Vol. 3, No. 2 Page 15 February, 2001
Reincarnation is the belief that after this life, one will be reborn into another life on earth; and some in this life lived as another person in a previous life. In a survey taken a decade ago, nearly one in four Americans said they believed in reincarnation. It may be more than that now. Where do people in a "Christian nation" come up with such an idea? It certainly does not come from Christian teaching. It has infiltrated from Easter religions, but it is based chiefly upon the reasoning: "If I don't get it right the first time around, I will have another chance."
It is not a new belief. It was introduced into organized religion by the Hindus and later by the Buddhists. Some believed it in New Testament times: Hence the Nero redivivus myth - that Emperor Domitian was a reviving of Nero, the beast of Revelation who received the deadly wound and survived: "the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven" (Revelation 17:11).
Is reincarnation the truth? Or is it just a product of fertile human imagination? The only sure information we have of life before or beyond this life is the Bible. It is the Word of God. If reincarnation is the truth, the Bible will somewhere reveal, confirm and support it. Where is it? Its proponents who claim affiliation with the Christian religion are hard-put to find any Bible support.
Some appeal to Job 1:21-22, where Job says, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither." They reason: If Job is to return to a womb, it means he will be reborn into another, later life. He says no such thing! If he were speaking literally, it would have to be his own mother's womb he returns to. Actually, he is saying that he can't take this world's goods with him when he leaves this life, so what if he is deprived of them now? He says nothing of another life.
Others think they find an allusion to reincarnation in Jeremiah 1:4-5, where the Lord tells Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee" (1:5). They reason that if God knew Jeremiah before he was conceived, then he must have known him in a previous life. This is reading too much into the passage. It is not speaking about a previous existence but of the foreknowledge of God. "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate…" (Romans 8:29).
Some read in Psalm 139:13-16, "thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them" and think they see reincarnation. But nothing in the passage speaks of a previous life.
Others try to find reincarnation in Galatians 1:15-16, where the apostle Paul says that God "separated me from my mother's womb." But this says nothing of a previous life. His existence began in the womb. God separated Paul from his mother's womb to preach Christ to the heathen.
Perhaps the Scripture they use most in their vain attempt to find support for the doctrine of reincarnation is Matthew 11:14, "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." Combining this with Malachi 4:5-6, they conclude: "See, John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah!" "If you will receive it" means that if you understand and accept reincarnation, you will know that John is actually a reincarnated Elijah! There are two insurmountable obstacles to this conclusion: (1) Elijah's appearance on the mount of transfiguration after this declaration - he still retained his identity; and (2) the correct interpretation is back in Luke 1:17 - John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. It wasn't a literal reincarnation at all. John was like Elijah.
The fact is, there is just no evidence in the Bible that there is such a thing as reincarnation. There is the absence of anyone who had a previous life or will have a future life on earth. On the other hand, the Bible urges folks to live this one life righteously, soberly and godly (Titus 2:11-12). It plainly implies that there will be no second chance. Abraham told the rich man, "thou in thy lifetime" had all the chance you will get (Luke 16:25-31).
There is one verse that forever refutes the theory of reincarnation. Hebrews 9:27 says, "And as it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment." If reincarnation were a fact, a man would die many times - after each incarnation. Instead of another earthly life following death, there is only the judgment. Just as surely as Jesus suffered only once on the cross for the sins of the many (Hebrews 9:28), so each person lives and dies only once.
May a Christian believe in the doctrine of reincarnation with no harm done? Surely, the honest person is going to believe only that for which he has adequate evidence. (Testimonials of those who "think" they have memories and impressions from a former life are not adequate evidence.) The doctrine of reincarnation is not harmless! It causes folks to procrastinate, to put off doing right because they think they will have a second chance in another life. This is fatal thinking! It builds a false hope - the hope of another chance where there is none. It causes people to speculate idly about another life when their time could be better spent pursuing their present duty. Since we go through life only once, we must be concerned with getting it right, now, the first (only) time through.
No, reincarnation is not the truth. It has no reality. It does not happen.