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Ghosts and Reincarnation in the Bible

Updated on September 7, 2009


There is a lot of speculation in the world religions about ghosts. In Christianity there is really only one instance of a ghost in the Bible and that is in the first book of Samuel where the Witch of Endor summons the ghost of Samuel for King Saul. What then is a ghost? Did the witch simply summon a demon?

The scriptures would most likely have said that the witch deceived Saul if it had been a demon. This assertion is not just opinion, but is based on the fanatical loathing of spirit communication displayed in the Old and New Testaments. So that causes the question to be asked, when we die do we go to heaven or hell, or do we exist otherwise?

The answer is not as straight forward as many preachers would have you believe. There are many Christians that believe we do not go to heaven or hell when we die, but "sleep" until the day of judgement. The notion of going to heaven or hell immediately is supported by some passages in the bible, but Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 says that we sleep until the trumpets sound and the dead rise. This is judgement day. If this is correct, then it appears possible for a medium to awaken the dead. But these are matters of personal faith and one can play Bible ping pong all day long. Regardless, it is plain from the biblical text that ghosts of the dead do exist and can be summoned. Why then is trafficking with ghosts forbidden?

Necromancy, contrary to the popular culture image of powerful necromancers summoning undead legions to do their bidding, is really the practice of turning to the spirits for advice and guidance. Summoning grandma to get her opinion on what choices in life you should make sounds rather benign, but the Bible forbids this practice. Why? It is simple. If one believes in the Bible, then one must, in order to have a coherent world view, must also believe in demons. Ghosts of loved ones can be summoned, but who has the skill to recognize their loved one over a demon impersonating them? The power of demons is great and few have the ability to resist their influence if they have opened themselves up to them. This is the real reason necromancy is banned. It was believed that one who communicated with the dead ran the risk of communicating with the damned also and would fall under their power and become their thrall. These thralls of demons would then summon demons to corrupt others as well. The risks of necromancy were just too great to people. It was also known then as now that those grieved by the loss of a loved one could be taken in by charlatans faking the whole thing or using demons to pose as loved ones, either situation was a deception and could lead to harm.

So do I believe in ghosts? Yes I do, but I have no desire to risk the consequences of trying to talk to them.


Another sticky subject. Here is what Paul had to say in 1 Corinthians.

44: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.
45: And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.
46: Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.
47: The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.

So the body comes first and a spirit is generated within it. That rules out the spirit recycling program. But is there an instance of reincarnation in the Bible? Some say that there is.

Mark Chapter 9

11: And they asked him, saying, Why say the scribes that Elias must first come?
12: And he answered and told them, Elias verily cometh first, and restoreth all things; and how it is written of the Son of man, that he must suffer many things, and be set at nought.
13: But I say unto you, That Elias is indeed come, and they have done unto him whatsoever they listed, as it is written of him.

Matthew Chapter 17

10: And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
11: And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.
12: But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
13: Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Now Elias is the New Testament form of the name of the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Some Christians point to these passages as a confirmation of reincarnation. There are two schools of thought.

1) This is a figurative prophecy that Elias will return. It meant that a great prophet as great or greater than Elias would come before the messiah and John was that prophet.

2) This is literally true and an example of reincarnation. John was Elias who had been taken into heaven by God and now returned to earth to herald the coming of Jesus.

The interpretation either way is interesting. Jesus himself says that Elijah has returned. Some argue that this passage supports the second view, while others point to the many parables of Jesus and say that they were figurative stories and this is another figurative example. I will not weigh in on this, because I frankly do not believe I have the wisdom to. I will say that if it is reincarnation in the literal sense, it is the only example given in the Bible and maybe it was the only time it happened, so we should not sit and plan on another chance.

Regardless of your own beliefs, I think most can agree that what we do in this life is most important. If we get another life, double up on your good deeds and try to get closer to God. Don't wast your time thinking that you will get another chance, because you may not.


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