Truth for Today

More Truth for Today articles from past issues of the Presbyterian Standard are available online here.

Old Truths for a New Age (3)

Rev. Brian Garrard

Continued from the previous issue. A keystone in the teaching of the New Age movement is a belief in re-incarnation. Here Mr Garrard shows that this belief, which is indeed not new at all, is without any real foundation in the Scripture of truth.

First published in the Presbyterian Standard, Issue 22, April-June 2001.

Been here before?

"I was an American chief called Sitting on an Eagle's Tail and I think I was Socrates." So claims David Icke, the former television presenter, in a Daily Telegraph magazine and he adds: "People see the incarnations as figures around me: if I need courage, they see an Indian chief; if I'm in full flow, a Greek orator."

To believe in re-incarnation is very fashionable today, yet it is not a new idea by any means. It comes to us via the old eastern religions and is the notion that every being has had a long series of re-births, culminating in the state of perfection. Added to this is the Hindu concept of 'Karma', where we are said to sow in this life and reap the results in our re-incarnated state. For example, are we unkind in this life? Then we might return as an animal or human and suffer ill-treatment. To the adherents of the New Age, animals are but re-incarnated souls and in the thinking of many they ought to have the same rights as humans if not more! This is the reason why a number of people are vegetarian. They regard the eating of meat as the consumption of a human soul! Belief in re-incarnation also involves a relationship with the occult. The human body becomes a 'channel' through which the spirits of other dimensions speak to and through us. Highly sophisticated and seemingly intelligent people believe in re-incarnation. They are often professional and well educated. What can we answer them?

We have only One Life

"It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment," (Hebrews 9:27). The implication of the text is: we die once and therefore we live only once. For us life is brief and fleeting: "All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away" (1 Peter 1:24). "The character wherewith we sink into the grave at death is the very character wherewith we shall reappear at the resurrection" (Thomas Chalmers). People in the Bible are spoken of as having only one life. Sometimes their life span is mentioned, but there is never any word of them returning and being re-incarnated.

Advocates of re-incarnation have cited a number of examples from Scripture to support their theory. Malachi 4:5 is cited: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord." See also Matthew 11:14: "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias (or Elijah) which was for to come." "There you are!" say the devotees of re-incarnation, "here is the prophet Elijah come back as John the Baptist!"

This proves nothing of the kind of course. This is merely a description of the manner in which John would come to earth. His ministry and person would have marked similarities to those of Elijah of old. See Luke 1:17 where the angel of the Lord tells Zacharias that his son (John) will be a remarkable man, turning many in Israel to the Lord their God. "And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias (Elijah)."

Some have suggested that the appearance of Moses and Elijah upon the mount of Transfiguration is an evidence for reincarnation. Yet this proves no such thing, but merely that these two faithful servants appeared with the Lord for a brief while and came as themselves.

Moses writing in Psalm 90:10 says: "The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away." In saying this, Moses gives to us a note of finality about death. Once we leave this life, there is no return and wherever we look in the Scriptures this is emphasised.

We have only One Death

"It is appointed unto men once to die" (Hebrews 9:27). This text makes it clear that we die only once. The Puritan William Gurnall underlined this when he wrote: "Our death was bred when our life was first conceived." There can be no more returns or re-incarnations. No further process of rebirths until we reach the so-called state of perfection. Genesis 3:19: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Ecclesiastes 3:20 has a similar truth: "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." God has appointed and decreed that this must be the order of events and nothing can undo God's sovereign purpose.

Why is it that we have but one life followed by one death? The answer can be summed up by saying: Sin and the Fall have brought this about. "As soon as man had disobeyed God he became mortal. The power of death came over him and the germ of death entered his nature. He was separated from God and in the throes of spiritual, eternal death. The germ must ripen, and when it does man's body will be dissolved and return to the dust from which he was taken."(1) Having sinned, we became subject to the judgment meted out upon sinners. "The wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23).

We have only One Eternity

Job could speak of death as "the change" and as ever, Scripture is very accurate. "The bodies of men after death return to dust, and see corruption; but their souls, (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them."(2) Those who have refused to believe on Christ and repent of their sins shall know their souls passing into hell. Here they will await the great and final day of Judgment. "The souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day."(3) This same document adds very definitely: "Besides these two places for souls separated from their bodies, the scripture acknowledgeth none."(4) This immediately rules out purgatory on the one hand and re-incarnation on the other.

For every soul that has believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, they will, at death be "made perfect in holiness" and be "received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies... ."(5) Conversely there are repeated warnings of judgment in the Bible. For example: Matthew 13:41 and 42: "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." For those who love Christ matters are very different. See (for example) Matthew 13:43: "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." The Apostle Paul could also write that to be with Christ is far better (Philippians 1:23).

Here is a state far more blessed and happy than anything that earth can ever offer. Let those who are wise settle the matter now by placing all their faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us. In addition let their repentance be real and genuine. In his excellent work upon repentance, Thomas Watson could write: "Repentance is necessary: except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:5). There is no rowing to paradise except upon the stream of repenting tears."(6) Do not put this matter off. Think not that another chance awaits in a new existence. This life is all we have. No other is promised. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

(To be continued, D.V.)


1. Edward J. Young, Genesis 3, pp.138,139.

2. Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 32:i.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Thomas Watson, The Doctrine of Repentance, p.63.