot bring it to you. You are to go and look for it. And he don’t want it in your country, he wants it in Botswana. He never left you money to travel to go there and you are to borrow.
And that’s why Africa will always be poor because you’ll use all your resources trying to feed and entertain something that is not even related to you. That’s where we are, until we understand those are not your people, these are demonic spirits and their idea as well is not to help you in any way. Satan never came to help anybody. The Bible says he came to kill and steal. That’s what the Bible says and we need that help to understand.
Six Major Struggles
Let’s close. Let’s close. Let me close by giving you six items here. I won’t explain them. I’ll just read them and then Bafana can come and take us as well to the next session.
There are six major struggles Christians with ATR background face. There are six of them. The one, the first thing I mentioned already, let me mention again: the sufficiency of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture. We cannot really labour much on this but we have to in our own churches, in our own individual reading, we need to get to study and come to the conviction Scripture is sufficient. We need to arrive at that.
The cessation of new revelations. There is a cessation of New Revelations. God communicates through the Word of God. We need to come to that. The revealed will of God is confined in the pages of the Scripture. It’s right there. Where instructions are not as clear as possible you need the wisdom from God and the Bible says if you lack wisdom, guess what, you ask God for wisdom to make wise decisions that are in line with Scripture. That’s what you need.
Thirdly, the destiny of the human soul. The destiny of the human spirits. We need that understanding of where do spirits of the departed dead go? It is in heaven and in hell. That’s the bottom line. That’s the bottom line. The rest are spirits roaming around here. Yes the existence of Satan is clear, the existence of fallen angels, I think is clear for us but for some still lacking. We need as well to increase that knowledge because, like I mentioned, those long list of different avenues and churches, they need the true teaching of the Bible in this area, as they are trying by all means to fight them.
Fifthly, the only one mediator between God and man it’s the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s the saviour of all who believe. He’s the embodiment of who God is, most of all, God in the flesh. He’s the one who made it clear as well communicating to us, exegeting who God is.
Lastly, all Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit – all of them. Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you? You are not your own. You are bought with a price. You belong to someone else. You belong to God, the Holy Spirit, the best teacher, the permanent, resident teacher who is with you, not two days, not three days, all the time. That’s why he’s the comforter. That’s the one we need as the followers of Christ. And that’s what we pray for, that through our gospel, those who are troubled by the spirits will receive the gospel and be indwelled by the Holy Spirit, not by other spirits.
And then, we can communicate with God through prayer and God communicates with us through Scripture. That’s the bottom line.
Bafana, if you can take us through the next section, we can go on and on. You said an hour.