Dear Roger,
What does the Bible say about Reincarnation? Sincerely, J

Dear J,

Reincarnation is foreign to the Bible. In fact, the Bible teaches just the opposite. Hebrews 9:27 declares: “It is appointed unto men once to die and after that comes judgment.” The essence of reincarnation is that we come back for many lives. Among other things, this allows us to avoid the reality of facing God in judgment for our behaviors.

Hinduism, Buddhism, segments of the New Age Movement, and a host of other Eastern religions are becoming more and more popular in the United States. With that popularity comes increased exposure to the teaching of reincarnation.

The concept of reincarnation is not difficult to understand once we consider how Westerners and Easterners conceive of time.

How We See Time

Those in the West see time as linear. We are born and time goes by and we die. Time continues on in a linear fashion from past to present to future.

In Eastern cultures time is circular. What comes around goes around. Circular time comes from observing the cycles of the earth. The four seasons occur and then they return again and again. Crops are planted, they grow, are harvested and the cycle once again commences.

So, when you think about it, reincarnation is just a reflection of circular time. We are born and die and then cycle around again and again.

Reincarnation teaches that the present life forms—from insects to humans—are a direct reflection of several factors such as how well we behaved in previous lives, and the amount of good or bad karma we have. The better we were, and the more good Karma, the farther up the food chain we return.

Hindus refrain from eating beef because the cow may be a friend or relative from a past life.

The great number of Christians harboring reincarnation views continues to astound me.

“Highwayman” and What the Bible Teaches about Death

The song, “Highwayman” sung by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristopherson, and Johnny Cash was a national hit. Several of these country artists are professed Christians. Yet, their song explains and makes reincarnation seem like Biblical truth. It is not Biblical nor is it truth.

Just for fun, I’ll share the lyrics of “Highway Man”. I wish you could hear the enticing, rhythmic music. It is a catchy tune. Whenever I hear myself humming it I remind myself that this song is spirit inspired – just not the Holy Spirit.

“I was a highwayman, along the coach roads I did ride – with sword and pistol by my side. Many a young maid lost her baubles to my trade – Many a soldier shed his blood upon my blade. The master called me in the Spring of ’25 – But, I am still alive.”

“I was a sailor, I was born upon the tide – with the sea I did abide. I sailed a schooner round the Horn to Mexico.  I went aloft and unfurled the mainsail in a blow- and when the yard broke off they said that I got killed.  But, I am livin’ still.”

“I was a dam builder – across a river deep and wide where steel and water did collide – A place called on the wild Colorado. I slipped and fell onto the concrete below. They buried me in that great tomb that knows no sound – but I am still around.

“I’ll always be around, around, and around, and around, and around.”

“I fly a starship across the universe divide – and when I reach the other side, I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can. Perhaps I may become a highwayman again. Or I may simply be a single drop of rain. But I will remain.

“I’ll be back again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again.”

From a Biblical perspective, the only problem with the lyrics is that they aren’t true.

The Bible teaches that we want to be born twice – once physically and once spiritually. However, we want only one death – the physical one. We don’t want to experience what the Bible calls the “second death,” which is being cast into the Lake of Fire. Come to Jesus and avoid the second death (John 1:12; John 3:14-18).

Read Revelation 2:11; Revelation 20:6 and Revelation 20:14; and Revelation 21:4, Revelation 21:8.

Why Do People Believe in Reincarnation?

Why might some believe in reincarnation? We have already mentioned circular time.

Another reason is that the Bible teaches that there are evil spirits (“familiar spirits”) who have been around for centuries. These spirits know intimately the lives of others down through the centuries and may influence present-day people with thoughts, emotions, and experiences of people who are long dead. These deceived people begin to believe that they have existed in previous lives and that the thoughts and emotions of others are really theirs.

Another reason is that our brains are capable of connecting all sorts of our present and past events and then melting them together in ways that make us think we have lived certain situations and events before. Reincarnation is the ultimate déjà vous.

When General Patton arrived on the Carthaginian battlefield he observed, “I have been to this battlefield before. I fought here with the Romans.” Unfortunately, Patton was deceived. We only get one life. My belief is that his brain was playing déjà vous tricks on him.

Sylvester Stallone once related that in a previous life he was a Central American monkey. If that is true then we have further evidence for both evolution and reincarnation – just kidding.

Well, J, I hope you find my answer helpful. I really appreciate your asking.

Love, Roger

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/wildpixel 

Ask RogerDr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.

Publication date: Dec. 4, 2012

Editor’s Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger’s daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian. 

Pastor Roger Barrier’s “Ask Roger” column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at