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Popular New Age trance-channeler and seminar speaker J. Z. Knight had a problem. But it was nothing that her contacts in the spirit world couldn’t solve—at least on a temporary basis.

J. Z., whose last name was not yet Knight when she encountered this particular problem, found herself strangely attracted to a man she and her husband had hired to help with the horses on their ranch. She couldn’t understand why she should be so attracted to a man other than her husband. Then one day Ramtha, the spirit-being she claimed to speak for, gave her an explanation.

J. Z. had “met” Ramtha several years earlier when she and her husband were experimenting with the power of pyramids. When she placed a paper pyramid on her head, a nine-foot-tall spirit-being appeared in her kitchen and began speaking to her. He told her that he had lived on earth 35,000 years ago, and that he had come to give her wisdom. Soon J. Z. found that she could relay messages from Ramtha to the rest of the world by going into a trance and letting his masculine voice speak through her. Often this involved answering questions for large crowds of people who paid several hundred dollars each to come hear Ramtha’s wisdom.

Ramtha had a message for J. Z. He told her that she and the horse handler had known each other in a previous life, back when Ramtha lived on earth. In fact, they had been “soul mates” at that time. After overcoming considerable opposition, they had married and had lived “happily ever after.” Now, in this life, they had miraculously encountered one another again. Ramtha told J. Z. she shouldn’t be surprised at the attraction she felt.

J. Z. decided that though it would mean big changes in her life, she would step out in faith. She left her husband and went to live with the man she had supposedly been married to 35 millennia earlier—Jeffrey Knight. Sometime later they were married.

Unfortunately, this time J. Z. and her “soul mate” didn’t live happily ever after. In 1989, my father sent me a newspaper clipping headlined, “Channeler Ramtha Is Seeking Divorce.” The article went on to say, “Knight’s estranged husband, Jeffrey Knight, left the family home near Yelm, about 25 miles south of Tacoma, in October. He is seeking $10,000 a month in spousal maintenance.”

I wonder whether J. Z. still believes everything Ramtha tells her.

Is reincarnation biblical?

In recent years, more and more people have come to believe in reincarnation. Some even claim that reincarnation was originally a Christian doctrine and that church authorities expunged it from the Bible sometime after the apostles died.

Does the Bible support the idea that we live multiple lives—that we are born and reborn, the same spirit living on and on in different bodies? Some claim that was what Jesus meant when He told Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

If that were the only statement we had from Jesus, we might get the impression that He did leave the door open for belief in reincarnation. But Jesus wasn’t talking about a person being born into one body, eventually dying, and then being born again in another body. He was talking about the power of God to re-create us—the power of God to come into our lives and make us over again in our current bodies. Just two verses later, Jesus explained what He meant: “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (verse 5).

In this conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus was talking about baptism and spiritual rebirth. The imagery of baptism involves death, burial, and resurrection. When a person is baptized, he or she “dies” to the old way of life, is buried under the water, and is “raised up” to live a new way of life. That’s the only kind of reincarnation Jesus taught: “reincarnation” as children of God in this life, not the next.

John explains this in the first chapter of his Gospel: “To all who received him [Jesus], to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12, 13).

That’s why Jesus came to earth—not to give us the chance to continue to live life after life—being reincarnated in body after body until we finally get it right. He came and lived and died so that we could receive Him as our Savior and be born again as children of God, while we’re still alive, in our current bodies.

What Eastern religions teach

The “doctrine” of reincarnation is founded on the law of karma. Eastern religions teach that this inflexible law governs everything that happens in the universe. Karma dictates that whatever you do in this life will be rewarded in the next life.

There is absolutely no grace in the world of karma and reincarnation. Karma’s iron hand controls everything that happens to you. If you have managed to build up a store of good karma through righteous deeds, piety, and charity, then the law of karma will see to it that when you die you will be reincarnated in a healthy body and live in a pleasant place.

If, on the other hand, you have been a criminal throughout this life and have neglected piety and religion, your next life will be miserable. You will begin to pay back your debt to the world through suffering, and you will have to keep coming back in new lives, over and over again, until you have finally worked off your debt. There is no divine offer of forgiveness.

Does this reflect what Jesus believed and taught?

The Bible says that two thieves were crucified with Jesus. One of them recognized His power to save and asked to be included in His kingdom. This thief was getting what karma would consider his due—a miserable death on a cross. And karma would demand that he continue to suffer for his sins in his next life.

So, did Jesus tell the thief, “Too bad you didn’t repent in time to begin doing some good deeds to pay back the world for your evil”? Did He tell him that he could work off his bad karma by doing good deeds in his next life?

No. Jesus made him an unconditional promise of a life with Him in Paradise. In doing this, Jesus applied the principles He taught in the parable of the workers in the vineyard found in Matthew 20:1–16. The workmen were not rewarded for the amount of work they did, but simply by the grace of the man who hired them.

Not good enough

Jesus’ response to the thief was based on grace, not works—and certainly not on karma. There is no way the man on the cross with Jesus could have earned the right to be in Paradise with Jesus, because he was a thief. On the other hand, no group of people has ever done more good deeds than the Pharisees. And how did Jesus assess their chances at paying their way into heaven with their piety? To His disciples He said, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). The best of the best weren’t good enough.

Jesus never implied that reincarnation and satisfaction of karma could lead to Paradise. In fact, everything He taught completely contradicted any hope of earning heaven by being good. Karma just wouldn’t cut it with Jesus. There is no way to reconcile His teaching of grace for all who would receive Him with the concept of working your way into heaven through many lives of right living.

No, the Bible makes it clear that God does not save people because of their good works. The apostle Paul wrote, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8, 9). This text flies straight in the face of the law of karma, the foundational premise of reincarnation.

It’s clear, then, that the Bible does not, and never did, support the idea of reincarnation.

Reincarnation vs. resurrection

The Bible does teach that God’s people will live again after they die, but this will happen by resurrection, not reincarnation. Jesus Himself said that “a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his [God’s] voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:28, 29). Paul said that Christians who have died “will be raised imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:52). And in a letter to the Christians in Thessalonica, Paul said that this will happen at Christ’s second coming: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

Nobody wants to die. We all would like to live forever, provided it can be in a world where there is no sickness or heartache. And that’s precisely what the Bible promises—through resurrection, not reincarnation.

Reincarnation bases its hope of immortality on living such a good life now that you deserve better in the next world. The God of the Bible agrees that you should live a good life, and He promises to help you do it. But your hope of resurrection and immortality in the next life is based on your trust in Jesus in this life, not on how well you perform. Even the worst sinner who trusts in Jesus is promised resurrection to an immortal life in a world that’s far more ideal than this one. All it takes is saying Yes to Him.

Simple, isn’t it?

What the Bible Says about Resurrection

  • What hope did the ancient patriarch Job express? “I know that my Redeemer lives, and . . . in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes” (Job 19:25–27).
  • When will God’s people be raised to life? “We who are still alive, . . . will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, . . . and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:15, 16).
  • What will happen to God’s people at that time? “We who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them [the recently resurrected saints] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).
  • What did Jesus promise His people before He left this earth? “I am going there [to my Father’s house] to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2, 3).

Note: When Jesus left this earth, He went to heaven, where He still is today. So when He returns, He will take His people to be with Him in heaven.

Life After Life After Life?

by Kenneth Wade
From the January 2012 Signs