Ghosts are a common topic around the lunch table, on break, in regular conversation. They are the topic of many films, documentaries, TV shows, books, studies, the like. They have been shown in pictures and captured in videos - but what are they really, and what does the Bible tell us about Ghosts? (Photo credit to: EzineMark, Gustav Dore's illustration for Milton's Paradise Lost, 1866.)
Are these spirits merely deceased humans... or could they be something else? In this entry, we will examine the topic of ghosts. Whatever your opinion of ghosts are, regardless of whether you give credence to them or not, continue reading to follow how the conclusion is reached. Not very many Christians know what to think about ghosts, but if we look to God's Word, we find clear answers.
People of all ages claim to have seen ghosts. Pictures, videos, and experiences of friends and family - as well as personal experiences - are cited as evidence for the existence of such beings. The most common definition of a ghost is a disembodied spirit of a deceased person that remain on the earth, invisible though humans are permitted to see them.
As put by Rick Barry, "Of course, a thing exists or it doesn't. No amount of belief will cause ghosts to exist if they don't; nor could personal opinion cause ghosts not to exist, if, in fact, they truly do exist. Because a person's belief in ghosts creates very serious and far-reaching ramifications, it's a topic that no Christian should ignore."
Ghosts stories have gripped audiences for centuries, and many ghosts in stories have become infamous, such as the ghosts in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol or Shakespeare's plays like Macbeth, Hamlet, or even Julius Caesar. We even find many television shows like Ghost Hunters or Ghost Whisperer, and films like Poltergeist and The Amityville Horror, filled with ghost stories and gripping tales. What needs to be understood is this: the constant flow of ghost stories, books, movies, shows, the like, heavily influence views of many people.
A study had shown that 73% of teenagers had "engaged in at least one type of psychic or witchcraft-related activity, beyond mere media exposure or horoscope usage." 1/10 had partaken in séances, with 9% having visited an alleged spiritual guide or medium. Sadly, it was found that approximately 28% of churched teens recalled hearing a message within the span of a year that helped their understanding of the supernatural - especially in this area.
Now, what does the Bible say? Since teenagers are uneducated on what God's Word actually tells us about this subject, they enter adulthood with unanswered questions and turn to the popular media to give them answers on this matter. The word "ghost" is an Anglo-Saxon word which is the equivalent to soul or spirit. ChristianAnswers.Net further goes to define this as: "[Ghost] is the translation of the Hebrew nephesh_ and the Greek _pneuma, both meaning “breath,” “life,” “spirit,” the “living principle” (Job 11:20; Jer. 15:9; Matt. 27:50; John 19:30). The expression “to give up the ghost” means to die (Lam. 1:19; Gen. 25:17; 35:29; 49:33; Job 3:11)."
Before we examine this from a biblical perspective, let us examine ghost sightings. Most reports of ghost sightings include various details that defy logic and reasoning. For example, many alleged ghosts are clothed, yet if a ghost is the spirit of a deceased human being, wouldn't the ghost appear unclothed after leaving its earthly body, as well as its clothes? Are we to believe that shirts, pants, dresses, accessories, armor, the like all contain spirits of their own that go with a person after death? This defies logic.
Further challenges and issues arise when we look at alleged reports of "ghosts ships," "ghost trains," and other similar vessels and modes of transport. Are we to believe that a vehicle built by human hands itself has a soul? When you are sitting around a campfire with friends, most people understand that it is fairly easy to spin a ghost story, to quickly concoct a fairly tale. This is not to say that ghost experiences are not genuine - but the question needs to be asked, what are people actually seeing, if the soul either goes to Heaven or Hell upon death?
The Creator, God, has given us answers to such questions. Regardless of the topic, the Bible ought to be consulted about these kinds of things. From a clear reading of Scripture, we may understand that the Bible never describes lingering souls on earth. Luke 16:22-23, Luke 24:43, 2nd Corinthians 5:8, and a myriad of other verses give us insight: either the soul descends to Hell or ascends to Heaven upon death.
However, Scripture certainly does describe immaterial intelligence, such as Mark 5:2-15 which details an encounter between Jesus and a man who is filled with "unclean spirits." Jesus ordered these spirits into a herd of swine, who proceeded to fall into the water and drown. Acts 8:7 describes Philip preaching to unclean spirits, who were "crying with a loud voice, [and] came out of the many who were possessed."
Job 4:15 says, "A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end." It is clear that spirits exist - but are they what people believe to be ghosts, or are they something else? Matthew 12:22-28 is another passage which helps to shed light on this topic. A demon-possessed man was brought to Jesus, and the man was both blind and mute. Jesus healed the man, so that he could talk and see, and the demon left him.
The Pharisees question Jesus, saying that it is only by the power of Beelzebul, prince of demons, that he could accomplish such a feat. Jesus replies, "If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." After looking at the passage in context and then examining what the rest of God's Word has to say on the subject, a conclusion can be reached.
As put by Brett Willis, "There’s nothing in the Bible about the spirits of some dead humans “staying behind” on earth. Spirits return to God (Eccl. 12:7). Eccl 9:5 says that the dead don’t know anything (of what is happening on earth); several passages in Psalms echo that teaching. Job says that, had he been stillborn, his spirit would be with all other spirits including those of kings, counselors, princes, prisoners, masters and servants; and there’s no more earthly trouble in that place (Job 3:11-19). Whether it’s a real-life account or a parable, Jesus' story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31 emphasizes that the dead aren’t allowed to return to earth."
Essentially, what most people believe are ghosts are actually demons/fallen angels. As noted by Bible scholar Charles Ryrie, "The very fact that demons can enter human or animal bodies shows that they can pass through barriers that would restrict human beings.... Demons are not humans; neither are they God. But they are superhuman with superior intelligence and experience and powers. To deny the existence of demons is not skepticism; it only displays ignorance. To be unrealistic about their power is foolhardy."
The aforementioned Brent Willis continues, "As for the idea of controlling malevolent spirits (who are demons, not the spirits of the dead) with incantations, that’s pure witchcraft and extremely dangerous. The only word evil spirits are subject to is the Name of Jesus (Mark 16:17; Luke 10:17); and things might go badly for someone who tries to use that name but doesn’t KNOW Jesus (Acts 19:11-20). For spiritual battles, what we need is the power of God. See Eph. 6:10-17 and 2 Cor. 10:3-4."
Someone who is demon-possessed in the Bible is either noted as being demon possessed or has a "familiar spirit," much like King Saul when he was trying to kill David. The Bible records one occasion when the living did however, contact the dead. 1st Samuel 28:7-21 records the account of the Witch of Endor, Saul, and Samuel. King Saul, having outlawed mediums, went to visit the Witch of Endor, who was demon-possessed (had a "familiar spirit"), because God would not answer him since Saul continually disobeyed.
"Then the woman asked, 'Whom shall I bring up for you?' 'Bring up Samuel," he said. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, 'Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!' The king said o her, 'Don't be afraid. What do you see?' The woman said, 'I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.' 'What does he look like?' he asked. 'An old man wearing a robe is coming up,' she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. Samuel said to Saul, 'Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?'"
Samuel actually showed, and gave Saul a prediction which was fulfilled the following day, though some believe the part of Samuel's prophecy regarding "[his] sons" was not fulfilled, this is in question. No, not all of Saul's sons were killed the following day, but the passage does not say "all of your sons," simply, "your sons," though it may be implied.
This passage is not suggesting that séances work, nor does it condone witchcraft. On the contrary, many scholars believe that the reason the woman was so surprised is that God intervened and brought up the real Samuel - the witch was going to bring up a demon disguised as Samuel, yet God intervened and brought up the real Samuel, therefore the reason the woman was so scared. God tells us multiple times never to dabble in the occult, and yet some continue to.
No evidence has ever been produced that should sway Christians into believing that the spirits of deceased friends and family as well as unknowns from past centuries can remain on the earth after death. The Bible concludes that ghost sightings are either caused by overactive imaginations - or are demons/fallen angels impersonating deceased people.
Christian author Ron Rhodes, in The Truth Behind Ghosts, Mediums, and Psychic Phenomena, states, "People sometimes genuinely encounter a spirit entity - though not a dead human. Some people encounter demonic spirits who may mimic dead people in order to deceive the living (see 1 John 4:1; 1 Timothy 4:1-3). Many who claim to have encountered such spirit entities have some prior involvement in the occult."
|Fallen Angel (Lucifer)|
The question ought to be asked, then, why would demons seek to deceive us by impersonating the deceased? Rick Barry points out, "As servants of Satan and enemies of God, they would have every reason to cast doubt on God's Word and its warnings about future judgment. Getting people to believe in ghosts automatically forces them to reject key Bible verses. (see Hebrews 9:27) Do you believe in ghosts? The question is huge. Coming to a wrong conclusion about the afterlife has eternal consequences, and the wrong choice on this side of the grave can condemn a soul to eternal agony on the other side."
In my personal experience, I believed in ghosts for most of my life, until two years ago. I have seen much in regards to the supernatural, yet not enough - it was always momentary glimpses, as my home allegedly rests on the deathbed of Indians. This led me to believe that the spirits I saw and that family members and friends over the years have seen were spirits of the dead, which eventually led me to New Age beliefs. I had believed that New Age, not knowing much about it, was merely expounding upon Christianity, useful for showing that there is a Heaven.
However, I was wrong. Once I began to investigate further, I realized that the common New Age beliefs are as follows: a belief in a mother God, belief that there is no Hell nor demons, belief that Heaven is three feet off the ground, belief in reincarnation, the like. All beliefs that utterly disagree with Scripture, and I corrected my error and devoted myself to actually learning what the Bible had to see.
It is now understood that ghosts are merely demons trying to lead me and many others astray from Jesus Christ, from salvation. Since God's Word says that ghosts are demons, if you have seen a spirit and disagree with Scripture - or like me, did not know what Scripture said on the matter, you are prone to disregard the Bible, and therefore never come to salvation.
For example, those who have died and go through a tunnel of light, meet a being of light who tells them that there is no Hell nor demons, that all paths lead to him, and then these people come back to tell others about their experience, much like it is with aliens (see entry: "Aliens: Do They Exist? Are They Mentioned in The Bible?"), hundreds, if not thousands or even millions of people will begin to discount the Bible, "exchang[ing] the truth of God for a lie." (Romans 1:25)
That being of light is Lucifer, having set out to create a faux reality in which to deceive people. He and his fallen angels do the same with aliens - and with ghosts. This is not to say that all What are ghosts? Ghosts are demons, impersonating humans. Consider this: demons have been around as long as Satan. They have seen the lives of people before us. If a demon took on the appearance of the old woman who died under mysterious circumstances and was buried in your backyard, and you are "haunted" by this demon posing as the Old Woman, recounting things only the woman should not, would this not lead people astray?
It would indeed, and it is very dangerous to associate with the occult, and with demons, who are ghosts. The only spirit we should be familiar with is The Holy Spirit, who is God the Spirit. Amen. The only way to be filled with the Holy Spirit is by accepting Jesus Christ. "If you declare with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that he is risen from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9) We must also confess our sins. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (1st John 1:9)
Thank you for taking the time to read this entry of "The Truth," we trust it has proven insightful and informative, and understand if some do not reach the same conclusion, so please remain civil in your comments below. Feel free to email me personally at email@example.com, the Ministry team at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the facebook page, or visit the Ministry homepage. Take care, and may God bless. Troy Hillman
 Barry, Rick. "Do You Believe in Ghosts?." Answers In Genesis. Answers In Genesis, 3 June 2010. Web. 16 Jan 2011.
 "Ghost." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2011.
 "Familiar Spirit." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, n.d. Web. 22 Jan 2011.
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