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Once to Die - Or Reincarnation?

The Mystery of the Trinity Of Man
by D. P. Grafton
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Along with other noxious doctrines, the theme of reincarnation has been rapidly gaining adherents. A short explanation of this heresy could be that it is to the soul what Evolution is to the physical body. Darwin's theory is of man progressing upwards through countless ages to ultimate well-being. On the other hand, Reincarnation's tenet is the upward progress of the soul to its ultimate spiritual goal by using many and various bodies through the process of infinite time.

The Reincarnationist's belief is that an erring soul in one lifetime must return in new flesh and form, and work to expiate its faults. This process is repeated until spiritual perfection is achieved, after which no further experience on earth will be necessary. Therefore, repentance to forgiveness; confession of the Substitute Sacrifice of the Son; Judgement before Him; possibility of eternal separation from the Godhead are not accepted. It is held that, in general, primitive peoples believe in transmigration of souls, and that it is basic to human nature. We can agree to the universality of the belief but, is not "human nature" the condition of spiritual death resulting from the working of Satan's power in Eden, and his activating unregenerate humanity down the ages? Can we then show briefly why the theory of repeated re-birth of a particular soul in new flesh is contrary to the teaching of both Testaments.

Trinity of Man - Body, Soul and Spirit
The first chapters of Genesis state that the Triune Godhead created man, and that, by the implanting of "the breath of life, man became a living soul". Paul speaks of man as "spirit and soul and body", and John says of the Word: "In him was life .... the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world". First a body with soul - the intellect - then added breath of Life, the true Light, forming one perfect man, able to meet with and have understanding of the Godhead. Man was then "the image" of his Creator, to the extent of being a trinity, and this fact is the nature of man, distinguishing him from all other living things. Unless a creature has these three component parts, it is not man.

Blood of Atonement
The man and woman were blessed and commanded, be "fruitful and multiply"; thus multiplicity of the species was Divine Plan. Each new life brought into being from the bodies of Adam and Eve and their descendants, would be a reproduction of body, soul and spirit, a full person, in the likeness of the created man and woman. One result of Adam and Eve's disobedience was a change in the nature of their bodies. The Light and Life being denied, was dimmed, neither extinguished or wholly withdrawn, but took the nature of blood. This was spiritual death, a separation from full Light and Life, and had its counterpart in death physical. But dissolution of the body had no power to damage the eternal nature of the soul and spirit of the person.

In these now human bodies, procreation was still commanded, with this difference: "in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children". The offspring would be of the fallen nature of the parents - humanity, for "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned".

Redemption of human nature was offered by the denied Light and Life accepting to be clothed in the flesh and blood of His denial and in that Incarnation make an expiatory Sacrifice. In the "coats of skins" which must have come from sacrificed animals, we have the first teaching of this Redemption, later codified in the Law thus: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your sins." Blood, the manifestation of sin, is yet the Mystery of man's Redemption, bought at great Price, yet offered free to all who will accept "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world".

How was it possible for man to sin in created perfection? Surely the answer is in the Son's statement: "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven," which event He detailed after His Ascension, "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels .... the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan .... he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."

By man's disobedience this spiritual power opposing the Lord was able to enter Eden and operate against all subsequent life on earth. Paul describes it when he warns, "Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood .... but against spiritual wickedness in high places." John warns of false doctrine coming from the same source. "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." And Peter's warning is, "be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." Divine instruction then is of an active spiritual power opposing the Godhead in and through mankind, by denigration of His revealed Truth and Word.

Sleep of Rest
What of the essential being after physical death? The first seven verses of the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, a superb poem describing the end of a human life, says that the body will return to the dust of "the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it". Job tells us "there the wicked cease from troubling .... the weary be at rest .... the prisoners rest together: they hear not the voice of the oppressor". In Psalm 6:5 we read, "For in death there is no remembrance of thee; in the grave who shall give thee thanks". Daniel is told that "many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake" and he too "shalt rest" and stand with them "at the end of days". We see then the Old Testament teaching is that at death the body disintegrates, but the essential man, his soul and spirit, enter God's keeping to be at rest; asleep in Christ, until such time as he shall be awakened.

The New Testament claim is also of sleep. Our Lord said of Lazarus dead four days in the tomb: "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." Paul speaking of the period of the Second Advent says, "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed," and Luke says of Stephen the first martyr "he fell asleep". Where does this death-sleep take place? "In my Father's house are many mansions ... I will come again, and receive you unto myself." 'Mansions' is Mone in Greek, meaning either the place of resting or the person at rest. So our Lord's statement is that in His Father's household, there are many persons restfully waiting. Paul speaks of "Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept .... afterward they that are Christ's at his coming". The waiting period of the sleeping-in-death, is then until the Second Advent, when the "change" of the living and "awakening" of the sleeping-in-death takes place. Then comes their Judgement.

"For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad," and in the 9th chapter of Hebrews we are most definitely instructed: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many, and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation." To both man and the Incarnate Son it was given once to die in the flesh, then resurrection to life.

At the Second Advent
At the Second Advent only the believers, alive and dead, on that day receive their immortal bodies and are awarded according to deeds done in the flesh. Of this, "the first resurrection" we are told "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." The "great white throne" of Judgement is then set up; the living on that day together with the raised to life of the dead of all ages who had no part in the first resurrection "stand before God", and Judgement is given "according to their works".

The Bible's teaching is clearly that a soul lives once in human flesh: when he discards his flesh at death, his soul and spirit enter a period of peaceful sleep, from which he will be awakened to live eternally in a sentient state, either in the Presence of God or Satan. There is no state of eternal oblivion. The "second death" is the spiritual condition of separation from Light and Life entered by the once living person who continues to deny the Godhead.

Not Stated In The Bible
It is surely significant that those who accept Reincarnation do not claim that their theory is taught in the Bible, but claim only that, in a few passages, the idea is indirectly upheld. Here are three:

  1. Jeremiah 1:5, is claimed as showing a previous existence of the soul of Jeremiah. "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee .... and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." But this, as when Rebekah was told, "Two nations are in thy womb", is surely witness of the omniscience of Godhead, and His Personal awareness of each soul's whole personality from the moment of conception, or even before. Is not He alone the source of all creative power?

  2. Matthew 16:1317. When our Lord asked the disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" their answer, either John Baptist; Elijah; Jeremiah or "one of the prophets" is held to imply a general belief in Reincarnation. This could well be so, for it is the answer of "human nature". The same question directed to the disciples was answered for all by Peter, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," and is said by the Son to be God-revealed thought. There is no re-incarnation here, only Incarnation.

  3. Matthew 11:10-14. Speaking to the multitudes about John Baptist, our Lord claimed him to be fulfilment of Malachi's prophecy. "Behold I send my messenger before Thy face .... And if ye will receive it, this is Elias which was for to come." The Reincarnationists believe that our Lord implied John to be the transmigrated soul of Elijah. But Gabriel's announcement of Zacharias was clear. It was "in the spirit and power of Elias", that his son, not yet conceived, would lead the nation. The Spirit that had led Elijah would work through John, and this was the belief of the Son and the reason for His saying, "if ye will receive it this is Elias which was for to come". Our Lord refuted any idea of a physical reappearance of Elijah or of his reincarnation.

An argument for Reincarnation is that the inequality of life can only be compensated for by the opportunity of several lifetimes on earth. But inequality results from the humanity of man - his unregenerate condition, and his Creator has provided him with the means by which it may be overcome - His Divine Law. Just so long as that Law is rejected man must suffer. The argument is thus false, and is again denial of the Omniscience and Mercy of Godhead.

If the Scriptures are held as revealed by the Almighty God to show His love and intentions for His creation, then the theory of transmigrating souls must be rejected as contrary to His word, and be of the nature of that spiritual power in continual opposition. To "try the spirits whether they are of God" must be our continual action.

Orange Street Congregational Church