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The article will be in two parts. Brendon Helms will go first followed by Edward D. Andrews.

by Brendon Helms

At one point in time, this was not a question that most Christians took very seriously. For most people in the Western world, this question is generally dismissed quite quickly even today. However, as Eastern philosophies and religions continue to gain popularity in the West this issue must be addressed. For followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and the New Age Movement, the answer to this question is adamantly in the affirmative. Beginning in the 1960s the West was hit hard by an influx of Eastern ideas including the concept of reincarnation. Currently, individuals such as Deepak Chopra are promoting reincarnation packaged in his New Age spiritual system. Is a belief in reincarnation compatible with the truths found in the bible? The concept of reincarnation will be examined from two vantage points. First, it will be examined biblically, and secondly, it will be examined philosophically.

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Biblical Examination: John the Baptist and Elijah

Are there any statements in Scripture that actually support the idea of reincarnation? Several years back I was in a discussion with a self-proclaimed “Christian-New Ager”. This individual found that Christianity and Eastern religions were quite compatible and we began specifically discussing the doctrine of reincarnation. In this discussion, he pointed to Matthew 11:7-14 as evidence that the Bible teaches reincarnation. In these passages, Jesus states that John the Baptist is Elijah who is to come. This immediately brought a discussion on whether or not this should be taken literally.

It is quite clear that other passages from the scripture do not give this statement a meaning that John was literally Elijah. Luke 1:17 informs us that John the Baptist came in the “spirit” and “power” of Elijah. This indicates that John was not the actual reincarnation of Elijah, but that his character and the power of his ministry are parallel to Elijah’s ministry. This statement is problematic for anyone wishing to find the doctrine of reincarnation in the bible. It does not completely defeat the position. However, it does appear that John the Baptist’s own statements in John 1:21-23 render the above idea that he was the reincarnated Elijah completely demolished. A crowd of Jews asks John if he is Elijah. His answer in verse 21 is “No.” He is then asked to clarify who he is and he responds, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  Here John the Baptist flat out rejects that he is Elijah, but he affirms that he is the one whom Isaiah spoke of in Isaiah 40:3.

     Therefore, who was right, Jesus or John the Baptist? It appears that they were both correct. When Jesus affirmed that John the Baptist was Elijah, he referenced Malachi 4:5-6.  

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS

 Malachi 4:5-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
“Look, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of Jehovah comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to the sons, and the hearts of the sons to their fathers; so that I will not come and strike the land, devoting it to destruction.”

 Also, note that in Matthew 11:14 the text states, “if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.”

Yes, Jesus was showing that John the Baptist was the foretold corresponding person of Elijah. (Matt. 11:12-14; Mark 9:11-13) The words must have had an application to the readers who read them or hearers who heard them. Therefore, at the time they were uttered “the great and awesome day of the LORD” was near. At Pentecost of 33 C.E., Peter gave a speech after the outpouring of Holy Spirit, where he referenced the prophecy of Joel being fulfilled. (Joe 2:28-32) Note that this was also to happen “before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.” (Ac 2:16-21) The “day of the Lord” saw its initial fulfillment in 70 C.E., when divine judgment was carried out on Jerusalem by Rome, because they had rejected the Son of God, and said,

John 19:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

Christian Rebirth

In John 3:3, Jesus states to Nicodemus that for a man to inherit the kingdom of God he must be “born again.”[1]  If verse three were to be stripped from its proper context, it could be argued that Jesus is endorsing some form of reincarnation. However, the following verses make it clear that Jesus is not speaking of a literal rebirth. Jesus states in John 3:5, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless someone is born of water and spirit, he is not able to enter into the kingdom of God.”  Further, verse eight affirms, “so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (ESV) W. Hall Harris notes, “The thrust of the passage is clearly on the regenerating power of the Spirit in believers.”[2]  Therefore, the only way to find a doctrine of reincarnation in John 3:3 is to commit the hermeneutical error of eisegesis. Eisegesis is reading into the text a given position, belief, or doctrine. Whereas proper interpretation is exegesis, meaning that we pull our beliefs out of the text.

Hebrews 9:25-28 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
25 nor was it that he would offer himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, he would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now he has appeared once at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.[47] 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time without reference to sin to those who eagerly await him for salvation.

The author of Hebrews is discussing the results of Jesus’ death in Chapter 9. In verses 25-28 the author mentions several different issues: (1) Jesus did not offer himself repeatedly. (2) Jesus appeared one time to sacrifice himself. (3) The death of men is compared to Christ being offered as a sacrifice once. It is in this third point that the most direct statement in the bible is found in the issue of reincarnation. In verse 27, the text reads “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” This statement is followed by noting that Christ was offered once and will return in the future. This passage makes it completely clear that each individual will only die once. This is in complete contradiction to the teachings of reincarnation, which as noted above endorses multiple deaths and rebirths. This chapter reiterates that since Jesus was sacrificed only once for sin, so each man dies only once.

REASONABLE FAITH Why Me_ FEARLESS-1

What About John 9:1-2?

John 9:2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”

There is one interesting Bible background point . . .

[Jesus’ disciples as him] Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? (9:2). Jewish rabbis generally believed in a direct cause-and-effect relationship between suffering and sin (cf. the book of Job). R. Ammi (c. a.d. 300) said, “There is no death without sin, and there is no suffering without iniquity” (b. Šabb. 55a). Jesus, however, while acknowledging the possibility that suffering may be the direct result of sin (cf. 5:14), denies that such is invariably the case (cf. Luke 13:2–3a). Underlying the disciples’ statement is the concern not to charge God with perpetrating evil on innocent people (cf. Ex. 20:5; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9). Regarding the possibility that the man’s blindness from birth may be the result of prenatal sin, one may note Jewish speculation surrounding the struggle of Jacob and Esau in their mother Rebecca’s womb.[3] 

The Jewish Pharisees said that “the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies”? (Wars of the Jews, Josephus, Book II, chap. VIII, par. 14) There is little likelihood that this question is a reflection of that belief, because, because the meaning in their question was not that they believed this was a ‘good man.’ It is more likely that they were wondering how an unborn child could have sinned, since it is born in sin, thinking this is what led to him being born blind. Regardless of what may or may not have been going through their minds, Jesus response does not support reincarnation.

John 9:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Jesus answered, “neither this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be demonstrated in him.”

Jesus’ disciples were no different from the Jewish population of their day. They believed that all suffering was the result of sinful activity. However, Jesus corrected this misunderstanding, when he explained that this being born blind was not the result of the actions of either the parents or the son. Of course, Jesus did not say that sin, inherited imperfection, did not lead to pain and suffering, because this blind man was a representation of that. However, Jesus did repudiate that personal actions were the cause of the blindness from birth. Jesus was well aware that the sin of Adam brought with it, an inheritance of imperfection that led to defects. Thus, he used this inherited imperfection or defect of being born blind, to magnify God, so he healed the blind man.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

Biblical Conclusions

The above observations bring us to several critical conclusions on the issue of reincarnation. First, the often used biblical passages to demonstrate Christian reincarnation simply do not endorse that doctrine once they are contextually understood. Second, each human being dies once. This clearly demonstrates that the bible is in direct opposition to reincarnation.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS

by Edward D. Andrews

Can We Find the Reincarnation Belief Supported In the Bible?

Matthew 17:12-13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 but I [Jesus] say to you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did with him whatever they wanted. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

Are we to understand this to mean that somehow John the Baptist was a reincarnated Elijah? If we look at John 1:21, we have Jewish priests asking John “Are you Elijah?” he said, “I am not.” (John 1:21) Well, then, how are we to understand Jesus’ words? We have to look at the Old Testament for the answer. Malachi 4:5-6 says, “Look, I [God the Father] will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of Jehovah comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to the sons, and the hearts of the sons to their fathers; so that I will not come and strike the land, devoting it to destruction.” Now, the Cherubic angel Gabriel tells us what we are looking for, “And he himself will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient ones to the wisdom of the righteous ones, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.” (Luke 1:17) A person, John the Baptist would have the ‘spirit (mental disposition) and power (authority)’ to turn the Israelite people back to God to prepare them for Jesus, not that John the Baptist was going to literally be a reincarnated Elijah.

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John 9:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 Now as he [Jesus] was passing by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?”

Brendon Helms already visited these verses but let’s do it again. Does this suggest reincarnation? Some suggest that it likely that the disciples were simply affected by the belief of the Jewish Pharisees, who believed exactly as the first-century Jewish historian said, “the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies”? (Wars of the Jews, Josephus, Book II, chap. VIII, par. 14) This does not seem like a good interpretation or understanding of what the disciples meant. From the text, it is clear that they did not see this person as a ‘good man.’ No, the disciples of Jesus were likely well aware that the Old Testament Scriptures that we are souls. Genesis 2:7 tells us that “man [Adam] became a living soul.” It does not tell us that man has a soul but that he is a soul. Ezekiel 18:4, 20 tells us the ‘the soul who sins shall die.’ Yet, even a baby in the womb of its mother is a person, a soul. So, it is more likely that the disciples are wondering if it is possible that an unborn child could have sinned, which would have resulted in his being born blind. Regardless, the answer that Jesus gave did not support either belief: (1) reincarnation or (2) that a child in its mother’s womb sins before its birth. Jesus answered, “neither this man sinned, or his parents. (John 9:3) Jesus being directly involved with the creation of Adam and Eve, sentencing them as sinners (missing the mark of perfection) to death, that Adam’s offspring would inherit sin (human imperfection and defects). So, Jesus used this circumstance, saying, “but that the works of God might be demonstrated in him.” He magnified God the Father when he healed the blind man.

What is death?

Under this heading, we will repeat what was penned earlier, as repetition for emphasis. It is recommended that you read these few Scriptures and paragraphs again.  When we die, what happens to the soul? If you recall from above that the “soul” is the person, the being, the creature, i.e., us, and the life that we have. If you recall from above, the Human soul = body [dust of the ground] + active life force (“spirit”) [Hebrew, ruachwithin the trillions of human cells which make up the human body + breath of life [Hebrew, neshamah] that sustains the life force from God. In other words, the “soul” is we as a whole, everything that we are, so the soul or we humans can die. Let us look at a few verses, which make that all too clear.

Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
19 For the fate of the sons of men [humans or people] and the fate of beasts is the same. As one dies so dies the other; indeed, they all have the same breath and there is no advantage for man over beast, for all is vanity. 20 All go to the same place. All came from the dust and all return to the dust.

In other words, when we breathe our last breath, our cells begin to die. Death is the ending of all vital functions or processes in an organism or cell. When our heart stops beating, our blood is no longer circulating, carrying nourishment and oxygen (by breathing) to the trillions of cells in our body; we are what are termed, clinically dead. However, somatic death has yet to occur, meaning we can be revived, after many minutes of being clinically dead, if the heart and lungs can be restarted again, which gives the cells the oxygen they need.

After about three minutes of clinical death, the brain cells begin to die, meaning the chances of reviving the person is less likely as each second passes. We know that it is vital that the breathing and blood flow be maintained for the life force (ruach chaiyim) in the cells. Nevertheless, it is not the lack of breathing or the failure of the heart beating alone, but rather the active life force (“spirit”) [Hebrew, ruach] within the trillions of human cells which make up the human body + breath of life [Hebrew, neshamah] that sustains the life force from God.

Psalm 104:29 (ESV)

 

29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust.

 

Psalm 146:4 (ESV)

 

When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.

 

Ecclesiastes 8:8 (ESV)

 

No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it.

Again, …

Ezekiel 18:4 (ESV)

 

Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins shall die.

 

Leviticus 21:1 (ASV)

 

21  And Jehovah said to Moses, Speak to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them, There shall none defile himself for the dead [Or “for a soul.”] among his people;

Numbers 6:6 (ASV)

 

All the days that he separates himself unto Jehovah he shall not come near to a dead body [Or “soul.”].

 

Again, the death of a “soul” means the death of a person …

1 Kings 19:4 (ASV)

 

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper-tree: and he requested for himself that he [Or “his soul.] ”might die, and said, It is enough; now, O Jehovah, take away my life [soul]; for I am not better than my fathers.

Jonah 4:8 (ASV)

 

And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a sultry east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and requested for himself that he might die [Or “that his soul might die.”], and said, It is better for me to die than to live.

 

Mark 3:4 (ASV)

 

And he said to them, Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save a life [Or “soul.”], or to kill? But they held their peace.

 

 

 

As you can see from the above texts, a “soul,” or person can die, and the difference between clinical death and somatic death.

How to Interpret the Bible-1 INTERPRETING THE BIBLE how-to-study-your-bible1

What Causes Human Death?

Genesis 2:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, “From every tree of the garden you may freely eat, 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.”

Here we have the first mention of dying within Scripture. It would seem that the death of animals was already the case, as they were not designed to live forever. Thus, when God mentioned the sentence of death for disobeying, Adam knew full well what death was, as he likely had seen many animals die. When Adam disobeyed, he actually rebelled against the sovereignty of God, and this resulted in his death (Gen. 3:19; Jam. 1:14-15) From the moment that Adam ate, his sinful rebellion and its consequences, i.e., death, spread to all of his descendants.

Romans 5:12 (UASV)

 

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—.

Romans 6:23 (UASV)

 

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

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The False Hope of Reincarnation VS the Sure Hope of the Bible

Reincarnation, also called transmigration or metempsychosis, in religion and philosophy, rebirth of the aspect of an individual that persists after bodily death—whether it be consciousness, mind, the soul, or some other entity—in one or more successive existences. Depending upon the tradition, these existences may be human, animal, spiritual, or, in some instances, vegetable. While belief in reincarnation is most characteristic of South Asian and East Asian traditions, it also appears in the religious and philosophical thought of local religions, in some ancient Middle Eastern religions (e.g., the Greek Orphic mystery, or salvation, religion), Manichaeism, and Gnosticism, as well as in such modern religious movements as theosophy. – Britannica.

Bible: According to the Bible, the Hebrew word nephesh and the Greek word psyche (soul) basically refer to (1) people, (2) animals, or (3) the life that a person or animal has. (Gen. 1:20; 2:7; Num. 31:28; 1 Pet. 3:20) The Bible author’s use of both nephesh and psyche, in connection with earthly creatures, humans or animals, refer to that which is material, tangible, visible, and mortal. A soul breathes. (Gen. 2:7) A soul is a living creature that sins (Lev. 5:1) works (Lev. 22:30) can be kidnapped (Deut. 24:7), can be annoyed (Judges 16:16), tormented from the troubles of this imperfect life (Job 19:2), weeps because of grief (Ps 119:28), become troubled because of distress (John 12:27), become fearful (Ac 2:43), as well souls being in subjection to the government.  (Rom. 13:1) The Bible speaks of the life that the creature has (Ex. 4:16; Josh. 9:24; 2 Ki 7:7; Prov. 12:10; Matt. 20:28; Phil. 2:30) The Human soul = body [dust of the ground] + active life force (“spirit”) [Hebrew, ruachwithin the trillions of human cells which make up the human body + breath of life [Hebrew, neshamah] that sustains the life force from God. In other words, the “soul” is we as a whole, everything that we are, so the soul or the human can die. – Ecclesiastes 3:19-20.

In other words, when we breathe our last breath, our cells begin to die. Death is the ending of all vital functions or processes in an organism or cell. When our heart stops beating, our blood is no longer circulating, carrying nourishment and oxygen (by breathing) to the trillions of cells in our body; we are what are termed, clinically dead. However, somatic death has yet to occur, meaning we can be revived, after many minutes of being clinically dead, if the heart and lungs can be restarted again, which gives the cells the oxygen they need.

After about three minutes of clinical death, the brain cells begin to die, meaning the chances of reviving the person is less likely as each second passes. We know that it is vital that the breathing and blood flow be maintained for the life force (ruach chaiyim) in the cells. Nevertheless, it is not the lack of breathing or the failure of the heart beating alone, but rather the active life force (“spirit”) [Hebrew, ruach] within the trillions of human cells which make up the human body + breath of life [Hebrew, neshamah] that sustains the life force from God.

The hope that we have from the Bible is this, even if we have done or said some bad things throughout our lives, or have failed to do some things that we were biblically obligated to do, if we are truly repentant, and we have altered our course, God will forgive us. (Ps. 103:12-13) When we die, as is shown above, nothing of us survives that death, no spirit or soul that is supposedly within us, we are simply in God’s memory. We are asleep in death, awaiting a resurrection. This is not some reincarnation but rather God giving us life yet again, being brought back to life with the same mind, personality, qualities, characteristics that we had. (Acts 24:15) Some will be resurrected to eternal life on earth. This will happen when Jesus returns with his angels and destroys the wicked. Sickness, suffering, even death, will no longer be. (Dan. 2:44; Rev. 21:3-4) Others will be resurrected to heaven to rule with Christ as kings, priests, and judges over the earth for a thousand years.

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[1] The Greek in John 3:3 is actually ambiguous. The phrase is γεννηθῇ ἄνωθεν which could mean either “born again” or “born above.”

[2] W. Hall Hall, “A Theology of John’s Writings,” in “A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, ed. Roy Zuck (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute, 1994), 197.

[3] Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 2: John, Acts. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 91.

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