by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: Job 14:1-15
I. Death is an event that puzzles many people.
A. We know it is a step that we all must take - Ecclesiastes 8:8
B. It is an appointment that we must keep - Hebrews 9:27
C. Not that people don’t try. The finality of death is too final.
II. Reincarnation is an old idea
A. We usually associate it with India and the Hindu religion, but it was found among the ancient Greeks as well.
B. The basic idea that the soul of a person who dies is reborn in another body.
1. Hindus include animal life in that rebirth.
2. Whether you move up or down the scale of life depends on whether you were good or bad in your current life.
3. Within human life, there are multiple levels, which led to India’s caste system.
III. Why people choose to believe in reincarnation
A. It gives people another chance
1. There are always choices in life that we regret. At times the consequences are more than we wanted. Wouldn’t it be nice to start all over from scratch?
2. The idea of hell based on one chance in life is seen as too cruel.
B. It explains away suffering
1. Difficulties in this life are no longer directly my fault.
a. I’m suffering for mistakes made in past lives.
b. Thus, why wasn’t I born rich, or smart, or pretty? I didn’t do so well the prior times I was here.
2. If a child dies, “Don’t cry. His death means he was a criminal in a past life. He died as punishment for his past sins.”
C. It explains the feeling of “deja vu”
1. That’s French for “already seen.” It is that feeling you get when you walk into a place you are certain you never been before, but you feel that you know the place.
2. Reincarnationists say “see, you are recalling events from a past life.”
D. It explains people’s claims of past lives to psychiatrists, such as when undergoing hypnosis.
1. A person being examined might claim to have been a solider in the civil war, or was a ruling member in ancient Russian society.
2. Some can give detailed descriptions of things they are supposed to have never seen.
3. Some claim to have “out of body” experiences where they have gotten in touch with their past lives.
E. It explains child prodigies.
1. For example, Mozart started composing by the age of five. How can a child learn so fast? Why he must be remembering skills from a past life.
F. People just want it to be so
1. It gives comfort to people to “know” that after death they will return to familiar surroundings.
IV. What God has said
A. Our lives are short in this world - Job 14:1-2
1. Just pilgrims passing through - I Chronicles 29:15
2. At our best, life is just a short breath - Psalm 39:5
3. Just a morning mist - James 4:14
4. Reincarnation denies this.
a. Sure, each visit is short, but the number of visits stretches out life.
b. What does it matter if a single visit is short if I know I’ll be back again?
B. Our days are finite - Job 14:5
1. Reincarnation sees life as infinite; we come back again and again.
2. Knowing the brevity of life changes our outlook on life - Psalm 39:4
3. Wisdom comes in knowing our limits - Psalm 90:12
4. We only have about seventy years to work with which to work - Psalm 90:10
5. The Bible always speaks of our life (singular) in this world, not lives - Ecclesiastes 8:15
C. Once we die, we will not waken until the world ends - Job 14:7-12
1. It is a one way journey. When David’s child died - II Samuel 12:21-23
2. Our spirit returns to God, not to the world again - Ecclesiastes 12:7
D. We must struggle in this life to do what is right - Job 14:14
1. Work hard now because you can’t later - Ecclesiastes 9:10
2. Reincarnation creates a shaky moral ground
a. The idea of multiple chances sounds nice, but it means I don’t have to get it right at this moment. People could (and do) claim that when they make a bad choice: “Oh, well. Maybe in my next life.”
b. Some would be willing to pay for a bad action in another life in order to have a chance to do it now.
(1) Besides, how many people remember a past life?
(2) Thus, I could do evil and while I might suffer in another life, I won’t recall the evil.
c. It removes the drive to improve your life.
(1) The caste system developed in India with the idea that you are born into a certain caste because of your past lives.
(2) Thus you cannot leave that caste because this is the life you were born to live.
(3) Each caste has its own rules about moral acceptable behavior. Low castes are expected to behave badly.
3. Notice the drive - II Corinthians 5:10-11
4. Straighten out while there is opportunity - Ezekiel 18:26-32
a. God’s call becomes odd if there are multiple lives. It becomes meaningless!
b. What you do determines your eternal state - life in heaven or death in hell.
5. Do good while the opportunity exists - Galatians 6:10
V. What about reincarnation’s proofs?
A. Deja Vu
1. It has been documented that people have deja vu feelings in places created since they were born. Some epileptics get deja vu feelings just before a seizure. Thus the feeling of deja vu is not from past lives.
2. While it is difficult to study and is heavily debated, most believe it is a misfiring in our brains where our minds become confused momentarily whether information we are experiencing is coming from long term memory or short term memory. One research was able to artificially create deja vu feelings by stimulating the temporal lobe of the brain.
3. Thus deja vu doesn’t prove there are past lives
B. Hypnotic recall of past lives
1. Ian Stevenson, a researcher of this phenomenon, mentions case that confirms the “recall” was not of a past life but past readings: “There is another English case going back to the turn of the century that was studied by a Cambridge don, in which a young woman seemed to be describing the life of one Blanche Poynings, a person around the court of Richard II in the fourteenth century. She gave a lot of detail about the people concerned, including proper names and the sort of life she lived. The investigators kept on probing, and a little later they began asking her about sources of information. In her trancelike state the girl herself came out with a reference to a book, Countess Maud, published in the latter part of the nineteenth century, a classic Victorian novel all about a countess at the court of Richard II. The subject had modified it a little bit, but basically it was all in the novel, and it turned out that her aunt had a copy of the book. She didn't remember reading it, but she remembered turning the pages (Omni Magazine 10(4):76 (1988)).” [http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation1.html]
2. Hypnotic “memories” have been shown to be limited to current knowledge of the past or scrambling known facts. Later discoveries contradict what a person “remembers.” “Ian Wilson, another researcher of this phenomenon, describes several such cases in his book Reincarnation (p. 88-90). One of them refers to a "person" who lived during the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramses III. Instead of indicating the name No for the capital city, he used the name Thebes, given by the Greeks much later. On the other hand, a true ancient Egyptian could not have known the pharaoh’s name by a number, as the numbering of pharaohs was adopted by Victorian Egyptologists during the 19th century. Another fault was mentioning the use of the sestertius coin, which was introduced by the Romans a thousand years later. Another case reported Vikings making a landfall in North America during the 11th century. According to the description, they were wearing helmets with horns, which cannot be historically true. In recent years scholars have proved that this idea is false, as Vikings wore in fact conic, close-fitting caps. Horned helmets were worn only in religious ceremonies by individuals of high rank. This and other cases prove that the "past life recall" experiences depend heavily on the historical knowledge mankind had at the time when the hypnotic regression was performed, but which are often contradicted by later discoveries.” [http://www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation1.html]
C. Sufferings are the result of sin being in the world
1. Sometimes those committing the sin suffer for their misdeeds - Example: Proverbs 7:22-23
2. Sometimes people surrounding the sinner suffer - Example: Lamentations 5:7
3. Sometimes bad things just happen by coincidence - Ecclesiastes 9:11
4. Suffering does not prove there are past lives.
D. No, reincarnation is just wishful thinking on the part of man.
1. But we can abide in truth
2. You have one life to live. One life to spend.
3. What will you do with that life?