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Summary: Dead Christians came out of the graves when Jesus rose from the dead, and this leads to many questions about the ghosts of the godly.

History is full of the weird and mysterious in relation to the dead.

In Barbados, in the West Indies, in 1812, a vault was opened and

three coffins were in a confused state. In 1815 and 1819 it was

opened, and again, each time the coffins were in disarray. The

Governor, Lord Cambermere had the vault carefully checked and

cemented up and sealed. Nine months later it was opened in his

presence with thousands of spectators. To everyone's amazement the

coffins were scattered about, one was on end, and some on top of

others. No one could explain it, and so it entered the books as

another ghost story, along with hundreds of other unexplained

mysteries.

Christianity has always been involved in the history of the

unexplained, because it too deals with the supernatural. Many of the

haunted houses of history have been parsonages, and you wouldn't

believe all the weird goings on that preachers have experienced.

Much of the history of ghost haunting and hunting has been written

by Christian men. For example, Sabine Baring Gould, author of

Onward Christian Soldiers, who died in 1924 at the age of 90, wrote

much about ghosts, and his own brother was seen by his mother after

his death.

Ludwig Levater, a Protestant Calvinist minister in Switzerland

wrote a book in 1572 with the title, Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking By

Night. He believed that the dead could appear, but felt most ghosts

were due to hallucination and pranks. He told of how merry young

men would throw sheets over themselves and scare the wits out of

travelers at Inns. Sometimes they even went so far as to hide under

the bed. Ghosts are still a part of most Halloween parties today, but

they are so tame that seldom will a ghost ever win a prize.

There was a young man of Bengal,

Who went to a Halloween ball.

He thought he would risk it,

And go as a biscuit,

But a dog ate him up in the hall.

He would have been better off as a ghost. This type of humor was

not appreciated by the Catholic Church. They officially believed in

ghosts, and took the matter quite seriously. In 1509 when four monks

came to John Jetzer at night with sheets over them to give him some

theological answers from the other world, they were caught, and

made to give up the ghost in more ways than one, for they were

condemned to die at the stake. Some people just can't take a joke.

That phrase, giving up the ghost, is used 5 times in the King James

Version to refer to the death of Jesus on the cross, and it is used also

to describe the dying of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

The ghost, of course, refers to the spirit of man. Only once did we

find a reference to a ghost in its eerie supernatural sense in the New

Testament. When Jesus came walking for the disciples on the sea, in

the night, we read in Matt. 14:26, "But when the disciples saw Him

walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" and

they cried out for fear." Any of us seeing a white figure moving

across the water in the night would jump to that same conclusion that

it must be a ghost. Mark tells us the same thing, and both use the

word phantasma. This is the only place where the word is used in

Scripture. It does reveal that the disciples believed in the possibly of

ghosts. This is not surprising, for most everybody did in their day.

The issue of the reality of ghosts revolves around the question of

whether or not the dead can ever return and appear unto men. The

Catholic Church has concluded that the dead in heaven or hell can

never return, but the dead in purgatory might, if God permitted.

Protestants concluded that all the visions and contact with the dead

are simply demons impersonating the dead. That is, they do not deny

the evidence of the supernatural appearances, but they feel it is

demonic deception rather than the return of the actual dead. The

Catholic Church tended to support the stories of good ghosts who

would return to make up for their sins. They would haunt a

murderer until he confessed, or help solve some injustice and

encourage the faithful. The Puritans so objected to this that they

went to the other extreme, and wanted nothing to do with the dead,

and so they ceased even to have funeral sermons.

The point of this introduction is to show that there has been a

history of Christian debate over ghosts. The debate goes on yet

today, and there is a great interest in the subject. Dorthy

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