What Does The Bible Say About Ghosts?

As a Christian, how do you assess paranormal activity?

 If you watch Ghost Hunters then you know that most “hauntings” are natural phenomenon that can be easily explained and others, like a flying hanger, looks like a production assistant is having some fun (honestly, what ghost throws a flippin’ hanger?!?!)

But, the Bible certainly teaches that there are disembodied beings but do they “haunt” areas outside of heaven or hell?

There are a few references to ghosts in the Bible.  For example, let’s look at 1 Sam. 28:7-19

Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”

So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage.

15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”

 Note that Saul can recognize Samuel by his face and dress, which parallels many ghost sightings.

The same goes for Luke 9:29-33.  The disciples recognize Moses and Elijah by their appearance even though they have been dead for centuries.

Also look at Matthew 14:26 and Luke 16:31, where the rich man in the parable seems to believe it is possible to send someone from the realm of the dead to the realm of the living.  Now, one has to be careful not to take parables too literally but it’s still interesting.

BUT what about 2 Corinthians 5:8, that seems to imply that once believers leave their body they immediately enter the presence of the Lord? I suppose one may object that the verse does not preclude heaven sending the disembodied believer back but for what purpose? Seems unlikely.

Moreover, such a move by the dead to the living is different from the living contacting the dead.  If it were permissible to contact the dead then it is odd that God would explicitly forbid it for so many centuries (See Lev. 19:31; 20:6; 1 Samuel 28:8-9; Isaiah 8:19; 19:3 and 29:4).

And here is the crux of the matter; the Bible may not be clear as to whether there are ghosts but it is clear that we should be wary of seeking out any type of paranormal activity for 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 teaches that demons often masquerade as “angels of light.” Thus, there is no way to know if the cause of paranormal activity is a ghost or demon. 

I have read articles, including one by a theologian, which argue that it is unlikely that all “hauntings” are caused by demons because they appear to be harmless (i.e., the supposed spirit of a child, etc.) But I think he misses the point.

A demon masquerading as a ghost would not go all Poltergeist on someone’s hiney because that would probably send the people right to a priest or a pastor.  What good what that do from a demon’s point-of-view?

BUT if a demon acted like an innocent child then it might lead a person to contact a medium or engage in a séance, which is what the demon would truly want for reasons we will discuss next week when we address witchcraft.

Remember that demons only seek to “kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10)”

That may frighten you but those of us who follow Christ don’t have to worry about demons “killing, stealing or destroying” for Jesus died in our place, was temporarily robbed of his crown for us  and allowed his soul to be crushed as he took the punishment for our sins in order to redeem us from the darkness.   Our Lord’s death and resurrection actually conquered the darkness so that we need not worry about it.  All we need to do is faithfully follow our King–his light will pierce and ultimately banish the darkness from his creation.

In the meantime, we worship our Lord, grow closer to him through study, fasting & prayer and serve him by sharing his Gospel and caring for the poor and sick as we did this weekend at Free Market.

 One day, the demonic will be imprisoned for forever but we will sit at our Lord’s table with those with whom we have shared our extra goods and the redeeming story of Christ and this is what will truly echo through eternity.

3 thoughts on “What Does The Bible Say About Ghosts?

  1. matt, thanks for writing about such off-the-wall subjects, while staying faithful to scripture.

  2. Hi there,

    Just wanted to note you point on the part-

    “Also look at Matthew 14:26 and Luke 16:31, where the rich man in the parable seems to believe it is possible to send someone from the realm of the dead to the realm of the living. Now, one has to be careful not to take parables too literally but it’s still interesting.”

    Parables are earthly stories with a higher/heavenly meaning. This illustration which our Lord gave can have no higher meaning, so that would imply that it was a not a parable but a true story.

    God bless

  3. Thank so Matt for this it help me find points of the bible where there is spirits on earth

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