Does the Bible Teach Reincarnation?
Reincarnation is the belief that a person's soul returns to the earth repeatedly in different forms until it becomes perfect and reunites with its source (God). This concept is described in the Bhagavad Gita ("Song of God"), a Hindu sacred book. The philosophy of reincarnation (called "rebirth" in Buddhist teachings) includes the concept of karma, which says the positive or negative circumstances we experience in this life are the result of our choices in past lives. This leads to a sort of fatalism in which you accept whatever life dishes out as a payment of dues from a forgotten time.
Some who believe in reincarnation use isolated Bible passages to support their views, including Jesus' statement, "You must be born again" (Jn 3:7), God's statement that He knew Jeremiah before he was born in his mother's womb (Jr 1:5), and the disciples' questioning of whether a man born blind sinned before his birth (Jn 9:2). (See Paul Copan, "Does the Bible Teach Reincarnation?" in The Apologetics Study Bible.) However, being born again is a spiritual act, not a physical one. God's statement about Jeremiah reveals that He foreknew him, not that Jeremiah previously existed as a different person. And the disciples misunderstood the blind man's condition; they supposed that his blindness was the result of someone's sin – his parent's sin, perhaps. They were mistaken.
God made men and women in His image, according to His likeness (Gn 1:27). While God treasures animals, plants, and other living creatures, He did not make them in His image. In addition, while other creatures have spirits, they do not have souls as people do. Therefore, we know that people are not reincarnated in the form of animals, rocks, trees, or other lower life forms. Our purpose is much higher than that which is envisioned in the doctrine of reincarnation. We come here once as mortals whose bodies will die but whose spirits will go on living forever. As the Bible plainly says, “It is appointed for people to die once - and after this, judgment” (Heb 9:27).
Reincarnation presents a low view of the physical body, in which the body is essentially a prison for the soul. But Scripture presents an elevated view of the body as carefully created by God and “a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit” (1Co 6:19). Those who believe in reincarnation tend to blame sin on the physical body and its desires, rather than taking responsibility for their choices. However, the Bible clearly teaches that each person is responsible for their choices, and the penalty for sin is physical death (Rm 6:23).
The only remedy for our sin is to establish a personal relationship with God through faith in our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 reminds us, “For you are saved by grace, through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift - not from works, so that no one can boast”. We cannot earn salvation through good works or “good karma”. In order to spend eternity with God, we must trust in the finished work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
This article can be found in "Apologetics Study Bible for Students", page 1334.
Please also see our comprehensive study for the book of Hebrews that includes commentary from www.enduringword.com.