Vol. 11 No. 5 May 2009
D. Gene WestThere are all kinds of strange ideas about life here and hereafter. Several cultic groups, including those who are commonly called New Agers, believe in a thing called “reincarnation.” This rather fantastic idea, which comes into western thought by way of certain heathen philosophies from the east, holds that the way one lives eternally is through endless rounds of births and deaths. These, according to some of the cults, go on forever, while others hold that they go on until a certain stage of perfection is reached, and then one goes into nirvana, which is a form of nothingness, if nothingness has form!
In an attempt to give these fantastic and pagan ideas some sort of credence, many who belong to various New Age movements teach that Jesus taught reincarnation, when in John 3:3, He said to Nicodemus, one of the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” However, if our Lord had been teaching reincarnation, he should have said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again and again and again and again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”Look at the passage carefully and ask yourself this question, where did Jesus say anything that is remotely like this idea? It was never said!
Rather, than rebirth after rebirth, after rebirth and death after death, after death, the Bible teaches that we only die once. If we only die once, we cannot be reincarnated again and again and again, can we? The writer of the awesome Book of Hebrews (9:27) in order to explain how many times our Lord was to die on the cross for the redemption of mankind said, “…it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…” We fail to see how any language spoken by man could make the matter any clearer than the inspired writer made it on this occasion. Each mortal lives but one life on this earth, and then he dies and awaits the Judgment!
If one continued to investigate the conversation between our Lord and Nicodemus in this context, he would learn that the Lord did not speak of any kind of physical birth at all. Nicodemus misunderstood what the Lord said and replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”Jesus clarified the whole matter for this Jewish leader when he said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”Hence, the Lord speaks not of a physical birth at all, much less an endless cycle of them, but of a spiritual birth that takes place once in the life of a sinner making him a child of God. Being born again refers to being cleansed from all sin according to the teaching of the Spirit in the waters of baptism, which washes sin away (Acts 22:16). When one is born again, he does not receive physical life for he already has that. On the contrary, he becomes the recipient of that spiritual life that only Christ can grant to those who are cleansed from sin.
Referring to a time before they became Christians, or were born again, Paul said to the Ephesians, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…” One can walk around physically alive and be dead spiritually—he can be dead in trespasses and sins. However, when he experiences the “new birth,” or to use the language of Jesus, when he is “born again,”he is then alive both physically and spiritually. He has been cleansed of all unrighteousness by the blood of Christ and has been “raised…up together, and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”(Ephesians 2:1-10). It is after we have been born again that we are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…”
There is nothing in Christ's conversation with Nicodemus that even hints at such a preposterous idea as reincarnation. In reality, no such thing as reincarnation has ever existed on this earth, or in the heavens.