Reincarnation or Resurrection? — Morning Devotions - Hope 103.2

Reincarnation or Resurrection? — Morning Devotions

Many try to make the idea of reincarnation more acceptable by claiming Christians once believed in it... but the evidence doesn't support these claims.

By Chris WittsThursday 18 Oct 2012Morning Devotions with Chris WittsUncategorizedReading Time: 6 minutes

The Bible teaches resurrection, not reincarnation

It is part of our human nature to know what happens after death. Is there life after death? If there is,what will it be like? Where will we go? Is it automatic or conditional? If we’re good,will we go to heaven? If we’re bad,will we go to hell? Or will we all come back again,and again,and again,and again…?

Today’s trendy reincarnationists have generally not thought the issues through very clearly. They hope there is something after death,but aren’t quite sure what – will karma (law of cause and effect) determine IF they come back; HOW they come back; WHEN they come back; for HOW LONG they come back; WHAT they’ll come back AS?

Many try to make their confusion about life after death, especially the idea of reincarnation, more acceptable by claiming Christians believed in, and the Bible taught (before references were supposedly removed), reincarnation. But the evidence just does not support these claims.

In 2 Samuel,Chapter 12,we read the story of the death of King David’s first son born to Bathsheba. It is quite a poignant and revealing tale. It also has David stating quite clearly,after the child’s death: “But now that he is dead,why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him,but he will not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). It was clear to King David,that he too,like his son,would die – that was ultimately his direction – but the dead child would not reverse direction and return to this life.

The Old Testament also contains comments such as: “Like water spilled on the ground,which cannot be recovered,so we must die” (2 Samuel 14:14); “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He springs up like a flower and withers away; like a fleeting shadow,he does not endure”(Job 14:1-2 – the whole of chapter 14 is worth reading); “There is … a time to be born and a time to die” (Ecclesiastes 3:2).

These,and similar Old Testament passages make it clear that we don’t have “new days” or a few days and then come back for a “few more”. We are told that there is a “time” for birth and death,not that there are many times for births and deaths.

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Jesus Christ taught about the reality of resurrection (very different to repeated physical re-births),and the Apostle Paul strongly argued for the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).

The writer to the Hebrews puts it quite succinctly: “…man is destined to die once,and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27)

When looked at carefully,the Biblical message,and that of orthodox historic Christianity,is that there is hope for this life and the promise of eternal life in God’s presence. It all depends on what we do in this life,in relation to God’s coming to earth in Jesus Christ.  We all go through this life,experience death,face judgement,and our eternity will be determined for us – based not on what we have achieved,but on what we’ve done with Jesus.

Jesus stated: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

And the Apostle Peter declared: “Salvation is found in no one else,for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

These statements still hold true for today,and for our eternal future.

Is Reincarnation Biblical?

Today approximately 30 million Americans (one in four) believe in reincarnation. The word “reincarnation” literally means to “come again in the flesh.” The process of reincarnation – continual rebirths in human bodies – allegedly continues until the soul has reached a state of perfection and merges back with its source (God or the “Universal Soul”).

One’s lot in life,according to those who believe in reincarnation,is based on the law of karma. This law says that if bad things happen in one’s life,this is an outworking of bad karma. If good things happen in one’s life,this is an outworking of good karma. “Karma” refers to the “debt” a soul accumulates because of good or bad actions committed during one’s life (or past lives). If one accumulates good karma by performing good actions,he or she will be reincarnated in a desirable state. If one accumulates bad karma,he or she will be reincarnated in a less desirable state. In Shirley MacLaine’s book ‘Out on a Limb’we are told,”Reincarnation is like show business. You just keep doing it until you get it right.”

Some people twist the Scriptures and say that Jesus Himself taught reincarnation or “cyclical rebirth.”  In Matthew 11:14,for example,Jesus said,”And if you are willing to accept it,{John the Baptist} is the Elijah who was to come.” Likewise,in John 3:3 Jesus said,III tell you the truth,no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

But these passages,rightly interpreted,do not support reincarnation. Matthew 11:14 does not really teach that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah. Luke 1:17,an important cross reference,tells us that the ministry of John the Baptist was carried out “in the spirit and power of Elijah.11 Moreover,reincarnationists conveniently forget that John the Baptist,when asked if he was Elijah,flatly answered,”No!” (John 1:21).

Regarding Jesus’ words about being “born again” in John 3:3,the context clearly shows that Jesus was referring to a spiritual rebirth or regeneration. In fact,the phrase born again carries the idea of “born from above,” and can even be translated that way. Jesus clarified His meaning by affirming that “flesh gives birth to flesh,but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (v.6).

There are other Scriptures that clearly debunk the notion of reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “man is destined to die once,and after that to face judgment…” Each human being lives once as a mortal on earth,dies once,and then faces judgment. He does not have a second chance by reincarnating into another body. Second Corinthians 5:8 indicates that at death the Christian immediately goes into the presence of the Lord,not into another body. Luke 16:19-31 indicates that unbelievers at death go to a place of suffering,not into another body.

We must also remember that Jesus taught that people decide their eternal destiny in a single lifetime (Matthew 25:46).  This is precisely why the apostle Paul emphasized that “now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Further,Jesus taught the concept of resurrection,not reincarnation. In fact,He predicted His own resurrection early in His public ministry (John 2:19). And after Jesus resurrected from the dead,He appeared to some disciples and said,”Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones,as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). Jesus resurrected in the same body that went into the tomb. His body even retained the scars and wounds in His hands,feet,and side from the crucifixion (John 20:28).

In addition to biblically refuting reincarnation,we must also point to some of the practical problems involved in the theory of reincarnation. For example,we must ask,Why does one get punished (via “bad karma”) for something he or she cannot remember having done in a previous life? Moreover,if the purpose of karma is to rid humanity of its selfish desires (as reincarnationists say),then why has there not been a noticeable improvement in human nature after all the millennia of reincarnations on earth?

Finally,if reincarnation and the law of karma are so beneficial on a practical level,as reincarnationists claim,then how do they explain the immense and ever-worsening social and economic problems – including widespread poverty,starvation,disease,and horrible suffering – in India,where reincarnation has been systematically taught throughout its history?