“And just as it is appointed for people to die once – and after this, judgment – so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Hebrews 9:27-28 (HCSB)
The concept of reincarnation is attractive to people who are discontented with this life – which is to say, it is appealing to most people! And understandably so. It satisfies deep romantic needs to suppose that one might have been something or someone important in a past life. Moreover, it builds upon the non-Biblical notion that only the soul is pure, and the body is unclean, inferior, and unworthy of being immortal.
The first half of today’s passage refutes the idea of reincarnation, which is found in most Eastern religions and incorporated into a number of recent Western imitations. Reincarnation is based on the notion that, although the body is mortal, the soul is not. So that after one’s body dies, the soul that was in it migrates (perhaps after an interval of time) to another body or organism. But God has so organized the universe that human beings die once, not “many times.”
Obviously, if God has appointed mankind to die once, it is impossible to be reincarnated. You may say, “But what about people who were clinically dead, yet were revived by some medical procedure? Didn’t they die twice?” In short, no. What modern medicine calls “impossibly dead” (that is, to be beyond recovery) is in no way limiting to God. The only time we are “inches from death” is when we’re actually “inches from death.” All other times, we just think we’re “inches from death.” Plus, when those people are revived, they’re never revived to another body, butterfly, or whatever.
The second half of today’s passage deals with Jesus’ first and second comings. His first coming was in relation to Isaiah 53: The suffering servant Who would atone for sin. Being fully God yet fully man, He too (as a man) was appointed to die only once. Good for us that He was blameless before the Lord (for He was the Lord, Himself) because once was all it took to atone for our sin!
By His sinless perfection (in that while He knew no sin Himself, He became the sin offering for us), Jesus rose from the grave so that He could appear a second time. This “second coming” fulfills prophecies such as Isaiah 2:2-5 and 9:6-7, which say that Messiah will bring peace to the world and deliver His people Israel from oppression.
However, speaking of “Israel,” since “not everyone who is descended from Israel are Israel” Romans 9:6, only those who eagerly await Jesus’ return can have assurance they will be delivered in His second coming.
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