Here is the question. How do you know whether a visit from a spirit is of God or not? I've heard testimonies from people who have been visited by what they believe to be a spirit or an angel. Are we to simply believe any message that we receive when it comes shrouded in mystery and in some sort of spiritual experience? What does the Bible have to say about such things? Is there any way that we can determine whether a message is from God - or are we at the mercy of any message that comes through any kind of spirit-clad messenger? That is what I want to answer from a look at the Scriptures for the next several weeks.
Why would anyone want to explore a topic like this? There are actually a couple of good reasons I can offer - and maybe one that is relative to me personally. Let's look first at the Biblical reasons to examine this. The Bible actually speaks to this issue - and offers a warning to us in more than one place. In 1 John 4:1 we read the following admonition, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." (1 John 4:1, NASB) Whether we believe it in our modern, scientific culture or not, the Word of God says that there are spirits that are operative in our world. I find the rise of paranormal movies and shows in our culture interesting. It used to be that such activity was just movies using camera tricks to make things look spooky, but now the craze is to actually film paranormal (read spirit here) activity. The fact that the movie, "Paranormal Activity" has had 3 sequels, and that there are multiple television shows where they are seeking out this kind of spirit activity, should tell us that this is something we should address with Scripture.
What might surprise some is that there are several passages that warn us about this kind of activity. Here we have John telling us to test the spirits to make sure that they are from God. That opens the door to the existence and activity of evil spirits whose desire is to lie to and deceive us. Paul chimes in as well on this matter in Galatians 1:8 with a statement about the gospel: "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" It might be wise at this point to remind ourselves that the Bible teaches us that there are spirit-beings called angels. These were originally created holy - but a third of them fell when Satan rebelled against God. That alone is a good reason to test the spirits - and make sure that any kind of communication from a spirit is from God.
Just to round out our reasons to test any spirit is the fact that there are multiple experiences recorded in the Bible where spirits communicate with people. Paul cast a demon out of a woman who was a fortuneteller and who was annoying him as he sought to proclaim the gospel. King Saul was tortured by an evil spirit after he rebelled against God - and eventually believed a spirit that said it was Samuel the prophet. Seven sons of a Jewish priest named Sceva were beaten badly by a man possessed by a spirit and sent out of a home naked and bleeding. On the positive side of things, Joseph was led by God through a spirit to escape Herod's murderous plot to kill the baby Jesus. Another spirit woke Peter up and escorted him out of a high security Jerusalem jail. So you can see that this is not just an issue of rejecting all spirit messengers. There can be visits from spirits (angels) that are positive as well as negative. Our problem is knowing how to discern the difference between the two.
Thus we return to the visit to Eliphaz. His visit was enshrouded in mystery and involved counsel which he took as from God - and then offered to Job. How can we know if this was godly or ungodly counsel? How can we know whether this was a good visit from a spirit whose origin was holy - or a visit from an evil spirit designed to deceive him and all who would receive his counsel? The one thing we must not do is have a knee-jerk reaction to these things in either direction. Some consider any visit by a spirit an honor. If you have an incident to report to others involving something like a spirit or an angel - it must be good. This is not a wise response to such things. Remember that Paul told us in Corinthians that Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light - and that his minions (the other fallen angels) will masquerade as messengers of good. It is also unwise to throw out all experiences with spirits as weird and demonic. The Bible does record that such things take place. There are those who are visited by spirits from God. It is not the norm for Him to do so - because He normally speaks through Scripture as the Holy Spirit teaches us and leads us through the Word of God. But - there can be leadership that is from Him - that is given by an angel or a spirit from God. So, join me over the next several weeks as we examine this in the Scriptures. I hope by the time we are finished that you will have adequate tools from the Word to be able to do what God desires for us to do - which is - to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. Such wisdom is good for us in our day as the exaltation of the paranormal continues. It will be a blessing to be able to definitively say whether a spirit is from God or not.