Are There Ghosts?

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Part Five - Are There Ghosts?

The question before us is not a new question by any means. If one searches the history of man he will find many examples of man’s belief in ghosts. Though this belief has been around for a long time, it is just as popular a topic today as it has ever been. We have ghosts associated with our holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. We have many books and movies that center around the theme of ghosts. Recent reality shows have gone forth with sophisticated equipment in the quest of finding empirical proof of their existence and university professors teach accredited courses on the paranormal. 

At this point let me raise some questions. Does all this interest in ghosts prove they exist? Do people’s experiences of strange noises and phenomenon indicate that ghosts are real? Does God speak about ghosts in the Bible and does He speak to their reality? 

The BibleTo answer these questions we need to start with a definition of what we are talking about when we speak of ghosts. Ghosts are the disembodied spirits of the dead ( Js 2:26). This is the underlying theme found in the practice as given in the Old Testament (Deut. 18:9-14; Isa. 8:19). It is believed that though some when they die go to heaven, yet others for various reasons are required to wander the earth seeking a place of rest. With this definition as our basis we can not answer these questions. 

The Bible tells us that the belief in Ghosts goes further back in human history than the time of Moses (1400 BC). This is made evident in the law given to Moses forbidding Israel from following after the established worship of ghosts by the people of Canaan. 

Deuteronomy 18:9-14, “When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you.” NKJV

In this declaration, God associates witchcraft, sorcery, mediums, and spiritism with the worship of idols when he mentions the practice of making one’s child “pass through the fire.” The practice of mediums therefore is an abomination because it has at its roots the worship of “familiar spirits” or better “demons.” This is brought out by Moses in the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus 20:27, “A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.'" NKJV

Leviticus 19:31, “'Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.” NKJV

Though mediums and sorcerers often used deceit and trickery to accomplish their feats, in many cases they made contact with actual spirits, the spirits of fallen angels. By seeking contact with them they were in essence doing the demons bidding, thus worshipping them. 

This connection between ghosts and fallen angels is further indicated by an account found in Acts 13:6-11. Paul is confronted by a sorcerer named Elymas. When Paul seeks to silence him, he indicates that the true source of this man’s “power” was the “devil” (v. 10).

This connection with demons would explain a lot about the experiences of people who believe they have encountered a ghost. Though many of their experiences can be explained away as natural causes and/or trickery, yet many can only be explained as the work of fallen angels who seek to deceive people into believing they are ghosts. We know the fallen angels have greater power than we do and are invisible to the eyes of men. Therefore it is no difficult thing for them to create the illusion of the presence of a disembodied spirit. This would also explain how the “ghosts or spirits” contacted in a séance or through a medium know many of the personal details of a deceased individual’s life. Since fallen angels have been interfering in the affairs of men since Adam and Eve, it is no surprise that they are privy to many intimate details about our lives. The Bible alludes to such activity in several references.

1 Corinthians 11:10, “For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” NKJV

Ephesians 3:10, “to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,” NKJV

1 Peter 1:12, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven — things which angels desire to look into.” NKJV

At this point we can narrow the identity of ghosts to one three possibilities. 

1) A strange event that can be explained by natural causes. For example, the first night my wife and I lived in the parsonage of our first church, I thought I heard someone or some thing trying to get into our room. It was not until the next day that I learned that in our room was a ceiling access to the attic covered by a light board. Whenever the wind blew it would cause the board to move up and down making a knocking sound. What appeared to be an invader was only the work of the wind.

2) Deception or trickery. Deception is mentioned by Paul in Acts 13:10 and is still a common practice of many mediums and fortune tellers. By trick of hand, use of props,and asking the right questions it is amazing the experience they can give the unwary client. 

3) Demons aka fallen angels. Occurrences that surpass the realm of natural causes and deception are probably the work of deceitful angels. They hope to deceive unbelieving man concerning the validity of the Bible and his personal need of salvation. After all if disembodied spirits walk the earth, can there be a hell?

Now some will at this point raise the experience of Saul and the medium of En Dor (1 Sam. 28: 7-19). Saul approaches the medium and after assurance that she will not be harmed, he seeks her to call up Samuel to seek advice. The record here is not conclusive whether the medium really brought up Samuel or she saw a vision. In either case, from the fearful reaction of the medium it was clear that this was nothing she had seen before. It had to be a miracle of God to announce His final judgment upon Saul and his sons. Therefore, even if Samuel did return from the dead, it was a one time event, a miracle of God, not the product of a medium or fallen angels.

One other common passage cited to prove the existence of ghosts is found recorded in Matt. 14:26; Mk. 6:9. These passages deal with the miracle of the Lord walking on water. When His disciples see a man coming to them walking on a raging sea, with waves up to 20 feet high, they conclude that they must be seeing a ghost. It was a logical conclusion when you consider they were extremely frightened by the storm, fearing for their lives they look on the horizon and see a man walking on angry waves. I think if we had been in their place we might have thought the same!

However this does not mean that Jesus taught His disciples that ghosts existed as the disembodied souls of men. The disciples did not understand a lot of things and we find the Lord constantly correcting them. In fact, our Lord actually dispels the idea of the existence of ghosts after his resurrection when he encourages His disciples to touch Him and know that He was not a disembodied spirit.

Luke 24:38-39, “And He said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." NKJV

There is one addition fact found in Scripture that indicates that ghosts are not disembodied spirits of men. The Bible is very clear that when the soul of man leaves the body at death, it goes to one of two abodes to wait until the resurrection. Those who are believers go to paradise (heaven) where they rest from their labors (Rev. 14:13) and those who are unbelievers go to hell to be spiritually tormented (Rev. 20:11-15). The New Testament is very clear on this matter.

In Luke 16:19-31, the Lord gives not a parable but the actual account of the life and death of a rich man and Lazarus. We know it is not a parable because in Jesus’ parables he never specifically identifies any individuals. Even if this were a parable, all of Jesus parables are based on actual events common to the knowledge of all men. In this account, Lazarus, a believer dies and goes to paradise while the rich man, an unbeliever goes straight to hell. Being mandatory residents of one of these two abodes immediately after death removes the possibility of haunting this world as ghosts.

This understanding of the destiny of all who die is supported by other comments our Lord made. 

Matthew 22:13, “Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” NKJV

Matthew 25:41-42, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” NKJV
Matthew 18:9, “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” NKJV

Matthew 23:33-34, “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?” NKJV

Mark 9:43-44, “It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched — where 'Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.” NKJV

Paul reinforces this teaching by indicating that for the believer to die means he enters into the presence of the Lord in heaven.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8, "So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord." NKJV

Philippians 1:21-24, "21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you." NKJV

In 1 Thes. 4:13-18, Paul speaking of the rapture of the church indicates that the Lord brings with him from heaven the souls of deceased believers to be resurrected to their bodies.

John the apostles also teaches that the dead go to one of these two abodes. 

Revelation 7:9-17, “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands. . . Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. NKJV – these are those who are martyred for Christ during the Tribulation and thus are in heaven awaiting their resurrection

Rev. 20:13 - the resurrection and judgment of the unbelievers: they come from one of two places. Those who are left alive come from the sea (the nations of the world) and the dead, (Rev.20:11) come from hell. In other words, every unbeliever who dies before the end of time goes immediately to hell. 

In conclusion are there ghosts? Not in the sense of the souls of men walking the earth. Yes, if you are speaking of the figment of an over active imagination. Yes, if you are speaking of the deceptive work of fallen spirits, demons who put on the pretense that they are the souls of men.

Should we fear ghosts. No. Remember, as believers He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 Jn. 4:4). However, this is an area that we should not flirt with. Anything that deals with the worship of demons is best left alone. We therefore ought to steer clear of witchcraft, sorcery, mediums, spiritualists, fortune tellers, the occult, astrology’s, palm readers, tarot cards, weegie boards, dungeons and dragons, and movies and books that that glorify the occult. We should warn others of this danger as well.