Webster’s Dictionary defines reincarnation as “A fresh embodiment, a rebirth in new bodies, or forms of life, the rebirth of a soul in a new body.” Various versions of Hinduism and Buddhism advocate reincarnation in a variety of different forms. There is no justification for bringing reincarnation into the belief system of Christianity, and there is nothing in the Bible that suggests in any way that reincarnation takes place.
There are those who teach that Enoch was reincarnated based on the fact that Hebrews 11:5 says that he was “translated that he should not see death.” This is a reference to Genesis 5:24 which says, “…Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him.” These passages do not say that Enoch lived in a physical form on Earth all over again. He simply didn’t die as we do.
Some people hold up Elijah as an example of reincarnation. In Malachi 4:5 God told Israel, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” At the transfiguration when the disciples saw Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah, they remembered the prophecy of Malachi and they asked Jesus about it. Jesus responded, “’…Elijah has already come, and they did not know him but did whatever they wanted. Even so, shall the Son of man suffer because of them.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking about John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:12-13). John the Baptist had that same Spirit as Elijah, but John was his own person, not Elijah living in a new body.
We seem to confuse the words resurrection and reincarnation. The Bible clearly teaches that we will all be resurrected (John 5:28-29). But 1 Corinthians 15:44 makes it clear that the resurrected body is new, but it is us–not a resurrected body of someone else. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that “…it is appointed to men to die once, and after that comes the judgment.” Reincarnation would suggest more than one death. If the version of reincarnation one holds to is that the reincarnated body is that of an animal, then the whole message of heaven is lost.
I am thankful reincarnation is not true. It would not be encouraging to believe that the best I can hope for after I die is to return to this same contaminated, evil-saturated Earth and live again with all the pain and loss I had to endure the first time around.
–John N. Clayton © 2017
People have constructed massive structures and religious places of worship to get in contact with God. Islam has Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad with the Kaaba being the “House of God.” Buddhism has its shrines with the five elements–fire, air, earth, water, and wisdom. Bahai followers have their temples with the oldest one near Chicago, Illinois. Hindus have their “mandir” temples with the world’s largest one in the New York City metro area. The Mormons have the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City while Catholics have the Vatican. All of these cost a great deal of money, and all of them are geographically limited and impersonal. None of them are consistent with the biblical teachings for Christians. Where is God’s dwelling place?
Jesus made it clear that a new relationship was coming with the advent of Christianity. When Christ spoke with the Samaritan woman in John 4:20-24, He indicated that there would be no single place for worship. Peter in Acts 2:16-21 quotes Joel 2:28-32 in observing how worship of God and the presence of God was changing. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 we read that our bodies are now the “temple of God.” Ephesians 3:17 indicates that Christ dwells in the hearts of Christians based on love. Galatians 4:4-6 tells us that God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.
The Church is people, not places. It can meet anywhere, under any conditions, with no expense or construction or long pilgrimage required. The Church we read about in the Bible did not own a temple or a house of any kind. When we read Acts 2:46 we see Christians meeting from “house to house.” The disciples met in an “upper room,” and they even met in the Temple (Acts 3:1). There is no justification for spending millions of dollars on a physical place to meet while people starve or freeze to death within sight of the structure.
In Acts 17:22-31 Paul talks to the leaders of the day about God’s dwelling place. In verse 24 he told them and us that God “does not dwell in temples made with hands.” He then told his listeners that people “feel after God and try to find him though he is not far from every one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being” (verses 27 and 28). Paul told them they should not think of God as something made by art and human design. He calls on them to repent (verse 30).
Atheists attack the abuses of religion and the waste of religious acts, and much of their criticism is valid. Humans do silly, wasteful things, but that has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches us about God. God’s dwelling place is not in our structures but in us. That fact should affect our lives as we understand what He calls us to do with what He has given us.
–John N. Clayton © 2017