What is the Difference between Reincarnation, Resuscitation, and Resurrection

by Rob Lundberg17796709_10213276678055125_5281942654396583827_n

The other day at work, I was involved in a discussion with someone who asked me about what was the reason for my being a Christian. My favorite way of answering that question is that “a dead guy came back to life.”  But then I followed up with that by sharing with him that it was looking into the resurrection of Christ and being open for God’s Holy Spirit to convict, convince, draw and save me by His grace as I investigated the gospel accounts and external sources for Jesus’ resurrection.  You see, Jesus died, and then rose from the dead three days later. He was not resuscitated.

When Jesus spoke of someone being born again, He was not speaking of an experience of being born again, and again and again, as in reincarnation.  He was speaking of an experiential change of being born from above.

In this post, I would like to share with you how you can know the difference in these terms.[1] I hope that you will take time to ponder upon them as we think upon the meaning of a physical resurrection. Before my conversion almost thirty-seven years ago, I had at one point and time considered the first two options. However if Jesus is truly resurrected, it MUST BE the third and only option.

Reincarnation: (a) The body that dies disintegrates back into the earth, but the soul or consciousness comes back in a different body; (b) The body is not raised, but the soul or consciousness is recycled into a body that may not be human; (c) The conscious embodied into a circumstance for better or for worse depending on one’s karmic debt. No heavenly attributes are present; (d) The power source is intrinsically human and the body will die again; (e) Reincarnation is understood as a necessary event that is a means of paying karmic debt and is considered a curse or a liability; (f) Religions that embrace reincarnation: Hindu, Buddhist, and New Age literature; (g) Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age movements.

Resuscitation: (a) The body that dies is raised up from the grave and is joined with the soul/spirit; (b) The body that is raised has no changes in it; (c) The body/soul/spirit remains the same person yet does not possess heavenly incorruption, immortality, glory, and power; (d) The power source of the person is intrinsically human and is subjected to death once again; (e) Resuscitation is viewed as an unpromised, rare, special, and miraculous event that is considered an asset; (f) Lazarus (John 11:38-44), Jairus’ daughter (Luke 8:49-56), and Widow’s son (Luke 7:11-15); and (g) Possible resuscitation to happen in any religion, with God as source.

Resurrection: (a) The body that dies is raised up from the grave and again joined with the soul/spirit; (b) The body that is raised (same body numerically) has changes in it; (c) The body/soul/spirit remains the same person yet possesses heavenly incorruptible, immortality, glory, and power; (d) The dominating power source of the resurrected person is the Holy Spirit and cannot die again; (e) Resurrection is viewed as a promised event and is considered an asset; (f) Religions that embrace a view of the Resurrection: Judaism, Christianity, and Islamic Scriptures (Daniel 12:1-3, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58; Sura 2:174; 37:144); and (g) Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The resurrection of Jesus is evidenced by the following:[2]

1. The vast majority of scholars willingly acknowledge that Jesus was crucified by the Roman government. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.  His body took a Roman spear that pierced his pericardium.  Jesus literally died by the nails, the stress-expanded chest cavity, pain, the injuries sustained by the crown of thorns and the whipping. But nobody survives a spear. 

2. The disciples believed that Jesus appeared to them individually and in groups, and because of Jesus appearing to them, it verified the authenticity of His resurrection to the point of them willing to become martyrs (through death and banishment) for the truthfulness of the event.

3. Saul of Tarsus who would become the Apostle Paul was gloriously converted from being a rigid Pharisee and persecutor of the Church. He encountered the risen Christ on the road to Damascus enroute to persecute more believers in Christ. The Apostle Paul had his mission set to reaching out the Gentile world and writing almost two-thirds of the New Testament. He would later be martyred for his faith under the regime of Nero.

4. James, too was a skeptic before the resurrection Christ, in that being one of the half brothers of Jesus, he did not come to faith in Christ until after the resurrection when Jesus appeared to him. The impact of the resurrection resulted in his eventually becoming the overseer (bishop) in Jerusalem and would oversee the Jerusalem Council that is recorded in Acts 15. He is also the author of the letter attributed to his name at latter part of the New Testament.

5. Finally the empty tomb. Jesus is not there, for He is risen. Nobody stole His body. There were no hallucinations, and no delusions. The tomb is empty and Jesus appeared to over 500 eyewitnesses.

To conclude this post, and summarizing and paraphrasing an explanation by my friend J. Warner Wallace, I am a Christian not because it pragmatically works for me.  I am not a Christian because I am less of jerk than I was before Jesus saved me. I am not a Christian because I want to go to Heaven. Nobody wants to go to hell, and thank the Lord, Heaven is my eternal destiny as a result of trusting in Christ. But that is not the main reason. I am a Christian because the Holy Spirit softened my heart and mind to look at the evidence of who Jesus is and His resurrection.  The Spirit of God took that and drew me to faith in Christ through the preaching of the gospel and drawing me to faith in Christ. The evidence is true. I am a Christian because the Christian faith is evidentially true.


[1] H. Wayne House and Joseph M. Holden, Charts of Apologetics and Christian Evidences, Grand Rapids, Zondervan): Chart 59, s.v. “Comparing Resurrection, Resuscitation, and Reincarnation

[2] Gary Habermas and Michael Licona have a great book that I have used as a textbook where I teach, entitled,
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2004.


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