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Reincarnation: Does the Bible allow for this possibility?

Copyrighted © image. Buddhist monks worshipping.
Buddhist monks worshipping in Phitsanulok, Thailand

Reincarnation is the belief that the human soul never perishes or dies, it simply passes through a succession of lives. In its basic concept, it had its origin in India sometime near 800 B.C. Reincarnation is vital to classical Buddhism and Hinduism. Although reincarnation has ancient roots, its more modern, popular versions are modifications of the ancient, eastern beliefs of Hinduism.

In the original forms of reincarnation, it was believed that souls transform from life to life in never-ending cycles. It was believed that it was even possible to reincarnate into the form of an animal or plant. Most modern, popular versions of reincarnation limit this never-ending process to the transmigration of the soul into human bodies.

The concept of karma is closely associated with reincarnation. Karma is essentially the law of cause and effect. Those that profess belief in karma teach that the deeds (good or bad) of one's past lives affect this present life. Further, ones present deeds will have ramifications for future lives.

In other words, the law of sowing and reaping is not limited to this present life but rather continues throughout eternity.

In much of the Orient, this strict belief in karma has resulted in a hopeless, pessimistic view of life. Their lives are seen as dreary, endless cycles of suffering and rebirth. Because of this endless chain of karma, reincarnation does not resolve the problem of evil, but simply points toward the impossible goal of perfection and self-salvation, the ultimate freedom from reincarnation. In modern, western reincarnation, the objective is to join with “ultimate reality,” merging with God and becoming God. Modern reincarnation often promotes the divinity of the soul and denies the biblical concept of a sovereign, personal God.

The Bible also contradicts the belief in karma by emphasizing grace. According to the Bible, atonement and forgiveness may be gained only through the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is based solely upon the work of Jesus Christ, not upon our own merits. The concepts of reincarnation and karma are in clear contrast to Hebrews 9:27,

“For it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”

Paul clearly states that the soul does not transmigrate into another living body, but goes to await judgment.

For the Christian, Paul promised that death is the means to being in the presence of Jesus, “we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (heaven)” 2 Corinthians 5:8. It is clear that the Bible does not allow for the concept of reincarnation.

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