Allow me to tell you a ghost story:
“This truth was given to me in secret, as though whispered in my ear. It came to me in a disturbing vision at night, when people are in a deep sleep. Fear gripped me, and my bones trembled. A spirit swept past my face, and my hair stood on end. The spirit stopped, but I couldn’t see its shape. There was a form before my eyes. In the silence I heard a voice…”
Now you might think that this sounds like a scene from a horror movie, but it’s actually a direct quotation from Job 4:12-16. That’s right, it’s from the Bible!
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some biblical passages that deal with ghosts or spirits.
What the Bible Says About Ghosts
Interaction is Forbidden (Deuteronomy 18)
No matter what your view on ghosts is, the Bible is clear that we are not to dabble in any sort of attempted communication with the dead. This includes divination, fortune-telling, omen interpreting, or using a sorcerer, charmer, medium or necromancer (18:10-12).
The Medium of Endor (1 Samuel 28)
This bizarre story certainly sounds likes the title of a horror movie. In short, Saul was seeking guidance from God but when he got no answer, he turned to a medium. He asked the medium to call up Samuel, and to everyone’s surprise Samuel made an appearance. Samuel seemed angry to be called back from the dead, and declared to Saul that God was finished with him.
A Ghost on the Water? (Matthew 14)
When the disciples were on a boat in the middle of water, they saw a figure walking on the water. Their response was, “It is a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26). But Jesus doesn’t respond, “Ghosts? There are no such thing as ghosts!” Jesus instead told them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
After the Resurrection in Luke 24, the disciples thought that Jesus was a ghost. Jesus responded that he could not be a ghost because “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Jesus seems to be saying that spirits do exist but that they do not have physical bodies.
Two Biblical Principles
I must admit that there are a lot of unanswered questions here. But there are two biblical principles that I think can help us answer some questions about ghosts.
1. The spirits of those who die do not remain on the earth.
The Bible seems to teach that the spirits of the dead can’t come back to live on the earth. Hebrews 9:27 says, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” There doesn’t seem to be an in-between.
In Philippians 1:23b-24, Paul says that he is torn on which is better: dying and being with Christ or staying on earth for the sake of the Philippians. For Paul there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.
2. There are evil spirits in the world, also known as demons.
Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” There are evil spiritual beings all around us that we fight against every day. We are not to seek interaction with them but we are to be prepared for battle as we hold fast to Christ.
Explaining the Unexplained
But what about all of these weird ghost experiences? If ghosts cannot be the spirits of dead humans, then they must be either angels or demons. The kinds of ghost experiences I read about aren’t anything like how angels appear to people in the Bible. So my best guess is that these ghosts are actually demons in disguise. As Paul points out, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
Lastly, these realities aren’t something that you should be terrified of, “For he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
What are your thoughts about ghosts, spirits, and demons? Any other Bible passages you’ve found? Let us know below!