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What does the Bible teach about the subject of reincarnation? Many today believe the souls of people and other living creatures just continually cycle pointlessly through life, or does God have something better planned for us?
Let me ask you a question. Do you think that you may have lived a prior life? Some other existence, as a human being, or maybe as some other creature, some other animal? And what you are today – a human being, knowing who you are and having a conscious understanding – is just a part of a process, kind of a circle of life that is never-ending, that people call “reincarnation”. A lot of people believe this teaching. Do you? What does the Bible teach about the subject of reincarnation? Do souls of people, beings, just continually cycle through life, come back as an animal, as a wolf, or ultimately maybe as a human being or some other type of consciousness? A lot of different philosophical views of life in some religions are based upon this. A lot of people just adopt it because it sounds interesting, or they may have some type of feeling that they lived in some other part of history in the past. Or for some, it’s just a kind of a nice idea to think about and it separates them from the run of the mill people who believe in religion, Bible, heaven, hell, or whatever it might be. What does the Bible say about this?
Well, explicitly, the Bible does not use the term “reincarnation”. Really, the Bible talks about “resurrection” – the resurrection of the body, and it has a great deal to say about that. The Bible also talks about the fact that when death occurs, the dead know nothing. In Ecclesiastes 9:5, it says, “The living know they shall die, but the dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” This verse says that at death there is no knowledge of being within the grave. The belief that people have about reincarnation holds that after death, some eternal part of a human being is returned to physical life in some other altered form, either as a human being, an animal life, some forms of it probably, even as a plant life, which leads people to not even want to destroy or to harm the plant life of the earth. But again, the Bible does not teach this and does not get into that whatever. Rather than a continuously, recycled, cyclical version of life, the Bible shows that there is a judgment coming, and that death is a movement in the process that God has with human beings toward ultimately a time of resurrection and a purpose of their life.
In Hebrews 9:27, it says that “it is appointed to men once to die, but after this, the judgment.” There’s a judgment. Now, a judgment brings with it the understanding of a finality, an ending, a conclusion to life, to a time of experience. And the Bible does very clearly talk about eternal judgment. All will die once. There will be a time of judgment. Put this in the context of what the Bible says about resurrection in John 5:28-29, Christ Himself said, “Marvel not at this, for the hour is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth – they that have done good, to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of damnation,” or judgment, is what that word means. And so again, life – when you look at it in the scripture – is moving along a continuum from birth to death, and then, when you understand the fullness of what the scripture talks about, a resurrection and a time of judgment. And it’s a far better plan – it is a far better purpose – to understand, and there’s more hope and true understanding in what the Bible does tell us about human life and what happens at death, than the idea that we’re going to come back as some other animal or plant life and just start it all over again. That’s not what the Bible teaches when you put it all together.
So no, the Bible does not teach reincarnation. And if that’s what you believe, I challenge you to match it up with what the Bible teaches and look and see if indeed what the Bible brings out gives far more meaning, purpose, and hope in your life.