Strange Doctrine Concerning the Dead

A recently published book entitled, “Can the Dead Communicate with the Living?” contains, along with much that is good, some very grave errors. The subject treated is one of great interest in the public mind just now, so the book is likely to be widely read; The author, Dr. I. M. Haldeman, is widely and favourably known as an able writer on evangelistic and prophetic subjects; it was therefore a painful surprise to find in the book most glaring errors as to the condition of the dead, both of the righteous and of the wicked. This calls for exposure, that saints may be warned, and thus put on their guard.

The book contains many minor errors and unscriptural statements leading up to the principal one at the last, the final condition of the wicked dead after the resurrection.

Among these lesser errors are the following:

(1) “Abyss in the New Testament signifies hades” (p. 13). That the terms are not synonymous, a careful consideration of the passages (found with a Greek concordance) will show, The soul of Christ was in hades (Acts 2:27), but in the abyss, where Satan is to be cast, never! (Rev. 20:3).

{*The Greek word ὰβυδδος (Abyss, the pit) is used in the following passages: Luke 8:31; Rom. 10:7; Rev. 9:1-2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3.
** άδης (Hades) in the following: Matt. 11:23; 16:18; 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; l Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14.}

(2) Again, “Demons are the souls of persons who once lived on this earth” (p. 12). “As the spirits who infested the man of Gadara plead that they might not be sent into the deep, as the deep is hades; and as only the souls who once lived on earth and died could go there, then these demons were the disembodied souls of human beings; and as they were disembodied spirits, then they had already been in hades, and were pleading with the Lord that he would not send them back” (pp. 15-16). These statements, dogmatically uttered, are so manifestly contrary to sound judgment, based on Scripture, that no comment is required to show their untrustworthy character.

(3) “The unclean spirit,” going out of a man, in Matthew 12, he makes to be the soul of a sinner leaving his body at death! And he takes the passage as proof that the wicked dead can, and sometimes do, return to earth. Here are his words: “Yet He (Christ) is giving the description of an actual fact, and corroborates the statement that the wicked dead can come out of hades, enter in and dwell in the bodies of men as their houses” (p. 18). But the unclean spirit says, “I will return into thy house from whence I came out. If this is the soul of a man who has died in his sins, how is it possible that he could, after leaving his body, re-enter it with seven other spirits more wicked than himself, “and dwell there?” Was his corpse the “house” to which he returns? Would Dr. Haldeman tell us?

(4) “They break out of hades as prisoners break out of jail. They are jail-breakers,” (p. 18). Amazing statement! If the wicked dead may escape from hades, how does he explain the words of Abraham to the rich man in hades, in Luke 16: “Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come: from thence.” The “great gulf” was “fixed” There was no chance to break jail there — the abode of souls: of the wicked dead. And Mr. Haldeman himself says of Lazarus, “He cannot leave his place of rest” (p. 33). How then, anymore, can the spirits of the wicked leave their place of confinement? By what means did they break jail? Was God, like Baal, “sleeping?” Even Satan, at the end of the thousand years, does not “break jail,” or escape, he “shall be loosed out of his prison,” it distinctly says (Rev. 20:7). The power that imprisoned him deliberately and designedly sets him free. Such imaginings savour more of the movies than the sober statements of the Word of God.

(5) Mr. Haldeman says of Satan, “The Lord God appointed him to be prince of this earth when it was first created” (p. 37). Possibly; but it is an entirely gratuitous assertion, without one word of Scripture to back it up. It is at best, conjecture, yet he makes the statement a confidently as one would say, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

(6) He says further of Satan: “In justification of himself he accused the Lord, as afterward he accused Him before man. In becoming the accuser of God he became — the Devil; for ‘devil’ signifies ‘accuser’” (p. 37). Where did he learn this — that Satan, before he accused Him before man, was the accuser of God? This is another wild conjecture, which borders on the profane, or “old wives’ fables.”

(7) Speaking of what happened to the earth when Satan and his angels sinned (he is certain that it occurred here on earth), Dr. Haldeman says, “Jarred from its original orbit about the sun, it floated into space a black, drowned, sunless, silent thing, like a funeral convoy” (p. 38). This is very poetic, but is it the truth? Whence obtained he this “inside” information? Has he become wiser than Scripture — or the astronomers?

(8) Satan is also represented as suggesting to Adam, by way of temptation, that, “He could create a race in his own image, and fill the world” (p. 39). But was not the man expressly commanded by God to, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth?” (Gen. 1:28). This is not only rash, but baldly unscriptural.

(9) “The ‘outer darkness’ of Scripture,” he says, “is the zone outside the earth’s atmosphere, between it and the atmospheric enclosures of the other planets in the starry universe” (pp. 38-39). Again we ask, astonished, “Where hath he this knowledge?” Not from Scripture, certainly, for the Book of God knows nothing of such disclosures.

(10) Of Adam, he says, “He was not created to be an animal working with tools, but as the enthronement of God he should have spoken and it would have been done; he should have commanded, and it would have stood fast” (p. 40). But do we not read in Scripture, “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and keep it”? (Gen. 2:15). Was he to cultivate it without the use of tools? Are these the statements of a sober mind — a mind subject to Scripture? And when he attributes to Adam unfallen the creatorial prerogative of God, he comes perilously near the verge of blaspheming. Was not the very temptation set before him by Satan, “Ye shall be as gods?” If he had already possessed such creatorial powers, as ascribed to him by Mr. Haldeman, where would be the force of the devil’s temptation?

(11) The “bottomless pit” (the abyss), into which Satan is to be confined for a thousand years, he takes to be hades, without a hint of its being this in all the Word of God (p. 42). Milton we can understand in this, as a poet, untaught in Scripture; but coming, as it does, from Dr. Haldeman, we know not what to think.

(12) Imagining the “angels” of 1 Corinthians 11:10 to be wicked spirits, Mr. Haldeman says, For “this cause (on account of her constitutional relationship to man) ought the woman to have a veil on her head because of the angels” (p. 43). The parenthesis is his own explanation of “for this cause;” then he concludes with these puerile words as to those spirits, “They are full of impish curiosity. They listen … they can hear the secrets of a family,” etc., (p. 43). All this savours of a highly imaginative and unbridled mind, which might be borne with; or gently censured; but now, when he comes to speak of the condition of the wicked dead, and express his conception of eternal punishment, it becomes a matter of gravest concern, and the teaching to be rebuked as of man’s mind, unsubject to God’s Word.

Eternal punishment is no more to him than disembodiment. The wicked are to be raised, judged, and cast into the lake of fire, where their bodies will be consumed, leaving them in a discarnate condition — naked spirits. This will be their “torment” for ever. “He must suffer,” he says, “his abnormal condition of disembodiment” (p. 92). And to explain why the Christian dead do not suffer because of their present disembodied state, he says, “When the Christian dies, he finds his articulation with the body of Christ realized; as out of that body he has received his spiritual life and nourishment while on earth, so the moment of disembodiment he finds the body of his Lord a resource in sustaining his new condition” (p. 92). Highly fantastic this, to say the least. We might almost imagine we were reading something from “Science and Health.” But see page 92.

The demoniac’s “legion” he makes to be discarnate human spirits. Commenting on their words, “Art Thou come to torment us before the time?” he says. “As torment to them meant disembodiment, and they had previously been disembodied by death; as this embodiment in living, other persons was temporary, it could refer only to another period of disembodiment, and therefore to a period of embodiment of their own before that” (p. 94).

Describing in his inimitably graphic way the last resurrection and great white throne judgment, he says, “The sentence which previously condemned them to disembodiment will be confirmed” (p. 95). Again, “Their bodies will be consumed;” and yet again, “As the body will be destroyed, and the soul will never cease to exist; as after the death of the body [in the lake of fire?] there will be no resurrection, then the soul will remain in a state of disembodiment forever. The soul will be an eternal ghost.” And finally (though there is much more of the same kind), “This is the eternal and unquenchable fire against which the Son of God so intensely warns” (p. 98).

Painful reading all this is to one abiding by God’s Word. It is another way than those of Mrs. Eddy, Mrs. Ellen G. White and “Pastor” Russell, to explain away the real eternal punishment of the Bible, “the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are cast, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (Rev. 20:10), and which the finally impenitent share with Satan. If this punishment is merely to be discarnate, how will it operate on Satan, who is a spirit?

And if the fire is intended merely to destroy the resurrected body, why raise the wicked at all? Why not just continue to confine them in their present disembodied condition in hades, and see that no more of them “break jail”? And why speak of fire in hades now, if “the eternal fire” is just to consume the resurrection body?

A final question: Matthew 25:41 says if the wicked are to suffer the same punishment as “the devil and his angels,” how can this punishment be a mere discarnation, when such a mode of punishment could not possibly be applied to Satan and the wicked spirits?

No, the doctrine of Mr. Haldeman’s book need but be stated to be refused by every one who would be guided by the Word of God. It is a painful task to expose such pernicious teachings, coming as they do from a “brother beloved,” one whose writings in the past have been helpful to many, but who now appears to allow his lively imagination, alas! to carry him off his feet. But God’s Word casts down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and brings into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Let us keep to the safe statements of Scripture, and not seek to “be wise above that which is written.” Let us turn away from novel or startling conjectures concerning things spiritual, but “hold fast the form of sound words.”