Summary: What are ghosts? Why would they speak to us? How can we tell whether they are ghosts or evil spirits?
I See Dead People: God, the Bible, and Ghosts (Part 2)
Today we are going to continue with the subject that we began last week in time for Halloween. It was the topic of ghosts. What are they? Why do they interact with the living? Are they really the spirits of the dead? We looked in the Bible to see what truths God has given us and then we used our own logic to try to understand what is really happening when people say they have seen or talked to ghosts or spirits of the dead.
We discussed the fact that the Bible supports the idea that ghosts are indeed the spirits of persons whom have died. But when it came to the world’s idea of what a ghost is, namely the spirit of a dead person who haunts the living, I showed you that the Bible does not agree with this assessment.
Isaiah 26:14 tells us that, “They are now dead, they live no more; those departed spirits do not rise….” The Bible tells us that the ghosts or spirits of people who have died are located in one of two places. They are either in hell awaiting their Day of Judgment at the Great White Throne. Or they are in the presence of their Savior, Jesus Christ, in heaven.
Scripture does not support the idea that the dead can easily or readily return to interact with the living of their own will. They just don’t decide that they have a message to bring to the living or that they will hang around because they have unfinished business. Once a person dies, there is no unfinished business. You can’t change your eternal status after you die. That must be taken care of before you die.
And then in Luke 16:19-31, we saw a little more about the distinction between the spirits of the righteous dead and the spirits of the wicked dead in the story Jesus told about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Both men died and Lazarus was escorted to Paradise and the rich man to hell. From this story we saw that the ghosts of the wicked dead could not return to haunt or speak or interact with living even if they wanted to. And we also saw that though it appears that the righteous dead can return and interact with the living they are not necessarily allowed to.
Finally, from there we went on to see that since the apparitions and spirits that people claim to see and talk to, or are haunted by, are not actually the spirits of those who have died, then they had to be either angels or evil spirits. And we came to the conclusion that they were evil familiar spirits. Now that’s just a brief overview of what we talked about last week. If you weren’t here and would like a copy of this teaching, I have placed some on the vestibule table for your convenience.
Today we are going to take a look at one instance in the Bible where the living and the dead did interact. We’re going to see if there are any plausible reasons why God would allow the spirits of the dead to speak to the living. And finally, we’ll look at some suggestions to help you judge whether a spirit is a ghost or an evil spirit.
I. Saul and the Witch of Endor
First let’s look at an instance that takes place in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel 28. You may be somewhat familiar with this passage as it deals with King Saul and his attempts to contact the dead through a witch or medium from Endor.
Let’s read together 1 Samuel 28:5-20, “When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart.  He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or Urim or prophets.  Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.’ ‘There is one in Endor,’ they said.  So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. ‘Consult a spirit for me,’ he said, ‘and bring up for me the one I name.’  But the woman said to him, ‘Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Why have you set a trap for my life to bring about my death?’  Saul swore to her by the Lord, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, you will not be punished for this.’  Then the woman asked, ‘Whom shall I bring up for you?’ ‘Bring up Samuel,’ he said.  When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!’  The king said to her, ‘Don’t be afraid. What do you see?’ The woman said, ‘I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.’  ‘What does he look like?’ he asked. ‘An old man wearing a robe is coming up,’ she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.  Samuel said to Saul, ‘Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?’ ‘I am in great distress,’ Saul said. ‘The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.’  Samuel said, ‘Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you and become your enemy?  The Lord has done what he predicted through me. The Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hands and given it to one of your neighbors – to David.  Because you did not obey the Lord or carry out his fierce wrath against the Amalekites, the Lord has done this to you today.  The Lord will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also hand over the army of Israel to the Philistines.’  Immediately Saul fell full length on the ground, filled with fear because of Samuel’s words…”