Ghosts: What are we to believe about them?
Every year at this time, as we approach Halloween, people begin to think about this, and things related. But what’s the truth about it? Are ghosts real? I suppose we should begin with a definition. How is this word ghost defined? It is said to be as an apparition [a supernatural appearance] of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous [vague or undefined] image. People wonder if a deceased person can in some way return from the dead in the form of a ghost. As always, what does the Bible tell us about this matter? Let’s begin with a general statement in Scripture about what happens to a person when they die.
27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: [Emphasis added]
This one statement eliminates the possibility of reincarnation. Certainly, there are many records of how people have been resuscitated, but terminal death only occurs once. We see here in this verse that the next step for them is judgment. They will either end up in Heaven or Hell as their home from that time on. I have numerous articles on this website concerning things related to this. You can type a key word into the search box, and it should come up. Here’s a partial list of those articles.
Death: Is there life afterwards?
Death: Is soul sleep biblical?
Death: Are deceased Christians now in Heaven?
Heaven and Hell: Do these places exist?
Salvation: Can a person be certain they are going to Heaven?
All these address questions many people ask. Fortunately, we have clear answers to them all in the Bible.
The Bible tells us that when Christians die, they immediately go to Heaven.
2 Corinthians 5:8
8 We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. [Emphasis added]
To be a Christian means one has accepted the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the sole means to one’s salvation. To be saved people must believe Christ died for their sins and was raised for their justification.
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
There are other passages that give us additional information about this.
2 Corinthians 5:19-21
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
To be reconciled to God means you’ve put your faith in Jesus Christ as the means to your salvation. It is in this manner that God gives the person the righteousness they need for salvation and everlasting life with Him.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
Once a person goes to Heaven, they never leave there to come back to Earth.
For the unbeliever, the one who does not accept Christ alone as the basis for his salvation, he immediately enters the torments of Hell. Jesus told us of this during His earthly ministry.
19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom [a term used for the eternal state of a believer at that time]: the rich man also died, and was buried;
23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
24 And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.
25 But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. [Emphasis added]
I’d say that’s clearly stated. One went to a place of blessing and happiness and the other to a place of suffering and misery. Both men had the opportunity to enter the place of blessing, but only one got to go there. What will it be for you? It will be YOUR decision. By being receptive to what Christ has done for you, you’ll get to go to Heaven. Otherwise, you’ll be put in a place of torment that will last forever.
But what about ghosts? Do either believers or unbelievers ever come back to Earth as ghosts, even to haunt people? No, they do not! There’s no Biblical record of such for either within the timeframe of this present age of grace. Some interesting, related things have happened in times before this present age of grace [as in the case of King Saul and the witch of Endor [I Samuel 28:7-15] and will happen in the coming time known as the Tribulation [as in the case of the two witnesses (Moses and Elijah)[Revelation 11:3-12],but not in this time of which we are a part today known as the Dispensation of the Grace of God [Ephesians 3:2]. We are living in a unique time. Many things are different today from what went on before and what will come after us. We are not to confuse the two.
So how do we account for the claims of some that these things pertaining to ghosts have occurred? When addressing these stories people believe they’ve experienced, we’re never in a position to refute their claims. We can neither affirm nor deny such stories from a firsthand perspective. However, the one thing we can say is that regardless of what was seen, felt, heard, smelled, or tasted, it is the Bible that is right and reliable. And we know from the Bible that the deceased do not visit the living because those departed souls are either in Heaven as believers or in Hell as unbelievers. Then, what was it that the party experienced? Having not been a part of what was experienced, we are in no position to know. But, as stated above, there are certain things we do know with certainty. Again, the deceased do not visit the living because those departed souls are either in Heaven as believers or in Hell as unbelievers. This is absolute truth from the Scriptures which can always be trusted as completely reliable.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God [THEOPNEUSTOS = God-breathed], and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect [TELEIOS = made mature], thoroughly furnished unto all good works. [Emphasis added]
Having lived a long life, I’ve come to realize that there are all kinds of things some people will believe. There’s no end to that. This is particularly true when people reject the truth. When people reject the truth of Scripture, they make themselves vulnerable to all kinds of false beliefs about a variety of things.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? [Emphasis added]
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: [Emphasis added]
This ignorance is there because of certain truths they’ve rejected. In most instances it becomes very difficult to lead these people away from those beliefs whatever they may be, including that of ghosts. This is basically because they trust their own experience over the authority of Scripture. OUR goal should be to simply and lovingly share those things with them that we know to be true, namely, the gospel and the destination of believers and unbelievers at the time of their death. Those things we can state with absolute confidence and certainty.
In times past, as in the time of the earthly ministry of Christ and for a short time thereafter in the timeframe of the book of Acts, supernatural experiences were somewhat common. Angels in the unseen world did materialize to make themselves visible to man. But in the timeframe in which the apostle Paul was writing his epistles, very little is said about all this because less and less of it was going on. Certainly, Satan and his forces are alive and active in our time, but in a far more behind the scenes way. Satan’s strategy is more subtle and, therefore, more deceitful. We are warned not to be ignorant of his strategy and tactics.
2 Corinthians 2:11
11 Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices. [Emphasis added]
Only the mature believer is not ignorant of Satan’s devices. That group includes only those who’ve obeyed the command to make themselves students of God’s Word over an extensive period of time.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study [SPOUDAZO = be diligent] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
The visible Satanic and demonic activity has been minimal in this present age of grace. That will change after the Rapture and once the following period of the Tribulation has begun. Today for this time Satan’s work is mainly performed through the spreading of false teaching. The apostle Paul warns us about this.
I Timothy 4:1-3
1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times [in this age of grace] some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [DIAMON = demons];
It is important to note that there’s only one Devil, but there are many demons [other fallen angels].
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. [Emphasis added]
Today, the battle against Satan and his forces is an invisible one.
12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. [Emphasis added]
I’m afraid this study would not be complete without a reference to the occasion when the twelve apostles thought they saw a ghost.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit [PHANTASMA = phantom or ghost]; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer [THARSEO = confident or courageous]; it is I; be not afraid. [Emphasis added]
But even in this case, it was not a ghost. It was our Lord, walking on water to the apostles in the boat during a terrible storm. But this was then and not in our time. Events like this do not occur today despite the claims of some. These things certainly could happen, but they don’t happen.
The verse that’s so appropriate to this subject of ghosts is short and simple.
2 Corinthians 5:7
7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) [Emphasis added]
We must trust the authority of Scripture over the experiences of anyone and everyone. As we’ve seen, we are clearly told what happens to both believers and unbelievers when physical death comes to them. The matter is simple. Believers enter Heaven and unbelievers enter Hell. Neither are allowed to return to the Earth as ghosts or in any other form. While living on Earth, people have no further contact with those who have died. This, of course, includes contact through what are called seances and in any other way. God does not allow contact with deceased people in any way.