“The New Testament teaches reincarnation. It calls it by another name, ‘resurrection,’ but reincarnation and resurrection are really the same thing.”
Spiritists and some New Agers make this claim, but it’s utterly false. Resurrection and reincarnation are emphatically not “the same thing.” The resurrection of the body, which the Bible teaches is the restoration to life in glorified form of the same body that died and was buried, is exactly what happened with Jesus (See John 2:19-22 and John 20:19-31). Reincarnation teaches that only the soul survives death. After death, the soul enters another body to begin life over again as a new person, who (usually) has no memory of previous lives.
Not only does the Bible not support reincarnation; it strongly denies the possibility. “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,” the writer to the Hebrews says (Hebrews 9:27). In the context of this verse, the point is that Jesus’ work of redemption is as final and certain as the fact of death is for mortal man. Just as people die only once–not multiple times, as in reincarnation–so also Jesus did not have to submit to multiple crucifixions in order to save us. Once was enough.
And that leads us to the most important difference between reincarnation and the Bible’s teaching. In reincarnation, multiple lifetimes are necessary for individuals to finish paying for their own sins. Suffering is explained as a consequence of the accumulated sins of previous lifetimes. Given enough lifetimes, the theory goes, people will eventually finish paying off all their accumulated debt. They will then enter into a purely spiritual existence and won’t have to be incarnated again.
The root of this theory, like the root of most false teaching, is the idea that we have to pay for our own sins by what we do. The Bible rejects this idea completely. Jesus’ suffering and death paid, in full, for all sins committed by all people of all time. That means that the endless series of lifetimes proposed by reincarnation is not only impossible, it’s completely unnecessary.