Let me start off my saying that, though I lean towards the belief that reincarnation is true, I don’t believe that you have to believe in it in order to be a Christian. Though I lean towards the belief that reincarnation is true, I would not die for that belief at this point in time because I’m not 100% clear in understanding of the subject yet. I’ve read many articles and several books on the subject and found some of the arguments and “proofs” that were presented to be very convincing; others were, in my opinion, stretches…I felt the author was trying too hard to make the “proof” fit the facts.
In this article, I want to look at a few of the most convincing Biblical arguments for reincarnation. I will not be going into great detail, merely presenting some food for thought. If you want more information, please check out my book and article list on this website. It contains the names of some of the books/articles I used in studying this subject. Many more can be found on the internet.
What do I mean by reincarnation?
Lets start by defining what I mean when I’m speaking about reincarnation. I am not talking about us starting life as some one-celled creature and working our way up. I don’t believe we work our way through the animal chain, and then through several lives as humans, by working hard to make ourselves better and worthy of advancing until we become so perfect that we no longer have to reincarnate. When I’m talking about reincarnation, I am talking about living more than one life as a human being while we are slowly and carefully being molded into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Some attributes of God that point towards the need for reincarnation
Now that you know what I mean when talking about reincarnation, lets look at some attributes of God that are important to remember when we are talking about reincarnation and why it may or may not be a true belief.
God is just and fair. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.” (Psalm 89:14)
He does not show favoritism. (Romans 2:11) “For God does not show favoritism”.
He promises that every person shall reap what they sow. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)
He also instructs us not to take vengeance on anyone that does us wrong because He, Himself, will take vengeance and set the situation right. ‘Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.’ (Romans 12:19)
Do you see this in your life?
Having read these verses, can you honestly say that you see them being worked out and proven in life? If you are honest, your answer will be , “No” or at least, “Not always.” Many, many times we see injustice in this world. People appear to get away with all kinds of sin and general bad behavior: Countries invade other countries and kill innocent civilians. Murderers get off on technicalities; some are never caught to begin with. Children are abused and neglected by parents who are good at hiding their behavior and playing the system. Helpless unborn babies are murdered in the womb. Rapist get a slap on the wrist for their crime. Coworkers get away with being lazy or dishonest while others have to work harder to make up for the work that the coworker isn’t doing. Your neighbor gets away with rude, inconsiderate, even criminal behavior that disrupts the peace in your neighborhood and nobody is able to put an end to it, including the police. You get the idea. How is this fair? Where is the justice that God promises?
What about Hell?
Some would say that these people will be punished after death, usually by going to Hell and burning for eternity. I have some problems with that. First of all, God is, above all, Love. (1John 4:16) “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them”. We are all God’s creations and He loves us all, even those who don’t love Him. (1 John 4:19) “We love him, because he first loved us.” and (Romans 5:8) “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
This all leaves me wondering how a loving God would burn someone in Hell for eternity for a sin. Remember, if you sin just once, no matter how “small” the sin, that is enough to merit punishment. Can you imagine burning in Hell for all eternity because you stole a paper clip from work?! I don’t believe that a loving God would do that to someone He loves. After all, He is a parent. Yes, parents discipline their children when they do wrong, but they do it for the children’s good, not to be cruel. God is the same way:
“5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not take lightly the discipline of the Lord, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one He loves and chastises every son he receives. 7 Endure suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?” (Hebrews 12:5-7)
9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. (Hebrews 12:9)
Punishment is supposed to be corrective, not pointlessly cruel
God, like any good parent, disciplines His children for their own good. He wants us to share in His holiness. He is making us into the image of our elder brother, Jesus Christ. How is sending a person to hell to be burned for all eternity, with no hope of escape even if you repented of your bad behavior, loving or corrective? It’s not. It’s cruel and pointless.
Reaping what you sow (Karma?)
There is also the fact that, as we saw in the verse above, God says we will reap what we sow. What does that mean? It means you will get back exactly what you put out. If you plant corn seeds, you will get corn. If you plant apple seeds, you will get an apple tree. You will get like for like.
In the Old Testament, the people were instructed to literally act this out in their legal system. It was what is commonly called, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” justice. However, with the appearance, ministry and death of Jesus, we are now instructed to turn all revenge over to God to work out. So, if God is to repay like for like, how is sending someone to hell to burn forever the equivalent punishment for being a thief, or a liar, or a slanderer, or even a murderer or rapist? The punishment in these cases far exceeds the crimes, and that is not love or justice, so how can it be of God?
Well, if God doesn’t send people to hell forever in order to punish them, what does He do? We know that people often do not get their comeuppances in their life time. Many a rotten people have been buried having never been punished for the wrongs that they did. Is God unfair? No, we already proved that He is not unfair. Is God a liar then? Does He not really mean what He says? No, we know He is not a liar. Then how do people pay for their sins if they don’t pay for them during their life time? That is where reincarnation comes in.
A cruel person has to come back and be treated cruelly by someone. A liar we be lied to. A cheater will be cheated. A murderer will be murdered. A rapist will be raped. They will reap exactly what they reaped in their previous life.
In some ways, this sounds cruel to the human mind. But, God is aware of how the human thinks. He knows that people need to experience things in order to really “get it”. How many times have you seen this in people? They are warned about something: “Don’t date that guy, he is a cheater, Don’t smoke, it will make you sick, Don’t buy that car, they break down all the time”, etc., but how many heed the warning? Few. Sadly, people seem to have to learn the hard way.
Not only that, but only by experiencing something can you really understand it. If you raped someone, how can you understand the terror, pain and turmoil you caused that person unless you experience it yourself? Having experienced it yourself, you would certainly be far less likely to do it to someone else.
I realize this doesn’t sound pleasant to our ears. We need to remember that God doesn’t enjoy having to do this, just as no good human parent enjoys disciplining their child. He does it so we can become more like Him and be with Him. He does whatever is necessary to make us into the image of Jesus Christ and lets face it, we have no one to blame but ourselves since we are the one who chose to commit the sin in question. No one forced us to do it.
Biblical arguments for reincarnation
Okay, so maybe reincarnation is a way that God works out His justice and correction. But does the Bible say anything about reincarnation? No, not directly, but it does have some interesting hints at it. Lets look at a few of them.
The blind man
Lets start with John 9:1-5
9 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
Jesus and the disciples come across a blind man begging. The disciples ask Jesus if the man was born blind because he sinned or because his parents sinned. So, apparently the Jewish disciples were used to thinking that people were born handicapped because either they or their parent sinned in some way.
I won’t address the parent part of this right now. I want to focus on the idea that the disciples thought this man could have been born blind because he had sinned. When could he have sinned? If he was BORN blind, exactly when did he sin? In the womb? Of course not. Not only is that not possible, but babies and children weren’t accountable for their “sins” until reaching a certain age. So, when could this baby have sinned and earned himself this punishment? The only possible time would be in a previous life!
The fact the Jesus said that, in this case, neither the man or his parents caused this by sinning, is beside the point. The fact that they asked that question clearly shows you what the common belief was back then.
Another interesting point is that Jesus made no effort to correct them if they were believing something that wasn’t true. Here would have been the perfect time to set them straight on this. But He didn’t.
Elijah or John the Baptist?
This lack of correction occurred another time. In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asked the disciples who people were saying He (Jesus) was.
13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[a] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[b] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[c] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[d] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
What I want you to notice here are the answers the disciples gave Jesus. He asked them who people said He was and they told Him things like, Elijah and John the Baptist. The problem with those answers is that Elijah and John the Baptist were both dead, and everyone knew it! John had been recently beheaded (and the news spread far and wide, so it was a well known fact) and Elijah had been dead for hundreds of years at that point, yet people were saying that Jesus was Elijah or John the Baptist. In other words, they thought that one of those men had been reincarnated as Jesus.
You will notice, once again, that Jesus did not offer any correction here. He didn’t tell them that He couldn’t be either of those people because reincarnation wasn’t an actual thing. No. He said nothing about it other than asking them who they (the disciples) thought He was. If reincarnation is a false pagan belief as many seem to think, then why did Jesus not say so given that He had some very good opportunities to do so?
Biblical arguments against reincarnation
Having given you some food for thought, I want to address a few arguments against reincarnation. Lets begin with the one verse that Christians who don’t believe in reincarnation always throw at those of us who are talking about it.
Hebrews 9:27- And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.
Seems pretty straight forward, doesn’t it? But is it?
I’m not convinced this disproves reincarnation. Fact is, each person, each personality, does only die once and then faces judgment which will determine if he has to come back again. In reincarnation, the “personality”, for want of a better word, doesn’t go back to earth with the person…his spirit is what inhabits each new body. He won’t look the same or have the same name. He will be someone else as far as the personality goes. He may or may not have some of the same interests. He may or may not (usually not) remember anything about his previous life. Wealthy, blond haired, white skinned John Smith may come back as a poor, starving African named Abebe. His life and experience may be totally different than his previous one. If this is the way it works, then reincarnation could be true while still maintaining the integrity of the Bible: each person does indeed only live once and then faces judgement.
The other Christian argument against reincarnation involves the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They claim that , since His death gave forgiveness of everyone’s sins, we don’t need to reap what we sow any longer…Christ already paid the penalty.
There are some problems with this. First, we need to remember that God is trying to mold each of us into the image of Jesus Christ. This cannot be done without us having experiences and being corrected when we do something wrong.
Well then why did Jesus have to come and die for our sins? Lets remember that His suffering and death did more than just pay for our sins. (I won’t address all that now but I do want to remind the reader of this). Second, we will NEVER, EVER be perfect on our own. Never. As long as we are human, we will sin. As we become more and more Christ-like, we will sin less and less, but, we will never be perfect. Thus we will need Christ’s sacrifice applied to us in order to escape the cycle of reincarnation so we can go and be with God.
When I say, “Be with God”, I mean to be where He is, in the Holy of Holies of Heaven. There are different areas in heaven…levels, if you will… and until Jesus died, causing the veil covering the Holy of Holies to be torn in two, people were not allowed in the part of heaven where God is. Instead, the good went to the good part of Sheol called, Paradise. The bad went to the less pleasant side. However, when the death of Jesus paid for all the sin, the veil was torn and the good people were allowed to be with God in the Holy of Holies.
When I talk about escaping the cycle of reincarnation, I’m not saying that we don’t have to grow into the image of Christ first. My thinking is that we have to make a certain amount of progress and have had all the experiences that God feels we need before we are allowed to exit the reincarnation cycle.
Point being, the sacrifice of Jesus is still much needed even if you believe in reincarnation. We can never earn our own way to be with God. We need help to escape from sin and reincarnation and God the Father and Jesus Christ provided it. In no way do I believe that reincarnation negates the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I believe that Christianity and reincarnation are perfectly compatible.
I don’t have all the answers
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m still studying this subject. I am nowhere near having all the answers. However, I wanted to throw some food for thought out there for anyone else who may be thinking about reincarnation. I encourage you to study more on the subject yourself because I am not capable of providing a thorough and complete discussion on the subject at this point in my study. If you have read any good books on the subject, feel free to let me know in the comments.