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Are ghosts real?

Are people really communicating with the spirits of the dead?


Published: 28 December 2010 (GMT+10)

Note: this updated and expanded version replaces the original article posted on 28 December 2010.

Photo www.syfy.com/gh A scene from the popular TV show Ghost Hunters
A scene from the popular TV show Ghost Hunters

For centuries people have claimed interactions with entities that appear to be supernatural in nature. The seeming reality of the experience often has a transforming effect, even to the extent that the experience itself becomes a new kind of worldview filter. For example, today people claim interactions with alleged aliens and even abduction experiences at their hands.

If an interdimensional (as in, it looks as if it suddenly emerged out of nowhere) entity suddenly appears at the foot of someone’s bed in the middle of the night and claims that it is from the Pleiades cluster, then on most occasions the person will believe that its claims are true. The belief in the experience often changes their views about the big picture issues of life, such as “Where did we come from?” and “Where are we going when we die?” So, because of the experience, they are also given over to the larger claims of the entity that may include tales that the alien benefactors were originally humankind’s creators; that they have been overseeing our evolution for millennia; and that in the end they will redeem and restore the human species and the Earth to some kind of utopian paradise. In short, most experiencers undergo a kind of religious transformation or ‘awakening’ and many researchers believe that this is the actual purpose of the deceptive entities.

One of the biggest mistakes I believe that many Christian researchers make is to also accept the reality (and in particular the physical aspects) of what these experiences are presenting and then try to fit them into the Bible somewhere.

World-renowned UFOlogist Jacques Vallée wrote: “I propose the hypothesis that there is a control system for human consciousness … I am suggesting that what takes place through close encounters with UFOs is control of human beliefs, control of the relationship between our consciousness and physical reality, that this control has been in force throughout history and that it is of secondary importance that it should now assume the form of sightings of space visitors.”1

Similarly, in my view, the experiences people have with ghosts or other supernatural entities often reveal a similar agenda to that described by Dr Vallée above—that is, to control human beliefs.

And apologists John Ankerberg and John Weldon added: “These researchers believe that the UFO entities are deliberately programming the human observers with false information in order to hide their true nature and purpose.”2

While the experience itself may be real, it does not automatically follow that the claims the entities are making about their origin and purpose are truthful. Noted abduction researcher Donna Higbee wrote:

I noticed a drastic change … in the attitudes of several of the abductees from one meeting to the next. People who had been traumatized all their lives by ongoing abductions and had only anger and mistrust for their non-human abductors suddenly started saying they had been told/shown that everything that has happened to them was for their own good, that the abductors are highly spiritual beings and are helping them (the abductee) to evolve spiritually. By accepting this information, the abductees stopped fighting abduction and instead became passive and controlled. When I checked with other researchers, I found that this was a pattern that was repeating itself over and over again around the country. I became concerned that abductees were accepting these explanations from entities that we know can be deceitful, use screen memories to mask real memories, use virtual reality scenarios to implant images into abductees’ heads, and manipulate and abuse. I wrote an article for the MUFON UFO Journal (September 1995) and encouraged abductees to seriously think about what they were accepting as their truth, in light of the evidence, not the explanations offered them by these non-human entities.3

So, we can determine that the entities are liars and con artists, but, nonetheless, it is the power of the experience that still shapes people’s views about what is happening to them or what they have experienced in the first place. For many, it is their only source or filter to interpret what is happening to them.

Ankerberg and Weldon commented: “How credible is it to think that literally thousands of extraterrestrials would fly millions or billions of light years simply to teach New Age philosophy, deny Christianity, and support the occult … . Why would they consistently lie about things which we know are true, and why would they purposefully deceive their contacts?4

So, as Christians, we can recognize and believe that these physics-defying experiences are interdimensional, that is, emanating from the spiritual realm and are indeed centered on redefining our traditional beliefs and man’s place in the universe. As corporeal human beings we cannot travel to these dimensions to test these claims. But, we believe that one very famous visitor from that realm can act as a source of truth for determining them. That is, the Lord Jesus Christ. When awaiting judgment before Pontius Pilate He said: “My kingdom is not of this world … my kingdom is from another place.”

The Bible says this same Jesus is the Creator of the universe (Colossians 1), and the exact human representation of God (Hebrews 1:3). As God is the Creator, He created the laws of physics that govern our universe. He is omniscient and therefore the source of all truth. This means we can trust His revealed Word to us (the Bible) as being authoritative. And we can use it as a filter for determining the truth of the alleged alien encounters or any other experience that might be deduced as being spiritual in nature. One of the biggest mistakes I believe that many Christian researchers make is to also accept the reality (and in particular the physical aspects) of what these experiences are presenting and then try to fit them into the Bible somewhere. This often leads to unbiblical or extra-biblical ideas. This is a dangerous game, as it is exactly what masquerading and deceptive angels would have us do. I do not believe that it is wise to go beyond what God’s Word tells us about such things. In short, we shouldn’t try to ‘fit’ the seeming reality of these experiences into Scripture; instead, we should use Scripture to explain the experience. When we do, we can peel away many more layers of the deception that might not be otherwise apparent from the surface.

Ghosts and aliens—common parallels

There are many other strange experiences that people undergo, such as claimed visitations by ghosts. The term ‘ghosts’ being used here specifically refers to the cases in which these entities claim to be the disembodied spirits of the dead—even the departed loved ones of the experiencer.

Belief in ghosts, and a fascination with the supernatural and the occult in general, is mainstream in popular culture today. In the same way that the majority of the population believes in extraterrestrials, similarly large numbers of people believe in ghosts. And there are a myriad of movies and TV shows perpetrating and embellishing these ideas. One should always remember that these programs are fictional. Just imagine if every week we watched a ‘Ghost Hunters’ type show—that is, where investigators enter allegedly haunted houses, and after their investigations they simply came to the conclusion, “No, there are no ghosts,” or “No aliens.” The shows would have a pretty short lifespan and nobody would watch them.

Controversy and conspiracy are big marketing gimmicks, and in my own research into the UFO phenomenon, I’ve found that truth is always the first casualty. It is also problematic that most people today read less, and less in depth. They tend to get their news or information (let’s call them ‘facts’) from the popular media. In the modern audiovisual age, mass frauds and hoaxes have been perpetrated upon populations, often because we think that people would not go to all the trouble of grand deceptions if there were no truth in their claims. For example, their has been a tremendous amount of misinformation deliberately created to support the bogus claims that extraterrestrials crash landed at Roswell, and the myriad of TV shows and ‘documentaries that claim to have found evidences of ghosts and haunted houses etc. If researchers who call themselves ‘ghost hunters’ were to enter a house and discover orbs of light, sudden drops in temperature, and witness the alleged apparition of a disembodied spirit, then, in essence, they believe that they have found what they are looking for—they expected it. This is reminiscent of 2 Thessalonians 2:9–11: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.

A Bible-first approach will demonstrate to us that the idea of the disembodied spirits of deceased human beings roaming the Earth would contravene some very basic principles of God’s Word and would cast serious doubt on the Gospel itself.

In other words, God may allow Satan to give you what you ask for. Most certainly the appearances of alleged ghosts, UFOs, and the appearance of aliens in people’s rooms etc., have at times created physical disruptions in our corporeal realm. I say ‘alleged’ because there are actually no such things as ghosts (please read on for more clarification on this). A Bible-first approach will demonstrate to us that the idea of the disembodied spirits of deceased human beings roaming the Earth would contravene some very basic principles of God’s Word and would cast serious doubt on the Gospel itself.

When people claim that ghosts have appeared, on some occasions power fluctuations or outages have been reported as well. Also, things can move or be shifted and there have been manifestations of beings in a variety of forms. In the same way that so-called aliens seem to defy the laws of physics, noted supernatural and UFO researcher John Keel said:

Demonology is not just another crackpot-ology. It is the ancient and scholarly study of the monsters and demons who have seemingly coexisted with man throughout history. Thousands of books have been written on the subject, many of them authored by educated clergymen, scientists, and scholars, and uncounted numbers of well-documented demonic events are readily available to every researcher. The manifestations and occurrences described in this imposing literature are similar, if not entirely identical, to the UFO phenomenon itself. Victims of demonomania (possession) suffer the very same medical and emotional symptoms as the UFO contactees … . The devil and his demons can, according to the literature, manifest themselves in almost any form and can physically imitate anything from angels to horrifying monsters with glowing eyes. Strange objects and entities materialize and dematerialize in these stories, just as the UFOs and their splendid occupants appear and disappear, walk through walls, and perform other supernatural feats.5

There is equipment that can detect, for example, power surges or fluctuations, and cameras that record images etc., so I suppose in some cases it might be possible to claim that such equipment has been able to test or even demonstrate such things. Of course, the detection of a power field or surge in a room would be interpreted by those wanting it to be ghosts as exactly that. I noted comments from other Christian researchers in my book, Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection: “It seems evident that these [including UFO] phenomena are produced in the same manner that other occult manipulations are produced. They involve dramatic manipulations of matter and energy. Although they originate from the spiritual world, they can produce very powerful, temporarily physical manifestations at the material level … ”6

Although such occurrences are deceptive entities (fallen angels) manifesting from the spiritual realm, some might be surprised at their ability to manifest physically in our realm.

Although such occurrences are deceptive entities (fallen angels) manifesting from the spiritual realm, some might be surprised at their ability to manifest physically in our realm. This, once again, is due to a cultural idea about angels as being merely some sort of ethereal spirit (non-bodied) being and sometimes with fairy-type wings. The Bible indicates that angels are “ministering spirits” (Hebrews 1:14). In addition, Jesus was described as a “life-giving” or “quickening spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45), and God the Father is described as a Spirit (John 4:24), as is the Holy Spirit. The Bible also says that human beings have a spirit. So the spirit is not the sum of who we are, but a part of our being.

The Bible records about angels that:

The last point is very pertinent. For many UFOlogists, ghost hunters, spiritualists, witches, crystal-ball-gazers and New Age practitioners, such phenomena have become the basis of substitute religions. They are indeed bowing down to angels. Many of the descriptions of these angelic beings conform to the ‘spiritual, yet physical’ characteristics attributed to UFOs, aliens, and other occult manifestations. It enables us to understand why, when masquerading as such, angelic beings are able to perform such incredible physics-defying feats as John Keel noted earlier.

Does the Bible confirm ghosts?

Given my comment earlier that ghosts are not real, many will no doubt claim that the Bible actually supports the idea of ghosts and even that the Lord Jesus confirmed their reality when He made a comment about the same. In different translations of the Bible, the words ‘ghost’ and ‘spirit’ are used extensively and seemingly interchangeably. This is where confusion reigns for the reader. We find that in the King James Version, and particularly in the New Testament, the word ‘ghost’ is used extensively (‘Holy Ghost,’ for example, or ‘give up the ghost’), whereas the more modern translations have simply used the latter term ‘spirit’. For example, the ‘Holy Ghost’ is now rendered in modern translations as ‘Holy Spirit.’ In this case, the change is useful because the word ‘ghost’ certainly has changed its meaning over time. Culturally, it now has a modern connotation as the wandering spirit of a dead person. It is this concept that I reject. In most modern Bible translations, the word ‘ghost’ is only mentioned three times, which helps avoid further confusion. One of the problems is that words can change their meaning over time. For example, in Genesis 1:28 in the KJV, God commanded Adam and Eve to ‘replenish’ the earth. In 1612, this word meant to fill. Nowadays it means to refill. In the same way, when modern translations refer to ‘ghosts,’ the KJV often uses ‘spirits,’ so we need to look at the original Greek or Hebrew behind the English words to see which word better translates the original concept.

There is one example in the Old Testament where modern translations used the word ‘ghost.’ The KJV says this: “And thou shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust” (Isaiah 29:4); the ESV translation states: “And you will be brought low; from the earth you shall speak, and from the dust your speech will be bowed down; your voice shall come from the ground like the voice of a ghost, and from the dust your speech shall whisper.” Compare these with the NIV which says: “Your voice will come ghostlike from the earth; out of the dust your speech will whisper.”

The term that is translated in the KJV as “one who has a familiar spirit” is the Hebrew word ôb. This word, like many Hebrew words, has a wide semantic range that could be used in various applications, and thus could have potentially different meanings. These meanings include ‘necromancer’, ‘wizard’, ‘spiritist’, or ‘soothsayer’. These are people who profess to call up the dead. But ôb can also mean ‘ghost’ as the raised up spirit of a dead person (hence the more modern translations’ use of the word ‘ghost’). However, it does not automatically follow that just because the concept of a disembodied human spirit communicating with spirits is mentioned in Scripture, it is teaching that ghosts actually exist. For example, worship of other gods is forbidden, but it doesn’t follow that there actually are other gods. We know that the practices of spiritism are forbidden by Scripture (read on to see why).

This is clearly an analogy, and it seems to give an indication that the destruction of Jerusalem will linger in memory—almost as if, from the ashes of history (ghostlike), what happened to the great city shall be remembered and shall cry out for all time, which it has.

It is in the New Testament where we find the words ghosts and spirits being used more often, interchangeably between translations. There are two Greek words that are used. The first is φάντασμα (phantasma), which literally means ‘apparition’ like the commonly understood word ‘ghost’. The word πνεῦμα (pneuma) means spirit, air or breath. This can refer to what I described before as the essence of a being. It can also mean ‘demons’ when paired with the word ἀκάθαρτον (akatharton).

The most remembered New Testament passage regarding ghosts is Matthew 14:26. Whereas the KJV says: “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit [phantasma]; and they cried out for fear,” the ESV says, “But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear.

And Mark 6:49: “But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit [phantasma], and cried out” (KJV). “But when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out” (ESV).

On another occasion when Jesus suddenly appeared in the room with the disciples, they said: “But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit [Greek pneuma]” (Luke 24:37, KJV). The ESV says, “But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.

Notice in these examples how in its translations the ESV distinguishes between the two Greek words, whereas the KJV translates both the Greek pneuma and phantasma as spirit.

These first passages are referring to the occasion when Jesus was seen walking on the surface of the Sea of Galilee, and the Luke account is when the resurrected Jesus appeared to the disciples in the room. Obviously the disciples had never seen a man do anything like either of these events before, so their first thought was to invoke the supernatural, resorting to ideas from their culture to explain it. In the Luke account, they had seen Jesus die on the cross not too long before, so they thought they were seeing His spirit (a somewhat understandable reaction since He suddenly appeared in a locked room).

… the power of the deceptive experience (whether ‘alien’ or ‘ghost’) can change lives. It has the potential to alter a person’s worldview, framework, and/or their perception of reality.

It should be remembered that the idea that the disembodied spirits of the dead roam the Earth is not new. Occult manifestations have been recorded since the earliest times, and the Bible often records occult practices being undertaken by an unfaithful nation of Israel (and Judah). Manifestations have often appeared in the guise of deceased persons and even dead relatives. It is a very powerful counterfeit, because it tugs on the emotional relationship and heartstrings of the person seeing the manifestation. As I mentioned earlier, the power of the deceptive experience (whether ‘alien’ or ‘ghost’) can change lives. It has the potential to alter a person’s worldview, framework, and/or their perception of reality. So, in ancient times the idea of ghosts was a culturally popular one, and even more so today where people have become desensitized to the occult, due to its portrayal in the media as harmless dalliances with psychic phenomena.

In the locked room in Luke 24:38–39 Jesus said: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit [pneuma] does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.

Notice that Jesus did not affirm that ghosts were real (in the sense of being the spirits of departed people—as opposed to spiritual or angelic/demonic beings). He asked them to touch Him to prove the point that His body was a physical one. However, He did not chide the disciples for believing in the popular idea of ghosts. That may not have been the issue. He was definitely affirming that he was not a spiritual being, ghost, apparition, spirit or whatever, but that He had been bodily resurrected. If they did think He was an apparition, then they simply underestimated who He was and His power and they resorted to cultural beliefs, because of the astonishment of what was going on. For example, I wonder what ideas we would come up with if we saw a ‘man’ (because at this stage they did not recognize Jesus as God) walking on water or suddenly appearing in a locked room.

In fact, these are instances of the disciples failing to recognize Jesus’ divinity. Job 9:8 teaches that only God can tread on the waves, and after Jesus had just completed the feeding of the five thousand (which would have recalled God’s supernatural provision of manna for the Hebrews) they should have seen the significance of this miracle. So, even though the Gospels seem to indicate that the disciples believed in ghosts, Jesus’ followers are in any case not being presented as models for belief or obedience at that stage. In fact, they continually miss the point.

In the Luke portrayal, the word ‘spirit’ is used (KJV and ESV). Jesus was using this term to contrast the fact that He was, in fact, physical as opposed to ethereal. This is where it can become very confusing for many, because now ‘ghost’ and ‘spirit’ seem interchangeable. The Matthew and Mark accounts use the Greek Word phantasma, which literally means ‘appearance’ or ‘apparition.’ The Luke account uses the word pneuma, which is correctly translated as ‘spirit.’ So, although Matthew and Mark use phantasma, it has similar, overlapping meaning. Remember that although ‘spirit’ can refer to that part of a human which cannot be tangibly seen, it can also be applied to non-humans. As angels are spirits, the disciples could have been similarly afraid, thinking it was an angelic being, fallen or otherwise.

God has control of our departed spirits

But, once again, none of this means that our spirits will roam the Earth once they have departed our bodies. It is of fundamental importance to remember that God is the only One who has the final say about where we go when we die, and it will only be to certain specified locations. In the Old Testament, hell was known as Sheol, and in the New Testament, Hades. Although there has been conjecture for many years as to what it was, where, and whether it had compartments or not, both terms were unmistakably referring to it as a place of departed spirits. It was clearly a holding place. But, since the first advent of Christ and His atoning work on the Cross, the Bible is clear that non-believers will now go to hell and believers to heaven (in the presence of the Lord). There is no room in traditional, orthodox evangelical theology for our departed spirits to be roaming the Earth. As shown earlier, though, there are multitudes of rebellious spirits (or angels) who are doing that, deceiving many in the process into thinking they are either ghosts, aliens and more.

This biblical teaching is very important, because many Christians believe they have seen ghosts and the spirits of departed loved ones. But Hebrews 9:27 says that "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment".

The Witch of Endor

No doubt many will refer to the case of King Saul visiting a spiritist known as the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28:3–25). Saul had banned mediums and sorcerers from the land. But ironically, because he had strayed from God, and was paranoid about seeing the young David in God’s favor, he was given over to his own evil devices and seeking help from the very practitioners he had banned (see 2 Thessalonians 2). This led to him seeking out the “spirits of the dead”—something God strictly forbade His people to do knowing the power of the deception involved and how they could be led astray by such things. See, for example, Deuteronomy 18:10–12, and note Leviticus 19:31 which says: “Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards, to be defiled by them: I am the LORD your God.” The ESV puts it this way: “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God.

Saul instructs the witch to call up the spirit of one of God’s greatest prophets—Samuel, and a plain understanding of the text indicates that this indeed happens. In fact, the text says it was Samuel, i.e. not an evil spirit, interacting with Saul four different times (1 Samuel 28:12: "…When the woman saw Samuel…", verse 15: "…Samuel said to Saul…", verse 16: "…Samuel said…", verse 20: "…filled with fear because of Samuel’s words…"). But if God has the ultimate power over our spirits, how can the witch call up a departed spirit? I believe this may have been allowed via a sovereign act of God as a mechanism of punishing and pronouncing judgment on a rebellious Saul. In short, he was getting what he asked for—(equivalently) “You want Samuel to tell you the future? OK, you’ve got it, but it’s not going to be nice.” When one reads the passage, it is noteworthy that the witch herself was taken by surprise when she saw that it actually was Samuel. Verse 12 says: “When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, ‘Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.’” The prophet Samuel then pronounces judgment on Saul in 1 Samuel 28:17–19: “The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.

Many have said this may have been a demon in disguise, but for one thing, there is no biblical or other evidence that demons can foretell the future (although they often claim to be prophets via a variety of deceptive guises) and the prophecy about Samuel came to pass. Moreover, Samuel berates Saul for disobeying God in this way. Seeking after the dead is something that deceptive spirits would encourage, not admonish. And indeed, the next day, Saul’s army was routed and Saul committed suicide.

The story reflects the reality of falling from grace, and being out of God’s favor, by following one’s own desires instead of being obedient. Samuel did not give advice but pronounced the penalty for Saul’s disobedience, which in part including partaking in forbidden rituals. It is thus not something that affirms biblical support for the idea of ghosts.

The Danger!

All occult phenomena cause one to be almost enslaved, that is, given over to the powerful illusory nature of the experience. Persons often feel that they are privileged or special to have undergone the experience, and thus, it draws them in deeper and deeper. But when people seek after the experiential, many are not aware how their very senses can be deceived. I repeat again: it is unwise for Christians to invoke some kind of extrabiblical revelation to accommodate ghosts into Scripture. I’ve even had pastors on occasions write to me to explain that they have been ministering to wandering, lost spirits. This is unbiblical, and once again, a case of accepting the experiences at face value and then using them to interpret our understanding of Scripture. It is reminiscent of the warning that Jesus Christ gave us in Matthew 24:24–25, when He said: “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.

Supernatural encounters, whether they are UFO sightings, alien abductions, or ghostly apparitions, fall into the category of the supernatural, because they seem to act in opposition to our known physical laws. It is this ‘power’ that reinforces the deception. Of course, non-Christians are the most vulnerable because they do not have the benefit of the lens of Scripture to discern such things, and Scripture itself indicates why they are vulnerable: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Ed. note: Publication of comments is closed for this article.


  1. Ronald Story, The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Extraterrestrial Encounters, in an article by Jacques Vallée, p. 753–754. Return to text.
  2. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on UFO’s and Other Supernatural Phenomena (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1992), 10–11. Return to text.
  3. Donna Higbee, “New Abductee Trend,” Flying Saucer Review, last accessed July 6, 2011, http://www.fsr.org.uk/fsrart14.htm. Return to text.
  4. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on UFO’s and Other Supernatural Phenomena (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1992), 8. Return to text.
  5. John Keel, Operation Trojan Horse (Lilburn, GA: Illuminet Press, 1996 edition) 192. Return to text.
  6. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, The Facts on UFO’s and Other Supernatural Phenomena (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1992), 36–37. Return to text.

Readers’ comments

Don H.
You have made an excellent case showing that spirits of the dead do not roam around, and that deceiving spirits (the Devil and his angels) often appear in the guise of deceased persons including relatives.
But I think you spoil it when you claim as an exception that the spirit of Samuel actually appeared to King Saul. Are you really suggesting that when God had refused to communicate with Saul through His usual methods (prophets, dreams, and Urim) He would communicate through a spirit called up by a medium? Your reason appears to be that evil spirits cannot foretell the future. True, but they can sometimes guess it; and in this case, given that the spirits would know the composition of the opposing armies and would know that God had already condemned Saul, it would not be hard to guess the outcome of next day's battle. Further, this guess would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Why did the medium call out as she entered her seance? Because at that point she was shown that her inquirer was King Saul. The next thing she said was not related to the evil spirit that she saw but rather she was frightened when the identity of her inquirer was revealed. Once Saul reassured her she went on to describe the spirit and the supposed Samuel spoke through her with a message of doom.
Gary Bates
Our case was not made on the basis of demons not being able for foresee the future. In the same way that we plainly read the texts in Genesis 1 to refer to normal days, the plainest understanding that this was indeed Samuel’s spirit comes from the text itself. On four occasions in this passage it is confirmed because the text says it was Samuel, i.e. not an evil spirit, interacting with Saul four different times. We read:

(1 Samuel 28:12: "…When the woman saw Samuel … ", verse 15: " … Samuel said to Saul … ", verse 16: " … Samuel said … ", verse 20: " … filled with fear because of Samuel's words … "

So does this make God a ‘partaker in witchcraft’? Absolutely not! For one, by definition God cannot partake in witchcraft, because the powers that people illicitly try to gain by witchcraft are nothing compared to the power God has. And witchcraft has to do with demonic powers, while God’s power is much greater and opposed to that. Please also consider that God did not use the witch in the sense that He needed her to raise Samuel’s spirit. It was God who allowed Samuel's spirit to appear. Once departed from the body only God has control over our spirit--a point we made in the article. Sure, any fortune teller can make a scattergun of predictions in the hope that one or two may come true, but in this case only one prediction was made and it came to pass. More evidence that it was God speaking through Samuel methinks. And we made the point in the article that God was, in fact, giving Saul what he asked for by seeking after that which was banned. It's no different to any individual today who chooses sin over what it right. If you want it, God will let you have it!
Toby S.
Jesus speaks of a specific geographical place (He used the rabbinical phrase "Abraham's bosom" as well as Hades) to which the departed spirits of people are conveyed and confined (Luke 16:22-26). Not only are the spirits of the dead NOT free to roam the earth and communicate with the living (vs.27-29), but a great chasm within this place separates the saved saints from the sinners and cannot be crossed.
We can therefore suspect that darkness and deception are at play in the sightings of ghosts.
Julie H.
This is more related to demons playing themselves than demons playing "ghosts," but I'm wondering if, with your knowledge of the occult, you may be able to comment on it.

Several years ago, I was asleep in my bed and then I "woke up" (you'll see later on why I put this in quotation marks). It was still relatively dark, but not dark enough that I couldn't distinguish things such as my bookshelf, etc.

All of a sudden, the covers pulled tight against my chest from both sides. I couldn't see anything, but somehow I "knew" it was a demon and it was trying to suffocate me. I think I may have said something aloud (Jesus' name, maybe?) and then I woke up again--and everything was fine.

I have always wondered if this was a very real-seeming dream, or if it was an actual experience--and why it happened, whatever it was.
Gary Bates
Hi Julie,

Thanks for sharing this with me. Of course it is impossible for me to say categorically what the experience may have been as I was not there to see it etc. In the new chapter of my updated book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection I have sought to explain how experiences that emanate in the mind via a number of different sources can even feel physically real to us—so much so that one cannot even distinguish that the even might not have really ‘physically’ taken place.

Having said that though, your experience of the suffocating and choking etc. is a very common one that I have come across in a number of different cultures too. The enemy only has fear and deception as a weapon and Christians are not immune from being tested in this way. The fact that you called on the name of the Lord and it stopped is very telling. Even though my book is predominantly about the UFO phenomenon I think you will find it a satisfying read in terms of understanding how these things manifest and how the name of Jesus can even halt alleged alien abduction experiences.

I hope this helps.
Narindra R.
Thanks for your article. Your site has been very helpful to me since the last 4 months. Now, I can trust entirely the Bible from cover to cover, It's become my sole and final authority. That's why I'd like to bring a subtle objection to your interpretation of the episode of En-Dor. You're assuming that demons can't predict the future. But Acts 16:16-19 prover otherwise. IMHO, what Saul saw was indeed a demon who took Samuel's form, prompting him to desperate, and that left him with no hope to fight at the battle of Gabaon. When we let evil spirits predicts our future, it deprives us of initiative or hope, we become fatalist and accept our fate, no matter how bad it is. No wonder God's Word is so harsh against future-telling ! This mentality has been plaguing my people since now, I know what I'm talking about.
Gary Bates
Hi Narinda, thanks for your comments and encouragement. However, I feel I must disagree with your point about demons or even angels being able to predict the future. While they might be eternal beings (that is, they live forever but were created in time and had a beginning, unlike God who has neither beginning nor end) they are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. These are attributes that the Creator alone possesses. Thus, it is not possible for them to have knowledge of the future like God does, in a biblical, all-knowing sense.

While we might not have a complete understanding of the spiritual realm, I would suggest that while God does not exist in time, that does not necessary apply to the angels that He cast out of Heaven (one third of them). Indeed, some of those angels are bound in Tartarus (2 Peter 2:3-5). This is seemingly some sort of physical prison. How could they be held if they have the ability to be everywhere at the same time which would need to be the case if they are able to tell the future. To say they can tell the future would mean they are able to know and see everything that God is going to do. Although Satan and his hordes have tried to circumvent the plans of God because of prophecies that were made, the fact that his plans have been thwarted means that he/they cannot know everything that happens in the future. So Scripture itself would indicate they cannot tell the future. With regard to the Acts passage you mention, it tells us she was using spiritual forces in an attempt to tell the future. It doesn’t tell us whether those predictions were successful or not. But those spirits cannot do this for the reasons I’ve just mentioned. Don’t forget that such prophecies can become self fulfilling. A demon could actually interact in our world to ensure that its prediction comes about. In addition, demons can influence the mind via hypnosis or subliminal suggestion to get people to say or act in accordance with their wishes. The new chapter in the updated book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection deals with this phenomenon.

In one sense, we can tell the future also, although dimly. We can tell what will come to pass from some parts of Scripture. Demons have that ability too. One of the big problems, and I’ve seen this in my UFO research, is that often a wide net of predictions or prophecies can be made like a scattergun approach. When one or two come to fruition, they tend to be the ones that most focus on, and they tend to forget about the hundred that have missed. Regarding the scriptural admonition not to seek out fortune tellers, well, there are human beings who claim to be fortune tellers too. Do they really have that ability? The Bible also talks about ghosts, but as we showed, ghosts are not real departed spirits of the dead. It is a deception. Please remember that this is really the only tool fallen angels have, that is, counterfeiting, deceiving and masquerading as angels of light. When people rely upon experience of seeing some sort of prophecy or prediction come to pass then is has a really strong allure. The experience kind of becomes the filter for interpretation.

In the article I pointed out how the witch was taken by surprise probably because she indeed recognized it as Samuel and also because it was probably not one of the familiar spirits she was used to dealing with.
Becky W.
Thank you very much for your article! And everything that you all at CMI do! I am still discovering the many wonderful resources CMI offers. I have had many questions answered as to how to explain/defend my beliefs, as well as being able to firm up where I stand on some of the things I believed but didn’t fully understand. This article covered some issues I hadn’t been sure how to tackle i.e. ghost/aliens (a few friends love to bring them up) and how to try to explain the heaven/hell/limbo thing (something I was recently asked about by my 7yr old nephew).
I was wondering if the Parable of “The rich man and Lazarus” would be applicable in this sort of issue? Specifically the fact that the rich man had to ask for someone to come back to warn his family thereby demonstrating that souls don’t have the option of hanging around or coming and going as they please.
Again thanks for the article and all the work you put in at CMI.
Todd B.
Very much an eye opening article … thank you!
I’m a news anchor/reporter, and a few years ago I did a story for Halloween in which I stayed the night in a haunted hotel … after reading your article … now I know what we (the crew and I) experienced! As a Christian I’ve always had questions regarding this issue, basically, how could there be spirits of loved ones roaming the earth? Either you’re saved and go to heaven, or you’re not and go to hell.
Thanks again for your wonderful insight!
Tim R.
First, let me say that I agree fully with this website in that we judge the prospect of ghosts by Scripture. This means that any truly supernatural experience with a ghost would actually an experience with a deceiving fallen angel impersonating a ghost.

But even if you did not know Scripture, and therefore the truth, let’s look at the logic of ghostly activity. If you were a ghost, and you had to drain the batteries from a camera to gain energy to talk in an ‘EVP’ recording, why would you waste it on something like “I like the one in the hat”? Would you want to waste that precious opportunity on insignificant phrases? And why would you hang around the spot where you were killed? If you are just energy that can’t move on to the other side, why not go somewhere more enjoyable? Go live with your relatives or something and have a meaningful relationship with them. Don’t just be an apparition that makes an fleeting appearance now and then.

It doesn’t make sense even if you don’t know that ghosts are not real based on Scripture. In that way, it is kind of like UFO communications. A real UFO is going to travel from light years away just to tell us that Jesus isn’t our Redeemer, and to point to some mystical religion instead? Really? It does not make sense, even if you did not know that the Bible explains that UFO’s are fallen deceiving angels.
Charles S.
Thanks Gary, for your insightful comments, it does sound as though you’re acknowledging Samuel’s appearance at Ein Dor was as a disembodied spirit (however exceptional the appearance on this occasion). Do I understand you correctly?
Yes, that’s correct and specifically allowed by God to judge Saul.

In verse 7 Saul instructs his servants to find a medium for him and they recommend the one at En-Dor.

In verse 8 he instructs her to ‘divine’ a spirit for him.

In verse 9 she admits to be a medium and maybe a necromancer as well.

In verse 13 and 14 she says she sees ‘a god coming up out of the earth’ and an old man. This would suggest the manifestation was not physical as we understand that term to be.

I think those verses make it clear that it was a spiritual manifestation.

I hope this helps.
Douglas B.
Thank you for the time and effort taken in producing this article. I have already forwarded the link to a friend who became interested through things they had seen/heard.

I am constantly surprised at the lack of knowledge Christian’s posess when it comes to the tactics of the enemy: for example, when it comes to considering how angels & demons operate, we know that Angels of God are constrained by the truth and cannot lie. Yet demons—being led by the ‘father of lies’ have no such restriction, and basically have open slather on what they can say. Again, with the demonstrated ability of Holy Angels to take up the form of a human, would it not then be logical to expect demons also to posess this ability-and to use it for evil? And given that it seems angels & demons have much longer life spans than humans, it is also easy to see how demons might get the information & images required to present a very realistic looking deception.

This if anything, is all the more reason why we NEED to rely on the Bible!!! For knowing that my experiences are simply the result of my limited perceptive abilities, who should I trust more : my eyes, or what God says in the Bible? To me, the answer to that is clear—for my eyes being able to be tricked, I will trust God.

And I am constantly reminded of Matthew 7v15–19:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”—The New King James Version.

For whether it be UFOs, aliens or the appearance of ghosts/other paranormal, the fruits are largely the same—and that is to lead those mesmerized by them into the occult, or to the reliance on something that is not God, and to the doubting of God’s Word.—And those who know Genesis 3 well enough will know whose work that is!

Again, if Christians would understand their relationship with God better—as being part of the bride of Christ—then they would also understand that fooling around with such things is scant amount to playing around with another man, bordering very much on spiritual adultery.

So I emplore my fellow Christians everywhere—think about it before you going hurrying headlong after that phenomena you have just seen or heard about. Who is it glorifying? And is it just another way of saying—“Did God really say …” (aka Genesis 3)

For I remember the words of the heavy metal Christian band “Guardian”:
“You say it’s only curiosity
Ally Ally Oxen Free
Never meant a lot to me
Can’t hide nothing at all
Play with fire you’ll get burned
Seems some people never learn
Curiosity killed the cat”

Finally, I would like to share an experience of my own. Roughly 20 years ago, while dating my wife, we were saying goodbye after dropping her off at her flat. She was about to fly from Victoria the next day to a remote mining community with a puppet troop to share the gospel. When we got there we knew something was wrong, the air was electric and the budgie was going mental, flying around plastered against the sides of it’s cage. It was a one-bedroom flat where you could see the back door from the lounge at the front, and while we were standing there saying goodbye we both for some reason had our attention fixed on the back door, which we saw open on it’s own 1/2 way and then close, all without making a sound. The problem was, there was 2 security chains fitted (one top and bottom) and a deadlock, all locked firmly in place, and none of them broken. We stood there for a few moments rubbing our eyes, thinking we were simply “seeing things”, but then one of us finally said to the other “did you just see the back door open?” When we figured we were not going crazy, I checked the back door and found it locked and undamaged as described above. Realizing what was going on, we prayed and read aloud from the Bible. I think it was from the book of Psalms. Having sung a hymn together, we realized this amazing calm had befallen the place.  I was able to take the budgie with me that night in it’s cage without it even ruffling a feather slightly …

So yes, I know what is going on and the name of Jesus trumps it all!!!

Thank you again for your article and the time spent putting such a valuable resource together.
Amanda S.
Thank you Gary for such an eye-opening article.

[Gary] You are welcome. I hope it helped.

I wanted to comment to you about a couple of things. First, when I was a young girl, big-chain retail stores sold the “Ouija” game, and perhaps they still do. At slumber parties, we thought it was harmless but spooky. When I was a young adult, I was with a girl who drew out her own board, and we “played” again. This time, the demonic spirit who answered made a prediction about my life that would happen in December of 1999, and it did. Can fallen angels have access to future knowledge?

[Gary] I know many people who thought Ouija boards were harmless fun and got more than they bargained for. In my experience, dabbling in such phenomena seems to open a doorway to all sorts of experiences, even alleged alien abductions as I showed in my book Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection (AI). Also read Aliens, evolution and the occult. I don’t accept that fallen angels can have future knowledge. In AI I showed how alleged aliens make tons of future predictions with many of them being biblically based. That way they have a good chance of getting some correct because obviously God is the only one who can know the future. I’ve found that like Nostradamus, they can make a basket-load of predictions and human nature will tend to be impressed on the one or two that might come true and forget about the many that did not come true. Remember that these entities (fallen angels) obviously interact in our realm with us and others, and therefore can interfere and affect our world and the individuals in it—the Bible is full of examples of this. A simply analogy might be “I am going to predict that Fred trips over in the next 30 minutes.” So I wait for an opportunity to conspire and develop a mechanism to go and trip Fred up and my prediction comes true. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy. I have a colleague who’s extended family had some interaction with entities they thought were deceased ghostly spirits. They received a prediction that my colleague would die in a car accident in their teens as another relative had done. This did not happen because my colleague is alive and well and a grown adult. But as one can imagine, such an horrific prediction—speaking over one’s life in such a manner—would be awful and potentially affect the way one might live your life. Fortunately, my colleague became a Christian and dismissed this prophecy as their understanding of the demonic source grew.

I am a Christian now, and growing stronger in Christ every day, but for many years as a teenager and beyond I wasted a lot of time searching in all the wrong places for truth: crystals, horoscopes, New Age stuff, other religions, earthly escapes. I read a lot about the man Edgar Cayce. He himself grew up as and claimed to be a Christian, but when he would go under his “trances”, he would channel what he called the Source. Was he channeling fallen angels and demonic spirits, even though he thought he was doing good for people?

[Gary] Yes, I would definitely say for sure that Cayce was tapping into an ungodly source. Please read some of the responses posted at the bottom of this article, where I mention how the Bible is quite explicit about seeking after those who practice divination, profess to tell the future or just outright seek after the spirits of the dead (which are really fallen angels masquerading as same). He ignored the biblical injunctions about such things. Hence my previous comment—he opened up a doorway and became transfixed by the experiences. The experience can transcend one’s alleged biblical authority. That is, the experience can become the authority that is used as a filter for biblical interpretation, particularly when the things one is told actually reinterpret the Bible to accommodate the deception. See Christians shaped by experiences rather than the Bible first approach.

Also, I wanted to comment on the Sheol/Hades discussion. I have an in-law relative whose grandmother had a stroke and was in a coma for three days. When she woke up, she was terrified and kept saying she didn’t want to go back “there”, and by there SHE meant “purgatory”. I know that purgatory is a Catholic doctrine, but she told my in-law that it was dark and cave-like, and that her brother was there. Could she have been in Sheol/Hades?

[Gary] Of course, one cannot say for sure as we cannot do scientific tests on such ‘spiritual’ experiences. I think it is very unlikely. For example, there are also those who have had near death experiences and claim to have seen their dead relatives and even aliens standing on the other side. Obviously, this can’t be really happening. The mind via our imagination can create a whole series of ‘experiences’ that we think are real, as in, we can experience even physical senses about them that seem to reinforces somehow that the event really happened—even though they never really happened. If you have the very latest edition of Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection (the 5th printing) I thoroughly recommend rereading the new added chapter called ‘Update: So What’s Really Happening?—A Hypothesis’. It shows how, using mechanisms we know that can actually occur, how these things happen. Just as an example, take ‘falling dreams’. This is where one has a dream about falling to Earth and we experience the physical sensation of falling towards the earth during the dream etc. Yet it is not real, as in we are not actually falling. Depending on the type of coma/injury etc., brain activity might not/does not cease so it is possible that such things could occur.

Finally, and I’m sorry this is so long, there is a film supposedly based on true events called “The Fourth Kind”. I watched it to my regret because it seemed so convincing that it really made me afraid afterward.

[Gary] It certainly was convincing but only if one accepts that the producers were telling the truth—they weren’t. Read on to see a link to our explanation of this movie that might provide some more comfort and some closure over the movie’s premise.

The “aliens” in the film, and in the true events on which the film was based, were speaking Sanskrit, caused havoc and fear, and claimed to be God.

[Gary] This was paying homage to the writings of a famous and influential UFOlogist called Zechariah Sitchin (he died last year). He is also covered in my book.

I have your book Alien Intrusion, and that, combined with what you wrote in your article, made me realize that it was demonic spirits claiming to be God and not really aliens, and so I have nothing to fear. Praise God!

[Gary] It’s always worth doing a search of our site on such things as we try to keep up with popular culture. I reviewed this movie here http://creation.com/the-fourth-kind mainly due to its claims about being based on true events. It portrayed a very troubling premise and misled people greatly. I think you will get a lot out of reading the article as it will also specifically address the couple of aforementioned points.

Please let me know if you’ve read the book yet and have the new edition.

All the best.
Robert A.
A great commentary on the Witch of Endor. I agree completely.
Peter E.
Please could you comment on Matthew 27:51-53

51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Thanks Peter,

Note these were physical bodies. As quoted in the article, Jesus pointed out that spirits (as in ghosts) do not have flesh and bones. This is a supernatural act of God in the same way that Jesus raised Lazarus out of his tomb.

All the best.
Harvey R.
An excellent and thought provoking article. This is a subject which most people have not given clear and consistent thought to. It is popular to deny the existence of ghosts, as ‘superstitious nonsense’. Even Christians sometimes hold such an attitude, ignoring the very fact that God is Spirit and the words ‘spirit’ and ‘ghost’ have the same meaning. Despite professing a non-belief in ghosts, many people will relate, in awed tones, some ‘strange experiences’ when conversation turns to the topic of ghosts. In other words, they want to ‘cover their bets’. A Christian cannot be so vague, or dishonest. Having a sincere love of truth and believing the word of God, they would have to acknowledge the existence of spirits. What is more, it is these which we ‘wrestle with’ or combat-not flesh and blood-as the Bible tells us. So we cannot truly function as Christians unless we acknowledge the reality of spirits/demons/ghosts—and the mischief which they can and do cause in our daily lives. Believers have authority over such in Jesus name and must follow His example and instruction in casting out demons. Ignorance limits the effectiveness of most Christians and consequently they cannot enjoy the victorious life which we are given because of their lack of obedience. They are therefore prey to deception.
Noeleen G.
Thanks for you article. In the early years of being a christian I had heaps of confusion and fear on all these “types” of subjects. A wize mentortaught me this simple test, “look at every thing through the understanding that God is on the throne (trust his authority), every being, idea, notion and experience will have to bow to this truth” so when unexplained whatevers come my way I check how it stands up against the truth, its helps me “cut to the chase” and spend a little time in debate or confusion as I can.
John H.
I have to say that it appears that there are some underlying assumptions you make in this article upon which you base your opinion.

[Gary] Thanks. But you did not specifically address any of them to show where I might be in error.

I’ll be as brief as possible.

We know that the spirits of dead humans have come back to communicate with living humans. You’ve already given one example of this.

[Gary] One example, as specifically ordained by God (the reasons were given in the article—to bring judgment on Saul) does not mean that this is evidence of wholesale manifestations.

I believe there is at least one other example of this in the Bible, though I cannot remember it right off hand.

[Gary] You might be thinking of the appearance of Moses and Elijah before Jesus. If so, the Bible does not say these were spirits. It suggests that they bodily appeared.

There is nothing in the Bible, which I can recall, that states that a human’s spirit after death cannot see or visit the Earth.

[Gary] Respectfully, this is known as an argument from silence. Many say that aliens might exist because the Bible does not mention them. However, the Bible is pretty clear about not seeking after such things. As I wrote to someone else who argued their existence because he felt ghosts could tell the future:

For example, I have worked in the area of the UFO phenomenon for many years and have met dozens of people who claim real experiences with aliens—even to the extent of being physically harmed. However, when one understands the big picture of the Bible (in other words a Scripture first approach) we can deduce aliens do not exist. In the same way, we take the view that the Scriptures indicate that the spirits of the dead are not allowed to roam the earth.

One needs to be careful in accepting the experiences at face value and then using them to interpret our understanding of Scripture. Instead, we should search the Scriptures to interpret or understand the experiences. I’m not sure if you realize that by accepting the truthfulness of these encounters, that is, in effect, what you are doing.

Such is the powerful nature of fallen angels who can take a number of forms to create deception and doubts about the veracity of God’s Word.

Indeed, in the UFO area, entities masquerading as aliens make a tremendous number of predictions. True prophets or any prophecies that claim to come from an authentic source should always be 100% accurate. I have found that if they fire a wide enough scattergun then it is likely that some may come to pass. As God is the Creator and does not exist in time as we know it, then only He can see and predetermine the future.

As we take a Scripture first approach, we cannot accept anything or anyone that seeks to tell the future, particularly if the concepts being embraced are outside of what the Scripture allows. Any seeking after the future is expressly forbidden by Scripture anyway. The reason is that God knows that the source is demonic, and therefore we should have nothing to do with same. The reality is, nothing that comes from a demonic source can be trusted anyway. As such, the concept of ghosts, that is, spirits of the dead, roaming the earth and imparting any sort of knowledge is not permissible by Scripture.

Remember, humans were created SUPERIOR to angels. Not inferior. We lost a lot of that grace with the original sin, but upon death, the faithful, through mercy and salvation, have it restored. Ergo, if angels can do it, the spirits of redeemed humans should be able to.

[Gary] I’m sorry this does not logically follow and the extrapolation seems to be reaching a bit. God is in control of our spirit when we die. Angels do not die and they inhabit a different realm or dimension as compared to humans.

Secondly, much of this is based on the concept that judgement occurs immediately upon death. I do not believe the Bible teaches this. The Bible teaches that judgment day, and in fact being cast into hell (the lake of fire) does not occur until the end times. The “final” judgment day.

[Gary] But judgment does occur immediately in the sense that the unbelievers do not go to Heaven. Many theologians suggests that they are held in the place of departed spirits—Hades in the NT, or Sheol in the OT. As such this is the holding place awaiting final judgment.

I do believe, as well, that once a person is in heaven, that they have the opportunity to petition God. Prayer and worship do not end once you’re in Heaven. Of all the parents who have died, I find it hard to believe that never has one asked of God the opportunity to comfort their loved ones here on Earth.

[Gary] But you are presuming that think you know what heaven is like. We can only know what it is like from what the Scriptures tell us. We may believe or wish lots of things, and we may even be right about some of them, but the fact is that we cannot know for sure this side of eternity. There is a risk in interpreting Scripture to accommodate our beliefs.

While I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that there aren’t many debatable points to my statements, I don’t believe the answer is quite as cut and dry. I’d love to hear your response.

[Gary] Thanks, but I respectfully will have to disagree. Our starting and ending point is Scripture on all things and as such we caution against believing in all sorts of manifestations that seek to deceive and undermine the Bible’s clear teaching on such things.

I hope the discussion has helped.
Allan M.
Thank you Gary for a thoughtful and well-presented article.
Thank you.
[Allan] As a Bible student of 40-years standing, and now a pastor, I have to say that I believe in ghosts.
Nevertheless, I agree with you that the spiritual manifestation of the departed is rare indeed, and more often attributable to either angels or demons.
[Gary] I did not say that I believe that the dead appear commonly if that’s what you meant. There is only one account in Scripture, which God allowed for a reason (the Witch of Endor).
[Allan] As a former staff nurse I have several times heard the credible testimony of individuals who had encountered ghosts, and it is their apparent preponderance in hospitals that lead me to suppose that such phenomena are often the spirits of those who have died suddenly and unexpectedly and do not quite yet realise that they are bodily deceased.
[Gary] This is very common. People have experiences that they believe represent truthful occurrences. The experiences can be real but often the entities claim to represent realities that are unbiblical. Over many years I have seen this same thing happen with people who claim encounters with aliens. The entities claim to be aliens, but if we take the Scriptures at face value then such ideas would violate the gospel. In some cases they make prophecies about the future. I wrote to someone else as follows:

For example, I have worked in the area of the UFO phenomenon for many years and have met dozens of people who claim real experiences with aliens—even to the extent of being physically harmed. However, when one understands the big picture of the Bible (in other words a Scripture first approach) we can deduce aliens do not exist. In the same way, we take the view that the Scriptures indicate that the spirits of the dead are not allowed to roam the earth.
One needs to be careful in accepting the experiences at face value and then using them to interpret our understanding of Scripture. Instead, we should search the Scriptures to interpret or understand the experiences. I’m not sure if you realize that by accepting the truthfulness of these encounters, that is, in effect, what you are doing.
Such is the powerful nature of fallen angels who can take a number of forms to create deception and doubts about the veracity of God’s Word.
Indeed, in the UFO area, entities masquerading as aliens make a tremendous number of predictions. True prophets or any prophecies that claim to come from an authentic source should always be 100% accurate. I have found that if they fire a wide enough scattergun then it is likely that some may come to pass. As God is the Creator and does not exist in time as we know it, then only He can see and predetermine the future.
As we take a Scripture first approach, we cannot accept anything or anyone that seeks to tell the future, particularly if the concepts being embraced are outside of what the Scripture allows. Any seeking after the future is expressly forbidden by Scripture anyway. The reason is that God knows that the source is demonic, and therefore we should have nothing to do with same. The reality is, nothing that comes from a demonic source can be trusted anyway. As such, the concept of ghosts, that is, spirits of the dead, roaming the earth and imparting any sort of knowledge is not permissible by Scripture.

[Allan] The Bible says that the spirits of the righteous in Christ are heralded into the Lord’s presence by angels, to await the bodily resurrection described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4, which leaves only the disturbing conclusion that disembodied spirits wandering around shortly after their death are temporarily en route to another place, which the Bible calls Hades, to await the final Judgement.
[Gary] I’m sorry, but this does not automatically follow. This is known as an argument from silence. There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that those kept in Hades or Sheol were allowed to roam freely.
[Allan] I remember hearing a then very recent account while working in a large city A&E department, of a doctor who was paged in the small hours of the night to attend a ward where a patient was gravely ill. While on his way there, walking through the labrynthine complex of corridors, he was stopped by a woman looking for directions to the exit.
When he arrived at the ward a short time later, he was freaked out to discover that the patient had died and was the same woman he had encountered in the corridor. And no, she did not show up on security CCTV-although the doctor did-nor did she have a twin.
Such accounts are not uncommon among hospital staff, but are rarely disclosed to a sceptical public, or management, lest it damage their career prospects.
I have no doubt that that lady’s spirit got to where it was going shortly thereafter, but that she was disoriented for a short time following her physical death.
What I see as corroboration for the existence of ghosts are some of the verses you omitted:
[Gary] I understand completely. I work in an area where I have heard of many encounters, even leaving physical traces. We need to be careful of interpreting the Bible through experiences instead of interpreting experiences through the Bible. I hope you can see that this is what you are actually doing here, and then looking for Scriptural references to support the belief that these experiences were, in fact, ghosts. If we can understand that the Bible does not support, allow and discourages from seeking after same, then we can use the Scriptures at least to discount what they claim to be.
[Allan] But being terrified, and being filled with fear, they thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do reasonings come up in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that I am he? Feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see me having.”
And saying this, he showed them his hands and feet.
But yet they not believing from the joy, and marvelling, he said to them, “Have you any food here?”
And they handed a broiled part of a fish to him, and from a honeycomb. And taking these before them, he ate. Luke 24:37–43)
Jesus was not one to mince his words, but did not contradict their assumption that ghosts exist. Rather he emphasised why he was demonstrably not a ghost:

Feel me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bones, as you see me having.

And he even went further and ate food, because Jesus was fully aware of what a ghost was and was not.
God made contacting foul spirits a capital offence under the Old Covenant, but his prohibition against contacting the dead seems uncharacteristically redundant if such were an impossibility.
[Gary] this is because, as I mentioned in the article, that the idea of ghosts was and has always been a popular cultural idea, most likely due to the manifestation of deceiving entities claiming to be the same. Especially in the form of deceased relatives or popular figures from the past. It is a powerful deception and thus, this explains why God forbade such things, because of the lying nature of fallen angels. The passage you used is only similar to the one I mentioned in the article. Jesus was not affirming the existence of ghosts. He was merely addressing their fallacious beliefs once again.
[Allan] Likewise, I firmly believe that if there were no such thing as ghosts, Jesus would simply have reassured his disciples quite directly with an admonition like: “Pull yourselves together lads. There’s no such thing as ghosts”.
[Gary] But, respectfully, an assumption is being made here. The Bible is very absent about the idea of ghosts, but very strong on forbidding seeking after the spirits of the dead. Why is this so? It is because anything that comes from the demonic realm cannot be trusted. The Bible warns us that the evil one masquerades as an angel of light etc.
[Allan] Rather he chose to say, ‘a spirit does not have…’ A quite nonsensical construction to describe an attribute of something which does not exist.
[Gary] Not really. I see this as a perfect example of him explaining that there are no such things as ghosts. He was using this to explain the physical reality of His personhood.
[Allan] Jesus is a Master at choosing his words, but that would be analogous to me saying, “I’m not Santa Claus, because Santa Claus doesn’t have a mobile phone”.
[Gary] I’m sorry, but I’m not sure that this analogy is apt.
[Allan] At the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared temporarily beside Jesus. And while we may argue that Enoch and Elijah were bodily translated from the earth, God himself buried Moses in Moab. So who were these fellows who stood beside our Lord, and where were they from?
[Gary] Once again, these encounters were specifically ordained by God. The Scripture does not say these were spirits, so one should take as face value that they were bodily physical appearances. I other words, it say Moses and Elijah appeared to Him. There is no reason to suggest this is evidence for the existence of ghosts.
[Allan] I believe that before Jesus’ Resurrection they were in a part of Hades reserved for the righteous, because Jesus is emphatic in John 3:13, that ‘… no one has gone up into Heaven, except he having come down out of Heaven, the Son of Man who is in Heaven.’
[Gary] This is only talking about who goes into heaven and He was affirming that His source was from above. It is not a passage that can be used to affirm wandering deceased souls.
[Allan] Since then, Jesus has made atonement for our sins at the Cross, whereby the spirits of the righteous in Christ now do go to be with the Lord, to await the First Resurrection.
[Gary] this is true, but once again it is silent on the belief you are trying to endorse.
Once again, thank for your email, but I am afraid we’ll have to disagree on this, and from my own experience of many years of dealing with the phenomenon of masquerading entities, I urge caution in accepting that the spirits of the dead roam the earth.
Rachael G.
Thank you for this article. I am a young Christian, and I’m still kind of trying to find out what I believe and what I don’t. One of my friends frequently uses a Ouija board, infact she got one for Christmas. She is a Christian as well, and is quite strong in her faith. She says it’s just “something I do with my mom”. She prays before and after she does it, and she said the people who get possessed from it and that kind of thing, just “haven’t closed it properly” and that they just don’t know how to use it.I would never use one, it scares me and It seems damaging to me. Would you mind sharing your opinion with me?
Dear Rachael,
I have pasted below what I wrote to someone else, who claimed that spirits of the dead can communicate the future. I think it encompasses your query as well. I wrote:

For example, I have worked in the area of the UFO phenomenon for many years and have met dozens of people who claim real experiences with aliens—even to the extent of being physically harmed. However, when one understands the big picture of the Bible (in other words a Scripture first approach) we can deduce aliens do not exist. In the same way, we take the view that the Scriptures indicate that the spirits of the dead are not allowed to roam the earth.
One needs to be careful in accepting the experiences at face value and then using them to interpret our understanding of Scripture. Instead, we should search the Scriptures to interpret or understand the experiences. I’m not sure if you realize that by accepting the truthfulness of these encounters, that is, in effect, what you are doing.
Such is the powerful nature of fallen angels who can take a number of forms to create deception and doubts about the veracity of God’s Word.
Indeed, in the UFO area, entities masquerading as aliens make a tremendous number of predictions. True prophets or any prophecies that claim to come from an authentic source should always be 100% accurate. I have found that if they fire a wide enough scattergun then it is likely that some may come to pass. As God is the Creator and does not exist in time as we know it, then only He can see and predetermine the future.
As we take a Scripture first approach, we cannot accept anything or anyone that seeks to tell the future, particularly if the concepts being embraced are outside of what the Scripture allows. Any seeking after the future is expressly forbidden by Scripture anyway. The reason is that God knows that the source is demonic, and therefore we should have nothing to do with same. The reality is, nothing that comes from a demonic source can be trusted anyway. As such, the concept of ghosts, that is, spirits of the dead, roaming the earth and imparting any sort of knowledge is not permissible by Scripture.

In the article, I also mentioned some extended family who were involved in spiritualism. They used Ouija boards also. Please note my comments about seeking after the dead etc. above. God strictly forbids this and Ouija boards are clearly a portal to the demonic realm, regardless of the actual experiences that occur, even if masquerading as deceased loved ones.
I hope this helps explain our position on this.
Andrew N.
Valuable article Gary. Just one important Scriptural point. You comment:
“But, since the first advent of Christ and His atoning work on the Cross, the Bible is clear that non-believers will now go to Hell and believers to Heaven (in the presence of the Lord).”

That is not correct. Unbelievers still go to the holding place of Sheol/Hades not to Hell (Gehenna)-Sheol/Hades will not be emptied until the Great White Throne final judgment (Rev 20 v.13,14) “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.

And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.”

Believers go straight into the LORD’s presence as revealed to Paul in 2 Cor. 5 v 8 “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.”

The LORD Bless you richly,

Lita Cosner
Dear Andrew,

Thanks for your email. In the most technical terms, believers go to Paradise (where you correctly say they will be in the Lord’s presence), and unbelievers to Sheol/Hades, pending the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment. But just as Paradise can be referred to as Heaven even though it’s not the new heavens and earth, the ‘holding cell’ for unbelievers can be called Hell even though it’s not the eternal place of judgment (and most translations use the word ‘Hell’ for Sheol/Hades). The torment of this ‘holding cell’ comes not as a judgment for sin, because they haven’t been judged yet, but from the complete withdrawal of the manifestation of God’s goodness. Every comfort and good thing comes as a manifestation of God’s goodness, so when God withdraws that in response to the eternal nature of the dead unbeliever’s rejection of Him, the person experiences torment not as a judgment per se (because they have not yet experienced judgment; that will happen at the Second Coming), but as the natural consequence of rejecting God.
Kevin I.
You say ghosts don’t exist, but I tell you they do I lived with one for twenty years, mine would walk up the hall way in leather shoes and stay beside my bed all night, there would be crockery fall and chairs would be heard to slide across floor but no chairs would be seen to move, a young girl heard the crockery fall got up and could not find anything, and told my mother who quick as a flash told her someone had picked them up.
Lita Cosner
Thanks for writing in. Please understand that we are not denying that such experiences occur. The question being addressed in the article is whether they are actually the spirits of dead people. One emphasis that we make especially in the case of ‘paranormal’ experiences such as with alleged aliens, ghosts, etc, is that we must judge our experience by Scripture. We know from Scripture that there are deceptive spirits that take all sorts of forms and guises, and will use any means at their disposal (and which God allows) to try to draw people away from God and scriptural truth. We also know that the Bible teaches that the human spirit at death departs to be with Jesus (if the person was a believer during his or her lifetime) or to eternal punishment (if the person was not a believer). This leaves no room for departed human spirits wandering the earthly plane. But we do know that there are spiritual beings that do wander the earthly realm. In some of the feedback we’ve received from this article, it is clear how cruelly deceptive these spirits can be; posing as dead loved ones bringing messages from the afterlife, etc.

Experiences can be very convincing. If I see something, I know what I saw, what I experienced. But the experience, while real, is deceptive. That is, perhaps one sees something that appears to be a ghost, and actually sees and hears things—the experience is real. But the thing is not an actual departed human being; it is not a ghost moving chairs, breaking crockery, etc.
Jess M.
Thank you very much for addressing this issue. I found this article very interesting; you have answered many of my questions, with biblical backing, and have clarified many things for me.
Now I am even better equipped to speak to and guide friends who have stories of “ghosts”, are amazed at their “stars” and fortune tellers and believe they are “gifted” in comminucation with their dead relatives etc.
This is a very dangerous area, especially for people who are not saved and are not aware of and do not obey the Lord’s commandment to stay away from the occult and do not have the protection of the blood of the Lamb and the understanding of the protection given simply in the name of Jesus. I now have some more facts to work with and to assist in my explanation/reasoning/witnessing to them.
Thank you. Bless you.
Everett B.
Umm … interesting article. When I was first married, while visiting my GrandFather why wife saw an apparition of my Grandmother in a rocking chair, whom she never met. She told me about it, I said, I wish you woke me up, I would have loved too see her. not sure why she would be hanging around the house as a ghost (if possible) as she was Christian. My Uncle later swears that the pump organ played one night after he went too bed. My Grandmother’s favorite thing to do. Kind of makes you wonder.
Gary Bates
Thanks Everett,

As I wrote to someone else, experiences are very powerful. My own close family, prior to their conversion to Christianity saw apparent apparitions of deceased relatives. These stopped when they became Christians though (as do many alien encounters BTW). At first they weren’t sure whether the apparitions were real or not. Once I worked through the issues with them and they understood from Scripture that such things could not happen. For those extended family members who rejected the biblical truth about Christ, their experiences continued. Please see above what I wrote to Paul S. on 28 December, in case it’s helpful.
John W.
“It should be remembered when watching any of this stuff that they already have a preset agenda.” Unfortunately this is even more true of your appraisals. If a UFO crashed in your own back-yard-complete with little dead aliens-you would conclude it was all just a sophisticated hoax by evil spirits trying to sway you from your preset agenda!
Gary Bates
I would actually have to agree with your assessment somewhat, and from your own statements I could probably glean that you might interpret most UFOs sightings as real visitations from another planet. As such, you have then discovered how worldviews play a major part in interpreting data and the experiences that people have.

Given there are approximately 150 sightings every day, and hundreds of accounts of alleged alien abductions, I would have thought that a few dead aliens in backyards would be very common. But we do not have a single shred of real undisputed physical evidence of alien visitations so your comment is a bit of a moot point. Given that our planet is but a speck of dust in the universe, why should we be favoured with so many visitations? Perhaps it is because the earth is the spiritual centre of the universe, as in what happened and will happen here, will affect the whole universe. Yes, people see things, have experiences and so on, yet not a single UFO sighting has been seen to enter our atmosphere from outside it—when they appear, they do so within our environment as if ‘magically’ appearing. As such, using the Bible as a worldview filter actually makes sense, as the ‘evidence’ suggests that we are dealing with matters of a spiritual nature. In fact, this is something that many secular UFO researchers have also realized.

If you were not aware of some of the aforementioned facts, may I recommend a bit more research into the subject matter (if you haven’t already done so). One place to start is the Aliens and UFOS section of our website, or grab a copy of Alien Intrusion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection.
Leonie E.

I’m so glad that this has been clarified, and so well, too!

For years, it has bothered me that my Christ acknowledged ghosts-but you have literally laid that to rest. Thankyou.

I now have more ammunition to shoot down such idiocies and blasphemies-and I am very grateful.

Too often, we, as Christians, roll over and play dead when there is some sort of challenge to Christianity, especially when we are seen as non-PC (not politically correct), stupidly biased or even just going against popular culture.

This last was evidenced in the height of what is supposed to be a holy time and instead is more becoming the silly season of lore.

A local newsagent had for sale a view of the Nativity scene-but with kangaroos instead of humans, even to a joey replacing my Saviour.

When I had gentle words with one of the owners (after all, I could possibly have had him in trouble for religious intolerance, I suppose), he was of the opinion that it was harmless fun.

I’d challenge him to do that with some of the more militant religions. And live.

Naturally, it’s a case of putting profit and self-serving causes first.

I am very grateful to my Christ for loving and understanding me despite my self-serving nature, but we also ALL need to stand up and be counted for Christ.

Which would be the better alternative: to be firm in Christ in public as well as private or to bow to the vocal minority and let them get away with turning our society more and more into one that allows violence, non-marital sex and anti-Christian attitudes wherever we turn to look and listen?

When are we going to stop being Sunday Christians and say enough is enough?

Write to your politicians, your newspapers, make your case for Christ known far and wide.
Merv B.
The passage in Luke 24 is not about Jesus walking on the water. It’s about His appearing to the disciples after they had seen Him crucified & buried.
Gary Bates
Dear Merv,

You make a good point here.

I don’t think the article is focused on the fact that Jesus was walking on the water, but that the disciples think they saw a ghost. It is the actual passages themselves that mention they “saw Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). However, we neglected to mention that the Luke passage was after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. We presupposed too much knowledge on the reader realizing this would be the case. The fact that it occurred after Jesus crucifixion would only add weight to the fact they think they were seeing a ghost, as in, his departed spirit. Of course Jesus was bodily resurrected so this was not the case. I’ll amend the article to reflect this.

Thanks again.
Tanya B.
This was a very interesting and enlightening article. I have to admit I had to read it through 3 times to understand and absorb what was being said. I would like to reiterate/teach some of this Truth to my boys, ages 6, 4 and 2. But I’m not sure I will be able…May I clarify what I read?
  1. Ghosts are actually spirits
  2. They are not dead people roaming the earth as ghosts.
  3. There are spirits serving God and spirits serving Satan.
  4. I’m not sure I clearly understand your explanation about people who say they have seen ghosts of dead ancestors…What are they seeing?

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your time. I am ordering your magazine today! I praise God for your dedication to helping us better represent Truth to the world …They boys and I will pray for you as we remember!!!!
Gary Bates
Dear Tanya,

Thanks for your email and comments. In short:
  1. Ghosts is the old word used for spirits as in angelic beings. Spirits and indeed ghosts are used by people to describe that they think are spirits of the dead (which I have suggested cannot be the case).
  2. Correct.
  3. Spirits or angels serving God usually announce that they are sent by God and doing His work. Deceptive spirits seek to take peoples’ eyes away from God. Sometimes they can appear to be actually serving God. This is why we must read such manifestations must be read in the light of Scripture as a lens or filter to determine what is actually occurring. Please read what I wrote to Paul S. on 28 December (above).
  4. They are seeing manifestations by fallen angels or demons with the intention of deceiving people per above.

I hope this helps. You’ll love Creation magazine. Many families have commented on how helpful it has been.
Sharon S.
Thank you for your informative and very interesting article.
I had a comment to add regarding the section on the Witch of Endor: When I read that passage I find it significant that the witch cries out. It seems that the appearance of Samuel really frightened her–could she perhaps have realized that his appearance was real as opposed to the deceptive “familiar spirit” she was accustomed to dealing with?
Paul S.
Interesting reading, Gary—as always! However, what about the notion of ‘ghostly apparitions’ ie headless Gray Lady seen regularly flitting around such and such a castle’s battlements? As a Christian I concur with Gary’s reading that upon one’s demise one’s spirit is ‘translated’ into the spiritual dimension, and it does not linger or remain on the earth. But there are countless examples of ghosts in ancient and modern literature, both secular and scientific. What of this? As stated, even the deciples immediately jumped to the conclusion that Christ walking on the water was a ‘ghost’. Where did such a notion come from in the first place? One would think deceptive fallen spirits masquerading as recognizable deceased friends or family members in order to deceive. Then again, we tend (in our scientific world) to disparage the overt supernatural, that there is a very real spiritual realm that overlays our reality: perhaps ghosts are merely freak blurrings of this boundary? Like after images, stamped on the fabric of time? This may explain the frequency of some ghosts and regular hauntings. Many ghosts are purported to be of victims involved in some violent tragedy or murder-and perhaps such deaths result in some sort of spiritual echo? But I’m probably meandering now! Again, I concur ghosts are in no way ‘real’ as such. But there is certainly something there, perhaps not all due to the work of fallen angels …
Gary Bates
Thanks for your encouraging comments Paul.
As I mentioned in the article fallen angels and demons can manifest in a myriad of forms, even including benevolent aliens, which are a popular cultural belief. Some years ago the appearance of elves or sylphs were also popular, and many early church writers mentioned these appearances. Ghosts have been popular for many years as also were the manifestations of fairies etc. They seem to morph into whatever will seem acceptable to the individual being deceived even if laughable by today’s ‘enlightened’ standards. The appearance of a beloved ‘departed’ family member or friend is incredibly powerful, for example, and has the ability to control individuals. Many years ago, members of my own distant family were involved in spirtualism, so I am more than well acquainted with the appearance of alleged spirit beings who could interact with humans. Sadly, it convinced many of my extended family that their own departed family members were ‘looking after them’, and they rejected biblical truth. In fact, because of their experiences they reinterpreted who Jesus was, and revised the plain teachings of the Bible to suit their experiences and the things they were told be deceptive entities.
As with most occult manifestations (and indeed the UFO phenomenon) it seems that it does so with the intent of changing our perceptions of our own reality. As such, it also seeks to place our trust in other things, based upon our experiences, rather than Christ and His Word which should be used as a filter for such things. As such, the conclusions are based upon what we can glean from Scripture. We cannot do empirical tests on or in the supernatural realm so we must rely upon a source from that realm that we know we can trust—that is, the Bible. And one thing comes across very clearly about the spirit realm, and that is there is a huge battle going on. One third of the beings of that realm are centered upon deceiving humankind to spite their Creator. We simply cannot trust anything from that realm without viewing it with the lens of Scripture. The Apostle Paul reminded us:

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).

So, clearly, those outside of Christ are impressed by the seeming reality of the deception. Clearly God is in control of our spirits once we are deceased and the Bible does not allow for departed spirits to be roaming the earth. As I have seen in my studies into the UFO phenomenon, we have to be very careful not to invoke some kind of extra-biblical revelation based upon manifestations of any sort or the messages received from such entities. This may include telling us things about our past, or future. Telling us ‘how they died’ only seeks to add to the reality of what is taking place, particularly if historical records could confirm same. I strongly counsel against suggesting that there may be more to this than Scripture provides. I hope this helps.

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