What Does The Bible Say About Ghosts?

The idea of ghosts has captured the attention of human imagination for millennia, giving rise to a vast array of tales, myths, and beliefs about these ethereal beings. While many theological and cultural viewpoints offer varying interpretations of ghosts, the Christian view offers a distinctive perspective that delves into the supernatural world.

In this post, we will discover what the Bible has to say about ghosts, looking at pertinent verses to understand this mysterious realm.

Understanding What Ghosts Mean in The Bible

Modern dictionaries provide a definition for a ghost as a spirit without a physical form, potentially manifesting as the image of a deceased individual or even an evil entity like a demon. The term “ghost” takes on various meanings within the context of Scripture.

In the King James Bible Version, the term “ghost” is often used interchangeably with “spirit.” A notable instance is found in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus instructed his disciples to teach all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

However, in more contemporary translations, the usage of “ghost” is less frequent and typically pertains to references involving specters or apparitions. For instance, in the Gospel of Mark, we learn that the disciples were overwhelmed by fear when they witnessed Jesus walking on water, as they initially believed they saw a ghost (Mark 6:49).

Similarly, in the book of Luke, after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples encountered him and were initially inclined to believe he was a ghost. Jesus, however, reassured them of his physical presence by showing them his hands and feet and even consuming broiled fish to demonstrate his resurrection in bodily form.

The Bible distinctly conveys that the spirits of departed humans do not linger on earth as “ghosts” to trouble the living. Moreover, the Scriptures unequivocally affirm the presence of spiritual entities on earth – angels or demons – who execute either divine or malevolent tasks as directed by God or driven by wicked intent.

What The Bible Says About Ghosts

The term “ghost” is mentioned 108 times in the Bible (King James Version). However, it’s worth noting that in none of these instances does the term refer to the disembodied spirit of a deceased individual.

Instead, it is employed in two distinct contexts. Firstly, it is used in the expression “to give up the ghost,” signifying the act of passing away or dying. Secondly, the term surfaces about the “Holy Ghost,” which denotes the third person of the Holy Trinity or Godhead.

The Bible’s portrayal of spirits or ghosts of deceased individuals differs in terminology. Instead of using the term “ghost,” these spirits are referred to as “familiar spirits.” Furthermore, the Bible cautions against engaging with or seeking connection with such entities.

This warning is evident in verses like Leviticus 19:31, Deuteronomy 18:11, 2 Kings 21:6, and Isaiah 8:19, where the Scriptures unequivocally advise against involvement with familiar spirits.

While the concept of ghosts as lingering spirits is not a central theme in the Bible, the presence of the Holy Spirit is a vital aspect of Christian theology. The Holy Spirit is depicted as the Comforter and the Counselor who dwells within believers (John 14:16-17). This emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s active role serves as a counterpoint to the idea of restless spirits in the earthly realm.

Angels and Demons

The Bible teaches us that there are spirits, like angels and demons, who can interact with our world. Angels are ethereal beings characterized by their loyal service to God, embodying righteousness, goodness, and holiness. On the opposite end of the spectrum, demons are angels who have turned from their allegiance to God, manifesting traits of malice, deceit, and destructiveness.

As conveyed in 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, demons adeptly disguise themselves as “angels of light” and purveyors of “righteousness,” cunningly obscuring their true nature. 

There’s a story in Mark 5:1-20 where a bunch of demons possessed a man and scared people in a graveyard. It is essential to underline that no actual ghosts were involved; this incident entails a human being manipulated by demons to spread fear within the community. 

Demons, driven by their agenda to “kill, steal, and destroy,” as stated in John 10:10, relentlessly work towards deceiving and estranging individuals from God. The core intent of such activity hinges on deception and leading people astray from their connection with God.

Life After Death

The Bible doesn’t give much attention to ghosts, as it clarifies misunderstandings about them, even in ancient times. Despite the belief that a spirit might appear to communicate as a “ghost” of a deceased relative, the Bible dismisses this idea.

According to the Bible, when people die, they cease to exist in our world. They can’t reach out to us from the afterlife.

Job 7:9-10 likens death to a disappearing cloud, and Psalm 146:4 states that when a person’s spirit leaves, their plans come to an end.

Hebrews 9:27 explains that everyone dies once and then faces judgment. This judgment leads to two possible outcomes: heaven or hell.

John 3:16 reveals that believing in Jesus leads to eternal life in heaven. For believers, heaven awaits (Luke 23:39-43, 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, Philippians 1:23), while non-believers face hell (Matthew 25:46, Luke 16:22-24).

There’s a misconception that demons or “familiar spirits” are the ghosts of departed individuals. However, the Bible strongly warns against associating with these spirits.

Leviticus 19:31 strictly forbids seeking mediums or spiritists, deeming it detestable. Leviticus 20:27 prescribes a death penalty for those who claim to be mediums or spiritists. This is reiterated in Deuteronomy 18:9-15.

For instance, King Saul’s actions in consulting a medium to summon Samuel’s spirit illustrate his deviation from the Lord’s path, which led to his replacement by King David.

Familiar spirits are not the departed’s souls but deceptive entities mimicking them, often demons.

Bottom Line

The term “ghost” in the Bible doesn’t align with the common idea of the lingering spirits of the deceased. Instead, the term “spirit” is used interchangeably, often about the Holy Spirit or in contexts where it signifies the passing away of life rather than the continuation of it as a ghost.

The Bible’s stance on ghosts is unequivocal – it steers away from the portrayal of lingering spirits and instead navigates the realms of angels, demons, and the afterlife.

While the allure of ghostly tales persists, the biblical perspective encourages believers to focus on the promise of salvation, the assurance of eternity, and the guidance provided by the Holy Spirit rather than getting entangled in the mysteries of ghostly encounters.

Pastor Christopher Turk
Pastor Christopher Turk

Christopher was the lead elder/pastor of the local Christian church in Penticton, British Columbia but he was forced to close his church due to a COVID-19 impact. He has a dedication to serving his Lord's church and a pulpit competence that honors the legacy of his predecessor. Christopher is a passionate visionary for the Lord and His Kingdom! His church ministry background spans over 30 years of full-time service. Support Christian by buying him a coffee.

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