As we learned last time, the Bible isn’t crystal clear with all the details of the timeline between physical death and the Judgment Day. Several opinions are offered by Christians to account for where the spirit goes after someone dies and yet, in our time at least, the Judgment Day is still forthcoming; Lutherans generally treat this so called “interim state of the soul” as an open question. Even so, we should not presume that it is ordinary that souls roam the earth or that the grave (Sheol, Hades) crosses over into the realm of the living. But demons and angels are spirits that do have such mobility among the living (see Job 1:7; Luke 2:8-15). It is more likely from a Scriptural point of view that ghost encounters are demonic, especially those characterized as hauntings. Perhaps this is why God has such a strict prohibition against contacting the dead. We’d probably be engaging demons instead.
4. Is it alright to talk to ghosts?
Let’s just say for the moment that ghosts do exist. People’s souls linger on the physical plane awaiting the Day like the rest of us. Even when something is true, it isn’t always helpful, however. We have no way of distinguishing ghosts, even of loved ones, from demons who can even masquerade as angels. Besides, what have we to gain by talking to the dead? Nothing can change what has happened in time or what is God’s will for the future. We have the Holy Spirit working in Scripture to teach, comfort and guide us. The rewards are just too small and the risks too great for ghost hunting as it often eventually leads to other occult activity and certainly leads away from God.
In the Catechism we learn in the 2nd Commandment that to consult any source other than God for help or wisdom dishonors His name. We are to seek all our counsel from God alone. Talking to the dead, even to innocently see if they are O.K., is to ask for something God had not given us to know. This is to try to go beyond His authority. That is sin. Saul did this when he was discontent with trusting God and following His Word (1 Samuel 28). Mediums and necromancers were used by pagans to consult the dead for information about the future. The witch of Endor conjures Samuel’s spirit from the dead. Some believe it was truly Samuel who spoke the Word of God to Saul while others believe a demon, who can also mouth God’s Word (Matthew 8:29), was speaking. Samuel’s “spirit” basically repeated what the living prophet had said in chapter 15 anyway. So even if these spirits contacted by mediums and necromancers were in fact from the realm of the dead and not specifically demons, this practice was forbidden to God’s people. Ours is the way of faith, trusting in God’s love for us.
The purpose of the Bible is to reveal to us who are dead in sin and facing eternal separation from God the way back to Life. It is through Christ who died on the cross and rose from the grave so it would have no hold on us. The Bible, moreover, tells us to prepare in faith for the return of our Savior and Lord to bring us to Heaven for the life everlasting. Scripture isn’t concerned with the matter of ghosts but how we can continue, in Christ, to be among the truly living. Thus, pondering the question of ghost’s existence may be just a harmless curiosity, brief detour in the more esoteric portions of the Bible or a means to make sense of a loved one’s death. But the real pursuit of ghosts/demons is more than a reckless hobby or scary night of fun. It is a slippery slope into the realm of darkness from which there may be no return. It is sin forbidden by the 1st and 2nd Commandments. All we need to know of the future is told in the Gospel: we will rise from the dead and, in body and soul together, live forever in the Paradise of our God. All we need to know of our loved ones is that we shall see them again in Heaven. And all we need to know of the supernatural is that our Almighty, Gracious God rules the heavens and the earth and is with us always to deliver us from evil.
And now, while Christ stays
fastened to his Crucifix
so that love may praise
and now the grotesque metaphor,
you have come, a brave ghost, to fix
in my mind without praise
to make me your inheritor.
from Division of Parts