Was King Saul Saved?
And Lessons We Can
Learn From Him
Ian A. Paul
Many suppose that Saul was never truly a child of God; that he never really had saving faith, that he was never actually born again. Indeed, it seems that very few biblical scholars dare to say that King Saul was redeemed, or even that he likely was. Now, of course, no Old Testament saint had a clear vision of God’s Christ, but only dimly understood the promises of God concerning Him. Nevertheless, no saint, in any age, is reconciled to God unless it is through the redeeming work of God’s Anointed One, even Jesus Christ. But the contention by many, here, is that Saul did not have even the dimmest view of Christ, that he was not a participant in the promise of salvation through faith Christ, and that, in fact, he was unregenerate.
The Significance of King Saul’s Eternal Estate
Some might ask, “Who cares?” or “What’s the big deal if he was saved?” or “What can the possible significance of such a question be?” Well, the question is significant, especially in a day when many who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ no longer seem to base their own assurance of salvation on proper grounds and refuse to permit others to do so, either. Many believe their assurance of salvation is to be based only or primarily upon their own righteousness rather than upon the completed work of Christ and the veracity of His promise that whoever believes in Him has eternal life.
Those who affirm their salvation by their works of righteousness rather than the veracity of our Lord’s promise to them, along with those who assure themselves by faith plus works, fear and resent the idea that Saul might be among the redeemed. If the answer to the question, “Was King Saul saved?” is Yes, they fear that many will be encouraged to receive Christ who will never pursue holiness. That certainly is a legitimate concern, and it certainly does happen. However, God is not a man that He should fail his promises simply because believers in His promise of eternal life through Christ, still being infected with sin in their flesh, should succumb to the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil and, hence, fail to remain faithful to Him.
Although the goal of proclaiming the Gospel is not to gather men to Christ who will not live for Him, but to make disciples of all nations, this does not mean we may freely change the condition of salvation to remedy the problem. Christ did not, nor should we. The single condition for salvation is faith alone, in Christ alone — apart from any and all works of righteousness. Nothing else is necessary in order to obtain eternal life, forgiveness of sins, objective justification and sanctification, a relationship with God, and the guarantee of entrance into heaven; not repentance, not baptism, not a commitment, not good works. Our Lord summed up the way men are saved in John 3:14-18. We would do well to heed Him in this, especially as regards our presentations of the Gospel to the lost and dying.
Notice, especially, the correlation of faith in Christ to the Israelites looking at the bronze serpent in order to be saved from the poisonous bite of the fiery serpents that had attacked them (cf. John 3:14-15 & Num. 21:5-9). The Israelites were not required to repent, or to immerse themselves, or to make a commitment to God, or to do any good work. All they had to do was to momentarily rest their eyes upon the bronze serpent. Indeed, many of those who were saved from the death bite of the fiery serpents very quickly thereafter gave themselves over to both sexual immorality and idolatry (Num. 23:1-2). The point of Christ in pointing to this event is to highlight that all a person has to do to be saved from the death bite of the old serpent, Satan, who sank his fangs into our first forefather, Adam, in the Garden of Eden, is to rest spiritual eyes upon Christ. His point is that there are no works necessary, on our part, in order to be saved — before or after!
Of course, many those who trust in their good works for assurance of salvation, or who trust in Christ plus their good works for assurance of salvation, will be quick to point out that one who is not already saved cannot do any good spiritual work, because he is spiritually dead. However, the logic, here, is fallacious. First, those who are not already saved, while spiritually dead are, nevertheless, spiritually animated and cognizant! In a way, they are like vampires: the “living” dead. When those who are never saved enter into the second death, they shall be forever tormented in hell, and, thus, will be ever animated and aware, although without the everlasting life offered in the Gospel.
Death and Regeneration in the Bible
Second, we must understand that spiritual death, biblically speaking, means separation from God; it is an absence of a personal relationship with Him. In the same way that a man’s spirit and/or soul ceases to have a personal relationship with his body and is separated from it, when he dies, so also men who are born of Adam and who have not been redeemed by the blood of Christ are separated from God and do not have a personal relationship with Him. However, while the personal relationship a man has with his carnal body is temporary, the relationship the saints have with their eternal Father is everlasting.
More importantly, however, is that we understand how the miracle of the new birth takes place among spiritually dead men. While it is true that the things of God are foolishness to those who perish (1 Cor. 1:18), and that prior to salvation we were “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1), it is also true that Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God; and those who hear will live (John 5:25). Further, the apostle Paul tells us that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). So, although spiritually dead men cannot simply decide to follow Christ, when the Lord by the Holy Spirit addresses them, they can believe the word of Christ spoken to them, and in believing have life in His name (John 20:31).
The Value of Dead Works
One thing a spiritually dead man cannot do: He cannot do any work or works that God would respect. Indeed, a spiritually dead man can no more perform spiritually meaningful works, of any kind, than a physically dead man can perform materially meaningful works of any kind. Even if a spiritually dead man could perform spiritual works, they would be utterly repugnant to God. Remember the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead? (John 11:1-45). One would suppose that Christ could have animated Lazarus’ dead body, without giving life to it; but for such a body to have hugged and kissed Him, Martha, and Mary, to have sat down at a supper with them to eat, would not have been meaningful; indeed, it would have been nauseatingly repulsive. Yet, while he was yet dead, Christ spoke to the body of Lazarus, and he heard and came to life!
To say, as many Five Point Calvinists do, that Lazarus was already alive in the tomb when our Lord said, Lazarus come forth, speaks outside the Scriptures, and it assumes that the word of Christ was not sufficient cause an actually dead Lazarus to come forth; it is to suppose that Christ could not, by His mere word to the dead body of Lazarus, grant that he should rise from the dead. Indeed, this is simply a theological albeit unjustified attempt to prove the 5 Point Calvinist’s notion that the essence of salvation is not the new birth; it is a mere assertion — without an iota of scriptural proof — made for the purpose of bolstering their unbiblical contention that one cannot be born again by believing in Christ. But regeneration though faith, in fact, is what the New Testament teaches, for to have new life (life from above) is to be born again. And this is what happens when the dead hear and believe!
The Value of Faith
Let us understand, then, that while it is certainly a spiritual function, per se, faith itself is not a work. No good work in a spiritually dead man is acceptable to God; indeed, even the righteous deeds of the saint are as a filthy rag (Isa. 64:6); but the Scriptures tell us that if a spiritually dead man believes, he “will be saved” (Acts 16:31). The reason faith is not a work is because person cannot simply choose to believe something. This is particularly true if you are a spiritually dead person being asked to believe the Gospel. Faith is something that simply happens to a person when certain conditions are met that are outside of himself. Believing is a matter of persuasion; either the Holy Spirit has granted you understanding, or He has not; you’re either persuaded by evidence or you’re not.
Almost persuaded is still not persuaded. This is not to say that a man may not have weak faith. Surely all of us who are redeemed by Christ must, at some time or another, cry out to God, “Lord I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). When a spiritually dead person believes, what has happened is that the Spirit of God has persuaded him or her of the truth of the Gospel; the voice of Christ has called that person to come forth (John 11:43), and by hearing and believing that “Jesus is the Christ, the son of God,” the spiritually dead person receives everlasting life (John 11:25-27).
Although it is true that faith is of no profit to the redeemed soul if he does not pair it with good works, the faith by which we receive redemption — the price paid by Christ on the cross — cannot not, must not, come with works; for such “faith” is actually faithlessness. One does not truly believe the promise of God who thinks to add his own good works to his faith in order to obtain salvation. It is by faith alone that we are saved, not faith plus works, not that works. Objective salvation (those immediate but everlasting aspects of salvation that are positionally or judicially true, even though they are not all necessarily the tangible or palpable experience of the believer — regeneration, heavenly justification, heavenly sanctification, forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, entrance into heaven) is by faith without any works whatsoever. However, subjective salvation (those aspects of salvation that are progressively tangible and palpable in our experience — practical sanctification, experimental justification) is only by faith joined with works. Nevertheless, insufficiency or seeming absence of subjective aspects of salvation does not negate objective salvation.
So, Was King Saul Saved?
This is a question that many theologians have contemplated: Was King Saul saved? Perhaps not, if we look only at the subjective evidence of salvation in King Saul’s life. If we look upon the objective evidence, however, it would appear that King Saul is very much among the redeemed. However, beyond the fact that much of Saul’s public life seemed to be a show of wickedness, there are a number of arguments against believing him to be one of the Old Covenant saints that are based, at least loosely, upon the Old Testament Scriptures themselves. Harold Camping, in reply to a caller on his radio show who said he had “a question regarding whether or not Saul was saved,” for example, argues:
[There is] language in the Bible that suggests very strongly that Saul was not saved. It's very very [sic] strong language. We read in Psalm 18, I believe it is, where David is indicating these words, and the heading of this psalm, which is part of the Holy Canon also "A Psalm of David, the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this psalm to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul."
And then he goes on to speak as if he were the Messiah. This is a Messianic psalm. It says in verse 4, "The cords of death encompassed me. The torrents of perdition assailed me. The cords of Sheol entangled me. The snares of death confronted me." This is the language of Christ going to the cross. And of course Christ went to the cross to pay for our sins, but also there He was delivered from all of the hands of His enemies, because He rose from the grave. He was saved from this once He had paid for our sins. And it was His enemies who had brought Him to the cross.
And so Psalm 18 is putting Saul in the same class with Satan, with those who are totally antagonistic toward God. And we see this also in Saul's life. For the last ten or fifteen years of his life he sought constantly to kill David. And a murderer is not one that has eternal life.
King Saul and Peter
What Camping fails to observe in all of this, of course, is that King Saul did not put David to death, as the enemies of our Lord did Him. Beyond this, the symbolic language of the Scriptures that pits a man against God in this manner is hardly determinative; the apostle Peter is much more descriptively illustrated as being in league with Satan and against Christ — indeed, Peter is specifically identified as Satan by Christ (Matt. 16:23; Mark 8:33); so Psalm 18 can hardly have the final say on the eternal estate of King Saul. Nevertheless, Camping has other arguments in his arsenal:
Now this language of I Samuel 10 probably refers to the fact that Saul was qualified by the Holy Spirit to be a king. You must bear in mind that before Saul became king, Israel had no king, it had no court, it had no palace, it had no protocol, it had no army. It had nothing at all of this nature. It was led by God, and the servant of God was a man like Samuel, who was a prophet, who just kind of went in and out amongst the people. But there was no regal ruling of any kind.
King Saul Was Regenerated
In view of the palpable weakness of the previously noted argument, I would question the wisdom of shoring up his view with a mere “probably refers to” argument. More importantly, however, we might ask ourselves what qualification is more important to being a king than wisdom? But, although Saul seems to have had a modicum of wisdom concerning ordinary matters, he does not seem to have had much of it in the matters of ruling the nation.
Perhaps Camping believes that the gift of the Holy Spirit is what qualifies a man to be king? This is would be complete nonsense, of course. First, the other nations had kings, and they did not have the Holy Spirit; yet we know that it is God who establishes kings and governments. Furthermore, even after the Holy Spirit had left King Saul, David himself recognizes the legitimacy of Saul’s kingship (1 Sam. 24:8; 26:15), even the legitimacy of his messianic calling (cf. 1 Sam. 16:14 & 1 Sam. 24:6; 26:9, 11; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16).
The Spirit Lord had come mightily upon Saul (1 Sam. 11:6), much as He was with Samson (Jud. 14:6), a man the New Testament lauds for his faith (Heb. 11:32). However, as with Samson, the presence of the Spirit does not seem to have greatly influenced Saul’s behavior. Also, the Spirit had apparently stayed with Saul, in a general way, until the anointing of David by Samuel (1 Sam. 16:14), just as He appears to have been with Samson, in a general way, until the Philistines had shaved his head (Jud. 16:20). Further, after the Spirit of God had departed from him, it appears that He came once more upon King Saul in prophetic utterance (1 Sam. 19:20-24), just as He appears to have come upon Samson once more in superhuman physical strength (Jud. 16:28-31).
The Protocol Had Already Been Established
Beyond this, although Israel had had no king, court, palace, army, or protocol, Israel was apparently quite aware of how these things worked among the nations that were there enemies. Further, the Lord Himself spoke unto Israel — and hence, unto Saul — what was to be the protocol of the King of Israel.
The Lord had told Samuel that he should seriously alert the nation as to the “royal” implications of having a king, as to what the behavior of the king would be who would rule them (1 Sam. 8:9). Samuel indeed told the people what the Lord had determined would be the way of their king:
He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. He will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants.”
— 1 Sam. 8:11-17
Although the Lord established this protocol, it does not appear that Saul applied it as fully as he could have. For, had he, the people would have cried out to the Lord because of it (1 Sam. 8:18). If King Saul had made the people so miserable, as other kings did, after him, it is not apparent from the scriptural account itself. But what we see, here, is a guideline of what the Lord would permit the king to do, of which Saul obviously must have been very much aware. And, indeed, we get a hint of his awareness of these guidelines in his having acquired David to play the harp at court.
King Saul Was Not That Wise
Beyond this, a man needs only a modicum of wisdom to lead the people of God, which Saul appears to have already had, even before the prophet Samuel had anointed him. Like Samson, who was a judge of Israel, Saul seems to have practical wisdom with regard to that for which he was responsible, but only in small things. Although apparently wise as a son in his father's household, when he began to rule the nation of Israel that wisdom did not seem to translate. As with Samson, to make matters worse for himself, he seemed particularly deficient in wisdom regarding personal matters. Whereas Samson was rash with his sexual desires, Saul was rash with regard to his anger.
For instance, we see that Saul was able to take counsel from his servant (1 Sam 9:5-10). Saul also seems to have had the good sense to speak with humility; even though the prophet treated him as one to whom honor was due (9:21). But does one really associate a changed heart with the sudden general acquirement of wisdom? When we hear the expression, “He had a change of heart,” do we think, “Oh, he became wise?” No; of course not. Rather, when we hear this expression, we think of a man bent upon a poor, or even evil, course of action, who subsequently has thought it over and has now decided upon a better, or even grand, course of action.
However, I must disagree with Camping about Saul’s “wisdom.” For, in ruling the nation, it does not appear that King Saul manifested much wisdom. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, observes:
He was easily swayed by events and by people. The praises of David (1 Sam 18:7 f) at once set his jealousy on fire. His persecution of David was largely due to the instigation of mischievous courtiers (1 Sam 24:9). Upon remonstrance his repentance was as deep as it was short-lived (1 Sam 24:16; 26:21). His impulsiveness was such that he did not know where to stop. His interdict (1 Sam 14:24 ff) was quite as uncalled for as his religious zeal (1 Sam 15:9) was out of place. He was always at one extreme. His hatred of David was only equal to his affection for him at first (1 Sam 18:2). His pusillanimity led him to commit crimes which his own judgment would have forbidden (1 Sam 22:17). Like most beaten persons, he became suspicious of everyone (1 Sam 22:7 f), and, like those who are easily led, he soon found his evil genius (1 Sam 22:9,18,22). Saul's inability to act alone appears from the fact that he never engaged in single combat, so far as we know. Before he could act at all his fury or his pity had to be roused to boiling-point (1 Sam 11:6). His mind was peculiarly subject to external influences, so that he was now respectable man of the world, now a prophet (1 Sam 10:11; 19:24).
A New Man
No one thinks of a person as a different man who finally finds his niche in life — who, after years of poverty and/or mediocrity, finally figures out what it takes to be successful. How common it is, to hear someone speak of another who has “come into his own,” so to speak, as the same old person he’s always been? A father or mother, when a son comes home to visit after many years, who in his youth had always broken their heart by his foolish and/or wicked behavior, quickly realizes that although their son is now successful and wealthy in the world’s eyes, nothing about him of any consequence has changed. A different man is not a man who has gotten educated, or savvy, or rich. “A different man” is someone who has had a change of heart, from bad to good, or from dead to living.
However, in the sense of regeneration, men do not always view a person who has been born again as being a different man. This is because a regenerate man does not always immediately overcome the temptations of the flesh sufficiently for others to recognize that he is indeed a different man. Sometimes, sadly, when a man’s heart is changed by faith in the Promise of God, he soon ceases almost entirely to heed its direction; too often the flesh seems to shout louder, seems more appealing, etc., and the saint simply does not yield to his new heart. This, surely, is at least the occasional experience of even the holiest of saints, so why should it surprise us if it is the more usual experience of others who have been saved by faith? Sadly, it appears to have been the typical manner of Saul that he did not resist the temptations of the flesh and heed the inner whisperings of his new heart.
And so here Saul is a farm boy. He really was a farm boy. And God now is going to make him king. And so this was a very very large change, where there was no preparation of any kind. And God qualified Saul to be king by giving him another heart, not in the sense of being born again, but in the sense of giving him the ability to rule wisely.
Now Saul actually was a pretty good king. He did rule quite wisely. The only trouble is, he rebelled against God very quickly, and therefore God took the throne away from him and eventually gave it to King David. And when we look at the rulers over Israel, they really begin with David. David is the line that began the real rule over Israel, even though Saul had reigned forty years before David.
Saul’s Good Heart Toward God
There is no evidence to suggest that Saul lacked wisdom prior to his change of heart — that he was less than prudent before he was changed into a different man. Clearly his father trusted him as a steward of the family’s resources (1 Sam. 9:3), and clearly Saul was not so foolish as to disregard his father (9:5). We see that before Saul had any idea he would be king over Israel, that he was apparently prudent toward the Lord’s spokesman, even (1 Sam. 9:6-10, 21). Again, as was noted earlier, he was wise enough to be able to receive counsel from his servant.
On the other hand, what we see in 1 Samuel is that King Saul ruled wisely only when he had the word of the Lord on matters, or when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power. As we have seen, however, he generally behaved rather foolishly in his kingly capacity, often becoming impatient and refusing to wait upon the Lord. Even having the Spirit of the Lord upon him apparently could not entirely stop King Saul from being self-willed (i.e., foolish), and when the Spirit departed Saul more and more seems to have acted foolishly rather than wisely. Thus we see that Saul appears to have been able exercise wisdom as a ruler only until the time when the Spirit of the Lord departed from him. This wisdom that Saul exercised as King over Israel, then, does not appear to have been so much a result of having been changed to a different man, or having received a change of heart, as to having the Spirit of the Lord with him, empowering and instructing him.
The Early Reign of King Saul
Nevertheless, if we follow the life of Saul in the early part of his career as king over Israel, we see that he was humble and generous, and honored the Lord (1 Sam. 10:26-27; 11:12-13). We also see that, although Saul became impatient, and subsequently took matters into his own hands (apparently a besetting sin with him), his first inclination was to wait upon the Lord (1 Sam. 13:8). Additionally, although he disobeyed the commandment of the Lord, and acted foolishly (13:13), it appears that he did so in sincerity of heart (1 Sam. 13:9, 11-12).
Then we discover that, had it not been for this one act of foolishness, the Lord would have been satisfied to guarantee to Saul and his descendants the kingdom of Israel forever (1 Sam. 13:13-14). In other words, the Lord was not entirely dissatisfied with King Saul, up to this time! Are we to suppose, then, that the Lord would have promised a perpetual kingship over His people — even a perpetual role of the messiah in prefigurment — to an unregenerate man and his descendants? Such a man could have only evil in his heart toward both the Lord and His people! But King Saul does not appear to have either. Rather, it appears that Saul has only hatred for David and those he perceives to be assisting him.
Further, King Saul demonstrates that he is not a man to kill merely for the sake of shedding blood (1 Sam. 15:6), but went into battle in faithfulness to the will of the Lord (1 Sam. 15:1-4, 7). However, in sparing the livestock and the king of the Amalekites, he failed to completely obey the Lord in the extermination of this people (1 Sam. 15:8, 13-14), which vexed the Lord (1 Sam. 15:11). It was this sin which caused the Lord to reject Saul, more immediately, as king over Israel, and which was the practical beginning of the end of his reign (1 Sam. 15:22-23, 28). It is significant to note, however, that Saul confesses his sin (1 Sam. 15:24), a sign of some degree of spiritual vitality.
Far from having nothing but hatred for the Lord and His people, it appears that Saul cared deeply for the nation of Israel. Equally, it appears that most of the nation of Israel had great love and respect for Saul, even when it must have been apparent to them that he could no longer protect them from the Philistines. Both of these statements are well proved by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, which observes:
It says much for Saul that, hopeless as he was, he engaged in one last forlorn struggle with the enemy. The Philistines had gathered in great force at Shunem. Saul drew up his army on the opposing hill of Gilboa. Between the two forces lay a valley (compare 1 Sam 14:4). The result was what had been foreseen. The Israelites, no doubt greatly reduced in numbers (contrast 1 Sam 11:8), were completely defeated, and Saul and his sons slain. Their armor was placed in the temple of Ashtaroth, and their bodies hung on the wall of Bethshan, but Saul's head was set in the temple of Dagon (1 Ch 10:10). The citizens of Jabesh-gilead, out of ancient gratitude, rescued the bodies and, in un-Semitic wise, burned them and buried the bones.
And again this work notes:
….Saul possessed many high qualities. His dread of office (1 Sam 10:22) was only equaled by the coolness with which he accepted it (1 Sam 11:5). To the first call to action he responded with promptitude (1 Sam 11:6 ff). His timely aid excited the lasting gratitude of the citizens of Jabesh-gilead (1 Sam 31:11 ff). If we remember that Saul was openly disowned by Samuel (1 Sam 15:30), and believed himself cast off by Yahweh, we cannot but admire the way in which he fought on to the last. Moreover, the fact that he retained not only his own sons, but a sufficient body of fighting men to engage a large army of Philistines, shows that there must have been something in him to excite confidence and loyalty.
King Saul Rejected
Also significant is that although we are twice told that Saul is rejected as king over Israel (15:23, 26), we are nowhere told that God rejects him as an individual, or that he is rejected with regard to the Promise of redemption. Indeed, inspiration tells us that Saul worshipped the Lord (15:31), but does not tell us that his worship was rejected. And again we are told that Saul confessed his sin (15:30). After pursing David in order to kill him, and apparently in the presence of his retinue, he then shows remorse for his course of action toward David (1 Sam. 24:16) and confesses his evil to David, and acknowledges that the kingdom of Israel shall be established in David’s hand (24:17-20).
However, as from the time when the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul there was a distressing spirit from the Lord sent to trouble him (1 Sam. 16:14), he again took up the desire to harm David (1 Sam. 25:44), and to kill him (1 Sam. 26:1ff.). But, once again, and clearly without necessity, Saul confesses his sin (26:21), and again, it seems that he did this openly, before his own men (26:14-20), and he even blesses David (26:25). Now open confession of sins to those who know us, especially in the presence of others, is not something unregenerate men are naturally inclined to do. Indeed, it is with difficulty that saints themselves will confess, one on one, and rare they will make a public confession. So it seems likely that Saul is acting according to an objective spiritual reality of everlasting life.
King Saul and Witchcraft
Before the prophet Samuel died, it appears that Saul made a decision to exile all of all the mediums and occult spiritualists (1 Sam. 28:3), which appears to be another evidence of Saul’s love for God. His decision to rid the land of Israel of witches was, no doubt, against the advise of his servants; for his servants seem to have been in the habit of giving him bad advice. Indeed, it appears that his servants had deliberately protected a certain medium, the witch in the village of En Dor (28:7), a place in the territory given to the tribe of Manasseh (Josh 17:11). This witch Saul visited, after Samuel had died, when he feared the Philistines. However, before Saul went to the witch of En Dor, he sought the Lord by the usual, legitimate means (28:6, 15). Ostensibly Saul did not do so without doubt (Jas. 1:5-8), though, for we are told that, really, Saul did not inquire of the Lord at all (1 Chron. 10:14). Still, the instructive thing, here, is precisely what Camping’s caller, in asking his question, noted:
In I Samuel 28:19, where Saul is talking with the medium, and he [Sic] calls up Samuel, and then Samuel says in verse 19, when he's telling Saul that he will be killed, he says, “Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.”
Samuel told Saul that on the next day he and his sons would be in his company. Where would Samuel be, the next day, that Saul and his sons could join him? Well, in the New Testament Jesus said that when the righteous die they are “carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22), but that the wicked end up “in torments in Hades,” in a place somewhere far below Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:23) and separated by “a great gulf” which no man may cross (Luke 16:26). Clearly, then, as the wicked go to an entirely different place than the righteous, Samson was telling Saul that he and his sons would be in the bosom of Abraham on the next day. Camping, however, disagrees. In his reply to the caller, Camping said:
Again, as has been pointed out, in I Samuel 28 the witch of Endor [sic] declared, through this apparition which appeared to be Samuel but who was not Samuel, “Tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me.” Now this whole business of I Samuel 28 is another question altogether. This actually is not Samuel speaking. This was an apparition conjured up by Satan himself, because this medium was an ambassador of Satan. But Saul was convinced that it was Samuel. Actually, this statement, "Tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me," had some truth in it, in that death did come to Saul and his sons the next day. But as to whether Saul and his sons all went to be with the Lord, as Samuel had, that's another question altogether.
But Camping is playing fast and loose with the Scriptures, here. Although a good teacher and scholar of the Bible when dealing with many other topics, he speaks here where the Bible does not. Inspiration tells us that the witch of En Dor, although indeed an ambassador of Satan, saw Samuel (1 Sam. 28:12), not a “familiar spirit,” nor even merely “a spirit”! Read what the author of 1 Samuel wrote: “When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, ‘Why have you deceived me? For you are Saul!’”
Samuel Comes Again to King Saul
According to the text, Saul asked the witch to “Bring up Samuel for me” (1 Sam. 28:11). But, “when the woman saw Samuel, she cried out…” Now it is true that mediums (a.k.a. “channelers”) work by means of familiar spirits (or by means of familiar spirits and trickery). It would appear, then, that this medium must have had a high reputation for her ability to communicate with familiar spirits; this is no doubt why Saul’s servants protected her, out of all the mediums and spiritualists that had been in Israel. That Saul’s servants were so quickly able to supply him with information regarding her (28:7) demonstrates that they had protected her from his edict.
It should require no argument, then, to agree that this was a woman who was quite familiar with familiar spirits. Thus, her apparent terror (28:12) could only be because what she now saw before her was no familiar spirit. Indeed, when Saul asks her what she saw, she replies, “elohim” (28:13), for this is the Hebrew word that is rendered “spirit” in this verse. The word elohim means “gods,” and is a common term in the Hebrew language for Jehovah. John Wesley says, “She used the plural number, gods, either after the manner of the Hebrew language, which commonly uses that word of one person: or, after the language and custom of the heathens [sic].”
Ostensibly she uses it in the former sense, and not that of the heathen. This can be said for three reasons: 1. She was a witch in Israel, and no doubt was speaking the language of the Israelites; 2. Most significantly, Saul’s reply is to ask her “What is his form?” (v. 14 — note the singularity of “his” — also note that he does not say “its” or “their”); 3. The witch then describes this elohim as, “An old man is coming up, and he is covered with a mantle” (ibid. — again, note the singularity of her terms, “an old man” and “he”).
Samuel’s Prophecy of King Saul
From the context, then, it would appear that the medium believed this to be an angel (i.e., a “messenger,” not necessarily one of the heavenly hosts) of God, and not one of the usual evil spirits with which she was accustomed to conjuring up for her clients. The fact that this is a person who dealt with familiar spirits, however, does not guarantee that the spirit she dealt with on this occasion was a familiar spirit. Indeed, the fact that the Scriptures tell us “the woman saw Samuel” (1 Sam. 28:12) guarantees that it was not a familiar spirit but, indeed, the spirit of Samuel himself. Thus the words, “And tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (28:19) are a prophecy that Saul and his sons would be in the company of Samuel on the next day.
Furthermore, Samuel’s words do not simply mean that King Saul would be dead, or in the realm of the dead, on the next day; for this would have been uncharacteristically cryptic in the context of other plain statements the prophet made to Saul. Also, when one speaks of another being with him, the meaning is rarely anything like “in the same region,” or “on the same continent,” or “in the same country.” Such a use would have to be qualified by the known existence of a much, much nearer proximity between two objects or persons than between one of the objects or persons and other objects or persons.
Of special note is the fact that, as one reads 1 Samuel, it can hardly escape attention that Jonathan is clearly among the redeemed! He is, in fact, a man in whom there is no guile. In 1 Samuel 14:6-17 & 43, especially, he stands out clearly as one who trusted in the Lord. Further, the love that he had for David, his rival for the throne, is most impressive (1 Sam. 18:3-4), along with how he stood by him even in the face of his father’s wrath (1 Sam. 19:1-7 & 20:1-42). Equally impressive is the love David had for Jonathan; listen to David’s sweet lament for Jonathan upon hearing of his death:
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
You have been very pleasant to me;
Your love to me was wonderful,
Surpassing the love of women.
— 2 Samuel 1:26
By the testimony the inspired word gives us of Jonathan’s life, one can hardly doubt that he was saved! However, in his prophecy to Saul, the spirit of Samuel makes no special distinction respecting King Saul’s and Jonathan’s destinations on the following day. Thus, we can accept it as an inspired fact that King Saul his sons are in the same abode with the prophet Samuel.
A final observation regarding King Saul’s visit to the witch of En Dor: the spirit of Samuel made no apparent desire to deceive King Saul; even the declaration that Saul would be with him on the morrow does not appear to have been said to comfort or console the king, but to assure him that his reign and his hope of a continued dynasty were now at an end. Saul is entirely devastated by the message he receives, and can hardly even bring himself to eat. If the spirit, whom the Scripture without equivocation or embarrassment identifies as Samuel, deceived him, it was only with respect to his eternal destination. But there is nothing in this text that even hints that either the message of Samuel, or the spirit itself, was intended as a deception. The spirit is Samuel, not a demon, and he declared that Saul would be with him on the next day.
Does 1 Samuel 15:35 Have This in View?
An interesting side note to this, is that when Samuel had last visited Saul, in life, after his departure we are told, “And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death” (1 Sam. 15:35). Of course, King Saul did see Samuel once more, before the prophet died (1 Sam. 19:20-24); however, here we see that it was Saul who went to see the prophet, not the prophet who went to see the king. In any event, according to the inspired author of 1 Samuel, it appears that a prediction may have been intended, that the prophet would indeed come again unto King Saul on the “day” of his death. This we know did not precisely happen. However, Brown, Driver, and Briggs’ Hebrew definitions tells us that the word rendered “day” in this passage has a broad range of meaning, and may be understood variously as:
1) day, time, year
1a) day (as opposed to night)
1b) day (24 hour period)
1b1) as defined by evening and morning in Genesis 1
1b2) as a division of time
1b2a) a working day, a day’s journey
1c) days, lifetime (plural)
1d) time, period (general)
1f) temporal references
Most significant to our study are the meanings “year,” on the first line, and “time,” 1d. So, it may be that the writer of 1 Samuel had intended to say that Samuel did not go again to see King Saul until the time of his death, or until the year of his death. Regardless, Samuel’s having come to see King Saul in spirit, after he died, does not contradict what inspiration had stated in 1 Sam. 15:35.
After Saul died, his head was cut off and his body hung upon a wall. The body of King Saul was burned by loyal Israelites to prevent the enemies of Israel from further desecrating it, the bones then being buried. Convincing arguments have been marshaled forth that show that the burning of a corpse is a sign of a curse of God upon the deceased. However, while this may be generally true, it is not necessarily always true that a person is cursed whose body was cremated. For example, the body of Jonathan, also, was cremated (and the bones buried), for the same reason Saul’s was; yet, the only reason for supposing that Jonathan was not saved would be to shore up the case against King Saul having been saved. Further, it is equally true that burial is generally a sign of blessing upon the deceased; yet we know that many hell-bound men and women have been buried rather than cremated. To his credit, Camping does not point to King Saul’s cremation as evidence that he was lost.
Inspiration Speaks, Again
Beyond this, David’s “Song of the Bow” heralds both Saul and Jonathan as “the beauty of Israel” (2 Sam. 1:19). More importantly, David, speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says that Saul and his son, Jonathan, who was David’s best friend and most apparently a righteous and regenerate man, were not divided in death (2 Sam 1:23). Few, if any, question Jonathan’s salvation. However, Camping supposes that, by “death,” in this passage, David actually means the grave. However, the word grave was not unknown to David (Psa. 5:9; 6:5; 30:3; 31:17; 141:7). Also, not only were Saul and Jonathan not divided in the grave, but Saul and two of his other sons, Abinadab and Malchishua, were not divided in the grave, either (cf. 1 Sam. 31:2 & 1 Chron 10:12); which further detracts from the idea that David has a common grave in mind.
Camping concludes his remarks on the question, Was King Saul saved, with the following remarks:
I really believe that Saul was not saved. I really believe that the burden of the evidence is that he was not saved. And when the witch of Endor [sic] was prophesying through an evil spirit that tomorrow you and your sons would supposedly be with Samuel, this was true in the sense that they would be dead tomorrow, but not true in the sense that they would all be in Heaven with Christ. And I think that the passage in II Samuel, where David says, "Saul and Jonathan, in life and in death they were not divided," can easily be explained if we think of death in terms of the grave rather than in terms of the place where their souls went.
Of course, what Camping really believes is irrelevant; what matters is what the Scriptures say. Does not the Bible tell us that the Spirit of God was upon Saul (1 Sam. 11:6; 16:14)? Yes, it does. And do we ordinarily suppose that a man who has the Spirit of the Lord upon him is not redeemed? No. Then why should we think differently, here? Simply because Saul behaved wickedly? Samson (not to be confused with the prophet Samuel) also behaved wickedly; but he is listed in the New Testament as an Old Testament saint of remarkable faith (Heb. 11:32). Don’t the Scriptures tell us that “Samuel said to Saul … tomorrow you and your sons will be with me” (28: 15, 19)? Yes, they do. Is there any mention of a familiar spirit? No, there isn’t. Is such a thing even alluded to? No, it is not. Do we have a right to affirm about this passage what Scripture itself does not affirm? No we do not.
The message of the spirit of Samuel was not merely that Saul would be dead, for death alone does not bring individuals together. Samuel said, “you will…will be with me,” not “you will be like me.” Further, Samuel was buried in Ramah (1 Sam. 28:3), while Saul and his sons were buried in Jabesh (1 Chron. 10:12), so they did not even share a common burial place.
Finally, should we interpret a passage, such as 2 Samuel 1:23 by “thinking in terms” different from those stated without contextual evidence, or any other clear evidence, that we should? “Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided…” Clearly, unless we think in terms of their dead bodies as being Saul and Jonathan, rather than their spirits, the point of David’s words is that Saul and Jonathan loved each other and were good to each other, being often in each other’s company, and that even in their death (note the singularity of the term) they continued be thus together. Clearly, to say that two people are not divided, even in death — especially in a context such as this — is not at all to say that their bodies have the same burial place.
Again, it should be obvious that King David is not talking about the bodies of King Saul and his son Jonathan, when he says that in their death they were not divided. He most evidently is talking about them as persons, as two individuals together. Nor does he have in mind the fact that they died together. King David’s point is that the harmony, affection, and closeness that King Saul and his son Jonathan shared in life were not interrupted by their death.
The scriptural evidence is that King Saul was indeed saved. It is certainly not at all clear that King Saul was lost. The evidence that King Saul went into the place of torment is tenuous, at best, being based upon assumptions about the meanings of the texts upon which the theory is supported; assumptions that are unwarranted by the texts themselves. But whenever the idea that Saul was saved is suggested, invariably someone will object that King Saul was just too wicked to have been saved. One might ask, however, what King Saul had done that was worse than what that other Saul had done.
The apostle Paul, before he was saved, was known as Saul. He went about persecuting Christians, imprisoning them (Acts 8:1-3), and murdering them (Acts 9:1), presumably if they did not yield to his threats (Acts 9:1) and deny Christ; a fact that led him to say that he was the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:13-15). Yet, Christ decisively saved him. True, Paul ended his life well, having lived for Christ. But does this mean that salvation is dependant upon what God sees will be the way we play our lives? Is that the meaning of Romans 8:29? Does it say, “For whom he foreknew would persevere in faithfulness to the end of life, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son?” Or did Christ die only for the sins we committed before we were saved? If this is the case, how can He be faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, even when we confess our sins to Him (1 John 1:9)?
Although he seems to have mistakenly believed that “through divine grace” the saint certainly will remember the covenant through which he is saved, the 19th century Baptist pastor, C.H. Spurgeon, more rightly tells us:
Mark the form of the promise. God does not say, “And when ye shall look upon the bow, and ye shall remember my covenant, then I will not destroy the earth,” but it is gloriously put, not upon our memory, which is fickle and frail, but upon God’s memory, which is infinite and immutable. “The bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant.” Oh! it is not my remembering God, it is God’s remembering me which is the ground of my safety; it is not my laying hold of his covenant, but his covenant’s laying hold on me. Glory be to God! the whole of the bulwarks of salvation are secured by divine power, and even the minor towers, which we may imagine might have been left to man, are guarded by almighty strength. Even the remembrance of the covenant is not left to our memories, for we might forget, but our Lord cannot forget the saints whom he has graven on the palms of his hands. It is with us as with Israel in Egypt; the blood was upon the lintel and the two side-posts, but the Lord did not say, “When you see the blood I will pass over you,” but “When I see the blood I will pass over you.” My looking to Jesus brings me joy and peace, but it is God’s looking to Jesus which secures my salvation and that of all his elect, since it is impossible for our God to look at Christ, our bleeding Surety, and then to be angry with us for sins already punished in him. No, it is not left with us even to be saved by remembering the covenant. There is no linsey-woolsey here-not a single thread of the creature mars the fabric. It is not of man, neither by man, but of the Lord alone.
Understanding the Parent Child Relationship
Nothing — absolutely nothing! — can end the relationship between any father and any of his children, much less between our heavenly Father and any of His children. A righteous father will always accept all of his children, no matter how they might disappoint him. However, a righteous father will never approve of any of his children unless they, in like manner to himself, are righteous. God always accepts all of His children, even when they ultimately fail to please Him. But He will approve only those children who ultimately seek His approval.
The righteous father — certainly our Heavenly Father — rebukes and chastises children who are lazy and wicked, and rewards those of his children who are industrious and well behaved. But regardless of the kind of person a child turns out to be, the relationship between a Father and that child cannot be terminated; once you’re born, you cannot be unborn. If we fail to recognize this, we will fail to properly understand our own relationship with the Father, and we will very likely act like the self-righteous older brother of the prodigal son — regardless of whether or not we see our errant brethren turn back to God (Luke 15:25-32).
Further, if we fail to understand the relationship we as children of God have to our heavenly father, we will cruelly mistreat our brethren who have wandered astray. If we fail to recognize this relationship, we will tell our erring brethren such awful things as we would never tell our own erring children: “You can only have assurance that you are a child of God if you have evidence of it in the form of holiness of life.” This is akin to telling your son that he can only know if he is truly your son if he looks like you, thinks like you, and has the same tastes as you. Such cruelty toward brethren is an especially serious offence for those of us who deign to teach and pastor the flock of God; for our Lord has promised particular severity for those of His servants who mistreat their brethren (Matt. 24:45-51). “Therefore, let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13).
Other kings of Israel were far more wicked than King Saul. Why did God not cut off the kingdom from their posterity forever? Simply because He had made a covenant with David, just as He does with everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. He made a promise to David to which He had bound himself forever! The kingdom went to David’s seed forever because God had promised it to him, not because he had done anything to merit it, even though he was far more righteous in his behavior than King Saul. Thus, what King Saul teaches us is that unless there is a promise of God bound up in the blessings we have from Him, our wickedness, if not consistently repented of (with care that we do not repent of our repentance), will eventually cause Him to remove those blessings from us — right down to our very lives!
Because salvation is by an everlasting promise, the saint cannot lose his eternal life, cannot cease to be justified before God, cannot cease to be holy in Christ, and will certainly enter into the kingdom of heaven. Indeed, because Christ Himself promises it, no one who ever comes to Him can ever be cast out (John 6:37, 40; Rom. 8:32-39; Heb. 7:25; et al.). Nevertheless, if we who are saints fail to properly judge ourselves (1 Cor. 11:28-29; Jas. 1:25, 2:12), whether or not we are growing in holiness (both abstaining from sin and endeavoring to do good), whether or not we are walking according to the faith (2 Cor. 13:5), we can lose our health and even die (1 Cor. 11:30-31; Jas. 5:14-16).
As we have seen, Saul the saint was impatient and churlish when tested, lacking wisdom from God. James tells the brethren, that, rather than being surly in the face of trials, they should count it absolute joy (Jas. 1:2). Further, he tells them that if any of them lack wisdom, evidently with respect to their testing, they should ask God (in faith) to grant it to them (Jas. 1:5). Now God promises that He gives wisdom to all men generously and without reproach, when they ask in faith. Thus, if we believe God, and wisdom in a matter of testing does not come quickly, what will the trusting saint do? First, he will not take matters into his own hands. Second, he will wait upon the Lord until the Lord supplies the wisdom he has requested. Third, he will not act except within the confines of what he knows is pleasing to the Lord. While Saul sometimes sought the will of the Lord (wisdom), he often did not do so in complete faith, but rather seems to have doubted. He wavered when the Lord’s answer was not as expeditious as he deemed it should be. And finally, he decided upon his own course of action, without giving very much thought as to whether or not it would please the Lord, or even knowing that it was precisely contrary to what the Lord had commanded him.
Observing these things, then, and knowing that God judges the assemblies of our Lord (1 Pet. 4:17), the New Covenant saint should seek to avoid King Saul’s mistakes, realizing that the same severity of God may come upon them by which King Saul was rebuked and chastised (Rev. 3:9). Positively, however, we should realize that testing produces patience or endurance, and that patience or endurance under pressure, when allowed to perfect itself, results in the believer being entirely complete in Christ, lacking no good thing (Jas. 1:3-4). Such completeness fills the believer with a sense of satisfaction that is incomparable to anything he might be able to achieve on his own; it often results in material blessings — always the hope of a future reward (1 Cor. 9:25; Jas. 1:12).
 http://members.ozemail.com.au/~lkolberg/transcripts/C233B.html Camping is not the only Bible scholar who contends that King Saul was not saved. However, at the time of this study, a Google Search on the question, “Was King Saul saved?” yielded no other teachers that discussed the issue. The only other page that discussed the question (http://www.alittlemaid.org/html/OpenForum/En/100197mw.htm) was a list of questions called in to Camping’s radio show, and his answers. However, his reply on this page is hardly worthy of attention. He affirms his belief that there is evidence in the Bible that Saul was not saved, but presents nothing substantial to support his belief.
 Which, in view of the Roman Catholic denomination’s insistence that Peter is their first pope, is rather ironic. Surely, if the Roman Catholic churches were to apply the same literalism to our Lord’s identification of Peter as Satan that they apply to His statements concerning the bread and the cup of the New Covenant, they would be forced to teach that Satan is the first pope; a position with which those who yield to the authority of the Scriptures would no doubt agree.
 “Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God: and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. And wouldest thou have no fear of the power? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same: for he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’' sake. For this cause ye pay tribute also; for they are ministers of God's service, attending continually upon this very thing. Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:1-7 — ASV)
 Messiah is the meaning of the Hebrew word rendered “anointed” in 1 Sam. 24:6; 26:9.
 However, if Samuel was prophesying that Saul and his sons were to be in torment, the next day, they no doubt stood closer to the prophet at the time of the prophecy than they would have after they died. This may be said upon two counts: 1. While one yet lives, there is the possibility of getting saved; but afterward, there is a great gulf between those who are in torment and those who are in the bosom of Abraham, which no man may cross; 2. A person who has died may be raised from the dead, but a person who is either in torment, or in the bosom of Abraham, may not traverse the gulf that separates them. So, for Samuel to simply mean that Saul and his sons would be with him in the realm of the dead, would be like an astronomer speaking of earth’s moon as being with the moons of the planet Neptune; although earth’s moon is not within easy traveling distance to us, it so much farther away from the moons of the planet Neptune as to make such a statement utterly ridiculous, if not entirely misleading to the ignorant and naive.
 The words “time of death” would mean, in this case, “the time period of his being in the state of death”; not, as in the modern forensic sense, “the moment of time when he died.”
 A fabric made of cotton and wool, which the Old Covenant condemned as a picture of man’s plans and works mixed in with God’s.
 Of course, with the mentality that a saint cannot truly know that he is a child of God unless he has evidence of it in the form of holiness, that he cannot simply cling to the promise of Christ (as seen in such places as John 3:14-18; 5:24-25; 11:25-26), it will be difficult to believe that being “cut in two” and being appointed a “portion with the hypocrites,” where our Lord says “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is anything less than hell. Yet, these things, Jesus tells us, shall befall “that servant” of his who “begins to beat his fellow servants.” And, at the same time, Scripture affirms everyone who believes in Christ has everlasting life and will not come into the judgment of those who do not believe (John 5:24). Naturally, numerous theories have arisen to explain away this passage as not having relevance to actual ministers of Christ among the saints of the New Covenant. But these theories are just that: Theories! They cannot be adduced from the text itself; they can only be concluded by what the theologians consider to be “good and necessary consequence.”
 Alfred Barnes notes, “In no wise [“by no means” in the NKJV] - In no manner, or at no time. The original is simply, ‘I will not cast out.’ Adam Clarke says, “The words are exceedingly emphatical.” John Gill, the puritanical Baptist observes of these words, “such who come to Christ in a spiritual manner, and are brought to believe in him truly and really [as if there were any other way a person could be brought to believe in Him (our Lord’s point, here, is that a person merely need to present themselves to Him as in need of His provision, trusting that He will indeed provide it)], he not only receives kindly, but keeps and preserves them by his power, and will not cast them out, or thrust them from him into perdition: the words are very strongly and emphatically expressed in the original, "I will not, not, or never, never, cast out without"; or cast out of doors. Christ will never cast them out of his affections; nor out of his arms; nor out of that family that is named of him; nor out of, and from his church, which is his body, and of which they are members; nor out of a state of justification and salvation; and therefore they shall never perish, but have everlasting life.” Gill, of course, also sees in such words a guarantee that the saints will also persevere in holiness unto the end of life; such, however, must be read into the text, for the idea is clearly absent from it. Also, Gill’s assertion that such will never be cast out of His church leaves one wondering how it is, then, that a brother who was persisting in open sin should have been commanded by Paul to have been cast out by the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:7).
 I realize this particular text has specific reference to eating the Banquet of the Lord with contempt for brothers and sisters in Christ; nevertheless, it goes to show that if we do not properly judge ourselves, we can suffer serious loss in this life (it would seem to imply an equally serious loss in the next life, as well).
 See previous footnote.
If the year in the date, above, is not 2001, you need to get Internet Explorer 5.0