Question: How does the biblical idea of resurrection differ from the concept of reincarnation taught in other religions, or are they the same thing?
For those who grew up in a conservative Christian tradition it might be surprising that there is any question on this matter. However, the distinction between resurrection and reincarnation has become increasingly blurred in western culture, at least since the 1960’s.
Belief in reincarnation in western culture has been born largely out of a confusion of ideas from eastern religions and the occult. Consequently, those who believe in some form of reincarnation do not necessarily hold to any particular religious beliefs from which either reincarnation or resurrection stems.
Reincarnation is the belief that a soul departs a body at death and enters another body (either human, animal, ghost, demon, etc., depending on the religion). Buddhism, originally, taught that the “soul” did not exist but that a person who has not achieved enlightenment at the time of death will be reborn. In eastern religions, karma (unavoidable reward & punishment) determines the body one is given.
Resurrection is a biblical teaching. Scripture states that there will be a bodily resurrection of all mankind. Those who belong to Jesus Christ will be resurrected at His second coming to live eternally with Jesus in heaven:
1Cor. 15:20-23 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.
For those who die without acknowledging Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord there will be a resurrection at the Final Judgment. Because they had not been set free from sin by Jesus Christ in their earthly life they will be resurrected (reunited with their bodies) for eternal existence in hell. As Jesus taught in the Gospel of John:
John 5:28-29 Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.
Reincarnation and resurrection are dramatically different and incompatible concepts. According to the Bible, people live one earthly life, after which they are resurrected to eternal life or eternal damnation:
Heb. 9:27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…
Reincarnation has no place in a biblical worldview. In fact, the only thing standing between every person and eternal life is sin; and Jesus came that we might be saved from sin and its eternal consequences:
John 3:17-18 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
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