A growing number of people are open to the subject of past lives, and the belief in rebirth—reincarnation, metemphsychosis, or transmigration—is becoming commonplace. But it often thought that belief in reincarnation and Christianity are incompatible.
But is this really true? May a Christian believe in reincarnation? The answer may surprise you.
Reincarnation-also known as the transmigration of souls-is not just some exotic idea of non-Christian mysticism. Nor is it an exclusively Hindu-Buddhist teaching.
In orthodox Jewish and early Christian writings, as well as the Holy Scriptures, we find reincarnation as a fully developed belief, although today it is commonly ignored. But from the beginning it has been an integral part of Orthodox Judaism, and therefore as Orthodox Jews, Jesus and his Apostles would have believed in rebirth.
This historical study of reincarnation in both Judaism and Christianity cites many authorities of both traditions, including many Christian saints and Fathers of the Church, as well as both Old and New Testaments.
Discover for yourself the answer the question, may a Christian believe in reincarnation? by reading this illuminating article.
“Those needing evidence that a belief in reincarnation is in accordance with teachings of the Christ need look no further: Plainly laid out and explained in an intelligent manner from one who has spent his life on a Christ-like path of renunciation and prayer/meditation. Highly recommended for anyone struggling with seemingly contradictory beliefs or simply wanting further insight into the foundational beliefs of early Christians.”
–Christopher T. Cook
Excerpts from May a Christian Believe in Reincarnation?
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, nearly a contemporary of Jesus, recorded that both the Essenes and the Pharisees believed in rebirth (not in the resurrection of the physical body as is presently thought). The Pharisees, he tells us,
“say that all the souls are incorruptible, but the souls of good men only, are removed into other bodies, but the souls of bad men are subject to punishments lasting for ages.”
That is, the good quickly reincarnate to work out their destined return to God, whereas the wicked undergo great sufferings in the other world, only getting the chance to return to the earth for further spiritual hope after the lapse of ages. He himself in a speech to some Jewish soldiers, said:
“Do ye not remember that all pure spirits when they depart out of this life obtain a most holy place in heaven, from whence in the revolution of ages, they are again sent into pure bodies?” (Jewish War, Book 3, chapter 8, no. 5).
Note that he says: “Do ye not remember?” indicating that they had been taught reincarnation previously.
Right away, in the New Testament, we encounter the subject of reincarnation. The Apostles believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but they had one doubt. In the book of Malachi there was the prophecy:
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5).
If Jesus was the Messiah, Elijah should have preceded him. So
“his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias [Elijah] must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them,…I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed.…Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (Matthew 17:10, 12, 13).
Previously, speaking to a crowd about John the Baptist, Jesus told them:
“This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.…And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come” (Matthew 11:10, 14).
Words could hardly be clearer, yet how many Christians today “are willing to receive it”? And they are the words of Jesus himself. As the modern philosopher-writer Robert Graves has commented about this passage:
“No honest theologian can therefore deny that his acceptance of Jesus as Christ [Messiah] logically binds every Christian to a belief in reincarnation–in Elijah’s case, at least.”
Reincarnation means responsibility
From all the foregoing we can draw the incontrovertible understanding that the individual soul, being endowed with free, creative will according to the divine image, must also shoulder the responsibility for that will–the responsibility being in the form of the irrevocable law:
“Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
The law is that we must receive back whatever we sow, not just a “suitable” punishment. This is reinforced by God’s own words already cited when he told Noah,
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.”
Retribution must be in the form of experiencing exactly what we have done to others–no substitute. For Jesus was not just putting forth a social directive when he said,
“All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).
He was simply restating the Law that whatever you do to others will in turn be done to you. And since “he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap,” rebirth is an absolute necessity, to provide us the flesh in which to reap what we have sown.