karma

Resurrection of the Dead: 2 – If Resurrection Is Not Reincarnation, The Dalai Lama Is Not The Christ


Suggested Pre-Reading: Resurrection of the Dead 1


It must be pointed out, in light of the distinctions we just made between the Biblical doctrine of the resurrection of the dead and the Buddhist doctrine of reincarnation, that the Dalai Lama is a false prophet.

The claim of the Tibetan religion is that all Dalai Lamas are the reincarnation of the first Dalai Lama. In other words, the initial Dalai Lama was a chosen one – a christ. That initial christ figure was chosen by the spiritual powers to reincarnate again and again and again within Tibet or the near vicinity, to be identified by a group of monks, and to grow up and offer spiritual wisdom and insight to humanity. If there is no such thing as reincarnation, there is no such office as the Dalai Lama, and any claim to be the reincarnated soul of a spiritual leader is, in fact, false.

The Biblical Christ, in contrast to the office of Dalai Lama, is a singular figure foretold by the prophets hundreds of years before he was born. Although the prophets did not link the name of Jesus to the office of Messiah, they gave us so much data about the Messiah that we can look at the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth and conclude that He is the promised one. The prophets said this:

  • He would be a Son of David.
  • He would be born in Bethlehem.
  • He would teach and instruct His people.
  • He would perform miracles.
  • He would appear before the destruction of the Jewish temple (70 A.D.).
  • He would die to atone for sin.
  • He would be raised from the dead.
  • He would combine the office of Jewish king and Jewish high priest.
  • His message would go beyond the borders of Israel and extend to the ends of the earth.
  • He would bring both Jew and Gentile near to God.

Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled each one of these Messianic prophecies. No one else has even come close. And, since one of the requirements of Messiah is to come before 70 A.D., no one else can come close.

Distinguishing the Biblical teaching of resurrection from reincarnation is not merely an academic exercise – it affects the way we view the world and the spiritual leaders we choose to listen to. The God of the Bible has told us there is no such thing as reincarnation. As a result, life is not cyclical, but linear. We are all proceeding along a straight line to death. Once we die, we will be judged by God based on whether we believed in the Christ He sent, Jesus of Nazareth, or whether we believed in false christs, such as the Dalai Lama. We will not be reincarnated and given another chance in another life to get things right. We will be resurrected from the dead on the Day of Judgment, and we will either reign with God in eternal bliss, or we will be cast to the pits of hell for eternal torment.

When Jesus Christ was crucified, He did not reincarnate three days later in a new body. He rose from the dead in the body He was buried in – proof of the Biblical teaching of the resurrection of the dead and proof that He is the Christ of prophecy.

Resurrection of the Dead: 1 – Resurrection Is Not Reincarnation


For over a year now, we have been working through a list of seven doctrines central to the Christian faith. This list was derived from the fifth and sixth chapters of the book of Hebrews. So far we have examined the following topics:

We will now discuss the Resurrection of the Dead, starting by contrasting the Christian teaching on resurrection with Buddhist reincarnation. When the Bible speaks of the resurrection of the dead, it is not speaking of reincarnation. There are important differences between the two concepts:

Resurrection Reincarnation
After death, the soul is separated from the body until the Resurrection of the Dead, when the body and soul are reunited and the body raised to life. After death, the soul is placed into a new body.
The soul has one life to be reconciled to God. The soul has many lives to be reconciled to God.
The soul is reunited with its original body, although the original body is renewed. The new body (human or non-human) is different from the previous one and is based upon one’s karma in the previous life.
When the body and soul are reunited, the soul retains its memory and personhood. When a soul is reincarnated, there is no conscious memory of the previous life.

It is necessary to understand the differences between resurrection and reincarnation, because there are those, who starting with the pre-supposition of reincarnation, read the Bible and claim that it teaches reincarnation. Consider for example John 9:

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9: 1 – 3)

Now how could a man be born blind for his own sins? That would imply his soul sinned prior to birth, and he was born blind as a punishment for those sins. This apparent account of reincarnation is easily explained – there were false beliefs that existed in the days of Jesus, and this was one of them. Indeed, the rabbis may have very well taught reincarnation or the pre-existence of the soul, but that does not mean their teaching was true. Jesus set their error straight – the man was not born blind for his own sins, but rather that the power of God might be displayed in him. This power of God was displayed when Jesus healed the man’s blindness, giving him sight.

Another supposed instance of reincarnation is in the account of John the Baptist. Malachi said that God was going to send Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD (Malachi 4: 5). Jesus said that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah.

And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. (Matthew 11: 14)

Did Jesus teach John was the reincarnation of Elijah? No. Rather, Jesus taught that John was the typological fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy. John functioned in the same manner as the prophet Elijah, but he was not literally the prophet Elijah. Let us remember that in the transfiguration of Christ, the prophet Elijah appeared with Moses before Jesus and the disciples who were with Him. If Elijah appeared before Jesus, how then could John be the reincarnation of Elijah?

It is crucial to understand the distinctions between reincarnation and resurrection. Reincarnation is fundamentally based upon a judgment of works. The resurrection of the dead is based upon faith in Jesus Christ, Who has made atonement not only for our lack of good works, but for the “good” works we do in an attempt to please God and save ourselves. The gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamentally based upon the fact that humans cannot save themselves – it is the work of Christ that saves us. If someone understands their own heart and their own moral failings, reincarnation is a terrifying prospect. Could you imagine being a weak and terrible sinner, believing that karma is the mechanism by which you will be judged? You would have no hope. But because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the weak and terrible sinner is full of hope. For the gospel declares that people are made righteous through Christ, not through their own power or piety.

It should be easy to see, then, that reincarnation is completely incompatible with Biblical doctrine. If righteousness does not come through the Law, but through faith in Jesus, and if faith in Jesus is a gift of the Holy Spirit, why would the soul be reincarnated over and over and over? The Holy Spirit knows those He has predestined to eternal life, and He gives them faith in the first, and only, life on earth.

Eternal Judgment: 2 – Righteousness Must Come Apart From The Law


Suggested Pre-Reading: Eternal Judgment: 1


Let us remind ourselves of the predicament.

One day there will be an Eternal Judgment. God will send people to eternal bliss or eternal torment. If this future judgment is based on one’s ability to keep God’s law, all will be sent to eternal torment, for the Bible clearly teaches all have sinned against God and earned death:

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God… (Romans 3: 23)

…the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6: 23)

Yet the Bible, just as clearly as it states all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, acknowledges there will be those judged righteous and granted eternal life.

Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12: 2)

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25: 31 – 34)

A great paradox, then, has been presented to the reader of Scripture: how does a sinner who has earned death become righteous in God’s sight and inherit eternal life?

Before answering this question as the Bible answers it, we must first dispel the notion that the answer is “by keeping the law”. Let us use a courtroom analogy to demonstrate the point. Imagine that a man who robbed a bank is being tried for bank robbery. Will his defense be, “Yes, I robbed the bank, but I didn’t murder or rape anyone, so because I kept those laws, I should be declared innocent of bank robbery”? That type of defense, in an earthly court, is absurd. Whether or not he kept some laws has no legal impact on the law that he broke. In the heavenly court it is the same – no amount of law keeping can erase the sins we have committed. Why would my not having murdered someone legally erase my sin of hateful thoughts toward that person?

The conclusion then is this – righteousness must come apart from the law. This Biblical idea is in opposition to what is commonly taught in false religions. Many false religions send sinners to the law to earn righteousness and deal with sins previously committed. Think of the doctrine of karma in eastern religions or the rite of penance in Catholicism. But the Bible is clear on the matter – the law does not save. Here is what the Bible says about salvation on the day of judgment:

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe…(Romans 3: 19 – 22)

This argument also appears in the letter to Galatia:

I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. (Galatians 2: 21)

Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3: 11)

Jesus Himself stated the same argument clearly and succinctly:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3: 16)

These verses of Scripture make it clear: those whom God will judge as righteous are not the law-keepers, but those whose faith is in Jesus Christ.

This idea is really quite scandalous. If someone lives for seventy years and only commits one sin a day, that equates to 25,550 sins over the course of a lifetime. Will God really declare someone righteous at the Eternal Judgment who has sinned over 25,000 times? Yes, God will – if the person trusts in Christ.

To understand more how this can be, we must discuss the Biblical teaching of atonement. This we will do in the next article.