Reincarnation and the bible a forgotten doctrineDocument Transcript
Reincarnation and the Bible: A Forgotten DoctrineBy Joshua L TilghmanThis week I would like to address the concept of reincarnation and its relevance to the Bible. Next welllook at scriptures that some use to support reincarnation, as well as scriptures that opponents use torefute it. Finally, Ill explain what my personal beliefs are on this fascinating subject.Growing up and attending traditional church services, I was never told about reincarnation; it certainlywasnt up for discussion in Wednesday night Bible study. Of course, you can hardly blame religiousleaders for leaving it out of their teachings when everything they have studied and read probablyrefuted the idea. But many people today-including some religious leaders-do not know thatreincarnation was a common belief at the time of Christ. In fact, even the disciples of Jesus accepted it.John chapter nine makes this absolutely clear. In this incident, the disciples and Jesus pass a blind manon the side of the road. The disciples then asked Jesus if it was this man or his parents who sinned tomake him be born blind. The question reveals what they believed, for how can a man come into thisworld blind because of sin if he had not lived a previous life to do the sinning?For many years following Christs ministry, reincarnation was believed by many of the most influentialChristians. Origen stated, "The soul has neither beginning nor end. [They] come into this worldstrengthened by the victories or weakened by the defeats for their previous lives." Many centuries later,reincarnation was so widespread among Christians that the Roman emperor Justinian took action thatled to its banishment in the mid sixth century AD. It is interesting that this was accomplished by aRoman emperor. At this time, the church was more of a state institution than an avenue of spirituality,and I imagine a belief in reincarnation probably wasnt in the best interest of an emperor whodemanded total obedience from his subjects; if the people were allowed to believe reincarnation wastrue, then eternal punishment really wouldnt be the judgment for a soul who disregarded the divineorders of the Christian emperor.Because of the efforts of Justinian and many others, it didnt take long for this doctrine to besystematically removed from Christian theology. And as you probably already know, most Christiansdidnt have access to the scriptures. In fact, at certain times in history, it wasnt just reincarnation thatwas banned-READING THE BIBLE WAS TOO! So it REALLY shouldnt surprise us that the idea ofreincarnation didnt survive the divine will of the emperor, and has only resurfaced in the last fewcenturies when more people are able to think critically about what the scriptures truly mean.So where does the idea of reincarnation surface in the Bible? Actually, there are too many places for oneblog post, so lets go over the more popular ones used for reincarnation discussions.
One of the most well-known prophecies in the Old Testament is the return of Elijah. Prominentscriptures teach that Elijah must return to earth to prepare the way for the Lord. In fact, according tocommon Jewish belief, Elijah was to come and "restore all things" before any messiah could appear. Soin order for Jesus to have been the messiah, this prophecy had to have come to fruition. And it seemsthat Jesus confirmed that it did.In Matthew 11:14 Jesus tells the multitude of John the Baptist: "If you are willing to accept it, he [John]is Elijah who is to come." Jesus also states in the Gospel of Mark: "But I tell you that Elijah has come, andthey did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him."The phrase "...as it was written of him..." which is speaking of Elijah, makes this whole point pretty clear:Jesus was trying to convey that John the Baptist was of the same spirit as that of Elijah.I think these scriptures are pretty clear about who John was. Nevertheless, and to be fair to theopponents of the idea of reincarnation being supported in the Bible, there do seem to be scriptures thatrefute it, at least on the surface. But upon close inspection, I do not think they are very strong. Forinstance, many Westerners-often ones that have not studied what reincarnation truly is or means-willcombat the reincarnation of Elijah as John with Luke 1:17, which states that John will go before themessiah "...in the spirit and power of Elias [Elijah]." They conclude that "in the spirit and power of Elijah"means it wasnt Elijah. This is probably one of the worst arguments an opponent could give. Why?Because returning to the earth in the "spirit and power" of someone who has already lived on the earthIS REINCARNATION! Actually, there isnt really a much better definition for it. It would seem that theopponents of Biblical reincarnation havent thought this one through very well, and only someone whodidnt understand the concept of reincarnation would use this scripture as proof against it. The sad partis that there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of websites that do in fact use this argument.Opponents of Biblical reincarnation also use John 1:21-23 as ammunition. Here, the Levites ask John theBaptist point blank if he is Elijah that was to come. John responds by telling them no. So If John reallywas the reincarnated Elijah, why would he deny it?We could also ask why John didnt know Jesus was the true messiah while in jail before being beheaded.In the beginning of his ministry, the gospels make it clear that John understood exactly who Jesus was.But after being put in jail, he went through a period of doubt where he wasnt sure if Jesus really wasTHE messiah or not, so he sent his disciples to personally ask him. It seems John lost faith when he failedto comprehend the full extent of Jesus ministry. Couldnt John have also made the mistake of notrealizing he was the reincarnation of the spirit to be in Elijah before?
When I began to understand more of what reincarnation was, I realized that just because John didntbelieve he was Elijah reincarnated doesnt mean much. Each reincarnated life is a culmination ofprevious lives and conscious experiences before it. Reincarnation is not about the exact same personcoming back to inhabit a different body. Its about many life experiences that one soul goes through inorder to grow and hopefully mature. Each incarnation of the soul can therefore still be understood to ba unique individual person. And when that soul dies, that same soul doesnt come back. Why? Becausewhat reincarnates is that same soul in addition to the culminate experiences that soul has had inperpetuity. Lets say that I, Joshua Tilghman, was to reincarnate on the earth two hundred years fromnow. Is it Joshua Tilghman that is reincarnating? Not exactly. However, some of the same personalitytraits that made up Joshua Tilghman would reincarnate.We must also remember that the Old Testament states Elijah must come back to prepare the way of themessiah. So if you dont believe Elijah returned in the spirit of John, how can you believe Jesus was themessiah?Another scripture often used to refute reincarnation is Hebrews 9:27. It states "...it is appointed menonce to die..."But even this is within the confines of reincarnation. As we already discussed, after death it is not theexact same soul that returns. It is the culmination of all of that souls incarnations which results in aunique individual every incarnation cycle. So even in the doctrine of reincarnation, it is still appointedunto man once to die! As both nature and Jesus taught, through death always comes more physical life!The death of one tree or plant produces thousands of more lives. Reincarnation is really not muchdifferent.So why does mainstream Christianity still vehemently deny reincarnation today? One of the mostprominent reasons is because it contradicts the idea of a resurrection after death. However, this iswhere I believe the institutionalized church of antiquity also missed the point. The resurrection does nottake place after death, as the literal interpretation supposes. The resurrection takes place while youLIVE, as a spiritual experience. As the Gospel of Philip, a Gnostic scripture, states:"People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken. If they do not first receive resurrectionwhile they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing."This scripture was written because the Gnostics of antiquity understood that the literalists did not fullycomprehend the spiritual intent of the New Testament writings. Even Jesus told Nicodemus that youmust be "born again", which better translates as "born from above". This being born from above is a
spiritual birth that happens while one is yet alive in the physical. When you combine this with Jesusstatement that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, it all becomes very clear; becoming born fromabove IS a resurrection!If we are honest with ourselves, even most children would find the idea of God putting back together abody after it has been decomposed by worms and bacteria a little far-fetched.I would now like to share a little more about my personal beliefs on reincarnation. Consider thefollowing scenario, as I have:Imagine a baby dying and then appearing before God. Since we are judged by the deeds done on thisearth, what crown would this baby be able to place at the feet of Jesus? In other words, what could thebaby offer in return for reward? Not only would the baby be able to offer nothing, but what could thebaby receive? Wouldnt this be the ultimate example of something totally unjust and unfair? The babywould not have even had the chance of offering something to God.Consider another scenario: how can a merciful God create a place of eternal punishment for a sinner,especially when that God KNEW before hand that the creation would end up there? If God really didthis, is "merciful" the right word to describe Him?After thinking for myself instead of believing what I have been told about the Bible, I cant help butwonder how much institutionalized Christianity strayed from its spiritually humble beginnings. I amwilling to bet a whole lot.Finally, and as you probably already know, reincarnation works on the principle of karma. This is exactlythe same thing as reaping what you sow! THAT is just. THAT is merciful. This is also truly in line with aloving Father who rains both on the just and unjust! So yes, I think the idea of reincarnation is a verylogical belief, and personally, I am glad to see that Jesus supports it.What do you think?If you need more information you could find Best Reincarnation book here.