Through the years I’ve heard many “ghost stories” as a Pastor from members and not just at the church campout (we’ll leave time at the end to hear some). Usually it involves a recently deceased family member or friend who visits or in some way makes their presence known. Usually also they are positive encounters and not frightening. As they find these experiences comforting, I won’t “rain on their parade” though I’m generally skeptical of such things believing they are more often mental projections of what they want to see, especially in times of grieving. Much like a horoscope reading, people will interpret and see things as they want to see them. Then other times, I wonder if it may be the work of demons who can even appear as angels of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). But having said all this, I can’t absolutely deny every story I’ve ever heard. These are trustworthy people telling me them. So for our first topic in this summer series, we’ll look at Scripture to see what the Bible says about ghosts.
1. Did Peter see a ghost?
There on the mountaintop as Jesus shone like the sun revealing His true divinity, Moses and Elijah appeared alongside Him. Peter, James and John were witnesses of this (Matthew 17:1-8). Now Elijah is a unique story. He didn’t die but was carried off into Heaven in a fiery chariot. But Moses did die and was buried on Mt. Nebo (see Deuteronomy 34:1-8; Jude 8, 9). So this was, in a way, a ghost encounter.
2. Were there other sightings recorded in the Bible?
Moses was one of Scripture’s greatest prophets and this was a unique occurrence being Jesus’ Transfiguration. Hardly can we see that episode as typical or normative. But can we find other sightings in the Bible to establish some real precedent for the existence of ghosts? Let’s turn to Matthew 14:22-33; Luke 24:36-43; Acts 12:6-17. “Ghost (phantasma), spirit (pnuema), angel (angelos)”- these words are all used to describe an eyewitness account of seeing someone who wasn’t really there, dead or otherwise. Phantasma is associated with “phenomenon” and “things that appear” that defy explanation or normal experience. In each of these accounts, however, the paranormal assumption is debunked. Jesus goes out of His way, in fact, to show He wasn’t a ghost after His resurrection. But still, these passages reveal that the mindset of seeing ghosts has a long standing history in humankind as people strive to deal with death and dying.