Finding Faith: Ghostly encounters and the resurrection
The congregation that I serve is prone to ask some pretty edgy questions.
This question follows death, grieving and the pain common to man.
They asked, “How do I explain to a reasonable, but hurting person that they are experiencing something real… like cupboards opening and closing, but no one is there… or dishes crashing without a physical explanation… that according to our black and white ‘Christian Doctrine’ that ghosts are not real?”
As a pastor, I am very serious about what I teach. Let me begin with simple doctrine and Scriptural examples before stepping out onto the tightrope of experience and undeniable data. Some well meaning Christians, even pastors, have told people experiencing loss owing to death that their loved one has become an angel.
The scripture is clear that God created the angels and mankind for different purposes. There was civil war in Heaven whereby one third of the angels who rebelled were thrown down to earth by the Archangel Michael, to whom was given the authority by God to cast out the unholy ones (Rev. 12:7).
By the same token, the picture of the Saints riding on horses with Christ for the Second Advent and the reckoning represents for us all that we are in one body and, as the Bride of Christ (Rev.19:14).
It is quite clear that people do not become angels. When we decide for Christ, we become Saints.
Hollywood does not do us a service by etching characters such as AS2 Clarence Odbody, from Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” into our minds. Angels were placed in their abodes by God in His creation. They do not get their wings when a bell rings, but perhaps they might listen to Samuel Langhorne Clemens antidotal discussions on the subject of Tom Sawyer (assuming that Mark Twain’s name was written in the Book of Life).?
To those who have been misinformed, please accept my apologies on behalf of those who told you otherwise.What does scripture say about “Disembodied Spirits?”
First of all, there is change that occurs in the condition in the afterlife between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is before the cross the two compartments in which the dead reside were Paradise and Hades.
After the Cross, but before “The Resurrection,” Jesus preached to those in the aforementioned compartments and translated a portion of those souls that effectively ends the necessity for Paradise (Eph.4:8).?
However, Hades continues to be populated until Hell is opened following The Last Judgement (Rev.20:14).?
Those who are translated, acquire their “Resurrection Body” in Heaven. That is to say, Hades is the house of the reprobate from the beginning of time and continues to be populated, while those who have a personal relationship with Christ close their eyes to this reality and open them in Heaven.
It is said “…absent from the body is present with the Lord…” (2 Cor. 5:6). So when we discuss the raising of the Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7f), it is in the context of the residence of his spirit in Paradise.
When we discuss disembodied spirits in the New Testament it is in the context of the time of the Great Tribulation where martyrs are hidden away under the Altar of the Almighty (Rev. 6:9).
It is within Christian doctrine to say that “Disembodied Spirits” are mentioned in Scripture. However, the context and purpose are what drives these Scriptures. Peter also was given by the Holy Spirit to raise Tabatha from the dead (Acts 9:40), but no such credible testimony has been approved since the end of the Apostolic Age.?
We now live in what is referred to as the Parenthesis Period, or the End Times. The Apostles believed that the return of Christ was imminent, so we find ourselves living in this sort of odd time where concrete black and white rules merge into shades of gray; Christian Doctrine remains black and white.
King Saul broke his own rules by commissioning via deception the Witch of Endor. The woman did not know she was being deceived until after a summoning ritual when she saw Samuel materialize out from the earth (1 Samuel 28:13).
The disembodied spirit of Samuel told Saul three things: Saul is an enemy of God; Saul would be with Samuel the next day; The entire army of Israel would fall (including the sons of Saul) in the battle with the Philistines the next day.
The use of occult methods such as in this documented case are used today to open portals that should not be opened. There are veils that conceal other realities, it is not about looking up a time or two to observe other kingdoms. Just as science has declared that light and particles are co-equal depending on the speed of particles, so it is with the reality of what is not seen.
God demonstrates this principle in His Temple by the use of “Veils” (Exodus 27:21). There is so much that we do not understand concerning the expanding and contracting universe; Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
Disembodied spirits were observed because of the breaking of the Fifth Seal (Rev. 6:9-11). Their cries for justice are answered by Jesus in terms of the completion of their number to be taken owing to the Gospel and their testimony.
Again, there is an action of darkness that results in these disembodied spirits before receiving their individual resurrection bodies. I suspect it is because these Martyrs will receive some sort of honor as a group. It has been suggested by Bible teachers like J. Vernon McGee that the “Old Testament Saints” are included in this collection of Martyrs.
In terms of the view of the church-at-large, disembodied human spirits that remain in this timespace continuum are not sanctioned, sort of a “no fly zone.”
There is a Jewish tradition that speaks to a time limit before a soul is sent to his, or her, reward (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 90b-91a). The Jewish belief in resurrection is for those who reside in Paradise will be raised three days after the end of the world.
Now we are ready to enter the gray area of thought and not of Christian Doctrine.?
We know that the possibility for disembodied spirits exists and usually associated with some sort of action of darkness.
The data from paranormal organizations like TAPS (Ghost Hunters) and Zak Bagans “Ghost Adventures” is proof that there is something going on all around us. Things that we cannot ordinarily observe without technology. Technology like sensitive recording devices to capture what was has been called EVP’s, barometer for barometric pressure changes, thermometers forchanges in temperature and radio frequency tools.
I must say that I appreciate the work that those people affiliated with the work of the paranormal perform. They are professional in their conduct and well equipped to make scientific observations with recorded evidence. I believe they are well intentioned.
On the plus side, evidence of the demonic is one proof for the existence of God, the one who created the angels and defeated Lucifer and his minions. On the down side, we might have an invading force secretly disguising themselves as human spirits that make use of these portals to set up for the Tribulation that will usher in the Anti-christ.
But I do not approve of the use of mediums or spiritists or others who practice darkness and the ancient religion. Then I think about energy and light is all its applications. About God, His angels, and His creation being light.
Light is something that can be observed, reproduced and understood in terms of scientific mathematical models. Something the First Nations observed long ago with the addition of the understanding that these spirits have intelligence and learn how to make use of a wind, or breeze, to travel; not random inert particles of light.
Not only intelligent, but able to exert force in our physical environment. Is it any surprise that we experience things that cannot be explained? So we comfort ourselves by saying “sounds like Granny in the kitchen.”
As for the attempts to talk to the dead, well that is called necromancy and something of which I do not approve. At the same time, revealing history of a specific geographic location may yield evidence for further understanding the unknown in real time.
This is the tightrope that we venture out upon in search of verifiable truth and final frontier of existential and phenomenological thought. I chuckle over the idea of Jason Hawes and his investigators taking a time machine back to the hour of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – taking readings here and there – until the ghostly encounter in the garden.
Grant might have made a comment concerning the appearance of the angels, while Jason’s EMF meter might have spiked in the vicinity of the face cloth.
Suddenly the voices of the women are overheard talking to someone they think is a gardener. “…Hey great EVP Grant!” Jason might have said.
Then that classic look that Grant gets on his face with possible comment “…Umm well…not an EVP…He is risen!”
…Jesus said to her, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him,And I will take Him away”…. John 20:15
Then the reveal in verse 16… “Jesus said to her, “Mary!“… and she knew that she was in thepresence of the “Resurrected Savior.”
Our experience may be less dramatic, but we enter into a very personal relationship with Lord.
This is our calling to salvation.
I pray this Easter that Jesus Christ reveals Himself to you in a personal way and that you will accept the free gift of Grace.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Dr. Bryon Reynolds of Charlton Chapel, an American Evangelical Christian Churches Charter Church.