The Apple Of God's Eye

June 21, 2009

Reincarnation: Myth Or Fact?

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Reincarnation is a concept which is common to many religious beliefs and spiritual practices. Those who believe in this theory teach that after death a person’s “soul” is reborn in a new body, which is sometimes referred to as the “transmigration of the soul” or metempsychosis.

The abundance of reincarnation myths around the world finds appeal in the idea that a fundamental part of themselves will live on after death, even though their bodies may decay.

The immortality of the soul doctrine (especially prevalent in the West) is basic to the belief in reincarnation. But, that doctrine is false! The classic inquiry “Who am I?” is being replaced by the puzzling question “Who was I?”. The Bible plainly shows that one’s soul is NOT immortal. Notice Genesis 3:19:

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust [not another body] shalt thou return.”

Also notice Ecclesiastes 3:19-20:

“For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast …. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”

Psalm 146:4 states that when a man dies “his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts
perish.”

We can further this concept for those who say the body is irrelevant to the concept of reincarnation by quoting Heb. 9:27, which states that  a man “is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. In other words, he is NOT reborn to die over and over again.

So if this belief is not biblical, how did it start?

What is reincarnation?

“Reincarnation, literally “to be made flesh again”, is a doctrine or metaphysical belief that some essential part of a living being (in some variations only human beings) survives death to be reborn in a new body. This essential part is often referred to as the spirit or soul, the “higher” or “true” self, “divine spark”, or “I”. According to such beliefs, a new personality is developed during each life in the physical world, but some part of the self remains constant throughout the successive lives.” [wikipedia]

Answers.com terms reincarnation as rebirth of the soul in another body. Britannica Concise Encyclopedia terms it as the doctrine of the rebirth of the soul in one or more existences. Oxford University Press expresses it as existence of a soul that is periodically reincarnated in a body. And Columbia Encyclopedia references it as occupation by the soul of a new body after the death of the earlier body.

The teaching of reincarnation (a religion of the east) is making heavy inroads into Western society today. However, it is important to understand that it is in no way a scientific or religious truth.

Reincarnation in Hindu art

Reincarnation in Hindu art

The concept of this belief can be stated as follows: after death, the human soul leaves the body and passes into either 1) a plant body, an animal body, another human body, or even an extra-terrestrial body.

Belief in reincarnation has ancient roots. This doctrine is a central tenet within the majority of Indian religious traditions, such as Hinduism (including Yoga, Vaishnavism, and Shaivism).

It also appears in Jainism and Sikhism, two faiths that grew out of Hinduism and are still practiced in India. Jainism shares with Hinduism a belief in many gods. Sikhism, a monotheistic religion, combines some elements of Islam with Hinduism.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all began in India, where the idea of rebirth first appears in texts dating from about 700 B.C. They share a belief in samsara—the wheel of birth and rebirth—and karma—the idea that an individual’s future incarnation depends on the way he or she lived. People who have done good deeds and led moral lives are reborn into higher social classes; those who have not are doomed to return as members of the lower classes or as animals. Only by achieving the highest state of spiritual development can a person escape samsara altogether. (Mythencyclopedia)

The idea was further entertained by some ancient Greek philosophers, the Egyptians and Greeks,  among the Celts and Druids, and in various “mystery religions” of the Near East. It spread somewhat among the Hebrews, before the time of Christ, and has survived among various Hasidic groups in the world today.

Many modern Neopagans also believe in it, as do some New Age movements, along with followers of Spiritism, practitioners of certain African traditions, and students of esoteric philosophies such as Kabbalah, and Gnostic and Esoteric Christianity. The Buddhist concept of Rebirth although often referred to as reincarnation differs significantly from the Hindu-based traditions and New Age movements in that there is no unchanging “soul” (or eternal self) to reincarnate.

People apart from ancient Israel had no concept of a personal God,  so  reincarnation took hold as a way of explaining many of the mysteries of this life. The perpetual state of karma (as a primitive form of retribution) supposedly helps to  “expiate’ the sins of previous incarnations.

Does the Bible mention reincarnation?

While the Bible does not mention the term reincarnation, it does condemn it in context in speaking of John the Baptist. In the Gospel of John, Christ is asked about a blind man: Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, for him to have been born blind? In other words, he must have done something wrong in a previous life, or he wouldn’t have been born with blindness. To which the Savior replied: Neither he nor his parents sinned…but that the works of God might be manifest in him (John 9:2-3r).Jesus Christ here clearly refuted the idea that the existence of evil can be explained by reincarnation. Why? Because reincarnation undercuts the gospel message in three ways.

  1. First, it assumes that God is impersonal and is therefore unknowable.
  2. Second, reincarnation denigrates the Atonement of Christ.
  3. Third, it denies the fact that Jesus physically resurrected from the dead.

You see, the law of karma is entirely incompatible with the teachings of the Bible. There is no mechanistic “wheel of re-birth” (as taught by Hindus, Buddhists, and their Western equivalents). Those who are now in the grave will NOT go to heaven, as “no one has gone up into Heaven, except He having come down out of Heaven, the Son of Man…., and neither will their consciousness leave the grave:

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)

Esoteric foolishness

Still, many tell of crackpot esoteric experiences which seems real to them, but they conveniently throw out the Scriptures to go with their own impressions and subjective opinions. Such people are attracted by superficial and grandiose nonsense about hallucinatory “memories” of previous lifetimes-often gained through “regressive hypnosis.” That might make for some exciting storytelling, and if good enough, maybe even land them an appearance on Oprah and guaranteed a few book sales. But it doesn’t make for good reality.

...according to the idea of reincarnation, if one is “saved” at all it is only after many lifetimes of working out the consequences of one’s sins. This is the cold and dreary legalism of the pagan religions which was totally abolished by Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. (Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose): The Soul After Death)

The term “Christian” has been rendered nearly meaningless now with people of every bizarre belief and teaching claiming that their views can comport with Christianity. Ignoring the word of God and therefore avoiding being moved by the Spirit of God, such people circumvent the entire process of Christian growth. There is no spiritual maturity, because there is no growing where there is no knowing (II Pet. 3:18).

Christ told us that the way was narrow that leads to eternal life. Anyone who denies the clear teachings of Scripture about the afterlife denies Christ by his rejection of the Word of God.

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

The real nature of man is something few understand. The teaching of the immortality of the  soul is simply un-biblical and cannot be substantiated by scripture. Those who try do so with limited understanding or false pretenses.

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