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Reincarnation in the Bible

Part of God's Plan?

Space: Reincarnation in the Bible
Tile drawing from Ravenna, Italy, of Emperor Justinian I.
Picture courtesy

During the Second Council of Constantinople (Fifth Ecumenical Council), 553 AD, several anathemas were declared against Origen. The first one of these involved the "pre-existence of souls." The condemnation states, "If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema." This meant that anyone who believes in such things is to be banished, excommunicated, or denounced. This was 300 years after the death of Origen.

This council had its problems, not all of them theological. First of all, it was convened by Emperor Justinian. Pope Vigilius refused to attend. In fact, the Pope had been under arrest for the six years prior to that. All forms of Christianity other than the Orthodox (Nicean) were being suppressed.

In the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries, the Cathars of France were suppressed, massacred and annihilated. They believed in reincarnation. They were a Christian sect with elements of dualism and gnosticism.

Space: Reincarnation in the Bible
Statue of Giordano Bruno.
Picture courtesy

In 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his heretical ideas. He also believed in reincarnation. His was a brilliant mind which went beyond the limiting ideas of Copernicus. He pictured an infinite universe where each star was a sun like our own, and that our sun was not the center of the universe, and certainly neither was the Earth.

The Church has long struggled with the idea of reincarnation. Part of the problem is the uncomfortable, Eastern idea of being reincarnated into an animal body, rather than only human bodies. Many Christians today argue that to believe in reincarnation is to refute the "resurrection." But is this really true? I think not, but let us examine the subject more closely.

For some, resurrection at the day of judgment means bodily resurrection. That poses a real problem. For many bodies, the component elements are no longer in one place. In fact, some of the elements that once made someone's liver or spleen may now exist in the bodies of several others. Worms and bacteria decay a dead body, these are ingested by other animals, who are in turn eaten by other animals, who are in turn eaten by humans. If the bodies of those earlier people were suddenly to appear, then this would not be resurrection, but re-creation from nothing, otherwise several people could suddenly be missing vital organs when those elements were suddenly returned to the long dead.

God is Not Interested in Human Bodies

I have always had a problem with the interpretation of a bodily resurrection. A reawakening of the consciousness of a lifetime is another interpretation, and this view is compatible with reincarnation.

Jesus on one occasion advised his followers that they would not rejoin their spouses in heaven in eternal matrimony. The activities of spirit are quite different from those of mortals. The implication is that the bodies will not make it to heaven, but the souls might.

Understanding the tragedies that pepper human history is impossible unless we remove the importance of human bodies. Looking again at Genesis 1:26 we see that Man was created in God's image. I think we can all agree that God is not Homo sapiens, so Man must be intrinsically a non-physical, spiritual and immortal source of creation, for that is the image of God. If the bodies were so important, then why did God bring about the Flood of Noah?

If not the bodies, then what is so important to God? The answer is simple: His immortal, but "dead-to-the-world" children, sleeping in their cacoons of Homo sapiens flesh.

Where is Reincarnation in the Bible?

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The Missing Link
in Christianity
by Elizabeth Clare Prophet
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Matthew 17:12–13

"But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist."

The disciples were concerned about prophecy. If Jesus was who he was supposed to be, then Elijah was supposed to have returned before Jesus's own arrival. Here, Jesus calms their concerns by telling them that Elijah had indeed returned (reincarnated). Their Master is not talking about the likeness of Elijah, his "kind," traits or qualities.

Quite specifically, He states that "Elijah has already come." He emphasizes this point by stating that "they did not recognize him." Some had asked John, while he was still alive, if he was Elijah returned, but he denied it. Yet, who do we believe — John or Jesus? Could it be that John could not remember, but Jesus could see John's true self — the soul of Elijah within?

John 9:1–2

"And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

By their question, the disciples are implying reincarnation. Why? How can a man deserve to be born blind unless he had committed some crime in a prior life? Jesus did not rebuke them. He did not correct their silly notion about the possibility of reincarnation. Their Master's answer is equally profound. He says neither the man nor his parents sinned, and the reason was "that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

Matthew 26:52

"Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

Here Jesus is telling his followers that they will reap what they sow. Apparently, Peter was about to defend himself with a sword against Roman soldiers. But how can such a statement be taken literally? There are so many criminals who are not brought to justice. There are so many murderers and mobsters who dish out all manner of tragedy to others, but apparently receive little or none for themselves. The only way those bad people could reap their just reward is to receive it in their next incarnation. The next passage makes this clear.

Numbers 14:18

"The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation."

Notice how it says that God is "longsuffering." It also says that "by no means" does He clear the guilty, "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation." But how is this "visiting the iniquity" making the "guilty" pay for their crimes? Are the children "guilty" only by being born into the perpetrator's family? And what is this about "third and fourth generation?" What happened to the first, second, fifth, sixth, and others?

The answer is quite simple: Three or four generations gives the perpetrator enough time to live out his life, die, be born again and grow up to the point where he will appreciate the boomerang he had thrown three or four generations earlier. In other words, it takes that long for his karma to catch up with him. So, it isn't innocent children who pay for the perpetrator's crimes. It is the perpetrator himself who reaps what he has sown.

But Doesn't the Bible Also Refute Reincarnation?

Some Christians who refuse to see reincarnation in the Bible, like to use the following passage as proof that the Bible refutes the concept. But read it carefully. Does it talk about reincarnation? What does it really say?

Hebrews 9:27

"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

These human bodies are temporary. Certainly, they live only once and then die. Afterward, the virtues and demerits of a person's life are judged. This says nothing of the immortal, true self. In fact, the passage is completely neutral on the subject of reincarnation.

Look at the passage from a different perspective. One man is born, named Tom, and lives out his life, dies, and is judged for Tom's actions. The immortal self who had lived in the body called "Tom" is responsible for those actions. Another body, named Bill, is born, grows up, lives out his life, dies and is judged for the works performed by Bill. Bill is born after the death of Tom. The immortal, true self which inhabited Tom, then inhabited the body known as "Bill." Each personality is judged for its own works, but the immortal is the same being.

In the Judas Gospel (Dead Sea Scrolls), Jesus tells Judas not to worry about his own fame. He tells his wayward disciple that he will exceed them all by betraying the man Jesus wears. What strange wording. Yet, Jesus is talking about his own spiritual nature. The body is only incidental, like a set of clothing.

What is the Value of Reincarnation to God's Children?

It can be helpful in understanding complex ideas to work from an analogy. Motion pictures and television have supplied us with a great many metaphors for reincarnation.

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