The word “ghost” is often defined as, “an apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.” The Bible’s definition is “the SPIRIT of a person.” When a person dies, his “spirit” or “ghost” leaves his body. This is confirmed in Luke 23:45 which reads, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my SPIRIT.’ Having said this, He gave up the GHOST” (KJV). This is clear, is it not?

Now the question is: Where does the dead person’s spirit go, and can it return to earth again? If one is a believer and dies, his/her spirit/ghost goes directly to heaven to be with the Lord Jesus. In Acts 7:59 we read, “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, RECEIVE MY SPIRIT. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Stephen died and the Lord Jesus “received His spirit”; in other words, his “spirit went to be with the Lord.” How do we know that? Because Paul taught believers this truth in 2nd Corinthians 5:6-8, “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are ABSENT FROM THE LORD: (for we walk by faith, not by sight): We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be ABSENT FROM THE BODY, AND TO BE PRESENT WITH THE LORD.” Paul was so sure of this truth that he wrote these words to the believers at Philippi, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to DIE IS GAIN. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST, which is far better. So, the believer’s spirit (and soul) goes to be with Christ and this is not one word in Scripture that states or implies that the spirit can leave the presence of Christ and return to earth.

What about the unbeliever; where does his spirit go and can it return to earth? The Lord Jesus told the true story (not a parable!) of two men who died. We read in Luke 16:22-23, “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in TORMENTS in HADES, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Lazarus was a believer and went to heaven; the rich man was an unbeliever and went to Hades (the region of departed spirits) and was in torment. This means the unbeliever’s spirit goes to a place of torment where they will await the Great White Throne judgment and then be “cast into the lake of fire” (see Revelation 20:11-15). There is no thought whatsoever of his spirit returning to earth and manifesting itself to people. In fact, as we read on in this passage the rich man asked if the spirit of Lazarus could be sent to his father’s house to warn his five brothers of “this place of torment” (verses 27-28).  But he was told, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (verse 29). The rich man then said, “But if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (verse 30). But he then heard these words, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” We learn here that men on earth must HEAR THE WORD OF GOD if they are going to repent (see Romans 10:14-17; Acts 11:4-18; 20:17-21). Even if one’s spirit could rise from the dead their spirit could not persuade souls to repent of their sins and believe in the Savior of sinners.

In conclusion, when people are describing supernatural events where they are seeing and hearing ghosts, they are NOT seeing and hearing the spirits of dead men! If they are indeed experiencing a spirit of some kind, it must be demonic. Demons (fallen angels) are called “unclean spirits” in Scripture (Matthew 10:1; 12:43; Mark 1:23, 26-27; 3:11, 30; 5:2, 8, 13; 6:7; 7:25; Luke 4:36; 6:18; 8:29; 9:42; Acts 5:16; 8:7; Revelation 16:3). They often “possess people” to destroy their lives (see Mark 1:21-26 & 5:1-9) and it’s quite possible they also “manifest themselves to people” in some way in order to deceive them and to “keep them from repenting and believing the gospel” (see 2nd Corinthians 3:3-4; Ephesians 2:2 and 1st John 5:19).  (DO)  (566.1)