SS-3 - A Study of Ghosts
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"And when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, supposing He was a ghost they cried
out," (Mark chapter 6:49).
Welcome to our Special Study series in which we're examining some unique
topics that we don't often hear about. In our previous lessons, we discussed the
subjects of angels and demons and what the Bible has to say on those interesting
subjects. Today we will study what the Scripture has to say about the subject of ghosts
or the paranormal
What do we know about the subject of ghosts? There is a lot of hysteria about
this idea in our world today. From the time the movie Ghostbusters came out to today,
where we've got ghost hunters and paranormal societies and all this interest in the
subject of ghosts. What does the Bible actually teach on this subject? Am I going to see
some disembodied spirit in some white, misty form? Do I need to worry about being
haunted in the deep, dark of the night? Are there haunted houses and ghosts and evil
spirits that are actually out to get us today?
As you can imagine that makes interesting books, movies, and documentaries,
but what does the Scripture actually teach? Do ghosts exist today? Have people really
seen ghosts, and are those sightings founded on the Scriptures and the Word of God?
Let's realize that there are two places of existence that we can think of.
First, there is the physical, material, touchable, tangible world. "In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth," Genesis 1:1. "The Lord God created man out
of the dust the ground; breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a
living being," Genesis 2:7. There is the physical, the touchable, the material, tangible
world in which we live; and yet we cannot deny based on the Scriptures that there is
also a spirit world. There is a place where people's spirits do reside after death. "By
whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison," 1 Peter 3:19. There were
spirits who were in existence in some other location beyond this earth life. The Bible
teaches in Luke 16:19-31 when both the rich man and Lazarus died, they went to that
spirit place that we know of as the Hadean Realm. In the Hadean Realm there was
torment, where the rich man was, and there was paradise, where Lazarus was. There is
another place of existence, the Hadean realm, where the spirits exist. For our
discussion today we want to consider, are there ghosts or spirits who are coming back
today to haunt, to talk to, and to create havoc on this physical, touchable world in which
we live in today?
First of all, what do we mean by the word ghost? When someone says, 'I saw a
ghost' or, 'do you believe in ghosts?' what exactly are we talking about? Webster
defines it this way, a ghost is a disembodied soul or spirit; especially the soul of a dead
person, believed to be an inhabitant of the unseen world or to appear in the likeness of
body living forms. When we talk about a ghost, oftentimes people say, well you know,
some tragic event happened in this house 100 - 200 years ago, and their spirit is still
trapped here; and they're appearing in body form. We're talking about the soul of a dead
person they would say. A disembodied spirit that still exists. That's what we mean when
we talk about the idea of a ghost.
We do find the word ghost mentioned in the Bible on several occasions. In fact,
during the time of Jesus people did believe in ghosts. Matthew 14:25-27, the Scripture
records, "Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled saying, "It is a
ghost!" And they cried out with fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Be
of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid." The same event occurs in Mark 6:49, they see
Christ walking on the sea, a great miracle that He performed, they don't know how a
human being could do that; the only conclusion they can draw is, this figment of their
imagination, and it’s a ghost. They thought that might be the case, and of course Jesus
says, 'It's not a ghost, it's me; don't be afraid, be of good cheer. They did believe at that
time in spirits who came back to this world. The Greek word used here in this context,
Mark 6 and Matthew 14, is not the word for spirit, which is the Greek word numa, it's
actually phantasma, which is the word for ghosts. The King James and New King
James will translate that, it's from the word that our English word, phantom, originates.
They didn't know what it was, they said it's a ghost, it's a phantom, we don't know what
it is, but it's surely not a person. Jesus said in Luke chapter 24:39, when he came back
from the grave, when he was resurrected, "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." Here we
see an example of Jesus using this to show, at the resurrection, he wasn't a ghost; he
was actually there in spirit form. The idea of a phantom, Jesus did away with that when
he said 'I'm not phantom, I'm a spirit I've come back from the grave, you can see in my
hands and my feet the marks that were made by the cross.’ There was some belief in
Jesus day about ghosts.
What does the Bible actually say on the subject of ghosts and their existence?
We know that ghosts, or at least spirits, existed in the Bible on at least one occasion. In
1 Samuel 28, there are Saul and Samuel; and Saul is struggling with his kingdom. He's
having a lot of problems, so in a desperate attempt he goes to what we know of as the
witch in En Dor, she calls up from the grave, Samuel. Samuel's spirit returns and when
Saul sees that he's afraid. Even he was surprised that actually happened; and yet
Samuel's spirit did come back and communicate with Saul on that occasion. That was
indeed a special scenario in which God allowed that to happen so that information could
be given to Saul, so that he'd realize the sinfulness of what he had done; and that was
part of God's ultimate plan. We know that it occurred in one occasion in Scripture.
There are a lot of other ideas that are uniquely associated with ghosts. For
example what does the Bible say on the subject of witches? We think of ghosts, goblins,
and ghouls, we think of witches as well. Does the Bible have anything to say on the
subject of witches or warlocks? It indeed does, in Exodus 22:18, "You shall not permit a
sorceress to live." How did God look at people who tried to delve into, or tried to trick
others with those kinds of things? God said don't let them live. God was not at all
pleased with that type of action or lifestyle. Another example is in Deuteronomy
18:10-12. The Scripture says, "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." How did God feel about soothsayers, spiritist, and
magic? God said don't let them live among you; God didn't want that to happen. Not that
they could necessarily do it, but those who tried to, those who might have tricked
people, those who gave in to those things rather than putting their faith in God, God said
you've got to drive those people out from among you.
What about sorcerers or mediums or spiritists, as we might know them today?
Those who want to try to communicate with the dead, or bring certain spells on other
people. What does the Scripture say on subjects like unto these? Again the Bible is very
clear in addressing these issues in Leviticus 19:31 and Leviticus 20:27, God again
condemned such action. Deuteronomy 18:11, those who conjure spells, or those who
bring omens, God said don't let them live among you. Everywhere we see in the Bible
these types of actions are not acceptable or pleasing to the Father.
Oftentimes, when people think about ghosts and ghouls and witches, the idea of
demons comes in as well. Now we know that demon possession and their existence
was indeed found in the New Testament. We see today movies like Poltergeist, where
the little girl is sitting in front of the TV and supposedly something's going to come out
and possess her. Is that really going on today? Let's think about what happened in the
New Testament. In Mark 5, we know that there were a host of demons who actually
possessed a man, Legion or the demoniac, and they caused him to do horrible things.
Demons possessed men at times in the Bible. In Mark 9 we find an example of a man
who was controlled by a demon, but it wasn't just limited to men. In Luke 8:2, there was
a woman who was possessed with demons. There were also children in the Bible who
did have demon possession as well. Mark 7:30, "And when she had come to her house,
she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed." Here we see where
Jesus actually cast the demon out. That demon was affecting that child. Demon
possession did exist in the New Testament age.
What about today? Am I going to be living in fear of some demon possessing me
and overtaking my body? Again, we mention it in the previous lesson, but we want to
drive the point home that demon possession was for the first century. The Bible teaches
that's ended. Notice Zechariah 13:1-2, the Scripture records, "In that day a fountain
shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and
for uncleanness. “It shall be in that day that I will cut off the names of the idols from the
land; they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the
unclean spirit to depart from the land." In the context what time period is being spoken
of? In that day God says a fountain will be opened in Jerusalem for sin and
uncleanness. Now what is that time period? Well we know that's when Jesus and the
gospel were preached. In John 19:34, when the soldier pierced the side of Jesus, that
fountain was open and forthwith came blood and water. That great day of Pentecost,
when they realized they'd killed their Messiah, they cried out, they're cut to the hearts.
They cried out, "men and brethren what shall we do?" And the Clarion answer was,
"repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins and you shall receive the gift of
the Holy Spirit." In context, the time period is when the Gospel is preached, the lifetime
of Jesus, that first century era. But now notice this also; in that same day God would cut
off idols from the land. History records after Babylonian captivity, and during the time of
Jesus, the Israelites no longer gave in to idols. Prophets would cease to be, 1
Corinthians 13:8-10 tells us that as the Bible is being recorded, when that which is
perfect has come, that which is in part prophecy, miraculous knowledge, and those
things would cease, but now don't miss this as well, and unclean spirits, demon and
unclean spirit are used synonymously in the New Testament. Unclean spirits will depart
from the land. Here's what we clearly learn when the Gospel was preached, during that
first century, when that fountain was opened, unclean spirits began to cease to exist;
and by the end of the first century that's a phenomenon that was done away with. Jesus
had power over demons. God allowed that to occur to show the power of His Son, but
the Bible clearly teaches unclean spirits departed from the land. They're no longer
existing or haunting us today. Do I need to be afraid of demons and things of that
nature? Absolutely not.
Do ghosts exist today? There's no denying that there was a belief about them in
Jesus' day. There's no denying that spirits did come back in the Old Testament at least
on one occasion. What about today, what does the Bible say about ghosts and their
existence for us? Here's what the Scripture records, the Bible teaches that the dead,
talking about the spirits in the Hadean realm, are not aware of earth life and the events
that are going on.
Notice in your Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, the Scripture records, "For the living
know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, they have no reward, for the memory
of them is forgotten. Also their love, their hatred, their envy has now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun." The dead, who are
we talking about? Spirits, they don't know what's going on here. They don't have a
share in that. They don't partake in it. They don't come back and interact in the events
from day-to-day and life-to-life. Their life under the sun, earth life, is over and they're not
going to come back and interact with us today.
The Bible teaches that the dead are not going to rise and live and haunt people
now. Isaiah 26:14, the Bible records, "They are dead, they will not live; they are
deceased, they will not rise. Therefore you've punished and destroyed them, and made
all their memory to perish." What do we know? They're dead, they'll not live, they're
deceased, they'll not rise, they're not going to come back and live, they're not going to
come back and haunt, they're not going to hang around and bring havoc, and do all
these things that people make up today. That's not what the Bible teaches on the
subject of ghosts. The Bible says the dead do not rise up; no more do they go to their
houses anymore. Job 7:8-10, "The eye of him who sees me will see me no more; while
your eyes are upon me, I shall no longer be. As the cloud disappears and vanishes, So
is he who goes down to the grave does not come up. He shall never return to his house,
nor his place nor shall his place know him anymore." What did Job say? The dead go
down to the grave, they don't come back up out of that, they don't go to their house
anymore. Is Job saying when dead people leave this life they don't come back and live
in their houses anymore? That's exactly what the Scripture is recording.
What about all this hysteria about haunted houses and these places where tragic
events happened and all these disembodied spirits are there? We don't find Biblical
support for those ideas. Here's what we do find, the Bible records, that after one leaves
this life his spirit returns back to God. Ecclesiastes 12:7, the Bible says, "Then the dust
will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it." What
happens to spirits? Do they just linger around; are they stuck in some in between? No,
they returned to God who gave them. They're under God's authority, God's control, and
God has told us they're not coming back, they're not participating in these events, and
they're not going back to their houses. We can know while there's a lot of interest and
excitement in this idea, it's not based on Scripture and Biblical ideas.
In Luke 16, we get a good scenario of exactly what happens. Lazarus and the
rich man, their fates were changed on the other side. Lazarus awoke in paradise, he
was in Abraham's bosom and the rich man, he awoke in torment so bad that he wanted
just one drop of water to cool his tongue. He said I'm tormented in these flames, and
then he wanted, he's still got the wrong mindset, he wants the rich man to come and
serve him. Can't do that, he wants somebody to go back from the grave, listen now, he
wants a spirit to go back from the grave and warn his five brothers. What did Abraham
say? It's not possible. Why? There's a great gulf you can't cross over, you can't go back.
What do I know about spirits interacting today from that example? I learned that you
can't go back, you can't cross over, it's not possible, and there is a separation, a chasm,
a divide, in the spirit world that separates them from us.
Does that mean today then that there is nothing for us to be afraid of? Oh, there's
something that I need to fear greatly, there is something in the spirit world that I need to
fear greatly. It's not a hysteria that is not founded on Scripture; we're talking about the
devil. I'm not afraid of ghosts, I'm not looking for what's that bump in the dark of the
night, or is something haunting me, or are demons going to possess me. No, not in that
sense, but I need to be alert and I need to be aware and I need to be fearful that there is
an enemy, it's the devil. He's working today through my own desires and lust in your
own desires and lust to cause us to be lost and I desperately need to fear him. Is he
real? You bet he is, the Bible says, "Be sober, be vigilant, your adversary the devil
walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." Is he evil? He absolutely
is. Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, Simon! Satan desires to have you, that he may sift you
as wheat, but I've prayed for you," Luke 22:31. He's real, he's evil, he wants you to go to
hell, and every day he is aggressively seeking people to be lost. There was a council
before the Almighty in Job 1. Sons of God came, and the devil came; and God said to
Satan, "Where have you been?" And he said, "I've been going to and fro, back and
forth, on the earth." What was he doing? By the next question we learn, "Have you
considered my servant Job?" He was aggressively going back and forth looking for
people to tempt by their own passions, desires, and lust and cause to be lost. Now,
here's the good news in all of this, though. Has the devil been defeated? Oh, you bet he
has. Hebrews 2:14, the Scripture records of Christ, "He through death overcame him
and the power of death and has released those who all their lifetime we’re subject to
The good news is the devil's been defeated. The even better news is we can
overcome him. "Be faithful unto death and I'll give you the crown of life," Revelation
2:10. Revelation 3:21, "He who overcomes," Jesus said," will sit with me on my throne."
The idea that we find today of ghosts coming back and haunting people, ghosts
existing living here, it's based on a wild imagination; not on Scripture. The Bible teaches
that those events, although may have happened on special occasions in the Bible, are
not something that is regularly happening today.
Here's what I do know, I need to be sure that the wicked one, the real evil one,
and the devil is not ruling and reigning in my life. The way I do that is by obedience to
the Gospel of Christ.
We ask you today, have you heard the Word of God, Romans 10:17? Do you
really believe Jesus is God's son, John 8:24? Have you repented of things in your life
that may not be right, Luke 13:3? Would you confess Jesus as God's son, Romans
10:10? Would you be immersed in water for the forgiveness of your sins, Mark 16:16?
Let's not get so caught up in ghosts that we forget about the real enemy, and let's
remember who He is in you, is greater than he who is in the world.
Study Questions for: “Special Studies: A Study of Ghosts”
1. What was the purpose of the spirits in 1 Samuel 28?
2. What does the Bible say about witches and warlocks in Exodus 22:18?
3. According to Deuteronomy 18:10-12, how does God feel about magic
4. According to Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, do the dead know what is going on here
5. Can the dead rise up and haunt people according to Isiah 26:14?
6. Do the dead come out of their grave and return to their house according
to Job 7:8-10?
7. According to Ecclesiastes 12:7, where do spirits go?
8. Can the dead cross over according to Luke 16?
9. According to Revelation 3:21, if we overcome the devil, what is our
10. Who is the evil one that desires us according to Luke 22:31?