Are Ghosts Real?
It is the week of Halloween. Halloween is that time when we think about all sorts of things, we think about candy, and we think about costumes, we think about trick or treating, we think about parties, and getting together with friends. It’s also that time of the year when we think about scary stuff; sometimes, we try to do the so-called jump scare thing. We want to jump out from behind somewhere and totally freak somebody out. We think about telling ghost stories and doing other things that are just going to get in people’s heads and make them be rattled by it. What I want to talk about on the podcast this week, as we think about the week of Halloween, is not any of that stuff that is intended to be fun, is not any of that stuff that’s intended to be celebratory. But I want to tackle a real question. And the real question is, are ghosts real? Of course, at Halloween, people dress up like ghosts and they tell ghost stories. And they watch movies about ghosts, and they put ghosts in their front yard. But apart from that, pretend sort of effort at fun and celebration. The real question is, do they exist? There are people there, boys and girls, that are grownups who believe that ghosts are real, that they are an actual thing. And I want to find out and talk with you about this week from a biblical perspective, whether that is true.
What is a Ghost?
The first thing we need to do is understand what a ghost is. For our purposes, let’s say that a ghost is a soul of a dead person who’s walking around among living people. It’s some sort of apparition of that soul, some sort of appearance of that soul that is walking around moving that is haunting, would be the language that some people would use and is somehow involved with and engaged with living people. The question is, is that real? Does that happen? And let me answer that question biblically by pointing you to two texts of Scripture. One is Hebrews 9:27, which says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes the judgment.” We do have a biblical reality of death. Everyone’s life ends in death. There are no exceptions to this. If Jesus comes back, we will see a global exception to that. But in the grand scheme of life, everyone dies. The Bible says that when you die, you go, and you appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Of course, your physical body remains on earth, but your soul is caught up into its spiritual existence and goes to appear before the judgment seat of Christ. That’s one passage.
Another passage is a really famous one in Luke 16. Jesus is telling the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus is this servant at the gate of a rich man. And the rich man is always engaged in feasting, always engaging in partying, he’s ordering people around, he’s got all of these servants, Lazarus doesn’t have anything, and they both die. When the rich man dies, he is in hell. He’s not in hell because he’s rich. He’s in hell because he didn’t trust in the Lord for His salvation. And in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus talks about the rich man being able to look out of hell into heaven, and he can see Lazarus, who has trusted in the Lord and who is in heaven, then the rich man is overcome with a desire to warn his relatives. He wants to warn his living relatives that you have got to repent of sins. You have got to trust in Jesus Christ; you have got to avoid the punishment of hell. And the lesson that heaven gives to this rich man who’s suffering in hell when he responds to the request, hey, you’ve got to go warn my friends and family. There’s something really relevant for this conversation. Luke 16:26 says, “Besides all this, between us and you, a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” What Jesus is telling us in that parable is not just that death is a reality that will come to all of us, as is true in Hebrews 9:27. But death is a fixed point for the human soul. When a soul leaves a body, that’s the spiritual definition of death when your soul leaves your body. You go to a fixed location. The rich man in hell went to that place of perdition and punishment. Jesus says, there’s a great big chasm, and you can’t leave there. You are trapped. Death is final. And so the afterlife, where we go when we die, is fixed. That means there is no such thing as ghosts, as we conceive of it in that serious way. We are not going to have the souls of dead people leaving hell or leaving heaven and coming to earth and interacting with us or haunting us or tormenting us. That is not going to happen because Jesus says the location where souls go when they die is a fixed location. And there aren’t ghosts.
Our Spiritual Enemy
But, dear listener, if you are tempted to be worried about ghosts, and you are tempted to take comfort when you hear me say that, no, they’re not real, then there is a little bit of cold comfort in that truth for you, because it’s actually worse than that. Ghosts aren’t real. But there’s something worse than ghosts that is real. In First Peter 5:8, it says, “Be sober-minded. Be watchful, your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” That is the bad news. The good news is you don’t have to worry about a ghost. The bad news is you do have a real spiritual enemy. Sometimes he’s visible; sometimes, he’s not. But he is the devil. And he is prowling around looking to consume; he is looking to do damage to the kingdom of Christ. He is looking to hurt you. When you think about that kind of enemy, when you think about that kind of desperate opposer of the work of good and of the work of Christ in the world, then it’d be good news to think that ghosts were real. So it’s actually worse than it sounds because the devil is real. But I don’t want you to be overwhelmed even in that because if you keep reading in First Peter 5:8 and then you go on to verse 9, it says, “Resist him, firm in your faith.” The devil is a real enemy. The devil is a dangerous enemy. But the devil is an enemy that you can defeat. And the way the Bible tells you to defeat the devil is by trusting in Jesus. When you are affirming your faith in Jesus, Jesus, because of His life, death, and resurrection, delivers you from your sin, then he also delivers you from the devil and from hell, so you don’t need to be afraid of ghosts this Halloween, because they’re not real. And you don’t need to be afraid of the devil this Halloween either, not because he’s not real. But because when you trust Jesus, you’re protected from anything he can do to you.