Chastisement and redemption from hell. Reincarnation: An irrevocable doom and no post mortem salvation. The wicked are never redeemed but rather irrevocably destroyed and their “clay,” that is to say, their most basic essence is recast into mortal form to once again be rehabilitated. On this view, salvation does not ever take place in any other time then when a person is alive in the flesh. It also means that once a person dies all hope is lost for them as far as their present “personhood” is concerned. They are cast into the fire and irrevocably destroyed. The corrupt personhood of the incorrigible individual is purged away in the refining fires of Gehenna. They are thrown onto the rubbish heap of eternal destruction and remolded into a pot more useful for the potter.
Before addressing the matter of reincarnation, a few words are necessary about the various models Christians employ to make sense of the final judgment. There are probably almost as many of these models as there are denominations, but for the purposes of this discussion I will boil them down to just two--the Heavenly Model and the Earthly Model. According to the Heavenly model, all will be resurrected in the spiritual plane, at which point each person will be appointed their place either in heaven or hell. One might also call this an Amillennial model in that it does not include a thousand year millennial reign of Christ on the earth.
According to the earthly--or Post Millennial model--believers will be resurrected to rule over this earth for the millennium, while the unsaved are cast into hell. So, basically there are two models for traditionalists: One which includes a resurrection on earth and one which doesn’t.
It’s the same for Universalists. Some of us believe all of God’s redemptive and purging activities will occur in the spiritual plane after death; others believe it will all be wrought out here on earth until the Kingdom includes all who have ever lived.
There was a scene on The Simpsons where somebody--I believe it was Reverend Lovejoy’s wife--kept yelling out, for no discernible reason: “Think of the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” I would like to make this my refrain for this essay. None of the aforementioned models deal adequately with the “the children”. Moreover, I don’t know that it’s possible to do so without including reincarnation. Let’s look at how the existing models handle “the children” issue.
First, the Heavenly model. According to this model, all of the unsaved children, babies, infants, and aborted fetus’s who ever lived are resurrected to stand before the judgment throne of God. They will be tried, sentenced, and banished to an eternity of punishment in the lake of fire. Presumably, their trial will include a recounting of all of the sins they committed. This means on judgment day there will be untold billions cast into an eternal burning hell for crimes against God like dirtying their diapers, crying too loudly in the crib, and, in the case of aborted fetus’s, kicking too much in the womb.
This is not just a problem for Traditionalists; it’s a problem even for those Universalists who believe the entire matter is to be adjudicated in the heavenly realm, for they also must assert that these same individuals of tender age will suffer purgatorial fires for their childish “sins” before finally being saved. All who subscribe to this model must posit some kind of torture chamber in the netherworld that awaits babies who die unsaved in this one. The Heavenly model, therefore, presents enormous problems for both the Traditionalists and Universalists.
But what about the earthly model? Does it fair any better? Not really. On the Traditionalist model only the elect are resurrected to the earth in glorious, spiritual bodies, while the rest are sent to hell. But even on the Universalist model there are problems. How are the children, babies, and infants to be resurrected? As babies and infants? How will anyone be resurrected for that matter? Do they come out of their tombs Dawn-of-the-dead style? Do they all come out at once? A few at a time? Do the deceased members of a person’s family show up at the front door one day, saying “Hi, I’m back?”
I guess the point I’m making is this: On any of the aforementioned models we are confronted with some things that seem far-fetched. None of them are in keeping with God’s seamless way of doing things. They are clumsy and truncated and they leave too many loose ends.
Only reincarnation allows for a better way.
Will Every Tongue Confess?
The bible seems to present a vision of an ever-expanding Kingdom that eventually comes to include all the ends of the earth.
“And blessed be his glorious name forever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory . . .” (Ps. 72:19)
“All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.” (Ps. 86:9)
“When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)
“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth . . .” (Isaiah 45:22)
“No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, “know the Lord,” because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Jer. 31:34)
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
A Seamless Solution?
Reincarnation offers a possible solution to the problem. All those who die unsaved are reincarnated into different bodies and eventually these “new” vessels become saved. There is no massive crease in the seam of history in the form of a Second Coming and a resurrection of the Saints to rule the world for a thousand years. Instead the world proceeds as it always has. As it does, the gospel is preached to “every creature.“ The Kingdom grows until “every tongue confesses.” And those confessing are the same people that were destroyed in an earlier lifetime. They were destroyed and recast into new vessels; they were reincarnated. And eventually they were saved. This will continue until the last soul is saved at which time Christ will hand over the Kingdom to the Father, who will be All in All, and time will be no more.
The bible says when a person does, his spirit returns to the Lord. It doesn’t go to heaven or hell; it returns to the Lord. He retains your spiritual DNA. It is there with Him on file. Let’s use the example of an infant who dies at birth. Let’s call him Jacob. Jacob dies unsaved. His body is destroyed. One might say his body goes into eternal destruction. Where does his spirit go? The conventional theology would say: To hell. But the bible says it goes back to the Lord. Jacob is destroyed, his body goes back to the dust, and his spirit returns to the Lord. Now what? What does God do when an earthen vessel is marred in His hands? I would suggest that his spirit is recast into another vessel and I believe the bible supports this possibility. Jeremiah 18:3-4 says: “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.” We see the same theme repeated in Romans 9:21-22: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”
Who are the two vessels in view? They are Adam (mankind) and the second Adam (Christ).
1 Cor. 15:42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which was spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
Adam is the vessel made of clay that is marred in the hands of the potter. So He must recast it in the image of Christ. This fact has been obscured by the Christian religious system, which has foisted upon us the spurious notion that Adam was created perfect and then, against all the odds, fell from grace and plunged the whole race of man into sin and death. But 1 Cor. 15 does not allow for such an interpretation. It not only makes it plain that Adam was not created perfect, but that man, as created, could not inherit the kingdom of God. “There is an natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” Which one did Adam have? “And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living soul.” By soul Paul does not mean to imply something spiritual, but rather just the opposite. Adam was “of the earth, earthy.” If there’s any doubt about what’s being conveyed here, then verse 50 seals it: “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”
Paul is not discussing the effects of sin. He’s not saying man, as he became due to his sin, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. He’s saying man as he was created cannot inherit the kingdom of God. He was sown in corruption. He was sown in dishonour. He was sown in weakness. He was sown a natural body. And this natural body--this flesh and blood man--cannot not inherit the kingdom of God. This is the plain, emphatic, unmistakable teaching of 1 Cor. 15. All men are cast into a mold in this life that is not suitable for salvation. We are created as vessels of dishonour. We are created as vessels of clay marred in the hand of the potter. To be saved we must be remade in the mold of the spiritual man--Christ. The old man must be destroyed in order for the new one to emerge. God must mold the old man--the flesh and blood man--into the new man--the spiritual man. He must destroy Adam and remold him into Christ. Now, we know this does not happen for all during this life. What happens to the mass of humanity who die still trapped in this “body of death” that God gave them?
The Second Death
In L. Ray Smith’s excellent essay Hades and The Second Death he writes:
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
The Chosen Elect are judged now in this Church age (1 Cor. 11:31), while . . . all others are judged in the resurrection to Judgment (1 Cor. 11:32) . . .
“Because he hath appointed a day . . . In which he will judge the world in righteousness by that Man Whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31)” . . .
Now get ready for a real revelation. There are two mysteries in Hebrews 9:27 when applied to God’s Elect.
1. What and when is the “ONCE to die?”
2. What and when is the “after this Judgment?”
Paul puts people into two options (based on God’s foreknowledge):
OPTION ONE is for the wicked world: “For if you live after the flesh, you shall DIE . . .” Not only will they die, because “it is appointed to men once to die” (Heb. 9:27). But after they die, they will come up in the resurrection to judgment, which is the “lake of fire/second death” (Rev. 20:13-14).
OPTION TWO is for God’s Elect. “ . . . But if you through the Spirit do mortify [kill, put to death] the deeds of the body, you shall live” (Rom. 8:13). Therefore, in the resurrection, “ . . . you shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev. 2:11). “ . . . and he that has part in the first resurrection on such the second death has no power” (Rev. 20:6) . . .
All believing Elect Saints of God must DIE TO THE FLESH OF THE CARNAL MIND. Death is the daily life of the Believer! . . .
But how can I say that all these Scriptures have reference to our Second Death, seeing that not one of them mentions a “second death?” The answer is threefold:
1. The Second Death IS Judgment, and Judgment after the resurrection is called the Second death.
2. The Lake of Fire IS the Second Death, and we too go through the Lake of fire . . . So we too go through the Second Death . . .
3. We will see that this Second Death comes after a previous death, and therefore must be a “second” death. Notice how our death is linked with fire. . .
Now for the second part of the Heb. 9:27 riddle: When and how do God’s Elect die “ONCE” before their SECOND death Judgment? . . .
“Know ye not . . . that so may of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptsim into DEATH” (Rom. 6:3-4).
There is the answer to how God’s Elect must “once die” before their “Second Death Judgment.”
The carnal world dies when they breathe their last and go down into the grave. God’s Elect die when they are “baptized into death.” After resurrection from the dead, the world will enter into Judgment. And what about us--God’s Elect? When do we enter into Judgment? Same way, we are resurrected from the dead through baptism.
“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:4) . .
What did this lengthy detour have to do with reincarnation? Well, a lot, actually. But, before getting to that I wish to backtrack. My point before going on this tangent was threefold:
1. God created us in such a way that we could not inherit the kingdom.
2. He plans on remolding us from the “earthy” into the “heavenly”; from “dishonour” into “honour”; from “weakness” into “power”; from “natural” into “spiritual”; or, to put it simply, from “Adam” into “Christ.”
3. He must do this by way of destroying the old man and re-creating a new one.
Back to reincarnation. Clearly L. Ray Smith--and many Universalists--subscribe to the Earthly or Post-millennial model of the end times. He believes all people will be resurrected to live again on this earth until finally the entire population of the world is saved. He writes:
“All humanity must die once, and after that death, they must be judged. There are no exceptions, not even for mentally challenged, teens, youngsters, and even infants. (Do sound-minded Christians really believe that when babies die they go to heaven and therefore, there will be millions of eternal babies [in diapers?] living for all eternity AS BABIES?) God has a way to deal with babies and infants in the Day of Judgment that will be quite equitable--they will grow up to be adults.”
The alternative is to suppose that they are resurrected as infants. This means that in the resurrection there will suddenly appear billions of infants who cannot care for themselves. When and where do they appear? Do they spring forth from their graves dawn-of-the-dead style, crawling around in the cemeteries? Do they drop down from the sky, like rain? Do they appear on tree branches, mingled with the leaves? Do the inhabitants of the earth at this time go baby-picking, plucking them off the branches, then taking them home to raise them? Or perhaps infants will only be resurrected in the presence of adults, who will then care for them. A couple will be watching the news one day when, presto, an infant appears on their sofa. Or maybe it will proceed in a more orderly way than that. Perhaps the world will be given exact dates and places for resurrection events. For instance, New Yorkers will be informed that at 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning two thousand infants will be resurrected at City Hall. This way each community can make the necessary preparations.
But what about aborted fetus’s? How can they be resurrected as the people they were at the time of their death? Surely their spirits must be placed in bodies that are much more advanced than those they died in. One can say: Okay, but it’s the same person. But is it? Unless the resurrected fetus is placed inside of a body that has virtually no intelligence or consciousness, then it is not the same person.
Who Are We?
This goes to the question: What makes a person who they are?
Until a person is in Christ, who they are is primarily a distortion of who they were meant to be. They are not so much who they are as who they are NOT. Think about it. Christ is the light of men. He is our life. Anything that's not Him is darkness. And what is darkness? The absence of light. There’s no such thing as darkness. In this sense, there is no real you. There’s only a real Christ; you are either in Him--in which case He’s the real you--or you are not. If you’re not, then YOU have not yet been fully formed. You’re still mostly darkness, mostly “without form and void.” This version of you does not really exist in any meaningful sense of the word. And if you don’t exist in any meaningful way, then what does it really mean to be resurrected as yourself? Yes, you may still retain your memories, but are you your memories? Is that who you are? Is that WHAT you are? What are we? “In him we move and live and have our being.” What you are without Christ is essentially nothing. And that nothing must be destroyed. Perhaps only the Elect, who are in Christ, are still themselves in the resurrection for only they are really themselves in this life. That’s what it means to be saved--to become your real self. If the old self is primarily something with no fundamental existence, a distortion meant only to be destroyed, then why must it retain a strict continuity with its former self in the resurrection? That continuity consists only of memories, which do not constitute the real self anyway. So why the need for this continuity? Why the need to imagine a resurrection that poses such monumental problems? Why can’t children, babies, infants, aborted fetus’s, and everyone else simply be reincarnated?