Reincarnation is a long-held belief that is popular among some religious sects, but the details of this belief system can often be confusing, especially when it comes to understanding how Christianity differs. There have been many interpretations regarding what the scriptures teach about reincarnation, but the topic may still be confusing for some.
As we dive into the verses and pick apart each one, we’ll start to understand that reincarnation possesses a lot of conflicting viewpoints that do not cooperate with what the Bible teaches us.
What Does the Bible Say About Reincarnation?
There are many indications throughout the Bible that oppose reincarnation. The Bible tells us we are a unique creation of God; we’re created in God’s image with a material body and an immaterial spirit. God presents us as a unique creature separate from the rest of creation.
When our life is over, God calls us back. At this point our mortal body is no more; it decays and returns to the Earth. Our spirit on the other hand continues, either in life with Christ (those who believe) or in eternal suffering (those who do not believe). In some ways, this is reincarnation because we are being born into a different existence from our earthly one.
That said though, the concept that we are created in God’s image is contradictory to the standard thought and understanding of reincarnation.
We are clearly told in the Bible that we are unique and set apart from the rest of God’s creation. Therefore it is contrary to this “uniqueness” for God to allow us to die and come back as a different, lesser part of His creation.
This is one of the primary arguments against the Christian’s belief in reincarnation.
The Six Theories
As humans, we’ve determined that there are six different things that can happen to us when we die. These are based on age-old teachings, religion, and philosophy.
This teaching states that nothing happens when we die. Nothing survives after death, there is no more, death is the end of it all. Prior to the 18th century, no one really believed this, but it’s becoming more and more popular over time as people continue to lose faith and turn away from the Church.
Materialism is what we would consider modern-day atheism. It’s the belief that there is no omnipresent power and no being that is more powerful than us.
Pagans believe when we die, our shadow or spirit enters the “underworld.” You can find traces of this methodology in the Old Testament, and it states that a shell of our former selves or “ghost” lives on, but in a life that is much less than the one we’re currently living.
This is what we would consider a spiritual life where someone is roaming aimlessly throughout the Earth without any real purpose. There are many reasons why this philosophy is flawed and does not align with the teachings of the Bible and Christianity.
Reincarnation is the belief that our soul survives beyond death and is reborn into another body.
There are many belief systems, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, that go along with this thought. In some Eastern cultures, you’re reincarnated based on the virtues you practiced in your previous life.
For example, if you were a doctor, you saved many lives, and you lived an overall positive life and impacted humanity for the better, you would come back as an enlightened being.
Pantheism teaches that death changes nothing, and only one eternal being can control what happens. Everything we see, including time, is an illusion merely in our minds and each person lives their own alternative reality.
What happens after death may depend entirely on what that individual perceives it to be. Two people can die at the same time and enter a completely different reality even if they’ve lived the same life.
This belief is also called Platonism and should not be confused with Christianity. Here, the individual soul survives, but the body dies. The soul will eventually reach its eternal resting place but may also have to proceed through a certain set of stages before it can reach that point. What survives on Earth is a bodiless spirit.
This may remind some people of the Catholic belief of “purgatory,” but it is quite different because your body is not resurrected by an all powerful being.
Resurrection is the Christian belief system that teaches our bodies and souls are separated at death. We are then reborn in the new world as an immortal being who will live life after death in heaven or Hell based on how we lived our lives for Christ.
While this is similar to immortality, the main difference is that God judges the living and the dead, and we are not immortal until we are cleansed of original sin.
What Does Reincarnation Mean in Christianity?
In Christianity, the word reincarnation means something different. While we don’t use this word, it essentially does mean that we are “born again” into our new lives. You’ll hear Christians talk about the end of our physical life and the beginning of our spiritual life – this is essentially Christian reincarnation.
In Christianity, reincarnation means the death of our body and the rebirth of our spirit in eternal life with Jesus Christ. But, as Christians, we don’t use the word reincarnation; we use the word “rebirth” or “baptism.” Essentially, our baptism is our reincarnation.
When we’re born, we’re born with original sin as taught in the book of Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. Because of that, we’re all born with sin until our sins are washed away through the act of baptism.
Certain denominations such as Catholic and Lutheran believe that you should be baptized at birth, while others believe you can only be baptized when you’re old enough to verbally commit to a life with Christ.
You might have heard baptism referred to as being “born again.” At this time, we’re leaving our original life of sin and entering into eternal life with Christ, which begins on Earth and continues in heaven. During our time on Earth, it becomes our responsibility to serve the Lord, believe in Him with all our hearts, confess our sins, and spread the word of Jesus to others.
Religious Reincarnation vs. Christianity
There are some major contradictions between the teachings of the Christian faith and reincarnation. Some might find pleasure in the thought of being able to do your life over again and find more enjoyment out of the next one. But, think about it this way.
We find so much joy in knowing that when someone dies, they get to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and live life for eternity with Jesus Christ and their loved ones. Doesn’t that provide such a feeling of warmth and comfort? It’s that reason that we try so hard to live a life that glorifies Him.
Heaven is a beautiful destination – one we should strive to reach. Life is painful. It’s full of pain, stress, pressure, disease, and sickness. Imagine having to live that, over and over again.
Even if you do your best in one life and come back as someone who is a better human being, more powerful, and better off, you still have to return to a broken world where the stress and pressure of life would have to be lived over and over again.
Worst of all, when you’re reincarnated, you don’t have a memory of your previous life. Reincarnation does not allow it. So, even if you’re coming back as a better and smarter person in your future life, you still won’t have the knowledge and experience to try to overcome things that tripped you up in your previous life.
It’s a rather cruel existence, don’t you think?
Christianity, on the other hand, understands that sin is the number one problem. Sin is the main objective and primary issue we must overcome. The only way to overcome this sin is through baptism, confession, and our relationship with God.
Reincarnation does not identify a way to overcome this sin, and as a result, we will continue to live life after life without ever addressing the original sin that we’re born with.
What Did Jesus Say About Reincarnation?
There are many verses in the Bible that discuss the thought of reincarnation. Let’s take a look at some of them and address the major points.
2 Corinthians 5:1
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
This verse just about sums it all up for me. We know that if our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from God.
This essentially means that nothing we do on this Earth can change our final destination because we live in a world with sin and we ourselves are imperfect. What really matters is our relationship with Christ, because He is the one that determines where we spend our eternity.
Life on Earth is short compared to forever. We must do our best to live a life that glorifies Christ on Earth because He is our true destination and life on Earth is but a drop in the bucket to the eternity that awaits us.
1 Corinthians 5:8
We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
Here is a verse that discusses one of the major flaws with reincarnation. It’s the fact that we don’t want to be born again into this life. Why would we want to go through the pain and suffering that this life brings with it over and over?
The only thing that can improve life is to see an end of our time on Earth and begin our “real” lives in eternity with God. That is our true home, while Earth is our temporary home.
2 Samuel 14:14
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.
How great is it that God provides a way for every person to live forever? While our human form cannot stand forever, our spirits will, and God gives us a way to live with Him forever. Through his son Jesus Christ, we all have the power to live forever in His kingdom. All you have to do is believe in Him and not deny Him.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.
While this does sound intimidating and scary, this is the reality we must face. This is what Christianity teaches, and it’s important to understand that reincarnation and resurrection are not the same.
You will not be born into another life that is similar to the one you’re living now. There are only two ways you can go. You can go and live in eternity with Christ, or you can burn in the fiery bowels of Hell. Those who choose to dedicate their life to Christ and live a life according to His teachings will one day know eternal life with Him.
Did the Catholic Church Ever Believe in Reincarnation?
There is a lot of misunderstanding in the Bible, and for this reason, many people believe that early Catholics believed in reincarnation. In fact, the “theory” of reincarnation in the Bible is something we see quite commonly, but most of it is misinterpreted by “new age” Catholics who tend to take things out of context.
One story from A.D. 553 at the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople states that Origen was the original believer that souls exist in heaven before coming to Earth to be born. This is where the confusion came about.
Some may claim that Origen was a reincarnationist when, in fact, he was one of the earliest Christian writers that came out against reincarnation. His quotes are widely misinterpreted, and since then, much of the information regarding reincarnation has been removed from the Bible due to misunderstanding.