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40% of Evangelicals Say the Dead Have Visited Them

In the summer of 2023, Heather Beville felt something she hadn’t in a long time: a hug from her sister Jessica, who died at age 30 from cancer. In a dream, “I hugged her and I could feel her, even though I knew in my logic that she was dead.”

Like fellow Christians, Beville is sure that death is not the end. But she’s also among a significant number who say they have continued to experience visits from deceased loved ones here on earth.

In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 42 percent of self-identified evangelicals said they had been visited by a loved one who had passed away. Rates were even higher among Catholics and Black Protestants, two-thirds of whom reported such experiences.

Interactions with the dead fall into a precarious supernatural space. Staunch secularists will say they’re impossible and must be made up. Bible-believing Christians may be wary of the spiritual implications of calling on ghosts from beyond. Yet more than half of Americans believe a dead family member has come to them in a dream or some other form.

Researchers say most people who report “after-death communications” find the interactions to be comforting, not haunting or scary. Professor Julie Exline says, “They’re often very valuable for people. They give them hope that their loved one is still there and still connected to them. These experiences help people, even if they don’t know what to make of them.”

There are several factors that come into play for a person to turn to supernatural explanations for what they’ve experienced. Prior belief in God, angels, spirits, or ghosts, combined with a belief that these beings actually do communicate with people in the world is one condition. Another factor is the relationship between a person and their loved one—“the need for relational closure” amid prolonged grief. And women are more likely to report the phenomena.

Possible Preaching Angle:

The spiritual realm described in Scripture comes with strong warnings. The text repeatedly advises against calling on spirits outside of God himself, with several Old Testament verses specifically addressing interactions with the dead (“necromancy” in some translations). Deuteronomy 18, for example, decries anyone who “is a medium or spiritist or who consults with the dead” as “detestable to the Lord” (vv. 11, 12).

Pastors can attest that grieving Christian spouses occasionally believe they have seen shadows or objects in the home moving after the death of a loved one. We can rest on the absolute truth of God’s Word that “absent from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). At death, believers are immediately in the presence of the Lord and not wandering the earth (Phil. 1:23).


Kate Shellnutt, “4 in 10 Evangelicals Say They’ve Been Visited by the Dead,” CT magazine (9-11-23)

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