A gracEmail subscriber writes: “I am thinking that I served God in a previous life, and that is why I am drawn to him now. I would appreciate your comment if you have time.”
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The doctrine of reincarnation is a popular but ancient explanation of why people experience both good and bad things, and why it is important for us to do good and not evil now. Thousands of years before Christ, both the Egyptians and Babylonians believed that the body is a temporary shell, housing an immortal soul or spirit that might revisit the earth later in someone else. Hinduism popularized similar ideas in India about two centuries before Christ. About 500 B.C., the fledgling Buddhist tradition incorporated an impersonal version of this general doctrine. Meanwhile, Pythagoras taught reincarnation in Samos, as Plato later did in Athens.
In early Christianity, esoteric teachers known as Gnostics taught the pre-existence and reincarnation of immortal souls. The Christian leadership soundly rejected gnosticism as contrary to the Jewish Scriptures and the apostolic teaching. Today, reincarnation is a teaching of the Rosicrucians, Theosophists, Scientologists and most New Age variations. These ancient notions of reincarnation and immortal souls are tantalizing, but they are quite different from the revelation contained in the Bible.
The Bible tells us that humans are created, not eternal, and that we did not exist until God made us. In the Bible, “spirit” usually means breath, although it sometimes refers to humans viewed in their inner, intangible self. “Soul” in the Bible normally stands for a whole living person, not an immortal interior part that inhabits but survives the body. Our hope for future life is not reincarnation but resurrection in a glorified and (then) immortal or deathless body suited for new heavens and new earth.
This life is a one-time affair. It is appointed to humans to live once, die and eventually to face the Creator to give account (Heb. 9:27). The person who understands that we are created by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and sealed by the Holy Spirit to be made immortal with a glorified body when Jesus comes again, has every incentive to live rightly now. These biblical truths provide strong hope for personal bodily life forever in a perfect universe, something no concept of reincarnation of immortal souls can possibly ematch.
Copyright 2010 by Edward Fudge. Permission hereby given to reproduce, reprint or forward this gracEmail without change and without financial profit.