Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Q&A: Are there such things as ghosts?

QUESTION: Are there such things as ghosts? And if so, what are they? After Jesus' resurrection the apostles thought he was a ghost until he ate food.

ANSWER: [Author's note: I am responding to this question from the perspective of the Bible, and not from personal experience or any other source.]

Technically speaking the Greek language (which the New Testament was written in) doesn't have a unique word for "ghost." In the passage you referenced (Luke 24) the disciples thought they were seeing a "spirit" when Jesus appeared to them on the evening of the Resurrection. The Greek word is the same as is used for the Holy Spirit but sometimes English translators will render it as "ghost" depending on what is happening in the passage. I believe it's an unfortunate choice of words. "Spirit" is much more accurate in this case.

There is one other Greek word translated "ghost" in English Bibles and it occurs in the Gospel accounts when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water. One example is below:

Matthew 14:26 (ESV) 
But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 

This is the Greek word phantasma (where we get our word phantom) and is defined as an appearance or apparition. Quite honestly we don't know what the disciples thought they saw because the Greek simply says they saw "an appearance." But we know they were terrified.

Even if the disciples did think they were seeing a ghost, that doesn't mean that the Bible affirms the existence of such things. There is a huge difference between the Bible telling a story, and actually teaching a truth. And nowhere in the Word of God is the idea of ghosts affirmed in the sense of making a truth claim.

In folklore a ghost is a disembodied human being. And according to the Bible it is possible for someone to exist without their corporeal body, and the Apostle Paul refers to such a person as "unclothed" in 2 Corinthians 5. Such individuals are not called "ghosts." They are simply those who have died in Christ and are awaiting their eternal bodies, which they will receive at the time of the Rapture of the Church. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

So the Bible gives no credence to the existence of ghosts as they might be portrayed in popular movies or books.

Does this bring up more questions? Post them below.

7 comments:

  1. What about 1 Samuel 28? Samuel seems awful
    ghost like...

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    1. It may seem like it Ted, but a study of the passage reveals something very different. I invite you to listen to my teaching on that passage: http://youtu.be/7YKzEixTm3k

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  2. So these ppl on shows like Paranormal Experience, could be truly contacting these non-corporal spirits?
    Is the story about Lazarus in the end of Luke 16 purely allegorical or could it be a true story that applied to the message He was teaching?

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    1. My primary goal is to comment on the Bible and what it teaches, so what people on shows like Paranormal Experience are or aren't doing really isn't my area of concern, but let me just say I would be VERY dubious of ANYTHING I saw on TV. As for the story of Lazarus the diseased beggar, there is NO REASON whatsoever to consider that as anything less than a true event. (Proper names were not used in figurative or parabolic stories.) The passage in Luke 16 gives us a glimpse into the life of someone after physical death prior to the resurrection of Jesus, but still has nothing to do with ghosts.

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    2. I feel like when people die they either go to Heaven or hell immediately. Period. That said, and 'ghostly' experience is one of 3 things. Co-incidence, TV, or is the enemy. All three should be disregarded no matter how real or fake you think they may be. Pray about it and I am certain that you will be lead away from such things. My $0.02

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  3. Is there a position the church in general takes on demonic activity potentially appearing as supernatural or paranormal?

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    1. The "church in general" is all over the board on that topic, but as far as the Bible is concerned, we're told that during the Great Tribulation Satan will be performing "counterfeit miracles" so as to deceive people. (See 2 Thessalonians 2:9) I think it's safe to say that this kind of activity is going on today as well and will be increased during the Tribulation period. So how much of what is considered supernatural or paranormal activity today is actually demonic in nature is hard to say. But I'm willing to bet a fair share of it comes from Satan's minions—anything to distract people from God and deflect the truth of His Word. It's important that believers walk in discernment and avoid getting sucked in.

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