Reincarnation means to "appear again in the flesh", after prevoiusly having inhabited a different body. The process of reincarnation supposedly takes place time and time again until the soul has reached a state of perfection and merges back with its source (God or the "Universal Soul"). According to reincarnation, one's fate in life, is based on karma. This means that if bad things happen in one's life, this is a result of bad karma. Good things which happen are a result of good karma. "Karma" is basically a term meaning the debt a soul collects due to good or bad acts committed during one's life (or past lives). How much good or bad karma you collect during life determines your state next time you return.
Some people twist the Scriptures and say that Jesus Himself taught reincarnation. The purpose of this essay is to refute the arguments for reincarnation, and to show it has no foundation whatsoever in Scripture. The format follows the pattern of: reincarnationist claim, followed by a Christian response, for each point covered.
First Claim: The Man Born Blind
John 9:1: And as he was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who has sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?" Jesus answered, "Neither has this man sinned, nor has his parents, but the works of God were to be made manifest in him."
Why would the disciples ask Jesus if the cause of this man's blindness was due to sin if the man was born blind?? It seems that reincarnation could have been the general belief.
i) One could just as easily ask: why did they ask if the man's blindness due to his parents' sin, if they DID believe in reincarnation? This would be an odd thing to ask, if they held to a belief in reincarnation.
ii) Exodus 20:5:"I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me" . See also Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9.
iii) Even if reincarnation WAS a general belief, this certainly does not prove it's truth. After all, they also thought that Jesus was going to be a great political ruler (Acts 1:6: So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?")
Second Claim: Jesus Himself said John the Baptist was Elijah:
Matt 11:13-14: For all the prophets and the law have prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was to come. And the disciples asked him, why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first? But Jesus answered them and said, Elijah indeed is to come and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they wished. So shall the Son of man suffer at their hand. Then the disciples understood that he had spoken of John the Baptist.
The priests asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah (John 1: 21); Elijah is prophesied to come before Judgment Day (Mal 4:5) -- where was Elijah when God spoke these words?
Jesus said John was Elijah, and John said he wasn't. Which of the two is to be believed - Jesus or John?
i) Matthew 11:14 does NOT teach that John the Baptist was a reincarnation of Elijah. Luke 1:17 tells us that the ministry of John the Baptist was carried out "in the spirit and power of Elijah." Moreover, John the Baptist, when asked if he was Elijah, replied "I am not." (John 1:21).
ii) Note how the reincarnationist has to arrive at a conflict between John the Baptist's words and the words of Jesus. For those who believe in historic Christianity, there is no conflict.
iii) Perhaps the most fatal point of all to the reincarnationist viewpoint is the fact that ELIJAH NEVER DIED!
We read in 2 Kings 2:11: "As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind."
So Elijah went body and soul to heaven. Since his soul was still attached to his body , how could it be made available for another incarnation? This fact of Elijah's translation to heaven was one reason for the Jews' expectation of his return. It certainly did not indicate any sort of reincarnationist belief on their part. iv) Elijah does actually make an appearance in the Gospels, viz. in the Transfiguration:
Luke 9: 29-31: "And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem."
It is clear from this that Elijah's soul is still very much with his body!!
Third Claim: Jesus as the reincarnated John the Baptist/Elijah?
Mark 8:27: "Whom do people say that I am?"
Public opinion seemed to hold that He was a reincarnation of either John the Baptist, Elijah, or an Old Testament prophet.
Herod thinks Jesus is John the Baptist (Matt 14:1-2); and his disciples accept that Jesus is viewed to be either John the Baptist, Jeremiah, or Eliajah (seeMatt 16:14).
i) Since Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, it is impossible for Him to be a reincarnation of John the Baptist.
ii) Read Matt 14:1-2 and you see that Herod thought John the Baptist had been RAISED, not reincarnated. In fact, Luke 9:7-8:
"Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen"
So Herod believed either the RESURRECTION of John, the REAPPEARANCE of ELIJAH, or the RESURRECTION of the old prophets, but he indicated NO BELIEF in a reincarnation.
iii) There is no consensus that Jesus was a reincarnation of anyone. A reappearance or resurrection perhaps, but NOT a reincarnation.
Fourth Claim: Memory of past Incarnations
Some people remember past incarnations and others don't. The reason for this is usually given as being in order to cover up past enemies, failures and successes, illnesses. A mechanism exists to block memories of past lives just as our subconscious blocks certain things from our childhood that are too painful to deal with. In general it is children from countries that believe in reincarnation who are found to display this past life knowledge. In the Western, the parents just tell the child to not be so imaginative, which helps the shutting off of the subconscious access that had been opened up.
This poses a problem for proponents of reincarnation. A reincarnationist's attempt at explaining Luke 1:17 is as follows: Luke 1:17 tells us that John the Baptist possessed "the spirit and power of Elijah." This is reincarnation - the reincarnation of the spirit. The Bible itself states that John the Baptist possessed the spirit that had previously lived in, and as, the man Elijah - not his physical being and memory, but his spirit."
If John the Baptist carried Elijah's living spirit, but not his physical memory, and therefore he did not possess the memories of being the man Elijah. Thus, John the Baptist denied being Elijah when asked (John 1:21).
If John the Baptist had Elijah's physical memory, he would have Elijah's memory, but John 1:21 clearly shows he hasn't.
On the other hand,if the memory of his past life was purely spiritual (as we are supposed to believe in the cases of people who "remember" past lives, why couldn't John the Baptist remember his? Are we expected to believe he was repressed in (what the reincarnationists claim) a culture that believed in reincarnation? Hardly.
Fifth Claim: Reference to Being "Born Again"
In John 3:3 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
RESPONSE: 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, by means of baptism. In fact, the phrase born again carries the idea of "born from above," and can even be translated that way. Jesus clarified what He meant by explaining that "flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit" (v. 6).
In contrast to reincarnationist views, Jesus taught RESURRECTION, not reincarnation. For example:
i) In John 2:19 He foretells His own resurrection.
ii) After His Resurrection, He appears to some disciples, Luke 24:39: "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."
iii) 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.
Sixth Claim: "...he shall no more go out"
Rev. 3:12: Him that overcometh I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall no more go out."
Jesus is stating that people were once inhabitants of the temple of God. This is strongly suggestive of preexistence and reincarnation.
This is merely a reference to the earthly temples that the people of God used to worship Him. Unlike these temples, in the new Temple of God (the eternal one), the people will not go out because they will never again be in exile from God.
Seventh Claim: Christ the Reincarnated Melchizedek?
The reincarnationist's argument goes as follows: A possible incarnation of Christ is the Old Testament figure known as Melchizedek, the High Priest and King of Salem, who "...without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever." (Hebrews 7:3).
It is clear from the scripture that Melchizedek was no ordinary man, assuming He even was a man - for what kind of man has no father or mother, is without genealogy, and without beginning of days or end of life?
RESPONSE: This verse refers to Levitical requirements to produce genealogies when taking the active priesthood. If one reads further in Hebrews 7:5-6:
And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brethren, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who has not their genealogy received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.
Jesus priesthood was not that of the tribe of Levi, so He had no need of genealogies. This is what this verse means. It is preposterous to even suggest the idea of reincarnation from this verse.
Eighth Claim: "Hebrews 9:27 does not deny Reincarnation"
Hebrews 9:27: Reincarnation states that the spirit leaves the body at death, faces judgment, then can enter a new and different body at a later time. In this way, Hebrews 9:27 does not refute reincarnation because it is not the same body that dies again.
RESPONSE: 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. 2 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. Also Jesus taught in Matthew 25:46 that people decide their eternal destiny in a single lifetime.
Ninth Claim: Statements about pre-existence of the soul
The prophet Jeremiah in Jer 1:5says God knew him before he was born.
Also "He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish in his sight and love." (Ephesians 1:4 ")
Solomon, son of David, says that he existed before the earth or heavens (Prov 8:2 2-30);
Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58).
All these verses show is the omniscience of God, not the pre-existence of souls.
i) Zechariah 12:1:An Oracle The word of the LORD concerning Israel: Thus says the LORD, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him.'
indicates that God waits for the body of man to be created before puting a soul in him.
ii) Romans 4:17: "as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations" --in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist."
This verse shows that God knows of things that do not yet exist (including human souls!)
Tenth Claim: Karmic Laws are found in the Scriptures:
The Scriptures tell us that those who live by the sword die by the sword (Matt 26:52) and that we will reap what we sow (Gal 6:7).
Common sense tells us that not all people who live "by the sword" will die by the sword. This statement can only be true if meant in the context of a future life.
In the same way, Mark 10:29-30: "No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or wife or children or land for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age - homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields ... and in the age to come, eternal life" indicates something only many reincarnations could fulfill.
i) The idea of a single judgment for sin accounts very well with this scripture. You reap what you sow when you face judgment after death( Heb. 9:27 ) and NOT in some reincarnated state. Note also that Jesus only mentions this present age and the age to come, again fitting with the idea of a judgment for sin after death, and against the notion of many "ages".
ii) The words represented by "..." in the quote above reads "and with them, persecutions". So if you are a follower of Christ, persecutions will follow. Where does the karma work here? It doesn't. If you follow Christ, you will suffer persecutions, regardless of whatever good (or bad) you've done in the past.
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With thanks to the Watchman Expositor website for some useful insight provided in this article.
Refutation of the New Age Movement