What Should We Think of Ghosts?


What Should We Think

of Ghosts?

Richard Hollerman

Millions of people believe in ghosts.  They are convinced that they have seen a ghost or heard a ghost.  Especially they may think that the spirits of departed dead have returned to inhabit the house where they lived when they died.  Some think that ghosts frequent cemeteries, thus they wouldn’t think of walking through such a place in the dark!  What about you?  Do you believe in ghosts?  Do you believe in “haunted houses”?

Accounts of ghosts reach back as far as ancient times and the Middle Ages.  The “Golden Age” of ghost stories was in the nineteenth century, particularly in England.  Many of the ghosts that people imagine are malevolent, although occasionally they are thought of as friendly (e.g., “Caspar the friendly ghost”).  American Indians, Pacific islanders, and Africans may believe that spirits influence living people, thus they fear them and perform rituals to escape the spirit’s power.  (World Book Encyclopedia).

“The spirit may right a wrong, take revenge, expose a crime that had gone unpunished, reveal the location of a lost will or hidden treasure, or even teach someone an important lesson.  Typically, ghosts haunt the place where, in life, they suffered an injury or died” (World Book Encyclopedia).

Wickapedia adds this: 

White ladieswere reported to appear in many rural areas, and supposed to have died tragically or suffered trauma in life. White Lady legends are found around the world. Common to many of them is the theme of losing or being betrayed by a husband or fiancé. They are often associated with an individual family line, as a harbinger of death. When one of these ghosts is seen it indicates that someone in the family is going to die, similar to a banshee. Legends of ghost ships have existed since the 18th century; most notable of these is the Flying Dutchman. This theme has been used in literature in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge.

A ghost may be defined as “the spirit of a dead person, especially one believed to appear to living persons or to haunt former habitants.” Another definition would be “a demon or spirit” (The American Heritage College Dictionary).  A further definition might help: “The soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined as wandering, often in vague or evanescent form, among the living and sometimes haunting them” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary).

Sometimes the ghosts are imagined to be “transparent or shadowy” and often are pictured “as white sheets shaped somewhat like a body” (World Book Encyclopedia).  People share stories about these entities, tell accounts of their activity, and many movies, books, and plays are found about them.  A special kind of ghost is called a “poltergeist.”  “Most malevolent ghosts haunt the place where, in their real form, they died or were buried.  A ghost that haunts a place by making strange noises and causing doors, furniture, and other objects to move by themselves” may be called a “poltergeist.” 

A medium is thought to have the powers to call a ghost or spirit to this earth where they may be heard or seen by those present.  This practice is called “necromancy” and a session to call forth the dead is called a “séance.” 

What shall we think about this matter of ghosts?  Those who believe the Bible know that there is no such entity as a ghost, as it is popularly believed and conceived.  The main reason for saying this is the nature of death, as revealed in the Scriptures.  Jesus gives the account of two men who died, found in Luke 16:19-31.   The first one was very wealthy and materialistic.  He had no interest in God or doing His will. He gave no thought of the poor who desperately needed his financial help.  Jesus says that the rich man went immediately to “hades,” the place of departed spirits, where he was in “torment” and in “agony” in the flames (vv. 23, 24, 25, 28).  He could not leave this place of torment (v. 26).  This is the destiny of those who die in their sins and without Christ Jesus. 

The poor man’s name was Lazarus (v. 20).  When he died, he went to a place described as “Abraham’s bosom,” the place of bliss and “comfort” (v. 25).  He too was in a place where he could not leave.  Many Bible scholars believe that those in this place of comfort went to heaven itself after Christ’s death and resurrection.  Presently, those who die who are in Christ “depart” and go to be “with Christ” (Philippians 1:23).  When the body dies and disintegrates, the spirit is received by Christ in God’s heavenly home.  As Paul put it, “. . . to be absent from the body” is to “be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). 

Although there are many other passages that would give more information on the destiny of the unsaved and the saved at death (and before the bodily resurrection), this is sufficient to see that there are two destinies: a place apart from Christ and a place with Christ, a place of torment and anguish and a place of joy and peace.  There is no way for the wicked to be released to come back to earth and terrorize the living.   And there is no way for the righteous to return to earth to visit the living.

Since this is true, we can categorically say that “spirits” or “ghosts” do not come to earth to inhabit former residences, to visit people in a séance, to shock people with their clandestine activities, or to convey messages of doom.  Neither do “good” ghosts come back to comfort the grieving or convey messages of cheer to the despondent.

We believe that surely most of these beliefs are actually imaginations out of control.  Because of the power of suggestion or one’s rich imagination, someone may think that he hears voices or hears a “bump in the night.”  He may think that he sees a shadowy figure in the darkness or feels a breeze where he did not expect it.  But his imagination is playing tricks on him.

There is a supernatural realm that surely must often be involved in these experiences.  Satan, the enemy of our soul, wants to do all he can to discredit Holy Scripture and get people to believe a lie.  He doesn’t want us to believe what God has revealed about the destiny of the righteous and the wicked, thus he devises vain superstitions and faulty beliefs that would contradict what Scripture says.  If he can make people believe that those who die in sin don’t actually go to a place of torment, his plans will have been furthered.  If he can make people believe that the spirits of the dead are still roaming around instead of being presently “under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9), then his desire to keep people from fearing death, judgment, and hell will be promoted. 

We know that in the Scriptures, demons played a prominent role in the life of Christ, and even in the life of the apostles, although much less than before.  Christ cast out demons from people (Mark 1:34) and He sent out His apostles to “cast out demons” (Matthew 10:8).   Our Lord cast out demons from the demoniac in the country of the Gerasenes, from which they overpowered swine and drowned them (Mark 5:1-20).  After Pentecost, Philip cast out demons (or evil spirits) from the Samaritans (Acts 8:7) and Paul cast out an evil spirit from the fortune teller in Philippi (Acts 16:16-18).  In Ephesus, an evil spirit spoke to the seven sons of Sceva and overpowered them (Acts 19:13-16).  It is important for us to understand that these demons were not the spirits of dead people, but evil spirits or angels of Satan who are under his authority to carry out his evil plans.  It may be that demons or evil spirits are involved in certain “ghost” stories, but a more likely explanation of ghosts would be the power of imagination.

As we have noted above, the evil dead are now under judgment and they don’t have access to this world.  Those who are presently dead and lost will one day experience the “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29; cf. Acts 24:15) and will awake “to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

God warns us not to “consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter” (Isaiah 8:19).  We are forbidden to use divination and witchcraft, to interpret omens to practice sorcery, to cast a spell, or to have anything to do with mediums or spiritists, or “one who calls up the dead” (Deuteronomy 18:10-11).  The Scriptures say that these practices are “detestable to the LORD” (v. 12; cf. v. 9).  Those who practice sins like sorcery will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21) and will be cast into the lake of fire for all eternity, which is the second death (Revelation 21:8).

Because of this, we encourage you to renounce all involvement with ghosts and anything that resembles this.  Turn away from all occult items and practices and find your security in God alone, through Christ Jesus the Lord.  Real truth is found in Christ and not in the fables, stories, and fiction of ghost stories.  Jesus is all we need!



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