Does the story about the witch of Endor show that the dead are conscious?
The Iglesia Ni Cristo claims that when the dead await judgment, they remain unconscious. However, some narratives in the Bible, such as the narrative of the witch of Endor and the ghost Samuel seem to contradict that. Does this narrative in 1 Samuel teach us that the dead are conscious?
Saul asked the medium to bring Samuel up from the dead.
Saul needed guidance and wanted to consult Samuel, who was dead. He decided to do a wicked thing, and ask a medium to bring Samuel up from the dead.
1 Samuel 28:8-14 (ESV) - 8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, "Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you." 9 The woman said to him, "Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?" 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, "As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing." 11 Then the woman said, "Whom shall I bring up for you?" He said, "Bring up Samuel for me." 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, "Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?" And the woman said to Saul, "I see a god coming up out of the earth." 14 He said to her, "What is his appearance?" And she said, "An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe." And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.
The INC teaches that this was not actually Samuel, but an evil spirit, is that true?
The Bible says that Saul knew that this was Samuel. He was not deceived, but he knew it was Samuel. We have no Biblical reason to believe that this was not Samuel.
The message delivered by Samuel was truthful.
Another reason this cannot be an evil spirit is that the message given by Samuel was truthful. Samuel told Saul that the Lord would give Saul into the hands of his enemies, which was indeed true.
If it were an evil spirit, we would expect some evil motivation to be provided or at least some reason that the spirit was driven to deliver such a truthful message. However, none is given.
God can allow evil to have its way for a time.
Yes, the thing that Saul did was wicked. The Bible even tells us that Saul was judged for what he did (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). However, just because the action of divination is evil does not mean that Samuel could not have come from the dead. For example, Moses disobeyed God when he struck the rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:11), but water miraculously came from the rock anyway. In the same way, Samuel miraculously appeared before Saul even though Saul brought about this appearance by disobedience.
The Narrative in the book of 1 Samuel about the witch of Endor demonstrates that the dead continue, consciously awaiting judgment. Samuel was not an evil spirit, but actually Samuel. He was conscious and spoke to Saul.