Reincarnation is the belief that after a person dies, he or she returns to earth in another form or for another life. This popular belief is accepted in many Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shintoism. Reincarnation is also a widely held belief in Wicca, a popular form of witchcraft, as well as many New Age and Native American belief systems. Is reincarnation biblical?
Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that a person lives only one time in this world. It teaches, "it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." Only two options exist for the soul's existence after this life: eternity in heaven with the Lord (John 3:16) or eternal punishment apart from the Lord (Matthew 25:46).
But what about the beginning of life? Have souls existed from eternity past, reinhabiting new bodies or life forms in a repeated cycle of life? The Bible teaches in Psalm 139:13 that, "you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb." Though this Psalm is poetic in nature, the focus appears to be on the origin of the soul in the mother's womb. In addition, Genesis 1—2 reveals the creation of human life along with the creation of their souls by God (Genesis 2:7).
Another passage that supports the biblical view of the afterlife in contrast with reincarnation is found in Luke 16:19-31. A rich man and a poor man named Lazarus each died. The rich man entered into a place of conscious torment whereas the poor man entered conscious joy. The rich man called out and asked for Lazarus to come and cool his tongue. Father Abraham responded, "between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us" (Luke 16:26). Having his first request denied, the rich man then asked Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers to avoid eternal punishment. Abraham answered that he would not, indicating that those in eternity do not return to earth for additional lives. The condition of the human soul in the afterlife is clearly permanent; neither reincarnation nor purgatory is a biblical option.
In another account, the disciples of Jesus affirmed that some believed He was a reincarnation of John the Baptist, Elijah, or another prophet (Mark 8:27-28). Though some people believed in reincarnation during the time of Jesus, He instead denied He was a reincarnated being, but accepted Peter's answer that Jesus was the Christ (Mark 8:29).
Reincarnation is not biblical. In the end God will create a new heavens, new earth, and new heavenly Jerusalem where His people will dwell with Him forever (Revelation 21—22). Only in that sense will humans return to earth again, this time to live in eternal joy with the Creator God.
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