As Halloween approaches, it’s natural for our thoughts to turn to spooky images and tales. Believe it or not, the Bible has its share of scary stories to read. In both the Old and New Testaments, we can find accounts that are as frightening as any horror movie!
Reading these kinds of passages for the first time left me feeling fearful and anxious. They seemed to either show God’s wrath or terrible things people did. Each of these stories on their own is certainly alarming. But as I’ve grown in my understanding of God, I’ve started to see a deeper meaning to them as well.
Within the chilling drama of each story, I’ve discovered some important truths about God’s character: that even in the worst of circumstances, He always stays near us, He always desires us to live rightly, and He will always look for ways to show His love to us. Even more, I can see glimpses of how God calls us to join Him in building His Kingdom.
Here is a small sampling of three scary stories from Scripture, and where we can see God in each.
1. Genesis: A Worldwide Flood
“So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out…” (
Soon the rain starts falling, and worse. Just picture the chaos of the waters rising quickly and people who had just been indulging in all sorts of wicked deeds trying to escape.
“The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet. Every living thing that moved on the earth perished--birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; men and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds of the air were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.” (
God destroying the Earth is a terrifying thought. So are the images of sin the people must have been caught up in. Yet, in the midst of the terror as the world is wiped out, God stays close to faithful Noah and rescues his family. He shows them grace and even allows them to join Him in His plan to start mankind over again.
“Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you...so they can multiply on the Earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.” (
When the floodwaters recede, God makes a promise never to destroy the Earth in that way again, sealing the covenant with a rainbow. Despite a terrifying detour, God’s plan continues on.
2. Acts: A Couple Struck Down on the Spot
The Book of Acts describes the founding and early days of Christ’s church, including miraculous healings and blessed fellowship among its members. But within the descriptions of shared meals and provision for the needy sits a hair-raising tale of a husband and wife who meet sudden deaths.
At that time, some of the early church members had been selling their property and donating the proceeds to help others. This couple decided to join in the movement, but with a twist, and the results were awful.
“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?’” (
Peter’s next words led to not one, but two horrifying events in the same day.
“’You have not lied to man but to God.’ When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.” (
“After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.’ And she said, ‘Yes, for so much.’ Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” (
The idea that God would take both their lives is disturbing, but reminds us how much He cares about how we live. God was always concerned with the purity of His nation. So, in the early days of the Church, He used Ananias and Sapphira as examples for the other followers. The message: straying away from righteousness would have consequences. God’s people held that lesson in their hearts going forward.
“And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” (
3. John: A Man Returned from the Dead
Here’s an image that sends a chill down the spine: a man, dead three days and wrapped in cloths, rising from the dead and walking.
This man, named Lazarus, happened to be a close friend of Jesus. Lazarus fell ill. Though his sisters called for Jesus to come do a healing, Lazarus died. So, according to the custom, he was wrapped and laid in a tomb as Mary and Martha mourned.
Jesus was aware of all this, but waited to travel to them until a few days had passed. His disciples, as well as the sisters, didn’t understand why.
“So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (
When Jesus arrived, He was met by Mary, Martha and the others who were gathered with them.
“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.” (
What happened next no doubt shocked, even terrified His audience.
“’Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’” (
“So they took away the stone.” (
“Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” (
The people must have gasped in fear at the sight of a dead body moving around. But Jesus wasn’t finished.
“Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” (
With each strip being pulled off, it became more clear that Lazarus was truly alive again. This wasn’t some black magic trick, but a complete restoration of breath and life. Horror turned to awe as Lazarus’ friends and family celebrated what Jesus had done.
Jesus came to earth in obedience to God, and during this account He points to His Father numerous times.
“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (
“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here…” (
Part of Jesus’ mission was to show God’s love and mercy as a way to bring people to belief in Himself as the Son. Many of those that saw such an awesome display of power and love in action did just that, and ended up spreading the news of Jesus as they went home, playing a part in building the Kingdom.
God is always working on behalf of His people, and part of that is teaching us more about Him and His Ways. If a scary story is what it takes to get our attention, He’ll use it. But these stories can do more than frighten us - they can actually grow our faith and encourage us to join in His work.
Photo credit: Getty Images/kevron2001
Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, “Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper” is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship. Worship Walk Ministries, her blog, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. Heather shares her home with her family, an English setter named Marcie and Galaxy, the most curious cat she’s ever met. You can connect with her on her website: heatheradamsworshipwalk.com