Many Happy Returns
MANY HAPPY (?) RETURNS
Have you seen the movies or videos in your town? Heaven Can Wait, Heart and Souls, A Guy Named Joe, Dead Again. Have you watched television lately?
Have You Been Here Before?
In America, 23 percent of our citizens say they believe in reincarnation. That’s one-fourth of our population. If you survey the college-age population (ages eighteen to twenty-four) the proportion jumps to 30 percent. Seventeen percent of those who attend church regularly believe in reincarnation. Twenty-one percent of the Protestant population and 25 percent of the professing Catholic population believe in reincarnation.3
Can we really believe that it’s “not around here”?
The word reincarnation comes from the combination of Latin words re and incarnate, which mean to come into the flesh again. It is the belief that the soul or some individualized power passes after death into another body. There are all kinds of reincarnation beliefs in addition to the transmigration and reincarnation belief of Buddhists and Hindus. L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology, suggests that one can reincarnate from life forms on other planets. (Who was E.T. in his previous life?)
Eastern reincarnationists desire moral, spiritual, and, in some instances, bodily perfection, but they believe that one lifetime is not enough to reach that perfection. In some form or another, the self is in a continual wheel of rebirth.8
Shirley MacLaine told Time magazine that she was “a former prostitute, my own daughter’s daughter, and a male court jester who was beheaded by Louis XV of France”—all in past incarnations that she believes she has rediscovered with the aid of mediums, meditation, and, in at least one case, acupuncture.10
The quote about being her own daughter’s daughter puzzled me. She believes that one of her lifetimes ended when she, as a young woman with a daughter, died. Then when her daughter had a daughter, she was reincarnated again as that daughter. So, in a sense, she became her own granddaughter! How can I comment on that? It took me long enough just to figure it out!
Reincarnation and the Bible
Two passages in the Bible are frequently quoted to try to support the reincarnation view. One is the argument that the Bible teaches the law of karma in stating that we “reap what we sow.” Some reincarnationists interpret this as meaning that such results could occur in another life.
Jesus did teach that our present actions have future consequences, but He never taught the doctrine of karma. When Paul gave God’s warning in Galatians 6:7 (“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap”), he was referring to the one lifetime we have on earth, not multiple lifetimes.
Some reincarnationists claim the Bible agrees with them because John the Baptist was Elijah reincarnated. This idea is based upon the following passage:
And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matt. 17:10–13. See also Matt. 11:14 and Mark 9:11–13)
How do we answer that assumption? First, in order for reincarnation to take place, the first body has to die. In 2 Kings 2:9–18, we learn that Elijah never died but was taken to heaven, mysteriously and dramatically, in a fiery chariot. How, then, could he be reincarnated?
In the minds of the Jewish delegation who questioned John, Elijah was associated with the coming of the Messiah. In John 1:21, John the Baptist is asked if he is Elijah, and he answers, “I am not.” That’s pretty clear.
So Be Forewarned!
Reincarnation encourages people to place a lower value on human life.
A visit to India should convince us that the land of predominant Hindu belief is impoverished and starving. Sacred cows roam the streets while diseased and maimed beggars plead throughout every town and city.
God puts more value on one human life than on the whole world. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Read it again. It doesn’t say souls.
The importance of this present life is not one of countless reincarnations to be quickly ended, to get it over with and get on to the next. In this present life, we determine where we are going to spend eternity. If we have the idea that this life is no big deal, that if we mess it up we have another chance, then we’re off the track and headed for collision with the Word of God.
Caryl Matriciana, who grew up in an aristocratic family in India, tells the story of walking through the streets of Calcutta with her mother and seeing a place called a “rat temple.”
A god was said to have returned as a rat in one of his reincarnations, so bowls of fresh milk were put out daily for the thousands of rats who were breeding in the infested temple. Although milk was too expensive for the lower-class masses to afford, the believers made sure the sacred rats were fed.9
Reincarnation pushes people into psychic encounters with demonic forces.
Terri Hoffman headed an organization called the Conscious Development of Body, Mind, and Soul, Inc., in Dallas. She began teaching small classes where half of each session was spent in group meditation. One former student said, “Terri would talk about reincarnation and about how to become more spiritually developed.” She said she was given special knowledge about previous lifetimes and other planes of existence where, she claimed, humans ascend after death.
“Over a 12-year period, 10 people with close ties to Terri Hoffman met untimely deaths through suicide, accident, or, possibly, murder. Several of them left money and valuable property to her.”15
It was reported in the October 1990 issue of Good Housekeeping that Terri and her organization were also under criminal investigation by the Dallas County district attorney’s office.
What forces were at play in this woman, who claimed to have been given special knowledge about previous lifetimes and other planes of existence, that led to these tragedies?
The only way to regress into other lives is to go to a therapist, a psychic, or a spiritist who in some way induces a state of mind where a person does not have full control.
Whenever you are tempted to consult some “spiritual adviser” who does not believe in the Scripture and does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, just remember some of these warnings:
“Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:31).
“A man or woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them” (Lev. 20:27).
According to 2 Kings 23:24, consulting mediums increased in a time of rebellion and idolatry. However, when Israel experienced revival and restoration, the spiritists, mediums, and idols disappeared.
We can look at America today and say that a spirit of rebellion is sweeping our land. In a post-Christian culture, anything goes, including moral bearings. There is no other explanation for the growth of the New Spirituality than the defiance or ignorance of God’s Word.
Reincarnation presents the false hope of a second chance.
Reincarnation is a system of moral evolution. As a person goes through a countless number of alleged lives, moral issues need not be resolved here and now. You can get to them later.
Christ taught that people decide their eternal destiny in this one lifetime. One of His followers wrote the teaching I cited to my fellow airplane passenger, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
It is important to decide for or against Jesus Christ here and now. If you were the adversary, wouldn’t it be a master stroke to deceive mankind into believing there is no real problem? If you have all of this life and as many other lives as you need to get it right, there is no urgency to decide about your own eternity.
If it were true that there were other lives in which we could get right with God, isn’t it rather unloving of Jesus not to let us know? Instead, He told this story, recorded in Luke 16, to make His point clear.
We do not have a second chance; the Bible teaches that we have one precious life. That life is a wonderful stewardship and trust that has been given to us from God, and while we live on this earth one time, God wants us to bring honor and glory to His name and to live in such a way that we will be a reflection of who He is in our lives.
Any of us, in a moment’s time, could stand before God and give an account of our lives and who we are. You want to live again? Jesus is the One who has all the answers that the reincarnationist doctrine can never resolve. He put His foot on the neck of death and destroyed its power. When you put your trust in Christ, you will live forever in His presence.
Reincarnation is just one of the old beliefs that the New Spirituality is rejuvenating. It is joined by other fellow travelers in the subversion.
The Christian Alternative to Reincarnation
To present a case that is plausible to a jury, the defense must have some solid information. Here are four provable facts:
1. The process of reincarnation cannot cleanse us from our sins; only the person of the Lord Jesus Christ can do that!
“Who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3, emphasis mine).
2. The process of reincarnation is not my hope for the future; the promises of God are.
“But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1:22–23, emphasis mine).
3. The process of reincarnation is in direct opposition to the doctrine of Christ’s bodily resurrection.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the guarantee that we shall also be resurrected someday. “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Acts: 24:15, emphasis mine).
4. The process of reincarnation does not do away with the judgment in the future.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27, emphasis mine).
Why is this belief growing? We know it is seeping into every corner of our society, but the only reason we don’t know how fast it’s growing is because we can’t get our arms around it. There is no way to track it. However, people are pulled in because it’s what they believe is a wonderful way to deal with life.
First, it’s an escape from death. The Bible says that many people go through life in fear because they are in bondage to death. If you believed in reincarnation, you wouldn’t have to worry about dying. Reincarnation is Satan’s major lie to deal with the problem of death. Remember what Satan told Eve in the Garden? “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). The reincarnationist believes you’ll just check out of this life and start over in a new life.
Do we face the fact that death is a reality? That’s the question in the heart of every human being, whether or not the person wants to admit it. George Bernard Shaw wrote with a wry wit, “The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die.”
Billy Graham said in his book Facing Death and the Life After, “The truth is that all of us have our time to die, and the conspiracy of silence that so often surrounds death today cannot change that fact. . . . Within most of us is a strong desire to hold on to physical life as long as possible.”14
Reincarnation purports to take the fear out of death.
Next, reincarnation provides an excuse for sin. It is appealing to a lot of people because it allows them to continue living the way they are without ever having to deal with their sin and helplessness before God. Why should you feel personally accountable if you have the opportunity to go around one more time, trying to get it right? For instance, if a reincarnationist is pursuing an immoral lifestyle, he or she doesn’t have to deal with the consequences because it’s not his or her fault. It is the result of something that happened in the past, and this person is just living out his or her karma.
I have heard the most bizarre things about how movie stars who are into reincarnation explain their adulterous affairs. They say they were really married in a past life to the person with whom they are committing adultery. Now the past-life husband (or wife) has migrated into their present lover’s body, so they are having a reunion from a past-life relationship. (How do they celebrate wedding anniversaries? “We just had our twenty-fifth hundredth anniversary!”)
Third, reincarnation supposedly has a great explanation for evil. The principle of karma answers the question of suffering and evil in each person’s life. Everyone is suffering what he or she deserves. If you are suffering, it is because you did something worthy of suffering when you lived before. This doesn’t solve the problem of why people suffer.
The reincarnation issue is dangerous because it doesn’t have the answer to suffering, evil, or life after death. It leaves a person with little hope for today or the future.
3 Norman L. Geisler and J. Yutaka Amano, The Reincarnation Sensation (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1986), 7–8.
8 Cited in Geisler and Amano, Reincarnation Sensation.
10 “The Best Year of Her Lives,” Time, 14 May 1984, 62.
9 Caryl Matriciano, Gods of the New Age (Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1985), 44.
15 Rosalind Wright, “Love, Death, and Terri Hoffman,” Good Housekeeping, October 1990, 62.
David Jeremiah and Carole C. Carlson, Invasion of Other Gods : The Seduction of New Age Spirituality (Dallas: Word, 1995). 55.
David Jeremiah and Carole C. Carlson, Invasion of Other Gods : The Seduction of New Age Spirituality (Dallas: Word, 1995). 40.
14 Billy Graham, Facing Death and the Life After (Minneapolis: Grason, 1987), 52.
David Jeremiah and Carole C. Carlson, Invasion of Other Gods : The Seduction of New Age Spirituality (Dallas: Word, 1995). 53.