What is the difference between Reincarnation and Resurrection?


2/8/17
edited by Luke Wayne

The Bible certainly mentions a notion of a resurrection, but this is different from reincarnation (or transmigration) in several ways.  Reincarnation is a rebirth into a new body and a new form of existence that may be entirely different from one's previous life.  For example, a human could get reincarnated as an animal such as a cow.  The cow is a different kind of creature than a human. Even if you come back as another human, you are coming back as a different man or woman than the one you were before. The previous man or woman stays dead, and you are born as a new person with a different body and a distinct identity.

On the other hand, in a resurrection, the human remains a human. Indeed, they remain the same human they were before. The Judeo-Christian notion of resurrection is a transformation of the body into an immortal form of the same body. There is a direct relationship between the physical body that dies and the body that physically rises to immortality.  The body that dies is the exact body that is raised. It is made new in the sense that it is perfected and no longer subject to frailty and death, but it is still the same body. It is restoring life to the same physical being that has died.

After his resurrection, Jesus said:

“See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have," (Lk. 24:39).

In this passage, Jesus clearly affirmed the physical nature of his resurrected body.  His body was identical to the body that had been killed.  Jesus' essence was not inhabiting another object.

Before His death, Jesus explained to those who would later kill Him:

“Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.' The Jews then said, 'It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?' But He was speaking of the temple of His body," (Jn. 2:19-21). 

In other words, Jesus' body would be destroyed and then raised.

In agreement with Jesus, the apostle Paul taught that physical resurrection of the body in 1 Corinthians 15 stating:

“So also is the resurrection of the dead It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, 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. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body,” (1 Cor. 15:42-44). 

There is a clear connection between the physical body in the grave and the resurrected, yet transformed, physical body that is raised.  The “it” that is sown is the “it” that is raised.

Term

Reincarnation Resurrection
Body Physical or Spiritual Physical
Means Moral decisions or good works such as detachment, denial, meditation, etc. Faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8-9).
Type of Future Existence Leaving old body behind and taking on a new, completely different body (human, animal, plant, spirit, etc.) Retuning to life in the same human body, though made perfect and freed from all mortal frailty or weakness