We often hear about ghosts in reference to the dead. We also hear about ghosts often in popular culture. With tons of businesses, individuals and shows claiming that they can identify or even hunt ghosts, interest in the paranormal is becoming increasingly more common. But is there such a thing as ghosts? Before answering this question, it’s important to look at the context. If the term “ghost” means spiritual being, the answer is "yes." If the term is in reference to people who have died, the answer is "no." The Bible makes it clear that there are spirit beings, both good and evil. But the Bible doesn’t support the idea that the spirits of deceased human beings can remain on earth and haunt the living.
The Bible teaches that there are spirit beings who can connect with and appear in our physical world. The Bible identifies these beings as angels and demons. Angels are spirit beings who serve God and are faithful to Him. Demons are fallen angels; angels who rebelled against God. A demon is a supernatural source or agent of evil. Demons follow Satan instead of God. These fallen angels, along with Satan chose to rebel against God. As they look to Satan as their leader, they do everything in their power to thwart God’s plan and hinder His people (Daniel 10:13). According to 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, demons masquerade as “angels of light” and as “servants of righteousness.” Appearing as a “ghost” and impersonating a deceased human being is within the abilities and powers that demons possess.
Angelic beings were originally created to love God, whereas demons rejected God entirely. Colossians 1:16-17 speaks of the creation of angels, telling us “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” While their creation isn’t specified, it is believed that they were made at the same time the heavens were created, referenced in the first chapter of the book of Genesis. While angels magnified the love of God, demons rejected God entirely, rebelling against Him and working daily to sabotage humans’ spiritual understanding and development. Ephesians 6:12 tells us “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
Angels ultimately want to bring us closer to God, while demons desperately want us to be separated from God. Angels will point us closer to God, whereas demons will separate us from God through distraction. They do this by showing up in the form of false gods, so that we lose sight of the one true God. False gods are described in the Bible as any god other than God. These false gods can show up in the form of money, work, relationships and power among other things.
While the description of demons/fallen angels and their efforts may sound scary, remember they are defeated enemies of God. Colossians 2:15 tells us that Christ has “disarmed the powers and authorities” and He has “made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” God’s love conquered sin and death, triumphing over Satan and all his empty promises. While we are surrounded by a host of angels and demons engaged in battles and victories, God uses his angels to accomplish his goal of protecting us from the enemy and his evil ways. We are protected from the Evil One, and the forces of evil active around us in the world today. Thankfully, we are warned of these forces in the Bible. It is our responsibility to recognize them, and when we notice the presence of evil, respond accordingly.
The closest Biblical example we have of a haunting is found in Mark 5:1-20. This exorcism story is more amazing than any depicted in modern day movies. When Jesus confronted a demon-possessed man, and asked him what his name was so that he would reveal his true identity; he replied “Legion…for we are many.” The many demons had combined as one force to possess the man and had taken over his body with Hulk-like force. Jesus commanded the demons to come out of him and the demon pleaded with Him, asking to not be tormented. In line with the belief that spirits belonged to specific geographical areas, he requested to not be sent out of the country, being that their spirits would depart into the abyss with other fallen angels if they couldn’t remain in that location, where they could resist God.
The demons requested the option of entering the bodies of 2,000 pigs feeding nearby. Jesus granted this request and once exorcised from the man, they ran into their own destruction. The Gerasene Demoniac story from Mark is a powerful display of the confrontation between the powers of heaven and hell and God’s ultimate dominion over the powers of evil. We see from this Biblical example that demons will do anything in their power to deceive God. This is also likely the explanation of ghostly activity today. Whether it is called or referenced as a ghost, ghoul or poltergeist, if there is genuine evil spiritual activity at play, it is the work of demons.
There are also many people who wonder if psychics, who claim to be able to summon the deceased and gain true and useful information from them, can really do what they claim to. Many people turn to these people when dealing with loss and believe they are getting the answers they need. What we should remember in these cases is that the goal of demons is to deceive. If they know there is a chance that you will trust the psychic instead of God, the demon will be willing to reveal true information. In these cases, this information can be used to corrupt, mislead or destroy, even if the information seems good and true. It’s imperative that we seek the truth about spirits with God, by studying His Word, and not be led astray by demonic forces.