As some of you know we recently moved into a one hundred and ten year old row house on the west side of Bethlehem. As the second home from the end, we have neighbors on both sides. As the three families sat on our front porches last evening the conversation turned to ghosts. My new neighbors matter-of-factly told me that both of their homes were haunted.
I’ve lived a number of places over the years, but this is the first place I’ve lived were someone seriously claims to have encountered a ghost.
The people on the left claim that after their son told the ghost to “go to the light,” they were no longer bothered.
My other neighbors claim that they still, on occasion, sense a “presence” and that their son has “seen” the spirit and for that reason none of their children will spend the night.
I’ll be honest, my initial thought was: go on, pull the other one! I’m a reasonably intelligent person and in my thirty-eight years of life I have never encountered anything even resembling a ghost. To my modern reformed way of thinking, talk of ghosts is tantamount to a contemporary manifestation of the age-old human impulse toward superstition.
If we understand ghosts to be the souls of the departed that are somehow trapped or so strongly connected to place that they indefinitely abide there, i find absolutely no basis in Scripture for such a belief. In other words: I don’t believe that ghosts exist. I don’t believe that Mrs. Jackowski is haunting her former house because she somehow cannot “let go” of something that ties her to that place.
Scripture is quite clear that those who die in Christ are immediately brought into the presence of their Lord and there abide for the age that is to come. Likewise those who die and are not in Christ enter hell.
The Westminster Confession of Faith (32.1) summarizes the Scripture’s teaching on this matter:
The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption: but their souls, which neither die nor sleep, having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them: the souls of the righteous, being then made perfect of holiness, are received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Beside these two places, for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledgeth none.
While the Scripture makes no provision for the souls of the departed wandering the earth or haunting a house, it does speak to the existence both of angels and evil spirits. Is it possible that what people often describe as a haunting is, in actuality, the manifestation of an evil spirit? It is entirely possible since many point to these experiences as showing that all find fulfillment in the life to come, even those who die apart from Christ.
Before today I haven’t given this much thought. What do you think?