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The Bible and reincarnation (part 2)
See also Part 1


Claims and responses

Original claims are in green.

My responses are indented.

Evidence for a pre-existence

This is fairly clearly taught in the Bible, and many reincarnationists do a good job of reporting the evidence. Mr. Dewey does a particularly good job in this department. I have no complaints here!

But the pre-existence is not the same as reincarnation.

Evidence for John the Baptist as Elias / Elijah

This is the key idea that reincarnationists always point to. Everything else relies on this.

"Why then do our teachers say that Elijah must come first? He replied, Yes Elijah WILL COME and set everything right. But I tell you that ELIJAH HAS ALREADY COME, and they failed to recognize him, and worked their will upon him; and in the same way the Son of Man is to suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that HE MEANT JOHN THE BAPTIST." Matt. 17:10-13 New English

[The people also thought that Jesus might be John the Baptist, who lived at much the same time. So clearly they were not referring to reincarnation, which requires a death before the next birth. They must have been referring to performing the role of that person, or perhaps being guided by that person's spirit.]

Even so, orthodox interpreters refuse to accept it. They say that John was not Elijah reborn but was merely like Elijah. They quote Luke to support their case: "And he (John) shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias" Luke 1:17

[exactly.]

Those who do not think that John is Elijah quote one more scripture. The Jews sent priests and Levites to John to find who John was: "And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No." John 1:21

Here we have an interesting contradiction. Jesus said definitely that John the Baptist was Elijah and John says he is not. Jesus said that he was the prophet to fulfill the prophecy of Malachi (Matt. 11:9-10) and John said he was not. What is the explanation.?

[Simply that John was in the spirit and power of Elijah, but was not the literal individual Elijah .]

As John the Baptist he had lost all memory of his life as Elijah. It is quite possible that he was not aware of who he was in the past.

[Then why did the angel not tell him, when he was called to perform the work of Elijah? If even David was supposedly told about his past lives, and he didn't need to know, surely John would have been told! The angel Gabriel came down specially to foretell John's ministry - why didn't he mention that?]

On the other hand, even if John suspected his true identity the priests and Levites would be the last ones he would want to tell who he was.

[But would he lie? Jesus never said "I am not the Christ"]

"And if ye will receive it, THIS IS ELIAS, which was for to come." Matt. 11:7,9-11,13-14

[It is common to say "this is so-and-so" - it is a simple metaphor. Hence John 19:26-27, "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." Matthew 12:50: "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Does this mean that Jesus' mother and family were reincarnated several times, all at once? See also, "ye are the salt of the earth," "I am the vine, ye are the branches," "ye are the temple of the living God," etc.]

This is really a poor translation evidently because of bias against reincarnation. The Concordant version says it most accurately: "And if you are willing to receive HIM, HE IS ELIJAH..."

[And by implication, "if you are NOT willing to receive him, he is NOT Elijah" - so this is symbolic.]

It seems at this point that one would have to go out on a limb to claim that John was not Elijah, but merely one like Elijah. For one thing his mission was quite different from the historical Elijah

[but very similar to Malachi's prophecy: he prepared the way]

and most importantly Malachi says that Elijah, THE PROPHET (Malachi 4:5) shall return, not Elijah the personality.

[Elijah did return, in 1836 - see Doctrine and Covenants 110]

Accordingly, we may look for the appearance of Elijah again in this age to prepare the way for the coming of Christ. Rest assured though that his name will not be Elijah in this life

[why not? When Jesus returns, his name will still be Jesus]


Miscellaneous points (subtitles are my own)


The use of the names "Joseph" and "Judah"

The Bible gives numerous indications that the holy men-of the scriptures have lived before. The Lord actually revealed to David two of his previous lives. He wrote: "This he ordained in JOSEPH for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I HEARD A LANGUAGE THAT I UNDERSTOOD NOT. I (the Lord) removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots. Thou callest in trouble, and I delivered thee; and answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I PROVED THEE AT THE WATERS OF MERIBAH." Psalms 81:5-7

[The context shows he is speaking of Joseph as a nation, not an individual. Joseph is a name used for the whole of Israel, just as Ephraim is often used for the northern kingdom, and Judah is used for the southern kingdom. See Psalm 77:15-20 for another example.]

References to people existing in the future

"Go thy way Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end...But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." Daniel 12:9~13.

"Behold, I will send you ELIJAH THE PROPHET before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" Malachi 4:5-6

[This shows that life continues beyond death, but it does no necessarily show evidence of reincarnation. Elijah appeared to Joseph Smith, but he was still the same Elijah.]

Paul's use of the terms "alive in Christ" and "dead to sin"

Paul tells us that he lived a past life where he was not under the law of Moses: "FOR I WAS ALIVE WITHOUT THE LAW ONCE: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." Rom 7:9

[The context shows that this has nothing to do with reincarnation. His "death" refers to being separated form God by sin. "Life" refers to being born again BY BAPTISM - see Romans chapter 6. The idea of being "once" alive without the law could refer to before he was taught by Gamaliel. Or the Greek word "pote," translated as "once," may not refer to a temporal state at all. (For example, the first time it is used, it is translated "footstool!") ]

Here Paul could only be speaking of a previous life because in his life as Paul he was born under the law of Moses.

[He was born under it, true, but his point is that he was happy in his ignorance until he LEARNED the law.]

John the apostle, a translated being

John the Revelator ... "if I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" John 21:21-23 ... If then John did not have the promise of deathlessness the only way he could tarry here on the earth until the Lord comes is by a series of lives.

[All we know is that he may die, but would stay until Jesus returned. This could be accomplished by dying and being resurrected . Or, it could refer to a death that is a kind of instant translation into an immortal form that is not yet resurrection. Either way, this verse does not imply reincarnation. Reincarnation would imply many deaths, but the meaning of the word "tarry" implies something continuous.]

THOU MUST PROPHESY AGAIN BEFORE MANY PEOPLES, AND NATIONS, AND TONGUES, AND KINGS." Rev. 10:10-11

[John did this in the next chapters. His prophecy - the Book of Revelation - is before all the world. It is also possible that John has preached in person as a translated being.]

Blessings of church membership

Jesus gave us an interesting indication as to what was in store for his disciples. He said: "There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, and sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but HE SHALL RECEIVE AN HUNDREDFOLD IN THIS TIME, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the WORLD TO COME eternal life. And many that are first shall be last and the last first." Mark 10:29-31

... This prophecy cannot be literally fulfilled without reincarnation. On the other hand, Jesus knew that "in this time" or period of human existence we go through more than a hundred lifetimes. Thus he realized his words would be accurate.

[This prophecy cannot be fulfilled by reincarnation, which takes thousands of years to gain hundreds of lives. Jesus said these things would be given "NOW in this time." This is fulfilled as soon as someone joins the church. In the church we must share everything. Yes, we even have multiple families - see also Matthew 12:50: "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."]

God wants all men saved

Paul spoke of God "WHO WILL HAVE ALL MEN TO BE SAVED, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth." I Tim 2:4

[Certainly, God wants this, but he has also given us the freedom to choose. Some will choose to do evil, and will be in a hell of their own making for ever and ever. Plainly some - like the devils - will not be saved. Does reincarnation also save Satan?]

These scriptures cannot be fulfilled if every person is merely given one shot at life, but if men are born over and over until they fulfill the commandment to "overcome" exactly as Jesus did (Rev 3:21) then these passages can be literally fulfilled.

[If we forget our previous lives at birth, we will keep making the same mistakes again and again! So reincarnation is not the answer. However, there is a chance to continue to improve in the spirit world and the resurrection, so it is true that we are not expected to be perfect by the time we die.]

Was Jesus reincarnated?

[After quoting various scriptures] "...One way to interpret this is that the ten divisions of the world are the ten horns and the ten division of religions are the ten crowns. The churches and temples are like crowns upon the land."

[it may be one way, but you have not shown it is the right way]

Revelations Chapter 19 verse 12. I stated that on the head of Christ were many crowns. ... "Each crown here represents a life where a great victory was achieved..."

[There is no evidence for this!]

A crown represents an achievement or victory. The crowns on the head of Jesus represents past lives where there was great achievement

[But he already has all those achievements and victories in one life! There is no reason for multiple lives.]

And so on and so on.

We could go on and on, looking at scripture after scripture.

For example, what about the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). When the rich man died, he went to Hades. When Lazarus died, he went to paradise, called by the Bible "Abraham's bosom." There was no thought of coming back. Indeed, the rich man was desperate that his brethren should be warned!

Or when Jesus Christ was on the Mount of Transfiguration, He met with Moses and Elijah and He talked with them (see Matthew 17:1-3). Moses had been dead for years, but he was still Moses. He never lost his identity.

And so it goes on. I am sure that reincarnationists would have answers, but I think I have at least shown that the Bible is not as clearly pro-reincarnation as some people claim.

Having said that, one last topic deserves attention, as it is particularly important:


The Second Coming of Jesus
(see Matthew chapter 24)


Jesus' "presence"

When Jesus was with the twelve they asked him: "What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the World"(Greek: Age)? The word "coming" comes from the Greek PAROUSIA which more correctly is translated as "presence".

[Not quite. The word appears 24 times in the New Testament, and 22 times refer to physical presence. In Matthew 24, Jesus explains what he means by presence: "For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." and "But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." - nothing could be more dramatic!]

Thus we see that PAROUSIA means the opposite of "absence". The word can also be translated as "nearness". Thus we see that the signs given in Matthew chapter twenty-four are indications of the nearness or the presence of Christ

[It means much more than that. Jesus is already near ( Matthew 28:20: "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."). This appearance in Matthew 24 is much more.]

The three stages of the coming of Christ are:

[There is no evidence for the Second Coming being in these three stages.]

The common name Joshua / Jesus

A careful reading of Zechariah will reveal that the persons mentioned as Joshua and Zerubbabel are representative of the Christ. Keeping this in mind let us read: "Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be SEVEN EYES, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day." Zech 3:8-9

Here we have mention of Joshua who is Jesus

[This is very misleading. Yes, Joshua is the Hebrew form of the Greek Jesus. But there is no evidence that it referred to Jesus Christ. Many people living at the same time all had the name Joshua - it was a common name. This Joshua was simply the high priest in 520 BC, the son of.Jehozadak]

and the stone which is laid before him who was the overshadowing Christ, the stone of Israel.

[Agreed. But they are not the same person.]

Then there is the servant, the BRANCH

[The simplest explanation is that this is the same person as the stone.]

Finally there is a group of disciples who are "wondered at."

[The people who were with the High Priest Joshua at the time]

These persons are the seven eyes of the stone of Israel or the Christ.

[Why??]

They are seven entities who shall experience the overshadowing presence of Christ as Jesus did.

[There is no evidence for this.]

The use of the number "seven" in the Bible

The Bible often refers to groups of seven items. Sometimes these are literally seven, but often it is just symbolic of completeness. Hence Proverbs 26:16 "The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason." or the Sadducees' question regarding the resurrection, "Now there were with us seven brethren." In each case, should we try to identify who these seven men are? of course not.

Likewise, seven spirits just means many, hence in the parable in Matthew 12:45, "Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself," or the exorcising of Mary Magdalene, "out of whom went seven devils" (Luke 8:2). It is foolish to try to identify the seven spirits as individuals.

See also Proverbs 6:16 "these six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him," Proverbs 9:1 "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars," Proverbs 24:16 "a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again," Proverbs 26:25 "there are seven abominations in his heart," also "I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven," "seven horns," "seven eyes," "seven heads," "seven crowns," "seven angels," "seven trumpets," "seven plagues," "seven seals," "seven vials," etc., etc.]

"those seven, they are the eyes of the Lord, WHICH RUN TO AND FRO THROUGH THE WHOLE EARTH." Zech 4:10.

We find another mention of this in the Book of Revelation: "And in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God SENT FORTH INTO ALL THE EARTH." Rev 5:6

[You need to demonstrate that this is more than just symbolism. The Bible indicates that this is symbolic of omniscience. It cannot apply just to the last days in particular, because it is always true. See 2 Chronicles 16:9 (long before the last days): "For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him."

Also, it cannot refer to seven individual people, because they could not be at every part of the world at every time.]

Seven men are mentioned in another prophecy concerning Christ: "when the Assyrian shall come into our land: and when he shall tread in our palaces, then we shall raise against him SEVEN SHEPHERDS, and eight principle men." Micah 5:2 & 5

[The reference to "six.... and seven" or "seven... and eight" is simply a poetic device. See for example:

We see from these scriptures that there will be seven men raised up in the last days who will be called the eyes of the Lord and will run to and fro through the earth and finally that they will assist the Christ in driving back the Assyrian or the Anti-Christ forces.

[We see nothing of the kind!]

The second stage in the presence of Christ involves a larger group of disciples wherein the Christ within them will be manifest on a larger scale.  These disciples will try and fulfill the commandment given by Paul: "Let this mind BE IN YOU, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God."  Phil 2:5 In speaking of himself and faithful disciples he said:  "But we have the mind of Christ."  I Cor 2:16

[The words translated as "mind" ("nous" and "phroneo") simply mean understanding. Hence Phil 2:2 "Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." or 1 Cor1:10 "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." So, we are to be one with Christ only in the same way that we should be one with each other.]

Many people quote these scriptures, but few believe them. If we really have the mind of Christ then we will find that all of the scriptures that apply to Jesus also apply to us. 

[So we must all be crucified? We are each the ONLY begotten of the father? We each have a mother called Mary?]

Thus when we lift up the Son of Man within ourselves we also become the Only Begotten Son for we are an extension of the only Son there is for all the sons of men share a oneness that few can realize.

[How can EVERYone be the ONLY one? The words are becoming meaningless.]

Paul tried to teach the real Christ when he said: ''For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: SO ALSO IS CHRIST...Now ye are the body of Christ and members in particular." I Cor 12:12&27.

Thus we see that Christ is an office that is composed of all those who take upon themselves his name.

[And Jesus also said that the sacramental bread was his body. ("take, eat, THIS IS MY BODY") By the same logic, we could say that Christ is really a lump of bread. After all, didn't he call himself the bread of life? Paul was talking symbolically.]

At this point in the discussion, Mr. Dewey began to quote modern day scriptures - the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. This came as quite a surprise to me! But it is very helpful, because it allows us to arrive at a plain and clear conclusion.

All those scriptures were revealed through Joseph Smith. Does our author understand the plan of salvation better than Joseph Smith, who was taught by angels and by God himself? Since Joseph Smith is accepted as an authority, I think he should have the last word. (For more details, see Joseph Smith and reincarnation)

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Two (1834-37) p.104 - see also Documentary History of the Church 2:304-307

"I told Joshua I did not understand his remarks on the resurrection, and wished him to explain. . . .He said that he possessed the spirit of his fathers, that he was a literal descendant of Matthias, the Apostle, who was chosen in the place of Judas that fell; that his spirit was resurrected in him; and that this was the way or scheme of eternal life -- this transmigration of soul or spirit [i.e. reincarnation] from father to son.

"I told him that his doctrine was of the devil."

 

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