As a follow-up to last week’s question, the same CLC’er writes, ”Also, after a loved one has died, I have heard people say that they have been visited by the deceased loved one in a dream or they have felt their presence. Is that possible? Can the dead be seen and heard by those still living? I think the answer is no because of Luke 16:19-31 but just wanted to know for sure.”
Great question, especially since so many people have similar questions about life after death. Let’s address them one by one:
- I’m sure that people can ‘see’ a deceased loved one in a dream, because when we sleep, our subconscious is often at work. ”Ernest Hartmann, a doctor at Tufts, focuses on the emotional learning that happens in dreams. He has developed the theory that dreaming puts our difficult emotions into pictures. In dreams, we deal with emotional content in a safe place, making connections that we would not make if left to our more critical or defensive brains.” (See point #4 of this scholarly article)
- As to “feeling their presence”, since the Bible doesn’t address that topic, we’re left to our own reasoning. Personally, I suspect that this is again like our dreams – an emotional response to the fact that we’ve lost that loved one through death. Scripture is clear that our spirit returns to God at death (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7), so it doesn’t seem to me that we could truly feel the presence of a dead loved one, other than some kind of emotional response.
- Finally, as to whether the dead can be ‘seen and heard’ by the living, there is one possible example of this in Scripture, although the interpretation is quite controversial. I refer to Saul’s experience with the so-called “witch of Endor” in 1Sam. 28:3-24. Many Bible scholars believe that Samuel’s appearance was merely the result of witchcraft and that he did not actually appear from the dead to Saul. My personal opinion is that Samuel did appear, based on verse 12 (the witch seemed surprised to see him, which possibly indicates this was beyond the power of her witchcraft) and verse 15 (where Samuel claims to have been disturbed from rest), and verse 19 (where he predicts Saul’s death and says ‘tomorrow you’ll be here with me‘). So I do believe the dead was seen and heard in this one example. Whether a medium or psychic could cause a similar appearance today would strictly be conjecture, and the Luke 16 passage you cite in your question seems conclusive to me that it’s not likely.
This is beyond the scope of the question, but let me add for anyone who longs to see a deceased loved one, the real hope we have is the one David expressed after the death of his son in 2Sam. 12:21-23 - “I will go to him one day”. If our loved one was a believer who is now in the Presence of the Lord, we have that same hope, for someday we will be reunited with our loved ones in His Presence!
Hope that helps. Now, what would YOU like to Ask the Pastor? Please leave your question or comments below-