Reincarnation is a doctrine often found in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Though the details vary, the idea is that a self or soul is continually reborn from one life to another. In Buddhism, there are six realms of rebirth: peaceful deities, wrathful deities, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-beings. Over a period of millions of years, one soul will most likely be reborn as many different things. The level of rebirth is regulated by the karma. Simply stated, the karma is the collection of good or bad an individual does over a lifetime. However, the individual often experiences good or bad in this lifetime based on the karma of a previous lifetime.
In the West, reincarnation has taken on a trendy appeal. People try to guess what they might have been in an earlier life. Sometimes, they try to analyze feelings or deja vu experiences in light of reincarnation. Discussing karma has become a fun thing. However, in the serious Eastern religions, reincarnation or rebirth is seen as an evil bondage. The individual is locked into endless deaths and rebirths. There is no end of the cycle of suffering. Suffering is universal. Suffering is the most fundamental of all truths.
Buddhism developed from Hinduism as an attempt by the Buddha to break free from the endless cycle of suffering. This is where the doctrine of nirvana came from. Only by achieving nirvana can an individual escape the transience of endless deaths and births and the suffering that accompanies it. Again, nirvana has entered the Western cultural as a light concept of the highest form of ecstasy. However, in Buddhism it refers to the cessation of individual existence. Nirvana is a final escape from the endless cycle of reincarnation.
Though their teachers would certainly deny this, these religions are very negative and pessimistic. Much of the doctrinal developments in these religions in recent centuries has been attempts to lessen this negativity. But it is the foundation of their beliefs.
The Bible will have nothing of this endless cycle of death and rebirth. A few scriptures have been twisted in an attempt to support reincarnation, but the Bible clearly teaches the finality of death and the absolute certainty of judgment after death. Let me introduce you to some of these scriptures.
- Of his infant son who died, David said, "But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (2 Samuel 12:23). He stated that his child would not return.
- 2 Samuel 14:14 states, "For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." This clearly demonstrates the finality of death.
- In Job 10:20-21, Job said, "Are not my days few? cease then, and let me alone, that I may take comfort a little, Before I go whence I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death." Job clearly stated that he would not return to the earth from the land of death. Yet, in another instance (Job 19:25-27), he plainly stated his faith in a personal resurrection. Therefore, the Bible clearly teaches that the same person will be resurrected, but the individual will not return as another person or being.
- Job gives another powerful speech later in the book. Let us look at the passage:
- Job 14:7-12 For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant. But man dieth, and wasteth away: yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decayeth and drieth up: So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.
- In this passage, Job uses the analogy of a tree. If the tree is cut down to the ground, there is hope that it might sprout up again. This would be a perfect picture of death and rebirth. But Job contrasts the tree to man. Man is not like the tree. When he dies, he will not return to earth again. "So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep" (Job 14:12). This verse directly refutes any chance of reincarnation for man.