Q: #111. What is reincarnation and is it Biblical?
By: Steve Shirley
A: Reincarnation is a belief taught mainly in Buddhism and Hinduism which states that when a person dies, their soul or spirit moves from their body into a new body. This body can be human, but it could also be an animal such as a fly, rat, cow, etc... As a result, they refuse to kill any of these because they could be anyone. The factor that determines what you return as is called "Karma." Karma basically means that your good deeds are rewarded, and your bad deeds are punished. After you die, if your bad deeds outweigh your good deeds, or if you just have a lot of bad deeds, you will be reincarnated as a lower life form. A person will be reincarnated over and over until they finally break free from the bad karma, and reach a state of "nirvana," which is considered the "highest happiness" and being in unity with God.
Now, is this Biblical? No... it is not.
The most important reason why it isn't Biblical is because it renders Jesus' life, death, and resurrection as meaningless. Jesus gave His life on the cross to pay for our sins. Through His blood, we are cleansed from sin (Mt 26:28)(Rom 5:8-9)(Col 1:14)(1 Jn 1:7) and made righteous (2 Cor 5:21)(Phil 3:9)(Rom 3:21-22). If we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, and accepted His payment for our sins, we are guaranteed that we will spend eternity with Him. However, if a person refuses to accept Jesus' payment for his sins, when he dies, he will spend eternity eternally separated from Him in Hell.
Reincarnation nullifies these Bible teachings because instead of Jesus' payment for sins, sins are said to be paid for in a future life (karma). The Bible also teaches that once we die, our soul/spirit will not be reincarnated. Each of us will die once (Job 14:14), and when we do, we will be judged (Heb 9:27). For the Christian, once we leave this body, we will be present with the Lord for eternity (2 Cor 5:8)(Phil 1:23). For the non-Christian, who dies without Jesus, he will face eternal punishment (Mt 25:46)(Dan 12:2)(2 Th 1:8-9)(Jn 5:29) in a Hell that Jesus taught was very real. It will be separation from God forever. The reincarnationist does not believe in this literal Hell.
One other major false teaching that those who believe in reincarnation hold to is that our souls are pre-existent, which the Bible also refutes: We are not from above, but from the Earth (Jn 3:31)(Jn 8:23)(Gen 3:19)(Gen 2:7) and our bodies were formed FIRST, and after that our spirits (1 Cor 15:46-47)(Zech 12:1)(Isa 42:5).
There are some people who believe reincarnation is taught in the Bible. To make this point, they incorrectly interpret scripture and twist it. Be VERY careful of this, because it can sound convincing. They try to make their case by saying such things as: Elijah was John the Baptist, Melchizedek was reincarnated as Jesus, God hated Esau because of his sinful previous life, the blind man who Jesus healed was blind due to sin in a previous life, etc... (I guess all blind, deaf, or handicapped people would also be this way due to sin in a previous life.) This is all utter nonsense, and totally distorting scripture.
In addition, many of these same people also try to equate the Biblical concept of resurrection with reincarnation. Jesus' resurrection is sometimes used as an example, as well as Lazarus resurrection from the dead. However, it should be noted that neither Jesus nor Lazarus came back as another person, but rather, as the same person they were before they died.
Sadly... in most societies where this is the prevalent belief, the people are paying a high price. There is sickness and disease, because they refuse to kill insects and animals that are spreading disease. There is starvation, because they refuse to eat animals that could feed them since they could be a reincarnated person. There is not the improvement in these people that should be expected if one is working off "bad karma" with each successive life.
As of this writing, however, the people of India, where this teaching has been prevalent for many generations, are turning to Christ by the MILLIONS as missionaries and evangelists are sharing the Bible, the love of Christ, and His salvation with them. It is AWESOME to see the changes that are happening as a result. We need to pray mightily for the people of India, and all of those who hold to this teaching and the religions associated with it. Let us also pray for those who are teaching them the truth.