For those of a sensitive disposition, Halloween can be a troublesome time of year. It is a celebration of all things ghoulish and creepy and a wonder that it passes as a culturally acceptable form of fun aimed at children. For a range of views on how Christians should approach Halloween, you can read Canon J. John outline his problems with Halloween here. Glen Scrivener explains (in very different form) why he has no particular issue with Halloween here and here. For a third opinion, you can hear (or read) John Piper’s view here.
It isn’t my aim to speak into the rights and wrongs of Halloween here. I shall leave you to follow the various links and make up your own mind. I want to offer a little succour to the frightened and scared. To that end, if you find yourself frightened of things that go bump in the night, let me offer you a few reasons why ghosts and ghouls definitely do not exist.
Before some smart aleck asks “what about the Holy Ghost/Spirit?” let us define our terms. I am using the word ‘ghost’ to mean the wandering spirits of the dead. I mean what most psychics and mediums mean by the term: departed souls who have not found rest. That is spirits of once living people who now float around in some netherworld occasionally appearing to living people or chucking things around rooms.
So how can I be so sure ghosts and ghouls absolutely do not exist? Here are a few reasons:
After death comes judgement
The writer of Hebrews makes it quite clear: “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement” (Heb 9:27). If there is a judgement after death, it seems pretty obvious that there are no people left hanging. The idea that there may be some departed souls who never quite made it to the other side doesn’t account for the fact that all people will stand before almighty God and give an account of their life. Unless God has appointed wandering the earth without rest as one of the possible outcomes of judgement, there can be no such things as the ghosts of departed spirits wandering the earth.
God has not appointed wandering the earth as a possible consequence of judgement
The parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-30) makes pretty clear there are two possible outcomes in the judgement. If we take the fairly obvious interpretation that the wheat are those who belong to Christ and the tares are those who reject him, one is either gathered into the Lord’s barn (Heaven) or put into bundles to be burned (Hell). If you’re not sold on the imagery, the apostle John puts it in starker terms in Revelation 20:11-15 (note especially v15). If there are only two possible consequences following the judgement, the idea of wandering souls roaming the earth is rather discounted.
After judgement, there can be no return to earth
As the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) makes clear, those who have been appointed to Heaven or Hell cannot return to the world after judgement. So even if we wanted to accept the possibility that, having been judged and appointed to either Heaven or Hell, one might return to the land of the living (à la Hamlet’s father), the bible simply doesn’t allow the possibility. The concept of returning to earth after judgement is foreign to anything we read in the Bible.