Divine Services for the Departed Spiritism New Apostolic
The New Apostolic Divine Services for the Departed System

The New Apostolic Divine Services for the Departed is very controversial among Christians. Is it spiritism in a New Apostolic form or is it a biblically legitimate practice and doctrine of faith? One could also ask the question in a shortened way: Is there salvation after death?

According to New Apostolic doctrine, salvation is still possible after the death of the natural body. That is why so-called services for the departed are held. During such a service the already deceased should be able to participate in the ‘acts of grace’ through the living apostles of the NAC, which are accepted by the living on behalf of the dead (from the former catechism of the NAC, the book ‘Questions and Answers’, question 248 and question 249). Today, the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church says the same thing: “Since the sacrifice of Christ, the state of souls in the hereafter is changeable for the good. Salvation, therefore, can be obtained even after bodily death.” 1) „… The administration of Holy Baptism with water, Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion to those who have fallen asleep is done by performing the respective visible act on the living. … The effect of salvation does not benefit the living, but only those who have fallen asleep.” 2)

What does the Scripture say?

However, it is clear from the Scriptures that redemption and salvation are no longer possible after natural death. Death marks a boundary after which man has no possibility of turning back (see the parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus). This is clear from several passages in the text:

“And to all this there is fixed between us and you (the realms in eternity) a great gulf, that they who would cross over from here to you may not, nor they who would cross over from there to us.”

Luke 16, 26

And how men are destined to die once, butafter that, after that, judgment.

Heb. 9, 27

For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his reward for what he did while he was alive, whether good or bad.

2nd Cor. 5, 10

What must we conclude from these passages? There are different realms in eternity. But between these areas is a great gulf that no one can overcome. But the opposite is taught by the NAC, because this would be the prerequisite for the salvation of the deceased. Furthermore, we must conclude: What a person has believed and done during his lifetime determines salvation or damnation. (see also: Hebr. 9, 27; 2. Cor. 5, 10; Rev. 20, 11-15)

Souls to whom the gospel could not be preached

It may be asked, “But what about those souls who could not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in their lifetime because there was no one to preach it to them?

We human beings must not construct a concept of salvation that does not correspond to biblical teaching and thus, under certain circumstances, prevents a necessary decision that must be made during our lifetime. Even if we did not know how God acts on souls who have not heard of salvation through Jesus Christ, we must not teach and practice anything that has not been revealed to us through the Word of God. However, God does not leave us in the dark about this group. In the Epistle to the Romans we find the following references:

Nature is proof enough of God

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold down the truth through unrighteousness, because that which is known of God is manifest among them, for God has revealed it to them. For his invisible <being>, both his eternal power and his divinity, has been perceived and beheld in the made since the creation of the world, that they might be without excuse; because they knew God, but neither glorified him as God nor gave him thanks, but fell into folly in their reasonings, and their unintelligent hearts were darkened.

Romans 6:3-4 (ESV) 1, 18-21
The law is written on the heart

For as many as have sinned without the law shall perish without the law; and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law – for it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For if nations which have no law act by nature according to the law, these which have no law are a law unto themselves. They prove that the work of the law is written in their hearts, in that their conscience bears witness and their thoughts accuse or even excuse one another – on the day when God judges the hidden things of men according to my gospel through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:3-4 (ESV) 2, 12-16

Every human being can recognize and perceive the Lord and his will, on the one hand in his creation and on the other hand in his own conscience. No one can be excused for their sinful actions and unbelief. One’s conscience bears witness to the existence of God. Everyone, because of this realization, has the opportunity to submit and serve the Creator. So it is not at all necessary to want to read out of Scripture a doctrine of salvation for people who have already died.

Divine Services for the Departed Spiritism New Apostolic
Dreams & Visions

Dreams and visions

In order to support the correctness of the New Apostolic faith practice of the divine services for the departed, dreams and visions of the brethren, as examples of the effectiveness and desire of souls in eternity, are often reported in the services and the magazine ‘Our Family’.

What are we to make of such reports, can we use dreams as evidence of the truth of a matter, what does the Lord say about such dreams? Again, the Bible gives an answer to this:

I have heard what the prophets say, who prophesy and speak lies in my name: I dreamed, I dreamed! How much longer? Do the prophets <have> in mind – they who prophesy lies and are prophets of the deceit of their hearts – do they ‘intend’ to bring my name to oblivion among my people by their dreams, which they tell one to another, just as their fathers forgot my name over Baal? The prophet who has a dream, tell the dream! But he who has my word, speak my word in truth! What does the straw have in common with the grain? saith the LORD.

Jer. 23, 25-28

New Apostolic ScriptureDocuments

On closer examination, can the biblical passages cited by the New Apostolic Church to justify its doctrine do justice to this New Apostolic claim?

1 Cor. 15, 29

Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If dead people are not raised at all, why do they get baptized for them?

1 Cor. 15, 29

A passage that is particularly fond of being quoted in this context. There are several views on this passage. The one that here a substitutionary baptism of the already deceased was carried out by those who were still alive (the view of the NAC), the other that those who were baptized filled the gaps left by those who had to die a martyr’s death for their faith. At that time, baptism and the following persecution and the martyrdom that often resulted from it fell into a close temporal connection, so that one can speak here of a baptism in place of the dead and not as a substitute for the dead. Another view holds that the Greek can also mean ‘baptized because of the dead’. Then this may mean a baptism of people who have been influenced by the testimony of a recently deceased Christian, and hope to be united with him in the resurrection.

The apostle Paul mentions this action here. But he leaves it completely open how he evaluates this action, because this chapter is not about baptism, let alone a possibility of salvation after death, but about the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To try to derive the New Apostolic practice of faith from this passage is to build one’s house on sand. Furthermore, we have to ask ourselves why the New Testament does not report at any point that the living received the Lord’s Supper on behalf of the dead, or that they were baptized and sealed (on sealing I would like to refer to the essay The Holy Spirit in the NAC on this website).

1 Peter 4:6

For to this end good tidings have been preached even to the dead, that, though they be judged according to men after the flesh, they may desire to live according to God after the Spirit.

1 Petr. 4, 6

Who is meant by these ‘dead’? The faithful, or more precisely, the obedient departed of the Old Covenant, or the unbelievers? For what purpose, when, and by whom was the gospel preached to these? The answer to these questions is: This verse refers to people who had the gospel preached to them while they were still alive on earth and believed the Lord. Because of their brave stand for the truth, they suffered at the hands of evil men, and in some cases they even became martyrs. These believers, though ‘judged according to men after the flesh’ or condemned, were justified by GOD. They now enjoy eternal life with him. They were not dead when the gospel was preached to them. But they are now dead in the flesh…” 3)

1 . Peter 3:19-20

In this also he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient, when the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built, into which few, that is, eight souls, were saved through the water.

1 Petr. 3, 19-20

By this in verse 19 is meant the Holy Spirit of verse 18. When it says ‘the Spirit’ in verse 18, then in the NT it is always the Holy Spirit who is meant by ‘this’ in verse 19. When it says ‘the Spirit’ in verse 18, the NT always speaks of the Holy Spirit. This is impressively and clearly demonstrated by H.L. Heijkoop in his commentary on the 1st Epistle of Peter, beginning on p. 333. That is, He who was there from the beginning of the world, Jesus Christ, was present in the Holy Spirit even in Noah’s day and preached the gospel through Noah’s preaching.

Even if the passage had to be interpreted in the way the NAC would like to see it, namely that Christ personally preached the gospel in the realm of the dead in the New Apostolic sense, how can one derive from this the NAC’s practice of believing that living people act as mediators between God and man and think they can administer baptism, the Lord’s Supper and sealing to the deceased? The 1st letter of Timothy states:

For {einer} is God, and {einer} is mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, …

1. Tim. 2, 5
2. Mak. 12, 39-46

The second book of the Maccabees belongs to the Apocrypha. This book is therefore not to be equated with the Holy Scriptures, since its origin and contents are in part doubtful. Even the NAC states this analogously in its catechism – the book Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith– in question 8. Why is the NAC going down this slippery slope? It is not for nothing that most Bible translations omit this book. But when this passage is addressed, it is important to bear in mind that it is assumed there that these, though sinful, have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and are therefore no longer in need of spiritual salvation! In the time of the Maccabees it was still customary to offer sacrifices for atonement, Jesus’ sacrifice had not yet been accomplished (Old Covenant)! Here is the text in context:

“If he had not expected that the fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous, nay, foolish, to pray for the dead, But then he also considered that the most glorious gift of grace is prepared for those who fall asleep as pious people, that is a pious and holy thought. Therefore he also offered an atoning sacrifice for these dead, that they might be redeemed from their sin

2. Mak. 12, 44-46
Divine Services for the Departed Spiritism New Apostolic

Spiritism or biblical faith practice?

What exactly happens at the three times a year divine services for the departed ? The New Apostolic congregations pray for the departed worldwide. This is probably not dangerous at first, but it is pointless in terms of their condition in eternity, as we have already noted above. But there is more happening: the congregation is praying for souls ‘ready for salvation! In a sense, the congregation forms the bridge between this world and the hereafter. So the church also acts as a medium of sorts! Then the Chief Apostle performs baptism and sealing on the deceased at the altar through two ministers as mediums (usually Apostles), and administers Holy Communion to them.

So here’s what we have: Summoning the deceased, mediums who serve as channels, and sacramental acts on the deceased! As I understand it, this is spiritualism!

Dr. Kurt E. Koch writes the following in his book ‘Occult ABC’ about the New Apostolic Church in this regard:

The New Apostolic sealing of the deceased belongs much more to the field of spiritualism.

The authority of the apostles extends to Hades, the realm of the dead. According to this doctrine, the living can intercede for the dead, even receive the sacraments vicariously for the dead, that is, baptism. Communion and sealing. As evidence from the Bible they take the non-canonized Apocrypha 2 Macc. 12, 39f and from the New Testament 1. Cor. 15, 29. This reference from Corinthians is pulled by the hair, Paul neither recommended nor forbade vicarious baptism (substitutionary baptism for the dead). He mentions it only because in his time such a process was common among the Essene and other sectarian groups. This is not a proof of entitlement, nor is the reference that Jesus preached to the ‘spirits in prison’ (1 Pet 3:19). The New Apostolic sealing of the deceased belongs much more to the field of spiritualism. Here is an example from my work:

Let’s take a closer look at what is supposed to have happened to Luther in the afterlife. We must know that in the Catholic Apostolic Church, a forerunner of today’s New Apostolic Church, there were no Divine Services for the Departed. But how can that be? Were the apostles of the Church not filled with the Holy Spirit and thus not aware of this ‘truth necessary for salvation? However, the seed for Spiritism was already planted in the English congregations of the Catholic Apostolic Church. Just think of the many alleged dreams and visions that later led to the callings of the apostles, and of the psychically and mediumistically very gifted sisters of the Campbell family:

Visions and faces already at the beginning in Scotland

“Now not far from the Grubb cabin lived the Campbell family. Campbell’s father was a clergyman and had two daughters. The older daughter was called Isabell. She was venerated like a saint. People made pilgrimages to her. There were obviously special gifts and appearances there too. Isabell, however, died early of tuberculosis. The spirit and worship then passed to her sister Mary. Both girls had possessed the gift of divination’ and had had visions and visions.

… ‘That time had now come’, it is claimed. Now one day Mary Campbell became seriously ill too. ‘Pulmonary tuberculosis’ was the diagnosis, as it was for her sister. And now it goes on:
‘One evening she lay there, without uttering a word, absorbed in silent prayer. Two friends were visiting her. Suddenly she rose and stepped to her feet. She spoke in a language that none of those present could understand. … She was filled with power and strength; for by her own strength she could not utter these special and mysterious words. Then she lay back on her bed and was as weak as before. This took place on March 21, 1830.’ 6)

Convulsions (twitching associated with rearing up) in Port Glasgow.

And the MacDonald family experienced something similar:

“At the same time, on the other side of the Clyde, in the little town of Port Glasgow, there lived a family generally respected for their godliness and piety, by the name of MacDonald, where similar conditions soon arose. The two brothers, James and George, lived with a sick sister, who was first seized with the spirit. James … had once returned home from his work at noon, when he found his suffering sister in the midst of the convulsions (convulsions associated with a rearing of the body; L. G.) of that new inspiration. The startled and afflicted family concluded that she was near her end; so they addressed James in long discourse, concluding with a prayer that he might be immediately gifted with the power of the Holy Ghost. …

Instantly James said quietly, ‘I have got her.’ He stepped to the window and stood there quietly for some minutes; his features took another shape, with majestic step he came to the sister’s bedside and addressed her in the words of the 20th Psalm, ‘Arise and stand erect!’ He repeated the words, caught her by the hand, and she stood up. The sister had not only risen for the moment, she was healed, and immediately the brother wrote to Mary Campbell, who was apparently near death, and made the same appeal to her with the same success (thus a ‘distant healing’ by letter; L. G.). …

The patient received the letter in the midst of extreme weakness, but without a helping hand she got up, declared herself cured and was given back to life. Often now she allowed herself to be heard as an inspired one in large gatherings, while the more sober MacDonalds quietly and seclusively maintained their former way of life. 7)

The Rise of Spiritism in Europe

These things happened at a time when spiritualism was spreading in Europe (Justinus Kerner 1826, Seherin von Prevorst 1821 – 1829, Allan Kardec 1804-1869, Andrew Jackson Davis 1847). A coincidence?

But now back to the New Apostolic Church, or more precisely to two other pioneers: the General Christian Apostolic Mission (AcaM) and the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk (HAZK), the Dutch-Holland branch of the Hamburg AcaM. There the Hamburg Friedrich Wilhelm Schwarz was active, who was still influenced by the tradition of the Catholic Apostolic congregations. Under his leadership, the following happened:

“… Already in the formative phase of the New Apostolic Church, Apostle Friedrich Wilhelm Schwarz performed a so-called baptism of the departed for the first time on Ascension Day 1874 as part of comprehensive liturgical reforms. The pastoral occasion was the question of the possibility of salvation for a stillborn child in his parish. In doing so, Schwarz drew on the practice of interceding for the deceased in Catholic Apostolic congregations. … Since baptism and sealing by apostles were considered necessary for salvation, the practice developed of administering both sacraments to the deceased. This was initially done for named individuals (including Martin Luther and other reformers) … 8)

In fact, in 1874 Luther is said to have received the so-called sealing on Easter, as well as Zwingli, Melanchthon and Calvin and others on Ascension Day of the same year, through medial mediation. Friedrich Wilhelm Schwarz wrote about it:

“And just think, at the end of the service came a prophecy (but I have not yet received it): ‘I, the Lord … do this day remember my servant Martin Luther, that he may belong to my bride.’ My servant Verkruisen, go to my servant the apostle and be baptized for my servant Martin Luther’. Henceforth father Luther belongs to the firstfruits and probably to the tribe of Judah! 9)

Bible Holy Scripture
The scriptural evidence is clear!


In view of the above biblical scriptural passages, no actions corresponding to the so-called Divine Services for the Departed – as practiced in the NAC – can be deduced, let alone their correctness proven. In the context of the biblical scriptural evidence I have cited above, one must judge this action to be wrong.

Even if we do not clearly know every possibility of God’s plan of salvation for each individual soul, we must not arbitrarily try to construct a possibility for salvation. This we must leave to our God, the only one who can save souls.

The seed of spiritualism was laid in the cradle of the NAC

The seed of Spiritism was already planted in the Catholic Apostolic Church. This demonic influence continued through the AcaM and the HAZK into the New Apostolic Church. I myself have had frightening visions during a New Apostolic Divine Services for the Departed. Today I know that these visions were of demonic origin. Because God does not allow these contacts:

“Then said he (Lazarus), So I pray thee, Father, that thou send him to my father’s house-for I have five brethren-that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment! Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; unto these shall they hearken. But he said, Nay, father Abraham, but if any of the dead should go to them, they would repent! And he said unto him, If they hearken not unto Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded if one rose from the dead!”

Luke 16, 27-31

For this reason, and also from broad biblical scriptural evidence, dreams and visions of corruptions must be characterized as demonic and satanic attempts at seduction.

An abomination unto God

When men and especially his people occupy themselves with the dead and with all kinds of spiritual things, this is an abomination to the Lord:

“When thou comest into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those heathen nations. No one shall be found among you who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices divination, or divination of signs, or a conjurer, or a sorcerer, or one who banishes spirits, or a spirit-interrogator, or a clairvoyant, or one who appeals to the dead. For whoever does such things is an abomination to the LORD, and because of such abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you.”

Deut 18:9-12

Other scriptures in this context: Deut. 19, 26; Gal. 5, 19-20; Acts. 19, 19)

Dear member of the New Apostolic Church, I do not want to attack you personally. I am aware from my own experience that it is difficult to put these basic things of faith to the test. But I want to help you see the God-ordained way of salvation and keep you from these unbiblical acts of the Divine Services for the Departed. For it is nonsensical and ineffective for the deceased as well as unscriptural and an abomination to the Lord! The only one who rejoices is the adversary of God because his seduction has succeeded and he has been able to extend his demonic influence.

You have to decide

I ask you to test the teaching that you follow and that is preached to you by the written word of God (1 Thess. 5, 21; Acts 17, 11). Also, do not adopt what I have written without testing it against the Scriptures. If contradictions arise between the teaching proclaimed to you by men and the Scriptures, then you must decide, “Who do I trust more, God who reveals Himself through the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16), or men who can err?”

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 3, 11

…that whosoever believeth in him might have everlasting life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten (only) Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life

John 3, 15-16

© Lutz Jusko

Literature reference:
All Bible quotations (except Apocrypha) are taken from the Revised Elberfelder Bible of 1985 or the Schlachter 2000. The Apocrypha is taken from the Revised Luther Bible of 1984.

Photo credits:

1) Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, 9.6 Help for the Departed,
2) Catechism of the New Apostolic Church, 9.6.3 Transmission of salvation to the deceased,
3) William Mac Donald, Commentary on the New Testament, p.1345, Christliche Literatur-Verbreitung e.V., Bielefeld, 1992.
5) Dr. Kurt E. Koch, Occult ABC: Supplementary volume to the book. Pastoral Care and Occultism , 4th edition, 1996, Bible and Scripture Mission.
6) Dr. theol. Lothar Gassmann, excerpts from a lecture at the Free Theological Academy Giessen
7) Citation. according to: Ev. Kirchenzeitung, Berlin 1864, p. 283. / Lothar Gassmann
8) (Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen,
9) De Herinnering, April/May 1874, ed. Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz, quoted in: Das Entschlafenenwesen, p. 70ff.