By Hank Hanegraaff

The ghost of Kate Batts may be the most-documented phantom in American history. So famous is the legend that, prior to becoming president, Andrew Jackson is said to have investigated this notorious poltergeist (“noisy ghost”) himself. While the legend continues to be sustained by sophists, sensationalists, and storytellers, Scripture hardly supports the notion that spirits of the dead can return to harass the living.

First, as the Bible makes clear, souls of the departed are either comforted in the presence of God or in agony, hopelessly removed from His loving presence. Such is the case in Luke 16. Upon death, the soul of Lazarus experienced comfort in Abraham’s bosom. Conversely, the soul of the rich man experienced torment in hades. Neither was permitted to return to the land of the living.

Furthermore, as delineated in Scripture, ghosts are the stuff of superstition. What foolishness to feign communication with the dead in the guise of enlightening those who dwell in the land of the living. Said the prophet Isaiah, “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people enquire of their God?” (Isaiah 8:19). It’s instructive to note that even the disciples, when they saw Jesus walking toward them on the sea, momentarily submerged themselves in superstition (Matthew 14:26). Had they clung to the truth of Scripture in the midst of swirling doubts, they would not so much as given voice to their latent superstitions.

Finally, we should note that while the spirits of the dead do not inhabit the land of the living, demonic spirits are pleased to play on the field of superstition. No doubt much to his delight, the devil is often portrayed as a cartoonish clown with an elongated tail, red tights, and a pitchfork. Far from silly or stupid, however, Satan appears as a cosmopolitan angel of enlightenment. With this in mind, Peter warned us to “be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8–9).

If we lose the ability to think biblically, we will quickly be transformed from cultural change agents and initiators into cultural conformists and imitators—from God-bearers to “ghostbusters.”

In part adapted from AfterLife

For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, AfterLife: What You Need to Know About Heaven, the Hereafter, and Near-Death Experiences (Brentwood: TN: Worthy, 2013).

***Note the preceding text is adapted from The Complete Bible Answer Book: Collector’s Edition: Revised and Expanded (2024). To receive for your partnering gift please click here. ***