Eastern religions and a growing number of people in Western culture accept the belief that people are reincarnated after death. What does the Bible say about this issue?
First, a key verse in this discussion can be found in Hebrews 9:27: “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” Scripture is clear we only live one time, not many.
Second, our decisions in this life determine our status in the next life. The Gospel of John emphasizes the eternal nature of the afterlife by mentioning “eternal life” 17 times. This includes the well-known verse in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Third, believers will also experience the potential for eternal rewards. For example, Jesus noted persecuted believers should, “Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:12).
Fourth, those who do not believe will experience eternal punishment and separation from God. Matthew 25:46 notes this contrast between unbelievers and believers in Christ: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Jude 1:7 adds those at Sodom and Gomorrah “serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”
Fifth, if reincarnation was true, salvation through Jesus Christ would be unnecessary. Why? Reincarnation believes a person’s actions in this life (and past lives), referred to as karma, impacts future lives. In contrast, Jesus offers salvation as a gift based on His grace through faith alone: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Consider the consequences of those who believe in reincarnation. Since there is no future judgment after this life, there is no need to be saved. If there is no need to be saved, there is no need to believe in Jesus as Lord (though this is essential according to Scripture in John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10). If there is no need to be saved, then there is no ultimate reason to live according to God’s teachings found in the Bible. People may then choose right and wrong according to the ethic of their choosing, leading to various forms of morality and immorality.
In contrast, Scripture reveals we live one life on this earth followed by eternity in the afterlife. To be with God for eternity in the afterlife, we require salvation through Jesus Christ to be made right with God (John 14:6). As followers of Jesus Christ, we then seek to know His teachings found in the Bible and live according to His ways. This includes a life known for loving God and loving people (Matthew 22:34-40) and focused on making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Dillon Burroughs serves as senior writer at The John Ankerberg Show and has written nearly 40 books on issues of faith and culture. He is also an associate editor for The Apologetics Bible for Students and has contributed to many works on apologetics and Christian worldview. Dillon is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and holds a PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University. He lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with his wife, Deborah, and their three children.
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