The Witch of Endor (bringing up the ghost of Samuel), Dmitri Nikiforovich Martynov, 1857
(…continued) The third, and most important, source of information about ghosts would be God’s Word. Not counting the Holy Ghost, there are at least three ghost stories in the Bible. In two of the three stories, the disciples think they are seeing a ghost, but it is Jesus. The first is the story of Jesus walking on the water Matthew 14:22-33. It is night and the disciples are in the boat. Jesus was not with them. The disciples see something out on the lake, coming towards them and they cry out in fear, “It’s a ghost.” But then the apparition speaks, and they realize it is Jesus, doing another one of his miracles. The other time the disciples thought they saw a ghost was even more spectacular. It was Easter evening– the third day since Jesus was executed and buried. A few people had reported seeing Jesus, just like there were reports at Bethany of seeing Lenora. But just like at the college, the reports were doubted. Then, suddenly, Jesus appeared among them, even though the doors were locked. Luke 24:37 says “They were all startled and frightened and thought they were seeing a ghost.” But again Jesus speaks, this time saying, “Peace be with you. Why are you troubled and why do you doubt? Look at me, touch my hands and feet. A ghost, does not have flesh and blood.” (Isn’t it interesting that Jesus does not say there is no such thing as ghosts? He simply pointed out that ghosts do not have flesh and blood). Still, it was hard for the disciples to believe, so Jesus then asked for something to eat. He ate broiled fish in their presence, and everyone knows that ghosts do not eat, so that settled it. But these stories, miraculous and as they are, are about people who think they are seeing a ghost, but are really seeing something even more amazing and wonderful.
There is, however, one more story. Here it is as told in I Samuel 28 (some verses are omitted):
Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him… And when (King) Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid, and terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dreams or by prophets. Saul then said to his servants, “Find me a woman who is a witch, so I may go and inquire of her.”
“There is one in Endor,” they replied.
So Saul went to the woman and said, “Consult a spirit for me, and bring up for me the one I name.”
The woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?”
“Bring up Samuel,” he said… (And then said to her), “Do not be afraid. What do you see?”
The woman said, “I see a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.”
“What does he look like?” Saul asked.
“It is an old man wearing a robe,” she said. Then Saul knew it was Samuel, and he bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground.
Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
“I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has departed from me. He no longer answers me, either by prophets or by dreams. So I have called on you to tell me what to do.”
Samuel said, “Why do you consult me, now that the Lord has turned away from you? The Lord will do what he said he would do, and take the kingdom out of your hands and give it to David. Because you did not obey the Lord, the Lord will deliver Israel into the hands of the Philistines. Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me here in death.”
The ghost of Samuel then disappeared. The next day, Saul and his sons were killed on the battlefield.
What are we to make of that story? Here we have not only a ghost, but also a witch. One isolated ghost story in the Bible is not much to go one, but what is there is not inconsistent with the rest of the Bible. What then shall we say about ghosts?
First of all, if ghosts do exist, they are supernatural. Supernatural is defined in the dictionary as ‘something existing outside the natural world.’ We can see, hear, touch, and weigh human beings; we cannot with ghosts. Ghosts are, if they exist, beyond the natural world.
As Christians, we do believe in the supernatural. We do believe in the existence of powers above and beyond the natural realm. The Bible says God created the world—God is beyond it, and is free, and able, to work miracles within it. God is a supernatural being, and God is good. There are also, says the Bible, supernatural beings and forces that are evil. There is a devil and there are demons; the Bible makes that very clear. There are, in fact, all kinds of supernatural beings in the Bible, not only God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but also the devil and demons and angels, and even one witch and one ghost, all within the pages of the Bible.
We do believe in a supernatural realm. The world that you see is not all that there is. This does not mean that we accept uncritically every ghost story ever told. I never saw Lenora and didn’t think I would. This is an area filled with foolishness, self-deception, hoaxes, and fake news. But as Christians we do not rule out any and every supernatural event. It is a part of our faith to believe in supernatural forces of good and evil.
However, to say there is the possibility of supernatural occurrences is not yet to define what ghosts are. The usual notion is that ghosts are the spirits of dead people roaming about on the earth—like Lenora. But this is not what the Bible teaches about happens to us when we die. The Bible speaks not of ongoing disembodied spirits floating around, but of the eventual resurrection of the body, soul, and spirit, all together– which sounds much more appealing to me. (continued…)