What about people who claim that when their loved one died, they were visited by them? Does God ever allow a deceased believer to say "goodbye"? This poses a particular challenge for a number of reasons: there are a fairly large number of people who say they had this experience; and some of the most vocal opponents of the notion of ghosts do allow for this exception. Also, it arouses intense emotions, especially in those who are earnest Christians, who "swear" it was their mom (fill in blank). Frankly, I was so intimidated by the topic, that I purposely did not mention it in my book! (of course I justified to myself by saying I had enough material as it was!!) For good or ill, I am no longer as reticent to address this issue. In fact, it NEEDS to be addressed.
Let me define what I mean by "visitation". It is not merely a sixth sense or intuition that something bad has happened. That is a distinct phenomenon which I do not know how to explain. I am referring to a visible manifestation...something akin to what we call an apparition.This "person" appears out of the blue, says goodbye, and is gone. Not just odors, sounds, or feelings. Blinking lights at the time of death,, and similar phenomena, are not what I am analyzing now. I wanted to make sure that was clarified.
First, I have lost alot of loved ones to death. (all grandparents, both parents, and four adult age siblings) The deaths of my bother and sisters were all terribly tragic. So, I do know this issue experientially...at the deepest level imaginable--and beyond.
Second, there is no record in the bible of a recently deceased loved one saying "goodbye" enroute to heaven.Okay, all the references you may be considering do NOT fit the criteria of a recently deceased person's soul coming back to family to comfort them. We saw recently that the Samuel incident was singular and must not be used as data to support anything...other than the reality of divine judgement. I can assure you there are NO examples of this occurring in the bible. We will return to this in #4.
Third, closely related to this, don't you think that if it were a legitimate phenomenon that the bible would have either recorded it or mentioned it in the epistles--when it deals with death and the Intermediate State? The doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17) implies that God has given us all the divine words we need to understand and deal with death. Why would God be silent regarding such a significant issue if it were true? If visitations were part of God's occasional agenda for mankind, surely he would have prepared us.
Fourth, there are hundreds of deaths recorded in the bible and a sizable number of recorded experiences of a person dying (e.g. Jesus, 2 criminals next to Him, Stephen, and numerous others) In Acts 7 we have the poignant account of the stoning death of Stephen, which would seem to be illustrative of any/all believers death experience. Jesus rises to greet Him, and Stephen cries out--echoing Jesus--"Lord Jesus, receive my spirit....Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts 7:59, 60) I do not know the exact number, but there are quite a few death/dying episodes in the bible, but no recorded "visitations" afterwards. What we actually see happening with Stephen is precisely what Paul taught regarding death and the Intermediate State (Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Cor. 5:8) IMMEDIATE...(no interruptions or pit stops), presence with the Lord after death.
Evidently, all of the apostles but John were murdered, but none "visited" the fledgling church. If ever a visitation might have been helpful, it was then. However, the reality is that it did not happen, and certainly that is a significant.
Actually, some who believe in "visitation" may agree with all I have said thus far, but point to their experience. "Mine was a divine exception...I KNOW it was my husband by "discernment".
Well, did it occur before or after their personal judgement (Heb.9:27)? So, there seems to be some difference as to whether the deceased soul was sent from heaven or stopped at their earthly home enroute to judgement.
1. Why is it that folks from all belief systems experience this same visitation phenomena, with equal certainty of the person's identity and comfort? That is seriously problematic....I seriously doubt God is going to allow a hell-bound unbeliever to say "goodbye." This is a particularly significant argument, in my opinion.The only plausible explanation would be demonic mimicry.
2. We must ask this--are demons not capable of mimicking a person immediately after they die? Certainly #1 would seem to be examples of that. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but this issue must be raised.
3. I have been wanting to ask this question for some time....am I the only "demonologist" (not like label) who does NOT have the gift of discernment? According to Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12 God sovereignly gives gifts as He pleases for the health of the Body. The gift of discernment (ability to distinguish or sense the presence of demonic--discern between Holy Spirit and unholy spirits) is only given to SOME people.I am convinced that most folks who think they have the gift of discernment, do not have it. Am I saying they are lying? NO!!! Am I saying they are experiencing a demonic counterfeit of it? NO!!! It is a purely psychological phenomenon--the person is sincere, but sincerely wrong. In certain circles everyone is told they must speak in tongues. However, Paul is very clear that only some have that gift as well.Those who "speak in tongues" but do not have the gift, are simply having a psychological experience.
I mention this because of how convinced many Christians are that they were visited by a deceased loved one. But remember that the gift of discernment was not given to discern if a "visitation" has occurred....not given to discern between human and demonic spirits, but between Holy Spirit and unholy spirits. (1 John 4:1-3) This is the touchiest part of the whole discussion--people's experience and their interpretation of it.. Just on an emotional level, it is hard to argue with a sincere Christian who says that they were certain that it was their deceased dad they saw.
4. Have you come to grips with just how filthy and cruelly inventive demons are? Dare I say this...is not the death of a loved one a perfect time for pure evil to seek advantage? We are traumatized and in weakened condition--just what the prowling lion is looking for.They cruelly target abuse victims, and even handicapped children as objects of their hateful oppression.
They have NOT given Satan any "legal rights"...he is supreme opportunist and the death of our loved ones fits that MO. Nothing is beneath them, as far as cruelty goes.
5. Has anybody who has experienced a "visitation" rebuked it in the name of Jesus to see what would happen? Perhaps some have, but usually the confidence level is so high (sense of love, light, and goodness present) that they are understandably overwhelmed with joy and even worship of God. I say this tenderly,but that wretched Satan can project a heavenly ambiance that would fool even the most experienced, especially while in deep grief.
6. When we allow for "visitations" then we have stepped on a very slippery slope. How long after death is a "visitation" to be allowed? An hour after death? A day? A week" A month? Year anniversary? 10 year anniversary? I have heard stories which expressed all of the above. And how many "visits" are allowable before we should be concerned?
7. The most difficult "visitation" to question is immediately after death and is singular...never repeated.
8. I have devoted my life to understanding death, dying, and the demonic through God's eyes, and the singular significance of this deception of ghosts grows within me each passing day. Would Satan mimic a recently deceased loved one just once? I hope that by now that to ask the question is to answer it. I mentioned the slippery slope above....how many folks who have had this experience, have also had their views toward the notion of ghosts "softened" or made them more "open-minded" to other post-death human appearances? I have seen it happen..... it is certainly not beneath these filthy wretches to do an "angel of light" maneuver at the moment of greatest vulnerability. Is it not a rule that, when we are weakened and emotionally distressed, that demons tend to lurk like vultures?
9. With all the death I have experienced, I have never been visited.
10. God has given us the bible, the Holy Spirit, and loving friends/family to comfort us in times of grief.
11. last, but certainly not least, GOD WANTS US HOME. We cannot be in two places at the same time--in His loving presence in heaven and visiting family here. God wants us home. When we die, like Stephen, we make a bee-line for Jesus.
In conclusion, the argument for visitation is based entirely on experience and our interpretation of it. I wish with all my heart that I could see my brother and sisters again. But knowing what I now know regarding demons, if one of them did appear, I would (while weeping) rebuke them forcefully in the precious and holy name of Jesus.