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Ghosts, Spirits, Communicating with the Dead, And Other Things

Posted by Matt Postiff September 6, 2018 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Bible Texts 

The question from a church member today was somewhat involved, but it had to do with the reality of ghosts, whether deceased human spirits can roam outside of their proper abode (Heaven or Hell), and the difference between Hades and Hell.

Here is what I wrote in reply:

1. Sheol is a Hebrew word for "grave." That was seen by the Old Testament believer as the entry-way into the world of the dead. Both believers and unbelievers went to Sheol (Psalm 16:10, Jonah 2:2, Isaiah 14:11).

2. When a believer died in Old Testament times, his body was placed in the grave, and his soul went to Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22). He cannot return to the land of the living, even as a ghost or spirit.

3. When an unbeliever died Old Testament times, his body was placed in the grave, and his soul went to Hades (Luke 16:23). Hades has a climate like Hell. He could not return to the land of the living. Therefore, "ghosts" as they are commonly known do not exist. He cannot cross the great gap between Hades and Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:26).

4. Today, when a believer dies, his body is placed in the grave, and his soul goes immediately up to heaven = paradise, not (in this present age) to Abraham's bosom. They cannot come back to "haunt" the living. They will be resurrected at the rapture or just before the millennial kingdom (1 Thess. 4:13-18, Daniel 12:2-3), and always be with Christ, in the new heaven and new earth.

5. Today, when an unbeliever dies, his body is placed in the grave, and his soul goes immediately to Hades, same as #3 above. He is stuck there until...

6. At the great white throne judgment, his soul and body are rejoined (resurrected) and he is judged (Revelation 20:11-15). Then he is cast into the lake of fire (= Hell) because he did not trust Christ.

7. Notice in Revelation 20:14 that Hades and Hell are two different things (one is thrown into the other!). That is almost always misunderstood by people today. Hades will be emptied out, and Hell will be filled with those people. As mentioned above, the climate of both places is basically the same (hot). It is my understanding that there is technically no one in Hell today. All unbelievers are in Hades. The first residents of Hell will be the beast and false prophet (Revelation 19:20). Not even Satan is in Hell. We know this, because the Bible says that he roams about like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). But he will go there (Revelation 20:10) after the millennial kingdom of Christ. Only then will all unbelievers go there (Revelation 20:15).

8. Are there "spirits" today? Yes. They are not "ghosts" as commonly thought, that is, the spirits of departed people. Rather, there are good angels and bad angels (= demons). And like Satan, the demons do roam about and do stuff in the world, and try to frustrate God's purposes and people. We can't see them; they are very stealthy; we can't even diagnose for sure when someone is afflicted with a demon. But that is OK, because He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). We can pray for people who are acting weird and ask God to save them. Typically demonic influence is far worse in cultures given over to paganism, witchcraft, voodoo, and the like. Christian-ized cultures are not as affected. Our culture was more Christian-ized in years past; it is becoming more paganized today. So, we will be seeing an increase in demonic activity.

9. Reiterate: those in Hades cannot come and go from earth. They are confined in punishment. And since no one is in Hell yet, they can't come and go from earth either. Those in heaven don't come and go from earth either. Here's why: What kind of heaven would it be if the people there could come back and see all the sin and evil and disasters that are happening here? It wouldn't be very joyful, would it? To make it even more clear, remember that the Bible says that absent from the body is present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). If you are present with the Lord (in heaven) that means you don't roam around in other places (the earth).

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