Summary: Discussion and teaching about ghosts and speaking to the dead.
“I see dead people.” I bet that’s not a phrase you ever thought you’d hear from a pulpit. Is it?
“I see dead people,” is a popular line from a psychological/horror movie called The Sixth Sense. In this 1999 movie a young boy, named Cole, is a clairvoyant who is able to communicate with people who have died. What’s really scary is that while Cole is a fictional character in a fictional story, there are many people who claim not only to have seen real ghosts, apparitions and spirits, but that they can communicate and interact with them as well.
It’s becoming increasingly popular and acceptable to have some form of spirituality or interaction with the spirit realm. While preparing for this morning’s teachings I glanced through the TV listings for programs that will be showing this fall and was discouraged by the number of shows dealing with the supernatural. Programs like Lost, Medium, The Ghost Whisperer, Supernatural, True Blood, Journeyman, Reaper, and Phenomenon.
We as Christians understand that God is a Spirit, that His Spirit resides in His children, that mankind is made up of a body, a soul, and a spirit. But when it comes to the spiritual realm, because it is not readily seen with our physical eyes there is a lot that we don’t know or understand about it. And unfortunately because the supernatural is not discussed very often in churches today the only source of information for many people is what they see or hear on television, in the movies, on the Internet, or in books. This being the week in which many people celebrate Halloween I thought that maybe we’d discuss a topic this morning dealing with the supernatural that we don’t usually talk about in church – ghosts.
Since there are all kinds of different beliefs and ideas about what ghosts are and where they come from and what their purpose is, I thought that it would be appropriate to see what the Bible has to say about ghosts. After all, the Bible is the only true and accurate source we have about this world and the spiritual world and how they interact.
I. What Are Ghosts?
So, let’s just jump right in and tackle the question, “What are ghosts?” A dictionary definition of the word ghost says that it is “the spirit of a dead person, especially one believed to haunt living persons.” This is usually the idea we get in our minds when someone says the word ghost. We think of haunted houses and restless spirits, scary movies, graveyards, floating apparitions and seances. But are those really ghosts? And if they aren’t, then what are they?
After studying this topic and searching Scripture, I’ve come to the conclusion that the dictionary definition is only half-correct. The Bible seems to support the idea that a ghost is the spirit of a person who has died. Depending on which Bible translation you read, you may or may not come across the word “ghost”, usually the word “spirit” is used. So, I believe that the Bible supports the idea that a ghost is the spirit of a person who has died.
But I don’t think it supports the second half of the definition, which says, “especially one believed to haunt living persons.” Let me explain. For a spirit of a dead person to haunt the living that means that they must somehow make an appearance in the physical world, or “the land of the living” if you will. And the Bible makes it quite clear that once a person dies they either cannot or are not allowed to return and interact with the living.
Isaiah 26:14 (NIV), “They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits do not rise….” The same passage in The Message translation reads, “The dead don’t talk, ghosts don’t walk….” That seems pretty clear to me. But there is also another more in depth passage that supports this teaching.
Turn with me to Luke 16:19-31 (NIV). In this passage, Jesus tells us the story about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus and what happens to each of them after they die. This story is rich with information but this morning we are going to concentrate mainly on Abraham’s answer to the rich man who asks him to send someone from the dead back to his living relatives to warn them about what awaits them after death. Let’s read together starting with verse 19.
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores  and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.