I had a very interesting conversation with an Episcopal Priest from a 300 year old church recently. He described to me some of the “paranormal” activity that surrounds the old church and graveyard where he serves – including some inexplicable movements of physical objects and church members seeing ghosts. Wait…ghosts? As a believer, what am I supposed to think about ghosts? Are there such things as ghosts – human spirits come back from the grave to haunt the living?
As random as this may seem, Scripture is not silent about human spirits and whether the dead can return to earth – so I offer this brief theology of ghosts:
- Death is unequivocally final for every human. Freedom is not granted by God to human spirits to wander as they please until the resurrection.
- Hebrews 9:27 – “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.”
- The spirits of believers can be sent to earth by God for a specific purpose.
- The spirits of unbelievers are kept under custody until judgment – they are not free to bridge the gap back to earth or to communicate with the living.
- Luke 16:19-31 – Christ tells the story of “the rich man and Lazarus”. In this story, we can understand that unbelieving spirits are kept until the resurrection from the dead to the “second death”: the opening of the lake of fire.
- Angels can take forms on earth to fulfill specific purposes.
- There are many Scripture references where angels (spirit beings created by God to serve and glorify Him) are sent to minister to believers or execute judgment, often taking many forms. They are sent by God with a specific purpose (Heb. 1:14).
- Demons can also take different forms on earth, except to fulfill evil purposes.
Having said all this, the paranormal remains under the sovereign control of Christ. If ever a believer’s spirit appears, it comes with a distinct, God-ordained purpose. If an angel appears, God has sent it. If a demon is present or causing physical manifestations – it too is under the constraining purposes of Jesus Christ. It is Christ’s name that creates deepest fear in the hearts of demons (James 2:19) and motivates the service of holy angels and saints who have passed on into His presence.
I take heart with the paranormal because Christ has settled the matter. My sins are forgiven and now all things will work together for good, even that which Satan conspires for evil.