The concept of reincarnation is as follows: once an individual dies, he or she comes alive again, if you will, in a different form - it may be a human, whereas some religions teach that it may be an animal, or inanimate object such as a tree. There are certainly variants of the doctrine of reincarnation, and several of these place time intervals on when a person is reincarnated. Reincarnation is found heavily in Hinduism, but is also present in New Age philosophy as well as Buddhism, though in a different form. Early Buddhist texts, for example, espouse that there is no clear permanent conscious which moves from life to life. It has been claimed by some that this concept of reincarnation - dying, living again, the like - is present and taught in the Bible. But is this claim true? Does the Bible actually teach reincarnation, or does it teach that once someone is dead, they stay dead? *Notice: If any religious beliefs have been misrepresented, please notify us via the email provided at the end of the article. It is not our intention to misrepresent beliefs. (Photo credit: Calton, 12/25/04; Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii)
In this entry, we will examine the concept of reincarnation from the standpoint of various religions and philosophies, and determine whether or not God's Word teaches this doctrine, or whether it teaches the "once dead always dead" doctrine - with the inclusion of an afterlife. "The word reincarnation comes from the combination of the Latin words re and incarnate, which mean to come into the flesh again. It is the belief that the soul or some individualized power passes after death into another body. There are all kinds of reincarnation beliefs in addition to the transmigration and reincarnation belief of Buddhists and Hindus. L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, suggests that one can reincarnate from life forms on other planets." The concept of reincarnation has been around fora few thousand years, and is indeed present in various religious systems and philosophies. Reincarnation is the belief that people go through a succession of lives. The origin of this concept has been traced to around the 800's BC in India.
Hinduism teaches that the soul (the atman) is immortal, whereas the body is mortal, material, and deteriorates. The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu scripture, conveys, "Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change" (2: 12-13). In this system, "nothing" is the ultimate reality, and life is essentially one: plants, animals, and human life are each independently capable of transmigrating from one to another. For example, according to this belief, if a human were to die, he or she could transmigrate into the body of an animal or a plant. Hindus believe that every "living being at the time of death is reborn in a different form, either higher or lower, whether as a human being, an animal, a heavenly being, or a hell-dweller, and from that state he will again be reborn, and so on endlessly." The Hindu sage Adi Shankara (788-820 AD) taught that all of life can be likened unto a dream: illusory and fleeting.
Buddhism, which is partially based off of Hinduism, teaches that, as aforementioned, there is no permanent conscious. There is some disagreement among Buddhists about exactly how rebirth occurs. For example, Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes the state of the mind at the point of death, whereas Sarvastivada Buddhists believe that a state of limbo exists between life and death. Essentially, however, rebirth (as it is called in Buddhism) teaches that the consciousness becomes one of the contributing causes for a new aggregation upon death. Rebirth, much like the Hindu system of reincarnation, deals with karma. In Hinduism, however, nirvana allegedly eventually occurs, which is where the individual becomes one with the Supreme being through moksha - the end of suffering. Modern reincarnationists generally hold a belief that we eventually reincarnate as divine beings, that we each have within us the capability of becoming gods.
|Buddhist reincarnation cycle|
Reincarnation is also present in some Native American religions. "Sometimes an infant resembles a deceased relative in some fashion, and it is believed that the ancestor might have returned to live again. However, this feature is missing from most Native American religions. There seems to be no widespread belief in reincarnation. Neither is there an emphasis on ancestors in the manner of the Chinese." Reincarnation is, however, prevalent in the New Age religion. Having once been an adherent of New Age, believing that it backed up Christianity until I began to notice distinct differences - such as the views on Jesus, the views on God, the views on Heaven and Hell, as well as Satan and his angels. After about six months, I gave up my adherence to this religious belief. I held firm to my Christian views during the entire time, yet was at an early stage in my Christianity and was not prepared to discern the radical differences between Christianity and New Age. With this in mind, the belief in reincarnation was once a thought in my mind, but never fully developed.
Those who believe in reincarnation often cite personal experiences or phobias as evidence. To be sure, we truly have no hard scientific evidence for reincarnation. Empirical science, true science, is what can be tested, repeated, and observed. You cannot repeat, test, or observe reincarnation as you would, for example, testing whether or not a group of people were more attracted to females with short hair or longer hair - and even this small group would not necessarily be representative of the whole. But do such experiences prove reincarnation? Contrary to popular belief, they do not. There are several other logical explanations for these "memories" of "past lives." Perhaps you believe you were once a slave in Egypt, or you were Abraham Lincoln, or perhaps you were Gandhi, or Buddha, or Abraham. First of well, we need to take a moment and ask ourselves - of the many people who claim to be deceased famous people, how is it possible for more than one of them to have been this person? If one hundred people all claimed to have been Moses, does it make them all Moses? Not at all.
It has been suggested in certain circles that past lives are "remembered" for a variety of reasons. Although some hold to the belief that perhaps certain memories of ancestors are passed on genetically, however, there are several issues with this. Memories are formed from experience. It is true that certain "instincts" or "traits" may be passed down genetically, but not necessarily memories. What, then, would explain the mass remembrance of "past lives" in recent decades? Quite simply, some researchers believe that recollecting past lives may be the result of having seen a film, or a television show, or read a book, which allowed certain images to flow through your mind. As such, these can sometimes come off as memories, although they were nothing more than observations and data processed by your brain. The brain interpreted this information, because it could render it and understand it, and later on, when you "recollect," you are actually remembering something you may have briefly observed.
Lawyers and detectives can attest to the fact that memory is not always reliable. "How can we know with any certainty that their past-life memories are not one of these things? Is it really more logical to assume that their memories are genuinely from past lives rather than one of these other things? While some modern 'past-life experts' claim to find evidence for reincarnation by connecting things like phobias and physical ailments in currently living people with traumatic events in past lives, the past-life 'experts' are assuming the existence of a past-life (or past-lives) in explaining current health problems, not showing that those past lives actually happened. The fact of the matter is that there is simply no solid, scientifically acceptable evidence that the memories of past lives claimed by some people are genuine, rather than misremembered events or simply make-believe."
Consider Shirley MacLaine, who "told Time magazine that she was 'a former prostitute, my own daughter's daughter, and a male court jester who was beheaded by Louis XV of France' - all in past incarnations that she believes she has rediscovered with the aid of mediums, meditation, and in at least one case, acupuncture." Past life recollection has also been the result of a hypnotic trance, or the suggestion of a therapist. As noted by Dr. Jeremiah, "Whenever one gives the control of his or her mind to another, that person opens himself or herself up to demonic intervention," if indeed the reader believes in such. It is the contention of this ministry that it does occur, and that several cases have been recorded throughout history. Jeremiah goes on to say, "The basic flaw in intuitive or psychic recall as proof for reincarnation is this: The knowledge of past events does not imply one's own presence in those events. It is possible to have accurate knowledge of past events without having been there personally. Even honest reincarnationists will admit to this. The most likely explanation for this phenomenon is not the transmigration of souls but the transmigration of demons." Note that in most cases of recollection of past lives, there is something involved: hypnosis, mediums, meditation, acupuncture, the like.
Some claim that the Bible teaches the doctrine of reincarnation. Advocates of this claim cite Jesus and Paul, who conveyed that men "reap what they sow," interpreting this phrase to mean that such results could occur in another life time. Another claim is that John the Baptist was actually Elijah reincarnated. Is there any veracity to this claim, or is there merely a theological misunderstanding of Scripture? The concept of reincarnation would have been a foreign concept to the Jews of the 1st century AD. Simply because the concept was present in Asian religion and philosophy does not mean we ought to presume it was present in Judaism. Jesus taught that our decisions and actions have future consequences, and that we will have to answer for these things, but He did not teach the doctrine of karma. Jesus did not mean that we would be reincarnated, but that by reaping what you sow, you will face consequences in this life, and in judgment.
One of Hinduism's sacred writings describes karma as, "According as one acts, according as one conducts himself, so does he become... As is his desire, such is his resolve, such the action he performs; what action he performs, that he procures for himself" (Derived from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad). Karma also deals with a social dimension. Hindus believe that "karma can be reinterpreted ti address the question of why people act as they do. Not only do the results of our actions affect us, but they become extended in the way that we treat other people, including people who had nothing to do with how we were treated. Both functional and dysfunctional family patterns, for example, tend to persist throughout generations."  This is clearly not the doctrine Christ was teaching.
Job 4:8 says, "As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it." Psalm 126:5 records, "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy." Lastly, Luke 12:24 says, "Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!" In the case of Psalm 126:5, "sowing" and "reaping refers to soul winning. Just as Proverbs 11:30 says, "...those who sin souls are wise" (see entry: "What Does The Bible Say About Soul Winning?"). Sowing and reaping, or actions and consequences, are referred to in the context of this life, with eternal consequences included. Paul says in Galatians 6:8-9, "The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." The concept of karma was not taught by Christ.
What of the claim regarding John the Baptist actually being the reincarnated Elijah? The passage cited is found in Matthew 17:10-13, which says, "The disciples asked him, 'Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah comes first and will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist." Jesus is referring to Malachi, which speaks of a messenger who would prepare the way for Him, and then speaks of Elijah. In the first century Jewish context, to "come again" would not have been reincarnated, but resurrected (cf. Daniel 12). Yet this is not what Jesus is speaking of.
Luke 1:17 clarifies that John came "in the spirit and power of Elijah," but not a reincarnation of Elijah. The Old Testament is clear that Elijah filled the role as one who points the way to God, just as John did for God in the flesh - Jesus.. Also, it should be noted that Elijah appeared along with Moses to Jesus during His transfiguration (see Matthew 17:3-4; Mark 9:4-5; Luke 9:30-36). If Elijah had changed his identity, he would have been John the Baptist - because Elijah appears after the death of John. Mark 6:14-16 and 8:28 also clearly demonstrate that Herod as well as others thought of Elijah and John the Baptist as separate beings. Lastly, John himself states in John 1:21, after having been asked whether or not he was Elijah, "He said, 'I am not.'" In 2nd Kings 2:9-18, we find that Elijah was taken into Heaven in a fiery chariot - and did not die. How could John be the reincarnated Elijah if he never died in the first place?
Enoch was also translated into Heaven without facing death (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5). If the two witnesses mentioned in the book of Revelation are Enoch and Elijah, this explains why they have been kept from death. Why? The Bible is clear on death, "people are destined to die one, and after that to face judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). If Enoch and Elijah did not face death, it is possible that they are the two witnesses referred to in Revelation 11, as these two witnesses will face death during the end times, when, for three and a half days, "many from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies" (v.9). They will afterward be resurrected and will ascend into Heaven. Others believe that it may be Elijah and Moses, since both appeared at the Transfiguration, or that it may be two people we do not yet know of. However, this deals more with eschatology than with the concept at hand.
God's Word is very clear in that we die once, and then face judgment: your eternal destination is either Heaven or Hell. This is a personal choice, of course. Author, apologist, and theologian C.S. Lewis once said, "There are only two kinds of people - those who say 'Thy will be done' to God or those to whom God in the end says, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell choose it. Without that self-choice it wouldn't be Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it." Lewis makes a wonderful point here, driving home our point. Hell is a personal choice, not God's choice. In fact, God does not want any of us to go there. On the cross, Christ said to the criminal on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). If this man was to be reincarnated, how could he enter into paradise with Christ? Matthew 25:46 clear states, "Then they will go away to eternal punishment [hell]. but the righteous to eternal life [heaven]."
"The Bible also contradicts the belief in karma by emphasizing grace. According to the Bible, atonement and forgiveness may be gained only through the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is based solely upon the work of Jesus Christ, not upon our own merits. The concepts of reincarnation and karma are in clear contrast to Hebrews 9:27, 'For it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.' Paul clearly states that the soul does not transmigrate into another living body, but goes to await judgment. For the Christian, Paul promised that death is the means to being in the presence of Jesus, 'we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (heaven).' 2 Corinthians 5:8 It is clear that the Bible does not allow for the concept of reincarnation." Reincarnation is incompatible with God's Word.
|Hindu portrayal of reincarnation cycle|
Indeed, the belief in reincarnation is prominent in Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and the New Age movement. The belief is unbiblical, however, and there is a lack of scientific support. There are those who may claim scientific support, but generally, it is readily agreed that there is no hard scientific evidence for reincarnation. The Bible teaches that man is to die, and then face judgment, sending his or herself to Hell due to their own decisions or actions, or to accept Jesus as Lord, repent of their sins, and be cleansed of their sins, therefore entering into Heaven upon death. Regarding past lives, there remains a plethora of other explanations aside from simply reincarnation. Whether or not adherents of the belief in reincarnation accept such explanations is an individual decision, and ought not to be forced onto a person. In biblical terms, there is no second chance. This is the ride into the sun, the swan song, the one shot we have at an eternity in either eternal bliss or eternal agony. This is not said to "scare" the reader into believing, but merely to inform of what God's Word says on this subject.
"Why would I want to spend eternity with someone who would allow Hell?", some may ask. This is covered in such entries as "How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?". Bear in mind that as noted earlier, God does not "send" anyone to Hell. We "send" ourselves. If you wish to be apart from God's presence, Hell is the place to be. But because God allows Hell to exist does not make Him a cruel and capricious God, "If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence - that God would not be worthy of worship... The only means of prohibiting all recourse to violence by ourselves is to insist that violence is legitimate only when it comes from God... My thesis that the practice of non-violence requires a belief in divine vengeance will be unpopular with many... in the West... [But] it takes the quiet of a suburban home for the birth of the thesis that human non-violence [results from the belief in] God's refusal to judge. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die... [with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind."
One last point to address is the modern belief that we eventually can reincarnate in a higher plane of existence, to become as God, or a god. Is this not part of the reason Satan fell? Satan said, "I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly... I will make myself like the Most High" (Isaiah 14:13-14). Satan, as the serpent (Genesis 3; cf. Revelation 12:9, 20:2), in the Garden of Eden tempted Eve in like manner. It was a matter of pride, as well as disobedience to a direct command by God. Satan said to Eve, "you will be like God..." (Genesis 3:5). By claiming to be "like God" or be gods ourselves, are we not doing a similar thing to what transpired in the lives of our ancestors, Adam and Eve? By repeating the same mistake, have we actually learned anything? So often we claim that, given the chance to "do it all over again," we would right our wrongs. But in this case, many of us seem to be repeating the same mistake of being prideful human beings. Mormonism teaches that, if you are devout enough, you can also become a god, and have your own planet. This is a mistake we cannot afford to make, and instead we ought to accept the gift of grace given to us through the sacrifice of God incarnate - Jesus Christ.
The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website. It is the mission of this ministry to "
 Jeremiah, Dr. David, and C.C. Carlson. Invasion of Other Gods: The Seduction of New Age Spirituality. USA: Word Publishing, 1995. 45-48. Print.
 "India: Religion and Philosophy," Encylopedia Americana. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier 1986. 870. Print.
 Hopfe, Lewis M., and Mark R. Woodward. Religions of the World. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2001. 42. Print.
 "If reincarnation is not true, why do some people remember their past lives?." Got Questions.org. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 26 Sep 2011.
 Ibid, .
 Sharma. Hinduism for our Times. pp. 27-29
 C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. Macmillan: 1961. p.116. Print.
 Bebber, Mark Van. "Reincarnation: Does the Bible allow for this possibility?." Christian Answers Network. Christian Answers Network, 1996. Web. 28 Sep 2011.
 Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon, 1996), pp.303-304.
 Doctrines and Covenants 132:17, 37.