I am a pastor: please help me with ‘ancestral worship’

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Dear Prof Hattingh,

I am currently leading an Assembly. The men’s department decided to have a discussion about ancestral worship. I need your help regarding the following verses: 1 Samuel 28: 15/16 & Luke 16: 24-29.

After the discussions I will be required to give direction on this matter.  Can you kindly clarify these verses for me within the context of ancestral worship?

The story in 1 Samuel 28 is one of the most strange and inconceivable stories of the Old Testament.  It is also a very sad story of Israel’s first anointed king falling into sin and the grip of darkness, so much so that he afterwards killed himself.  Furthermore, it is also a display of the strange reality of darkness and evil – it is a story of the night.

It is strange, if you read the story hastily, that a saint of God like the prophet Samuel responded to the call of a medium and spiritualist. She was, however, shocked and cried out in fear when she saw Samuel and immediately recognised Saul, the king.  She was not fully clued-in with the situation.

Samuel was upset that Saul disturbed him by “bringing him up”, but none the less spoke God’s judgement on Saul: “tomorrow you and your sons will be with me”.

What do I try to understand from this story:

  1. There is a strange world of evil and spirit forces.
  2. God is in control and even this display of the reality of darkness was totally under God’s control and it served his purpose.  God is the great reality.
  3. There are two forces in this world:  On the one side God who is light and truth and on the other side the devil, darkness and the lie, which is no threat to God.  The Biblical truth is that everything, even the evil and the devil exist only because God allows it to exist.  In the Psalms the night which is seen as the birth place and habitat of evil, is employed as messenger of God.  Although this Samuel and medium story is very strange and evil, God is still in control.
  4. This strange story should not allow us to think that mediums and spiritualists are ways to make contact with the spirit world or with God, or to take part in ancestral worship.
  5. The Bible mentions this reality and warns us against it. Paul wrote: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6:12).
  6. In 1 Chronicles 10:11 we read: “So the Lord put him (Saul) to death and turned the kingdom to David, son of Jesse.”  God did it because Saul: “… did not keep the word of the Lord but consulted a medium for guidance, …”.
  7. Leviticus 19:31 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 contains God’s warning against: a medium or spiritist or whoever consults the death.
  8. The Biblical truth is that the only way to go to God is through Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus said: “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24).

The Luke 16 story is a parable although it is not mentioned as such.  Many of Jesus’ parables started with: “There was …”.  The content of Luke 16 is in the parable gender style. In a parable the speaker is conveying certain truths with the help of a story. One is not allowed to give meaning to every detail of the story.  You have to ask: “What is the specific truth that the speaker wants to convey with this parable?”   Certainly it is not possible that the parable suggests a conversation between the rich man in hell and Abraham in heaven or the possibility that somebody in heaven can put water on the tongue of somebody in hell or that somebody from there can come to earth to convey a message.

The parable does however convey the truth that there are two different destinations: one for God fearing people and another for those who do not fear God, an eternal heaven and an eternal hell with no crossing between the two.   And also that there is no possibility of sending a messenger from the other side to warn people on this side.  They have to listen to Moses and the Prophets, the Bible and God’s messengers.

There is no indication that one can or is allowed to make contact with people in hell or heaven or ancestral worship.

Finally, I have to put it straight, as you already know that the New Testament is very clear that Jesus our Lord and Saviour is the only door to God and salvation, and that salvation is worked through the Holy Spirit.  The people of Galatians wanted to add something else to this truth of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit but Paul was furious with them for doing this: “…let them be eternally condemned!” (Gal 1:9).

I trust that this will help.

Your friend,

Jan Hattingh

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  1. Thank you for writing on this important matter. I did a focused M.A that touched on Ancestor Christology in 2013 in the hope that I could add a bit to the discussion. North-West University has placed the thesis online: http://hdl.handle.net/10394/11043

  2. Geagte Prof Hatting,

    Ek hoop nie u gee om dat ek in afrikaans n bydrae lewer nie. Ek vind dit altyd interesand as mense met bybelse waarhede, taboes en skrifte gekonfronteer word waar ons soms gaan draai om verduidelings te gee.
    Ek besef dat ek geen teologiese onderig ontvang het nie maar kan met opregtheid se dat ek uit genade “vrygekoopte kind van God” agter my naam kan skryf.
    In ons menswees vergeet ons soms dat ons eindelik min van die geestelikke realim en wette weet. My mening is dat God dit juis so wou he. Ons kan net Levitikus 19:31, 20:6 en Jesaja 8:19 gaan lees soos God in sy woord vir ons laat opteken het dan is die verduidelikking reeds genoeg en duidelik wat God van die voorgeslagtelikke geeste beoefening dink. Is dit nie ook die selfde God wat gese het dat ” Ek jou met geen ander afgod deel nie” en dat Hy nie so iets by jou wil vind nie. Ons weet almal dat God geestelik is en so ook satan. As jy op die vlak is om geestelikke kommunikasie te he met enige geeste dan moet jy dienssbaar en onderdanig wees aan die geeste. Waarom wil ons die punt probeer bewys of dit moontlik is al dan nie as ons nie toegerus word of deur God toegelaat word om dit te doen nie. Vir God is enige iets moontlik en Hy kan toelaat wat Hy wil of nie wil nie!!
    Ek wonder of my boetie nie juis moet verduidelik aan sy mensies dat dit n gebied is waar kinders van God nie moet wees nie. Of jy “African Tripe” is met sy eie wette of westerse, oosterse of enige ander persoon, God se woord is vir almal die selfde met die selfde betekenis of bedoeling en ons almal sal die selfde oordeel ontvang soos ons woord vir ons leer.


  3. Kindly take note that as a born again Christian we are not allowed to do the ancestral worship. 1 Thes 4: 13 “13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

    1 Sam 28: 15 – 16 that was a vision Saul has seen because Samuel was always rebuking Saul because of disobedient, it was not Samuel as ghost or ancestral.

    • Hi ,thank you so much Prof for that information because those scriptures confuse quite a number of people.

      l though l could also add my comments and understanding pertaining the verses mentioned above.Starting with 1 Sam 28:15, why would Samuel who died a man of God appear when Saul had inquired from a woman with familiar spirits( ungodly spirit), ancestral worshiper.

      l think this happened because before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,Satan claimed all lives of those who died regardless of their prior relationship with God before death thus he Satan was in charge of the dead,why? because the blood of the Christ had not yet been shed for the cleansing of Man’s sins only the blood of animals had been shed, so Satan also stood by the word of God which He said”For the wages of sin is death;but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”(Rom 6:23)

      So as rightly said above in that parable in Luke 16:24 there are certain truths that were being tough us by our Lord e.g all the dead were under the control of the Satan, those who died without a good relationship with Jehovah would go to hell(a place to await the final judgement)which l believe is different from the lake of fire the place of eternal punishment.Those with a good relationship with Jehovah would go to Abraham’s bosom(another place to await judgement) these places where in the same vicinity but with a barrier.

      Thus 1 peter 3:19 talks of Jesus going to preach unto the spirits that were in prison, this is referring to the three days when He went to the heart of the earth when he preached to the spirits that were in the hands of Satan, this means even Samuel was part of the people who were preached to.To quote the words of pastor Perry Stone ,He was trying to paraphrase the message that our Lord could have preached to the spirits who were in prison as in 1 Peter 3:19 , He says Jesus could have started by asking Adam are you here and Adam responds yes I am here Iv been bound by Satan and Jesus in response says i have come, that tree that was called the tree of life in the Garden its me ,Isiah are you here, when you said unto as a child is born you were referring to me i have come ,pack your bags we are going, Abraham are you here ,when you said the Lord shall provide a lamp, you were prophesying about me pack your bags we are going.

      On the third day when Jesus was resurrected it is said that even the graves of those who had died were opened and they rose from the dead and appeared to many.This marked the exodus of the dead Godly, who were in prison. Abraham’s bosom now paradise was transferred as result of the death and resurrection of Christ.

      In conclusion and answer to the initial question ,Satan was in charge of all who died so when those with familiar spirits (ancestral worshipers) inquire of the dead, their inquiries go straight to the master of the dead who would decide which of the dead to show to the inquirers. And this phenomenon can never happen now because Satan is no longer in charge of those who sleep in Christ.

      Thank you.

  4. Matemba Wiseman Makabane

    November 19, 2014 at 8:21 am

    I am a Pastor….I want to further my studies from 2015. I have a diploma but now I want to carry on. Please assist me on how to register for next year. .
    Yours in Christ

  5. Wow! Such a wonderful information especially from Farai. It really makes sense. Thank you all for these truth. Good to share.May GOD ALMIGHTY bless you all.

  6. Thank you man of God Farai for we share the same understanding and I glorify God for that. Its quite an interesting discussion. glory to God who reveals deeper things about Himself to us through the Holy Spirit.

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