What if reincarnation exists?

Quite some believers think that reincarnation (a person that ‘moves’ from one body to the next to keep on living) exists, since the ‘soul’ would exist separately from the body. They claim to have proof from the Bible. Others regard reincarnation as a pagan belief and even blasphemous and they also have prove from the Bible to support their position. But what is reincarnation and what can be found about it in the Bible?

By Marco van Putten

Reincarnation is a word combination of incarnation (Latin in-carnis – forming in the flesh) with the prefix ‘re-’ (again). Thus, having the meaning: Again becoming flesh. This suggests that something takes hold of a body and when that body dies it ‘moves’ to another body to take shape again. This ‘moving’ is supposed to continue again and again. This assumes a ‘higher’ entity, separate from the body, – the soul [1] – with its own function. That entity uses a mortal body to become manifest on earth, to sustain itself and to make itself better. The physical body is seen as just a temporary wrapping around it.

Reincarnation in world religions
Reincarnation is imagined differently. In Hinduism it is part of the somber view on man. Hindus realize that they stand at a ‘lower’ level then the divine, but they strive to become divine. They imagine that their ‘soul’ is held captive in the cycle of rebirth (samsara). After their dead they think that their soul is punished or rewarded for their deeds of the past life. They think that they die and reincarnate until they reach a divine state. Almost all people do evil deeds, thus their reincarnation is almost always a punishment. Meaning that their soul ‘moves’ to a ‘lower’ creature, like an animal.

Buddhism, which came forth from Hinduism, wants to break free from the cycle of rebirth by showing the way to ‘self enlightenment’ in the current life. The soul would thereby go into paradise (nirvana); to merge with the deity. Greek schools of philosophy also imagined the independent and eternal soul, which becomes clear from the New Testament.

Jewish reincarnation theory
Mystical Judaism, which was structured in the Middle Ages, assumes that Creation underwent severe damage. Israel is supposed to be the first nation that is called to help restore that damage; the calling to contribute to Tikkoen Olam (the restoration of Creation). This concept also assumes that the ‘soul’ has an eternal existence and can eventually be bound up with, become part of God. Then Tikkoen Olam reaches fulfillment. Therefore it is logically assumed that the number of souls is limited, since otherwise the passing over of damage to Creation would never end. Reincarnation has a place in Tikkoen Olam. Every soul would, by reincarnation, continue to contribute [2] to the restoration of Creation. Eventually the ‘new Creation’, mentioned repeatedly in the Bible, would become a reality [3].

Western reincarnation theory
The Western culture is mainly based on Greek thought [4]. From the Romans the principle was inherited to copy the ‘good’ things from other cultures. Thus, also the theory of reincarnation is taken over and molded to the Western model in different shapes, but almost always based of the mindset of prosperity and of superiority over other cultures.
According to some Western ‘Christians’ God would control reincarnation. Knowledge (of God) and spiritual abilities would ‘accompany’ the believer to the new life. This idea would actually mean self-enrichment [5] or at least would result in a more and more elevated Christian civilization.

Incarnations from God
That Christians came to believe in reincarnation can originate from the idea that reincarnations from God exist. Angels take human shapes. But they do that only temporarily for a specific purpose. Angels are no physical beings, like humans. They therefore only have a phantom body. In reality thus this is no incarnation.

Satan and his demons can do the same as angels. According to the Bible they even creep into a living humans [6], but this always has a possession as consequence [7]. God condemns this always as a crime and in every event this possession must be set right by casting those spirits out.

Taking control over a living person is something that God has only allowed to the Holy Spirit, but that is also no incarnation [8]. The only incarnation from God mentioned in the Bible is that by the Lord Jesus. This cased great upheaval and was seemingly in contradiction with the original monotheism [9] of the Bible. His existence before He became a Man and that He will return to earth after His ascension seems to confirm reincarnation. However, in the Bible He is nowhere described as a mere Human. His original coming to the earth from another world forces to recognize Him being a Man of quite a different order then normal humans. The Lord Jesus became literally Human, but He was raised up from being dead in His own glorified body and as such He went up to heaven and shall also return in the same body to earth again. Thus, no ‘resettlement’ to another body [10].

Living according to the Bible
Reincarnation suggests that the human soul exists ‘separately’ from the physical body before the birth of a person and that this soul doesn’t ‘die’ but continues to incarnate until it becomes part of the eternal godhead. In the Bible however a human is described as complete and unique, but also that the ‘soul’ with the physical body is meaningless and vice versa. In the Bible the focus is on life of humans on earth.

Still, Christians have invented all kinds of theories in which heaven and its spiritual world is made dominant to the life on earth. The ‘soul’ is supposed to have been connected with the spiritual world and according to some have its origins there. Such theories are fundamentally contrary with the Bible, in which it is stated that man is or has nothing besides the physical. Incarnation is not the way in which man is formed.

Since the first man Adam they are formed only from ‘tangible material’ without Spirit (Job 10:9). His ‘soul’ is formed in the unborn child as part of that person and is not preexistent before its conception. At birth man is capable to life on earth; it’s the unique moment of human completion and of commencement of human life. This moment happens only once. This explains why the name given at that moment according to the Bible often means something about who [11] the person shall be. Only just later a Spirit can be added (Gn 2:7), but even that is no incarnation of God in a human body [12]. Humans are fundamentally different to God and can never become one with Him. Human life is uniquely given by God [13]. Death closes the level in which this life can comply with God’s will or contribute to it.

The physical death is therefore the most determining moment in the life of a human. After dying the ‘value’ of that completed life determines immediately to which part of the realm of the dead that person will have access (Lc 16:22-26). Life on earth thus determines life after dead. From the realm of the dead only God is granted to rise-up. In principal [14], after being raised up from death it will be determined whether man is given access to God’s Kingdom [15]. For some, however, resurrection is proof for reincarnation. Since the human body dies and decays. Still, in the Bible only the judgment of the one unique life of a person between birth and death is described. Would God, Who created Adam, not be able to create a new glorified body for the person that will be resurrected (1 Cor 15:44; Filp 3:21)?

Believers ask, however, why a person would get only one chance (only have one life)? The answer is that everything in Creation is been counted, limited and bound to borders. That makes Creation for what it is. God shall end the whole of humanity in its present state. That shows that something is not right. In the Bible it is written that a man will have only one life on earth, since man was originally created to have eternal life. But man does not have eternal life by birth. Adam was originally mortal [16], but God gave access to healing [17].

Reincarnation is one of the assumptions of paganism. However, paganism is unable to distinguish between good and evil. The assumed improvement of the soul through reincarnation is in the paganistic framework only aimed at getting access to the divine or to appease the godhead. In other words justification through self-realization. Pagans however do not ask the fundamental question why the ‘soul’ is confronted with death of the physical body and why there is ‘a separation’ between the human and the divine. They do not grasp that this in itself points to an anarchistic event in the ancient past. Paganism assumes harmony with or at least continuous control of Creation in all its parts by the divine [18], although this assumption is not supported by the Bible.

Reincarnation is fundamentally alien to the Bible. That the soul would move from one body to another is not only nowhere to be found in the Bible, but it also goes against the order in Creation.

God has determined one moment at which all humans shall be judged by Him. To that end He shall resurrect all humans. This resurrection is problematic for reincarnation. On the other hand, reincarnation provides the possibility to appease the judgment of God. But which life is then candidate for judgment? The best one or an average of all? Also, reincarnation assumes that the ‘soul’ is separate from the physical body in which the judgment is received.

In the Bible the combination of the physical body, its ‘soul’ and the fulfillment with the spirit of God is essential for a believer to be of use to God. If a soul stands separate from the physical body, then the question comes up where a soul finds its origin and where it stays when there is no body available? Another question is whether in the mean time there aren’t far too few people on earth to enable reincarnation for the enormous number of souls? Questions which aren’t addressed in the Bible. This in itself should be a clue that physical creatures aren’t capable to (re-)incarnate.

[1] An entity that would represent the being of a person. The core of a person.
[2] Not so much always an ‘elevating’ contribution, but not, like in Hinduism, to undergo a punishment for evil of the past life. However, their sages are seen to be souls which have contributed much more importantly to Tikkoen Olam then the unwise.
[3] Although God is suggested to call for Tikkoen OIam as He also performs it, still it is seen primarily as a calling and responsibility of the souls to work for the realization of the New Creation.
[4] The concepts of this is discordant with that of the Bible.
[5] Also a typical Western principal. Believers would, through reincarnation, continue to become better and fuller Christians.
[6] This explains why pagans believe that something outside their body can enter into it and that incarnation was a characteristic of humans. Their belief was based on good observation.
[7] This always goes together with great (mental) violence and is always extremely harmful for humans to which it happens. Although at first that doesn’t seem to be so.
[8] The big difference between the indwelling of God’s Spirit and possession by a spirit is that God’s Spirit only acts on the free consent of the human involved. God’s Spirit also only dwells in a human as a ‘guest’.
[9] Many monotheists make the Lord Jesus into a stumbling block and regard the suggestion that He is equal to God and God Himself as a route towards polytheism. But, the mystery of His incarnation is really hard to grasp when seen apart from His Personality.
[10] Since He was called ‘the first of the humans raised’, it can be presumed that thus will happen to all humans likewise.
[11] Its character and behavior; the soul.
[12] This would end both the goal of the calling of man – honoring and serving God – and of God’s plan of salvation – the restoration of man as His representative on earth.
[13] Even that of pagans, since each human can become a believer.
[14] Some very pious people will be raised from death before that.
[15] The single unique life is judged in that single final judgment of God at the end of time.
[16] Adam did not become mortal after his falling away from God, but as a characteristic when God created him. Like all creatures Adam was mortal from its beginning. Therefore living creatures are originally formed as male and female. However, Adam was not created like other creatures. He was created in the Image and Character of God.
[17] The Tree of Life.
[18] Even many Christians believe that.