Chapter 1: Is There Reincarnation?

ill-bannerUrban Legends examines widely held beliefs and provides Biblical perspective on them. 
This is how legends are born.
Herod didn’t really know what to make of Jesus. (Many people still don’t) He didn’t know what to make of his miraculous powers especially – his ability to do crazy miracles, like his instant cure of leprosy, instant restoration of vision to the blind, instant lengthening of limbs for the lame… Come to think of it, everything the guy did seemed instant, like someone who lives in the 21st century where instancy is de rigueur – instant passport photographs, instant noodles, instant coffee, instant marriage… This was a Man who magically turned five loaves and two fishes into a mass of sandwiches. And he had a habit of raising the dead.
The people called Jesus Teacher for the simple reason he taught them. They were so hungry for his teachings that even when he went to the beach a crowd gathered. (Matthew 13:1-3 MSG) The guy was a phenom, a celebrity! And he was hardly thirty. Some of course called him prophet. But this was a modern prophet. He was unlike those brand name guys in the Old Testament – Moses, Elijah, Elisha. This prophet socialized, went to parties, related with politicians, and religious figures, the elites and socialites. He was urbane. But he was equally at home with the masses. He was accommodating as well, especially of notorious sinners. The only other prophet in his day was an eccentric bloke called John. (He used to go about dressed like the Flintstones). History will label him John the Baptizer, or John the Baptist; but he wasn’t a member of the Baptist denomination. They called him John the Baptizer because he used to ask people to come for baptism as a symbol of repentance. He was a fiery preacher and people in government feared him. They couldn’t lock him up because he was popular with the masses. The masses adored him. He spoke truth to power, wasn’t afraid of anyone. That boldness would eventually land him in trouble, and lead us into how urban legends are born.
The regional ruler at the time was a man named Herod. Lest you get things mixed up there were many Herods in the Bible, which kind of made Herod sound like a title but it was just branding. And they were all notorious. There was Herod the Great – the Christmas massacre guy. He ordered the killing of all infants two years and under, just to get Jesus. Horrible guy. He reigned 37-4BC. (You count down with BC and count up with AD). Then there was Herod Archelaus, one of the three sons of Herod the Great. Ruled 4BC – 6AD. When Joseph brought Jesus back from Egypt he refused to resettle in Judea in fear of Herod Archelaus. The apple does not fall far from the tree.
Then there was Herod Antipas. He’s the one we’re really interested in. Ruled AD4 – 39. Jesus called him “the Fox.” He divorced his first wife and married Herodias, the wife of his brother.
Then there was Herod Phillip the Tetrach. He would marry his niece. Let’s just call her Salome the Belly Dancer, and we’ll soon see why. Curiosa, curiosa, she was the daughter of Herodias!
Then there was Herod Agrippa I (AD37-44). He was a grandson of the first Herod (Herod the Great), and nephew of Herodias. He was the one who murdered Apostle James, the brother of Apostle John. He also put Peter in prison. (Acts 12:1-5) But he died rotted on the spot, filled with maggots – apparently from glory misappropriation and overdose. He never gave glory to God. (Acts 12:20-23) At the event in which he died the people had kept shouting “The voice of God!” as he spoke. Let’s just say God had had enough of him so he struck him dead and fast-forwarded his putrefaction. The maggots arrived very early.
Then there was Herod Agrippa II (AD50s-93). He was the one who interviewed Paul with Festus, the Roman Procurator. That’s a big sounding title for regional commissioner for finance in the Roman Empire. It was this Festus who told Paul, “Paul, you’re crazy! You’ve read too many books, spent too much time staring off into space! Get a grip of yourself, get back in the real world!” (Acts 26:24)
So there you are – a tour of the dynasty of the Herods. Let’s get back to Herod Antipas the Fox and John the Baptizer.
When John the Baptizer called out the relationship between Herod Antipas and Herodias his brother Phillip’s wife, Antipas was understandably furious. He wanted to kill John. John had repeatedly told him, “It’s not lawful for you to have her.” He labeled him an adulterer. John was actually quoting the Law of Moses. That law states, “Don’t have sex with your brother’s wife; that would violate your brother.” (Leviticus 18:16) “If a man marries his brother’s wife, it is a defilement. He has shamed his brother. They will be childless.” (Leviticus 20:21) This was where John was coming from.
But this is how twisted the whole thing was. Herod Antipas married his brother Phillip’s wife, Herodias. Herodias herself was the daughter of another of Herod Antipas’ half brother, Aristobulus. Thus she was both wife and niece of both Herod Antipas and Herod Phillip – and a sister-in-law of her husband. Salome the belly dancer was Herodias’ daughter through Phillip. Salome was thus the daughter of, and grandniece of Phillip, as well as stepdaughter and grandniece by marriage of Herod Antipas. She was also daughter and grandniece of her own mother. (These Herods were crazy!) John was thus lacerating a tenderized boil full of puss when he criticized Herod for his divorce and remarriage to his niece/sister-in-law. Herodias was one tough babe!
Anyway, Herod arrested John and locked him up in prison. Herod’s birthday came and Herodias’ daughter provided entertainment, dancing for the guests. She was so captivating that Herod in a drunken fit promised on oath he’d give her anything she wanted. Her mum prompted her to ask for the head of John the Baptizer, and on a platter. That’s revenge served cold. Not wanting to lose face in front of all the VIPs Herod ordered the execution of John.
And so when Jesus showed up on the scene with all those miracles, Herod with his troubled conscience concluded that John had somehow risen from the dead and that was why he was able to do those miracles. Thus was born a reincarnation urban legend. Herod believed reincarnation confers extraordinary powers. The inexplicable miracles of Jesus were thus attributed to reincarnation. Men invent urban legends when they lack rational explanation for phenomena.
But the Bible doesn’t teach reincarnation. And the Bible doesn’t attribute miraculous powers to reincarnation for the simple reason that the Bible doesn’t teach reincarnation. Jesus never told the thief on the cross he’d have another chance to purify his soul through reincarnation. Jesus told him, “Today, you’ll be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
But wasn’t John the Baptist Elijah reincarnated? Didn’t Jesus say he was Elijah reincarnated? Not true. That story is found in Matthew 17:10-12. What Jesus was saying to the Jews was that John would come in the spirit of Elijah; meaning that fearless confrontational spirit that speaks truth to power. It was a metaphorical expression. In the prophecy concerning John’s birth the angel had specifically told his mum Elizabeth, “He will herald God’s arrival in the STYLE and strength of Elijah…” (Luke 1:17 MSG) In other words it was about style not body transaction. And anyway Elijah himself appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration. And he had a body. (Matthew 17) When John himself was asked if he was Elijah he categorically said, “No, I am not!” (John 1:21) Case closed.
Reincarnation is a tenet of Hinduism, Sikhism and Jainism, not Christianity. The Bible doesn’t teach karma – the supposed force created by a person’s actions that is believed to determine what a next life will be like. The Bible teaches that we’re destined to die ONCE and after that judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) The only rebirth recognized by the Bible is being born again. And Jesus made it clear to Nicodemus it’s not reincarnation. Nicodemus had wondered if he needed to return to his mother’s womb to be born a second time. (John 3) Spiritual rebirth takes place in this life not through successive deaths.
But the real point of departure between Christian theology and the doctrine of reincarnation is that reincarnation postulates that man can atone for his sins through successive purification rites of rebirth. In other words man can save himself. But the Bible says it’s the sacrifice of Jesus that saves us, and it took care of sins forever. (Hebrews 9:27-29; 1 John 2:2 MSG) Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. It is his blood that purifies us not successive cycles of reincarnation. At the last supper Jesus said his blood “is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin.” (Matthew 26:28) Colossians 1:14 says that in Christ “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:14 says the blood of Jesus purifies our consciences from dead works, not karma. “Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the cross, we’re a free people – free of penalties and punishments chalked up by our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. ABUNDANTLY FREE!” (Ephesians 1:7 MSG)
The difference between Christianity and other religions is that in Christianity salvation is based ENTIRELY on the sacrifice of Jesus, not the effort of man. All we need do is appropriate what Jesus has done for us.
If you do want a spiritual rebirth please pray this prayer: Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.


This post is in response to some of the comments on Facebook and Twitter about “proof” of reincarnation.

The most common “proofs” offered in support of reincarnation are body marks on newborns that mirror the marks on the body of a late adult in a genealogical line, say a grandfather or grandmother. It is the foundation of the belief in certain African communities that the grandfather or grandmother “has returned,” and the child is so named. The Ogbanje phenomenon in Eastern Nigeria is an outflow of this belief. But this is inconsistent with the teachings of scriptures. And anyway there’s no proof of the MECHANICS of reincarnation. We don’t know by what spiritual law reincarnation takes place, who authored those laws and how it’s brought to pass. All we have to go by and to draw very huge conclusion from is body markings. Body markings in themselves are not proof of reincarnation.

We can’t for example discount the power of the faith of the parents of the child in the emergence of those marks. Their faith in the reincarnation of a specific member of the family is powerful enough to license Satan to step into the circumstances. And people underestimate the creative capacity and power of Satan. This despite Bible admonitions. Didn’t the sorcerers in Egypt turn rods into snakes? Didn’t they turn water into blood and even conjure frogs? The priest of the Antichrist is going to command fire from heaven, animate the statue of the Antichrist. What are birthmarks on a child compared to those signs! Marks are important to Satan. He’s going to cause “everyone to obtain a mark on their right hand and on their forehead.” (Rev. 13:16) The Bible doesn’t tell us how. We just assume a lot.

In focusing on signs people miss Satan’s strategic import. The VERY idea of reincarnation makes nonsense of the need for the sacrifice of Jesus. If we can pay for our sins through successive cycles of death and rebirth why do we need a Saviour? You can’t be a Christian and hold on to the tenet of reincarnation. Christian faith and the doctrine of reincarnation are diametrically opposed. The doctrine of reincarnation attacks the very root of the Christian faith. And how can a soul be recycled? On judgment day whose soul is going to be judged? The Bible says we’ll give an account of things done in the flesh. If two different fleshes share a soul, which flesh is going to render account, and at what point does the tabulation begin: from the sinful ancient flesh, or from the sinless new flesh? The Bible doesn’t teach merger of successive fleshes. Each individual is assigned a flesh. And if a baby dies why would he need to reincarnate. He’s sinless. And why would there ever be need for judgment if reincarnation is true? By the time the soul arrives at judgment it would have been purified. Why would God need to judge a cleansed soul? The notion of hell thus becomes superfluous. Nobody will go to hell since every soul would have been cleansed by successive rebirths. Every man would have paid for his sins through those successive rebirths as the doctrine teaches. And so there can’t be a Saviour, there can’t be accountability before God, and there’s can’t be hell if reincarnation is true.

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