My Nepali friends asked me this question after reading:
Matthew 12:32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this world or the next.
From the perspective of a culture which is 81% Hindu and 9% Buddhist, I can see how this could sound like reincarnation.
I really love this question. I’ve been asking some Christian friends, to see how they respond, and to get them thinking. It’s a great discussion-starter.
Wikipedia: Reincarnation is the philosophical or religious belief that the non-physical essence of a living being starts a new life in a different physical form or body after biological death. It is also called rebirth or transmigration.
The short answer is
Hebrews 9:27 People die once, and after that they are judged.
This life is our only chance to get right with God. Reincarnation allows as many lives as are necessary to be good enough to move on to eternity.
Romans 3:10 as Scripture says, “Not one person has God’s approval. 11No one understands. No one searches for God. 12Everyone has turned away. Together they have become rotten to the core. No one does anything good, not even one person.
23 Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.
John 3:16 God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. 17God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but to save the world. 18Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son.
The Bible teaches that it’s impossible to be good enough to enter Heaven. Before anyone of us can distinguish between right and wrong, we’re already expert sinners.
Romans 6:23 The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.
To cover the price for our sin, which is death, God sent his own Son, Jesus, into this world, to live a perfect life, but he paid the death penalty for us. Since he was perfect, death could not keep him, so he rose again. This is evidence of God’s promise that after this life, we will be raised again too. Then we will be judged – some to eternal punishment and others to eternal paradise. We won’t be judged by the good and bad things that we have done, but whether we have accepted Jesus’ precious gift, which covers our penalty. Those who do not believe that Jesus is the eternal son of God who was sacrificed to offer us the gift of eternal life will be found guilty. Those who believe in Jesus, although just as sinful, will be forgiven and their guilt covered so they can stand before the eternally holy and righteous God without fear. This is “the next world” referred to in Matthew 12. Believing in Jesus leads to a life of doing good and trying not to sin. These are merely symptoms of that belief.
What happens after death?
Before Jesus, the Bible often talks about “resting with their fathers”.
1 Kings 2:10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David.
It is interesting when King Saul had abandoned God, he went to a medium to conjure the spirit of his old spiritual mentor, Samuel, although God hates this.
Deuteronomy 18:9 When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, never learn the disgusting practices of those nations. 10You must never sacrifice your sons or daughters by burning them alive, practice black magic, be a fortune teller, witch, or sorcerer, 11cast spells, ask ghosts or spirits for help, or consult the dead. 12Whoever does these things is disgusting to the Lord. The Lord your God is forcing these nations out of your way because of their disgusting practices.
This fascinating story is in 1 Samuel 28.
1 Samuel 28:15 Samuel asked Saul, “Why did you disturb me by conjuring me up?”
19 … Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. And then the Lord will hand Israel’s army over to the Philistines.”
The next day, Saul’s army was defeated, and he committed suicide, ultimately because of this rebellion.
Most understand that before Christ, after death, people would be held in the underworld. Most think of this as being suspended in the sleep of death until the resurrection.
In Luke 16:19-31 Jesus tells a story of a poor beggar and a rich man in the afterlife. The beggar rested with Abraham, but the rich man was tortured in Hades. When the rich man asked Abraham to send the beggar with his finger dipped in water to cool his tongue,
25 “Abraham replied, ‘Remember, my child, that you had a life filled with good times, while Lazarus’ life was filled with misery. Now he has peace here, while you suffer. 26Besides, a wide area separates us. People couldn’t cross it in either direction even if they wanted to.’
This shows that there were two very different places where the dead would go.
However, with Jesus’ death and resurrection, things changed. He’d won the victory over death, that the righteous would not longer simply rest, but would live in paradise. On the cross, Jesus tells the guy next to him:
Luke 23:43 … “I can guarantee this truth: Today you will be with me in paradise.”
A time will come, many believe very soon, when Jesus will collect the saints from this world, probably before the time of a great destruction often called the apocalypse or the tribulation.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 Brothers and sisters, we don’t want you to be ignorant about those who have died. We don’t want you to grieve like other people who have no hope. 14We believe that Jesus died and came back to life. We also believe that, through Jesus, God will bring back those who have died. They will come back with Jesus. 15We are telling you what the Lord taught. We who are still alive when the Lord comes will not go ⌊into his kingdom⌋ ahead of those who have already died. 16The Lord will come from heaven with a command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet ⌊call⌋ of God. First, the dead who believed in Christ will come back to life. 17Then, together with them, we who are still alive will be taken in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. In this way we will always be with the Lord. 18So then, comfort each other with these words!
This implies that although our spirits might be with Jesus in Heaven, a moment will come when the bodies of the dead saints are reconstructed but will be immortal – like Jesus’ resurrected body. Living saints will be similarly transformed into immortal bodies before being taken to “meet the Lord in the air”.
In Revelation 20, at the end of the apocalypse, in verse 4, we read of the resurrection of those who’d been killed by the future satanic world emperor. They lived and ruled with Jesus for 1,000 years. At the end of the 1,000 years, the rest of the dead are judged. Those whose names were not written in God’s book of life are thrown into the fiery lake, where they will continually die forever.
After this, God will create a new universe, which will be eternally perfect and never be affected by sin, death, or corruption, forever.
Christians don’t believe in a cycle of reincarnation, but we will be resurrected before judgement. There seems to be few different times where the righteous are resurrected, starting with Jesus, but the unrighteous will be raised to their eternal punishment at the end of the universe in about 1000 years.
Thank you so much for such an interesting question. I pray that this is enlightening and blesses you as you seek to understand God’s word.