WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT REINCARNATION?
May 15, 2020
I would like to start this post with some questions: Do you believe there is life after death? Do you think you may have lived a prior life? Do you feel that what you are today, is the result of a creation by God, who made you after His image? Could it be that you are just part of a system where life is a never-ending circle? Most people – over 90% – regardless of their religious beliefs, are certain there is life after death. However, when it comes to the question of what happens to the soul when the physical body dies, neither Christians nor non-Christians have a definite answer. For thousands of years, reincarnation has been a popular belief for millions of people. To them, reincarnation means to be reborn into a different physical, or even inanimate, entity. It comes from pagan sources, not the Bible! A large number of religious sects posit reincarnation as the central tenet of their beliefs, but none corroborates the existence of an immaterial soul, an immortal version of ourselves that can live independently of the body where it resides. I believe this is what makes us unique in the entire universe; we are made in the image of our extra-universal Creator (Genesis 1:26-27). This means that we are like God in form; and, like Him, we have a soul, which animals and inanimate objects do not have. Our soul is ours and it’s perfect as it is; it remains forever in the same state.
Those who believe in reincarnation hold that, after death, their souls will be back into a physical life that could be a person other than themselves, or an animal, or even a plant or a rock. Some of them, go to the extreme of wearing masks to avoid accidentally swallowing an insect or any other low form of life that could have been a person in a previous existence. They affirm the soul goes from one physical entity to another in a procession of lives, one following the other in a semi eternal pursue of perfection until they reach what they call Nirvana. This assertion contradicts Scripture and is one of the reasons the concept of reincarnation is not accepted by most, if not all, Christians. Think about it, if reincarnation consists of souls going from one entity to another, then where did the first soul come from, since nobody died before that first soul? Furthermore, the population is increasing exponentially, where are these new souls coming from? Another question has to do with where does the soul go between reincarnations? Although I interviewed some Buddhist friends, none gave me a satisfactory answer, except the one regarding the soul’s immortality; we were in total agreement there.
What does the Bible say about this?
The Bible does not talk about reincarnation. It doesn’t even mention it! It talks a lot about resurrection and judgment though. For many, it gives some confusing indications about what happens when we die. Let’s clarify! Some verses of the Sacred Book say that the dead know nothing, that they don’t even know that they are in the grave, meaning that when you die, everything dies with you. Solomon wrote, “The living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate, and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6). It couldn’t be clearer: The Scripture declares that the dead know not anything. (Psalm. 115:17, Psalm 6:5, Psalm 88:10-12). Furthermore, "Marvel not at this for the hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28,29). More, when Jesus comes back “the trumpet will sound and the dead in Christ shall rise first” (1thessalonians 4:6). “For they shall hunger no more nor shall they thirst... And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." (Revelation 7:16-17). These verses indicate that, at the moment of death, the person, body and soul, go into some sort of sleep until the return of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day when we will resurrect into an eternal life (Daniel 12:2-3), in possession of a new spiritual body (1Corinthians 15:35-38, 40, 42-44). The Book also teaches that God will take back those who died believing in Jesus (1Thessalonians 4:13-14). Then, God admonishes us that “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). The Bible also talks about the resurrection (John 5:28-29). Here Jesus said, “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth – they that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation.” Based on these passages, all will die once, and there will be an undisclosed time of judgment when all dead will be resurrected to be judged. This is when they will face the real finality, the conclusion of this temporal life to start a new eternal life in heaven, or hell.
Then comes the other version! The Bible teaches that, when you die, the body returns to the ground to wait for Jesus’ second coming, and “the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). So, when Christians die, their bodies may be interred, or even cremated, but their souls are immediately with the Lord in heaven. This is confirmed by Jesus when he said to the repentant thief who hung on the cross next to his, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Here, the Lord is telling us that we die and immediately face judgment, and from there we wait until the End of Days. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it, we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Matthew confirms these assertions when he tells us that our souls live in a temporary mortal body and, when that vessel dies, our spirits will depart to Paradise to enjoy eternal happiness, or to hell to suffer eternal damnation, implying that while our bodies are entombed until the resurrection and final judgment, our souls are judged immediately, and enter either heaven or hell at that very moment. “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that our physical human bodies die, but our human souls don’t. Our personality, our consciousness, does not perish; it is immortal. Our souls separate from the body at death, are judged immediately and go to heaven (directly or through purgatory), or hell. The Catechism clearly states that the dead receive their eternal reward or punishment at the moment of their death, and reunite again with their bodies at the moment of resurrection when Christ returns and the Last Judgment takes place.
Some passages could be erroneously interpreted by those (up to 44% of the world population) who believe they are going to come back. The verses they point as evidence for reincarnation are the ones that link John the Baptist with Elijah (Matthew 17:10-12). Matthew saw Elijah reflected in the person of John the Baptist. He didn’t say that John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated, but that he would have fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah’s coming if the people had believed his words and thereby believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Another one is Malachi 3:23 where the prophet refers to Elijah’s coming. These passages cannot indicate reincarnation because Elijah did not die; he ascended to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Additionally, the people specifically asked John the Baptist if he was Elijah, and he said, "No, I am not" (John 1:21). By far, the most documented scriptural explanation of what happens when we die is the one where our bodies are entombed and our souls go to a place – Paradise or Hades – to wait for the final judgment (Luke 16:19-31, Luke 23:43, Psalms 89:48, 86:13, 55:15, 49:14, 31:17, 30:3, 18:5 and many others). Jesus described this waiting place when he told the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 23:43). Additionally, the Bible shows that all humanity will be resurrected (not reincarnated) to a new life (John 5:28-29). There is no mention of souls of people cycling back and forth through life, much less about coming back as animals, plants, or even inanimate things. Reincarnation, then, is not biblical. On the contrary, the Bible gives us sufficient evidence that such a belief does not conform to the word of God. We don’t have a second chance as another person, much less as an animal, a plant, or a rock. This is it!
In my opinion, there is no reincarnation. Nobody has ever reincarnated. Although I don’t believe in reincarnation, I will consider the issue to clarify my position on it. I admit that I don’t know what happens in those thousands of documented cases where a person believes that, in a past life, he or she was someone else. How they obtained the information related to the person or entity they claim to have been, is beyond me. For those who have read my book – Mary Magdalene: The Lord’s Wife – it would be difficult to reconcile the tenets of the book with my personal beliefs. In the book, Alice Peterson (now McCallum), a young stockbroker from Brooklyn, New York, goes through hypnotic regression therapy to treat her diagnosed postpartum depression. While in session, she reveals that in a past life, she was Mary Magdalene. During several sessions, she described in precise chronographic, geographic, and historical details, her life in Jesus’ times. Faced with questions such as: Was Jesus a poor carpenter born in Bethlehem? Did he have other siblings? Did he believe he was the son of God? Did he resurrect? She answered these questions in excruciating detail. She told the therapist about the Lord’s real birthplace, his education, social status, youth, ministry, trial, judgment, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. She also told him about their wedding, their daughter, her ministry, and her disagreements with Peter. My work consisted of listening to the tapes and reading the transcripts of the hypnotic sessions, interviewing the patient and her family, and then translating these medical files and interviews into a readable form. For many, this is a clear case of reincarnation. I researched the information revealed by Ms. McCallum during regression, and found it to be precise; even those where she contradicted the Bible. Although I cannot explain how she obtained the information she revealed during hypnosis, I am certain these are nothing more than memories of dead people that she accessed through her mind. How she did it? I don’t have an answer. When I interviewed Dr. Samantha Peterson, Ms. McCallum’s daughter, who is a Clinical Psychologist, she freely admitted that she believes in her mother’s sincerity but in no way accepts her premise that she lived in the times of Jesus and was married to him. The same conclusion was reached by her ex-husband Robert Peterson, who told me his ex-wife was an honest person who sincerely knows she will die and go to heaven to reunite with her husband Jesus.
The Bible teaches that life – temporal and eternal – go from birth into this human life to death and resurrection into judgment and eternal life in heaven if we did good, or eternal damnation if we did not. The souls of the dead are in heaven at this time (Revelation 6:9-11). They are aware that there is nothing they can do to change any event in the lives of those still living but know that God’s plan of salvation is in full progress. Christians should be confident that those who trusted Jesus “are away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).To me, this is a lot better than having to return an infinite number of times. Resurrection into an eternal spiritual body to be in the presence of God and His son Jesus Christ is a far better outcome than any set of religious beliefs created by men. As Christians, there can be no doubt: reincarnation is not biblical and should be rejected as false.