Every Halloween season I get a couple of the same questions, “Do you believe in ghosts?” “Can demons possess a Christian?” and “Where did Satan come from?” So, let’s go ahead and tackle all of those at once.
I don’t believe in ghosts. Why?
The Bible teaches that prior to the death and resurrection of Christ all those who died went to Hades. This is the realm of the dead the Hebrews often referred to as Sheol. Hades was divided into two areas—one for the righteous (paradise) and one for the unrighteous (i.e., those who did not worship the one true God and Him alone). This is what Jesus is referring to in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). This is also why Jesus tells one of the thieves on the cross that “today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).
Why did God send the dead to Hades? Because before Jesus shed His blood for the people of God and gave them His earned righteousness, no one could enter into the throne room of Heaven.
Today, if a person dies outside the grace of Christ, he or she still goes to Hades to await final judgment but those who have been saved by faith in Jesus go to heaven (2 Cor. 5:8). The saved return with Christ at His second coming, receive glorified bodies (Phil. 3:21) and live with Him in the new heavens and new earth.
So, because I believe that souls either go to Heaven or Hades, I don’t believe they are roaming around old houses or graveyards. Thus, I don’t believe in ghosts.
Yes, I know Samuel’s ghost is raised in the Old Testament but he is now in heaven. I know God can and does make exceptions such as Samuel in order to deliver a message to Saul but I don’t see that God is in the haunted house business!
What about Satan and demons?
The Bible teaches that Satan was an angle who was very beautiful and became so vain that he longed for more honor and glory than was his due (Ezekiel 28:15-19). Satan rebelled against the will of God and persuaded a number of fellow angels to follow him (Rev. 12). These fallen angels were cast out of heaven and onto the earth where they too await final judgment. Contrary to South Park, Satan and demons do not reign in hell but will be cast into it for eternity (Rev. 20). Yet, Satan and his army of demons are still under God’s control as we see in the Book of Job and in the exorcisms performed by Christ in the Gospels.
I do not believe demons can possess Christians for they have the Holy Spirit. However, as theologian Wayne Grudem has argued, we are all demonically influenced in the sense that Satan’s followers can play upon the evil temptation that are within our own hearts.
I have only seen demon possession once, as a kid and it does appear to be rare in the west because Satan would defeat his own purposes by doing so in an area beset with secular presuppositions. However, the way to deal with demons is to pray, fast (Matt. 17:21) and to quote Scripture as Jesus did during His temptations. Let the sovereign God do His work.
One last thing, why I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in “paranormal activity” but I believe it is the work of demons. The Bible teaches that demons often “masquerade as creatures of light” (2 Cor. 11:14) such as spirits that foretell the future or give visions of departed ones or whatever. Thus, I warn all to stay away from fortune tellers, ouija boards, seances, etc.
One of the lessons of the Book of Job is that one may come under demonic attack but a person of God only has to deal with God for He has absolute power over the darkness.