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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






23 July 2005

Resurrection, not Reincarnation


Q: Would you point me in the right direction and give me some Scriptures regarding past lives and reincarnation?

A: There are several Scriptures that let us know that we only live this one life, that there is no cycle of reincarnation. Included are Jesus’ promise to the repentant malefactor on the cross (Luke 23:43): “Today you will be with me in paradise.” As he was being martyred, Stephen prayed (Acts 7:59), “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” For those who are unbelievers, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) shows the believer in heaven and the unbeliever in hell following death. And in Hebrews 9:27, the Lord says, “Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” These and other passages clearly remind us that there is no “second chance” in another life. Thus, “past lives” are lies, tricks of our imaginations, or else inventions of demonic origin.

These verses are just the beginning of an exploration of places we might turn. The entirety of Scripture leads away from the possibility of reincarnation. That is why Jesus — and the evangelists and apostles — focus so much on the Church’s message of forgiveness, for if people die in their sinfulness, not believing in Christ, they are lost forever. There isn’t another chance to get things right.

The book of Revelation, which is so often dismissed or misinterpreted, clearly focuses in several places on the importance of proclaiming and living this saving word of Christ during our (one) life on earth. The life which follows this one is either the eternal, living death of hell or the blessed and unending life in the presence of the Lord which is ours in the Resurrection.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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