Jesus always spoke the truth, and He never confirmed a false belief.
Jesus gave His disciples a clear definition of what a ghost is when He said, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones…“–Luke 24:39. Instead of taking the opportunity to explicitly deny the existence of a departed spirit from ever reappearing on Earth, and proclaim it as a false belief, Jesus chose to clarify and define the properties of a ghost. What is going on here? The answers are revealing, confirming, and very comforting.
According to Scripture, Jesus had at least THREE ripe opportunities to rebuke His disciples for expressing possible belief in ghosts. Whenever Christ’s disciples entertained the idea of their existence, Scripture shows that Jesus never fully repudiated this belief.
Why didn’t Jesus correct them? Why didn’t Jesus firmly rebuke this superstitious view?
Let’s look at the first opportunity Jesus had to correct their superstitions:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”–Matt.14:25-27
In this instance the Scripture records that the disciples clearly said “It’s a ghost”. They didn’t say, “Could it be a ghost?” or “I wonder if that’s a ghost?” Notice that they didn’t have any questions about the possibility of ghosts. They were emphatic.
Jesus responded by announcing that it was Him and not to be afraid. Jesus did not take this opportunity to instruct them by saying, “There is no such thing as phantoms or ghosts. Beware of such superstitious beliefs.” He could have nipped it in the bud, but He didn’t.
After the Resurrection, Jesus had an even greater opportunity to rebuke this supernatural belief:
While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”–Luke 24:36-39
Jesus knew they were fearful and He knew what they were thinking. Yet he once again did not flatly deny the existence of ghosts. Instead, He used the opportunity to speak the truth by defining what a ghost is, and how He Himself differed from that definition.
We have now seen two out of three ripe opportunities for Jesus to straighten out the minds of His disciples and teach them that there are no such things as ghosts or spirits of the departed appearing on Earth. So why did the disciples believe that the spirits of the departed could reappear on Earth, and why didn’t Jesus correct them?
For one thing, they all knew that the Old Testament Scriptures told the story in 1 Samuel chapter 28 of how the ghost of Samuel reappeared on Earth. Many theologians try vainly to dismiss the ghost of Samuel as being a demon in disguise. Yet, it cannot be argued that the authority of divinely-inspired, written Scripture verifies three times that this ghost is indeed Samuel. In vs. 15 the Scripture itself states, “Samuel said to Saul“. Again in vs. 16 the Scripture is clear in stating, “Samuel said”. And finally in vs. 20, the authority of Scripture is definitive in saying that these words were assigned to no other than Samuel, “because of Samuel’s words”. It is written! It is written! It is written! Three times it is written in Scripture that this was Samuel. The witch of Endor didn’t raise Samuel (she was shocked it happened), God did it!
If Jesus had ever said, “No departed spirit has ever reappeared on earth. No ghost has ever existed”, He would have had to deny the Scriptures and therefore contradict the truth.
Did I mention that Jesus had three opportunities to instruct His disciples? A frightening event took place before the Resurrection.
Mark 9:2-8 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. Peter was scared out of his mind! Like the kid in the movie “Sixth Sense”, he was thinking, “I see dead people”.
Certain details about Elijah’s life are unclear; However, the Scriptures state some very clear facts about Moses:
1. Joshua 1:2 clearly states that Moses was DEAD. “Moses my servant is dead“.
2. The authority of Scripture states that the BODY of Moses was BURIED. “And he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor“–Deut.34:6
3. Could Moses have risen with a resurrected body? The Scriptures never indicate that Moses was ever resurrected. Even if he did, it would be with a corruptible body like Lazarus, which would die again. Why? Neither Moses or Elijah would have an immortal glorified body that could appear/disappear since Scripture shows it was reserved for Jesus to be the first to rise with a glorified body (Acts 26:23,1 Cor. 15:20-23, Phil 3:21). Yet Moses and Elijah suddenly appear and then vanish…like the ghost of Samuel did.
Add it all up and ask what were the disciples looking at when they saw the dead and buried Moses appearing and suddenly vanishing before their eyes? Do you think it is possible that Jesus presented the ghost of Moses to appear before them? Some theologians utterly refuse to accept the evidence and they demand that these dead men had bodies and were not ghosts!!! Well, if you insist…We had zombies on the Mount. Take your pick. It scared the disciples out of their skulls! Whatever you want to call it, it is beyond argument that Scripture shows that the disciples saw two departed beings suddenly reappear on Earth and then disappear.
This experience on the Mount explains a lot about Jesus’s response when the disciples saw the Resurrected Christ and thought he was a ghost. It is now clear that Jesus was casually reminding them, “A ghost does not have flesh and bones”. No further explanation was needed! They had “been there, done that”.
Now if you think that these two reappearances of the departed are isolated incidents in Scripture, then you need to adjust your theology. Scripture clearly teaches us that Samuel, Moses, and Elijah were not the only “departed ones” to reappear on Earth again! Scripture plainly says there were “many” more. Matthew 27:52-53 says, “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people”. These “many holy people” were not ghosts, but they were definitely “departed ones from the tombs” who reappeared on Earth again and were walking around after once being dead. Zombies! LOL.
It is no wonder that certain sectors of god-fearing Jews throughout ancient times believed in the existence of ghosts and after-life phenomena. Inspired Scripture backs them up. Also, the Jewish Talmud contains many additional stories of ghostly interactions. We have now seen from the Scriptures themselves that our Sovereign God has bent our understanding of the rules of the afterlife with many people over and over again.
Before I share the next experience with you, it is vitally important to warn that we are not to seek these experiences. The power and authority to present a departed spirit appearing on Earth belongs solely to God! No exceptions! Stay away from mediums, psychics, Ouija boards and such. Don’t open yourself up to it. We are warned by Scripture to never seek the spirits of the dead. “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.”–Lev. 19:31 “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.”–Lev. 20:6 “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, 11or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. 12Anyone who does these things is detestable to the LORD”–Deut. 18:10-12
If you should ever have an unsolicited paranormal experience where you believe you may be seeing someone, an apparition, or an angel, keep your guard up and do what the Scriptures say to do in these situations: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God“.–1 John 4:1-3
Also, if these paranormal activities persist on a continual basis, I believe it is a demonic spirit imitating your loved one. When we see Samuel, Moses, and Elijah in Scripture, we do not see them lingering on Earth. These were momentary events, not hauntings. You may be thinking, “But they are kind and gentle”. But they are also keeping you from being able to move forward in life. You’re stuck emotionally in the past, and that is not the will of God for you. Get help now.
Are you drawn to the supernatural? Does it excite or interest you? Or are you hurting and looking for comfort and guidance? Here is the word of the Lord to you: Look to the ultimate supernatural being and don’t settle for less. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight”. He says, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me”. He will satisfy your need. He knows what you need better than you do.
Dr. Fuschia Pickett, the late Bible teacher and author, was roundly criticized for giving a testimony of God’s comforting grace while mourning the tragic, untimely death of her Grandson David. In her book Presenting the Holy Spirit she wrote, “Three weeks later (after his death) in a Sunday Morning worship service, the Father witnessed to me that my Grandson was worshiping with us. God gave me the understanding that David knew more about worship now than I did, though I have been teaching worship for years. The Spirit of Grace is sufficient to sustain us in the most difficult situations we will ever face in life”.
Dr. Pickett was criticized by those theologians who say that God would never allow the spirits of the departed to ever be present “with us” in any form. Was her departed Grandson worshiping with her in that service? I do not know. Would Jesus rebuke her for what she believed? If he didn’t rebuke the disciples, it is not likely He would rebuke or criticize her either. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out–Matt. 12:20. She didn’t seek out her Grandson, she wasn’t in a séance. It didn’t stay lingering with her, and it wasn’t recurring. It was a momentary sign that she testifies brought comfort to her. God is sovereign and the record shows that He caused the departed to reappear to the living at least three times. God is no respecter of persons. If he did it for Peter, James, and John on the Mount, he could have done it for Dr. Pickett when she was in her personal valley. Based on Scripture, I cannot say that it didn’t happen.
Again, we are forbidden from seeking the dead. Even if God does not choose to give us a “sign” while we are mourning our loved ones, we can take great comfort from these ghost passages because they answer some of our deepest questions. What questions?
Eric Clapton echoed many of us when he wrote these words, “Would you know my name, if I saw you in heaven? Would it be the same, if I saw you in heaven?” The answer from these scriptures is YES. Samuel, Moses, and Elijah kept their personal identities even after death. When you read about the ghost of Samuel, you can tell from his words that he did not lose certain characteristics of his personality. “Then I shall know just as I also am known”–1 Cor. 13:12″. We will know and recognize our loved ones. If you are following Christ, this is really good news.