Ghosts In The Bible
In no uncertain terms does the Bible reject the notion of ghosts. But, things are a bit more complicated than the scriptures simply declaring “Nope, no ghosts!”. Instead, the stories about ghosts have become mingled with evil spirits, angels, the Holy Spirit, and – unfortunately – dead humans.
The Bible and afterlife
One thing that the Bible is very clear on is that once someone dies, they remain dead. They can’t, under any circumstances, return from the dead (except for Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead after three days).
Instead, once a person passes, they get to stand before God to accept judgment. It is then decided whether they will go to Heaven or be cast down to Hell. Those who believed in the Holy Trinity will be awarded with paradise past the Pearly Gates, while the unfaithful will be sent straight to Hell.
There is no third option. Despite all the unfinished business you may have had before your passing, you can not return to Earth as a ghost.
Ghosts versus angels versus demons
Ghosts, demons, angels – it gets a bit complicated with all these spiritual beings mentioned in the Bible.
The Bible teaches that there are spirits who can appear in the physical world. But, these spirits are either angels or demons – not ghosts.
Angels are spiritual beings who faithfully serve God and enact his will. Demons are said to be fallen angels who rebelled against the authority of God.
In 2 Corinthians, demons (and Satan) are said to pretend to be “angels of light” who come to Earth and cause evil mischief. So, it is not too far outside of the realm of possibility that these fake “angels of light” could appear as the ghost of a deceased person.
Christians need to be aware of the ability of evil spirit beings to portray themselves as dead loved ones and remember that once a person dies, they can’t return to the physical world in any way.
Are There Ghosts In The Bible?
When we think about ghosts, we typically think of disembodied spirits that have returned to us from the spiritual realm.
But, what does the Bible say about ghosts? Are they even mentioned in the scriptures?
… but not in the way you think. In the King James Version of the Bible, the term “ghost” is used interchangeably with “spirit”. As a clear example, the Holy Spirit is also called the “Holy Ghost”.
In modern translations, the use of the word “ghost” has decreased. It is still around, but mostly to refer to unexplainable apparitions.
For example, Jesus walking on water in the book of Mark convinced his disciples that they saw a ghost. After Jesus rose from the dead, his followers were convinced he was a ghost (but he quickly calmed their shattered nerves by eating some fish and showing them his hands and feet).
There is one instance where a disembodied spirit made a brief appearance in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 28, Saul consulted a medium who made the spirit of the prophet Samuel rise from the dead. But, the medium became scared, crying out in fear.
In Job 4, a potential ghost is also described. Eliphaz writes “A spirit glided past my face, and the hair on my body stood on end. It stopped, but I could not tell what it was.” That sounds like a ghost to us!
Bible verses about ghosts
Despite the Bible rejecting the notion of ghosts or familiar spirits, ghostly references still feature in a couple of Bible verses:
- “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:52-53)
- “When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19)
- “So he lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, people will not awake or be roused from their sleep.” (Job 14:12)
- “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39)
- “When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.” (Matthew 14:26)
- “For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished; nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6)
- “When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.” (Psalm 146:4)
Hauntings In The Bible
The Bible may claim that “neither death nor life… can separate us from the love of God” in Romans 8, but then why is there a reported haunting in the Bible?
This “haunting” is written about in Mark 5:1-20. It is less of a haunting and more of a demonic possession.
A couple of demons possess a man, and the man begins to haunt the graveyard. There were no actual ghosts involved – simply a possessed man terrifying passers-by.
Since there are no other hauntings reported in the Bible, Christians believe that ghosts, ghouls or poltergeists are actually evil spirits or demons pretending to be a dead loved one
Can Christians Reach Out To Loved Ones Who Have Passed?
Since the Bible tells us that there are no such things as ghosts, Christians may struggle to find an outlet for their grief if they can’t contact their loved ones after death.
In both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, it is said that God despises those who attempt to contact the dead. The Bible also makes it clear that the person’s soul has departed this world and is spending eternity in either Heaven or Hell.
So, although believers in the Bible may be tempted to reach out to a medium or witch, this is not condoned by God.
Why would demons come to the Earthly realm and pretend to be the ghosts of deceased loved ones?
Demons are said to be the servants of Satan. Their aim is to cast doubt on the word of God. By pretending to be the ghost of a loved one, they will immediately cause people to reject several verses in the Bible.
Do the Bible’s teachings on ghosts impact funeral practices for Christians?
No, the Bible’s stance on ghosts does not significantly influence Christian funeral practices. Funerals are focused on honouring the deceased and providing comfort to the grieving, not attempting to communicate with the departed.
Many of us would like to learn if ghosts are real, and what a ghost can do. But there is no evidence in the Bible that people can return to the physical world once they die. Instead, people are rewarded or punished with eternal life in Heaven or Hell.
The Bible concludes that all ghost sightings are either demons masquerading as “angels of light” or simply the figment of an overactive imagination.