Yesterday at Beachside Community Church we had a Q&A time during the sermon. It’s something new for us and it was a huge success. We’ll do it again some time, maybe as a regular thing between sermon series.
One of the issues that came up surrounded death, ghosts and near death experiences. If you’d like to read a little on near death experiences from a Christian perspective, I recommend Pastor John Burke’s book Imagine Heaven.
Specifically, one of the questions that came up surrounded the idea of ghosts, and whether they exist.
My personal belief is built on what Scripture has to say, and it’s somewhat limited. There are passages like Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah, long after their time on earth. There is the incident of Saul meeting with a medium to speak with the ghost of Samuel (a practice Saul had rightly banned, though he broke his own law). All in all, Scripture doesn’t speak a lot about ghosts.
Based on these passages and a few others, my understanding is that, upon death, we are immediately present with God. At the end of time we will have a physical resurrection. I don’t think we hang out in our old houses scaring people and doing ghost things.
Many Claim to Have Seen Ghosts
Yet it is interesting because many people have had very specific interactions with ghosts. I’m not talking about thinking they see a speck of dust in a photo. I’m talking about difficult-to-explain occurrences. For example, a number of years ago a woman told me a story involving her own mother visiting her, at her home, right after she unexpectedly died in the hospital. In fact, this woman was not surprised when the doctor called shortly later. (I’m giving the short version)
What Actually Happens?
When someone claims to see a ghost, what is actually happening? I think there are a few possibilities.
I believe in demons as well as angels. I know that sounds crazy to some. However, what we perceive as ghosts may in fact be spiritual activity of a different kind, both good AND bad. I have been to places where there is demonic activity. What better way for satan to deceive you than by teaching you to put your faith in medium or ghost hunter rather than in God?
We also need to remember that people sometimes imagine things. Did you really see your deceased relative, or was it your mind comforting you? This doesn’t mean there isn’t a heaven; to the contrary, I happen to believe God has prepared a place for us. So it’s hard to imagine my spirit hanging out in my kitchen rather than heaven.
The third possibility is a catch all: maybe there are things I, and you, don’t understand. God allowed Moses and Elijah to speak with Jesus. That seems to be a one-time thing. But the possibility that God allows this to happen means I can’t simply rule out another person’s experience.
Some pastors won’t like to read that. In their minds, everything needs to be systematized. They learned one thing, and nothing can change their minds.
I’m old enough now to know that I don’t know much. I’m ok with some things being unexplained. I still doubt that when we die we remain in our homes, scaring the people who happened to buy the house.
What About You
What are your experiences? Is there something you’d be willing to share in the comments, or in an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with me?