The Divine Exchange

The entire message of the Gospel revolves around one unique historical event: the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. With this single, sovereign act, God offers to us an all-sufficient solution to all the problems of man. A divine exchange took place at the cross and it’s imperative that we understand what it entails and live in its reality.

1. Jesus took our punishment and offers us the reward of His obedience. “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6) The Hebrew word translated as “iniquity” is avon. It stands for our collective rebellion against God and the punishment or evil consequences attached to iniquity. In Leviticus 16:22, concerning the scape goat released on the day of Atonement, God said:

“The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land.”

The goat symbolically bore not just the inquities of the Israelites, but also all the consequences of their inquities. Similarly, Jesus wasn’t guilty of any sin, but God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Like the scapegoat that prefigured Him, He carried them away so that they might not return again upon us. He endured in our place all the evil consequences that we deserved by divine justice and in exchange, God offers us all the good that was due to the sinless obedience of Christ.

2. Jesus dealt with both sin and sickness. Isaiah 53:4-6 says “Surely he took up our infirmities [literally, sicknesses] and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.”

Jesus received the punishment due to our sins that we might have peace with God and He also bore our sicknesses that through His wounds we might be healed. He “bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24)

3. Jesus took our sins upon Himself that we might receive His righteousness. Through the sin offerings of the Mosaic law, God showed us the necessity of the shedding of innocent blood and the giving of life to pay the price of sin. This was accomplished once-for-all by the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus. “He poured out His soul unto death” (Is. 53:12). “For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

4. Jesus died our death that we might receive His life. The final outcome of sin is death: “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezk. 18:4). Thus, as Jesus became identified with our sin it was inevitable that He should also experience the death that is the outcome of sin. “For the wages [just reward] of sin is death, but the [unearned] gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) To all who accept His sacrifice, Jesus said: “I came so that my sheep will have life” (Jn. 10:10b).

5. Jesus became poor with our poverty that we might become rich with His riches. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9) Jesus became poor on the cross. It was there He was hungry, thirsty, naked and in need of all things. Even after His death, He was buried in a borrowed robe and tomb. These are the features of poverty ( Dt. 28:48). In exchange, God offers to all who believe, a life of abundance exemplified by Jesus: “And God is able to make all grace abound towards you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor 9:8).

6. Jesus endured our rejection that we might have His acceptance as God’s children. Spritual alienation from God came about through the Fall. But this was promised: “The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit – a wife who married young, only to be rejected.” (Is. 54:6) This is seen in the agony of Jesus at the cross when He cried out: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and He cried again “yielded up His spirit” (Mt. 27:46, 50).

And at that instant, the veil of the temple was torn into two. Sinful man can now have direct fellowship with a holy God. Through the rejection of Christ, God adopted us as His children. “Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Himself … He [God] has made us accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6).

7. Jesus became a curse at the cross that we might receive the blessings of Abraham by faith. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us” (Gal. 3:13-14). God has provided us a release from all the curses listed in Deuteronomy 28. As Christians, our response should be a deep appreciation of what Jesus did for us at the cross.

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The Question Marks of Reincarnation

Reincarnation – the soul being reborn in one or more successive existences – is a crucial belief in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Wicca, New Age groups, Eckankar, Rosicrucians and other religious minorities. It’s a subject that is frequently romanticised in books, music, movies and public lectures. A survey shows that one-third of Europeans believe in reincarnation, with Lithuania having the highest (44%) and Germany the lowest (12%). A Barna survey indicates that a quarter of Christians in the US believe in reincarnation.

In Hinduism, reincarnation (samsara) is a migration of the soul in successive cycles through which it is reborn as human, animal or plant life forms. In contrast, Buddhism does not believe in soul migration, as Buddhism: An Illustrative Guide notes, it views reincarnation as “a suffering-laden cycle of life death and rebirth without beginning or end.”

Jainism believe it’s a passage of the soul (or atman) through cycles of rebirth, and depending on the karma, a soul can be reborn in heaven, hell or earthly realm. In Yoruba religion, a component of the departed soul is said to return to earth in form of a guardian (ori) while the other remains in heaven. This idea reflects in some Yoruba names given to persons e.g Yetunde (“mother has returned”), Babatunde (“father has returned”) etc.

The Blind Law of Karma

In Eastern religions, reincarnation is not seen as all bright and sunny. In Hindu thought, the world is seen as a place of terror, suffering and pain – like an evil forest – from which mankind should escape from. In Western New Age and pagan spirituality, these “negative” talk about suffering and pain is bad for marketing, so they adhere to a convenient form of reincarnation – one which blends with Western ideals of hedonism and exploration of potentials. Thus, while the East teaches that one can return to earth in a lower form as a bug or maggot, the West teaches “progressive” reincarnation, that humans will always return to earth as humans or higher forms.

Karma, the universal law of cause and effect, regulates all natural existence and human experiences. The word “karma” comes from the Sanskrit root words meaning “to do,” “what is done” and “a deed,” and its function is to reward people for every past deed, thought and word with future good or suffering. But the rewards for all thoughts, deeds and words are too many for one lifetime, so a person must return again to pay off his karmic debts. This is where the “warm fuzzies” of reincarnation wear off.

For example, if a husband beats his wife, he has accrued a negative karma, so in the next life, he must return as a woman beaten by her husband to work off bad karma. Since her husband too has generated a bad karma by abusing her, he will also have to return in the next life as a woman to be beaten by her husband and on and on it must go until the scales of karma are balanced. Or, if a person murders a fellow, he must be reborn as a victim of murder, after all, there is no forgiveness in karma. Clearly, karma and reincarnation, perpetuate evil and sin rather than provide a solution to them.

In Eastern versions, a person’s soul must undergo rebirth until he reaches a state of perfection or liberation (moksha) and becomes united with the divine or universe. In Buddhist belief, he ceases to exist or goes into nothingness (nirvana). In the Western versions, with each rebirth, a soul gradually evolves upward by learning his lessons until he reaches the pinnacle of perfection as an “ascended master” or a super-human being. Granted, he may have to be reborn in each race, status, gender or zodiac sign in order to evolve. That means a person will probably have at least 10,000 years to attain his goal!

Oskar Benhardt, a 20th century occult mystic, wrote: “Through an Eternal Law, you are burdened with an irrevocable obligation to make atonement which you can never cast upon others … your thoughts, words or deeds can be redeemed by no one but yourself” (The Grail Message, Vol. 1, 43).

There are 3 problems here. First, the law of karma can’t be “eternal” since this earth is not eternal. It has a beginning and definitely has an end. Second, in this system, you are obligated to make atonement for yourself and also redeem yourself from bad karma. In karma, there is no sin and consequently, no Saviour or Redeemer, so how can this self-atonement and self-redemption be achieved? Opinions vary. Hindus seek “liberation” through ethical living and meditative practices such as yoga. Buddhists observe yamas or niyamas (truthfulness, non-stealing or non-violence). The Jainas adhere to asceticism while Sikhs claim its by devotion to God and good works. Granted, most agree that Ahimsa is the key.

Ahimsa literally means “compassion” or “harmlessness.” It means you must live your entire life without ever harming any living thing, especially because they all have the spark of “divine spiritual energy” in them. Thus, hurting them brings bad karma. Ahimsa, according to a work, has “reached an extraordinary status in the ethical philosophy of Jainism” – Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace and Conflict. Jainas take a solemn vow never to hurt any life form with words, deeds or thoughts.

To avoid stepping on an insect, they don’t go out at night and when they walk, they carry a little broom with which they sweep the ground. They live a strict vegetarian diet, eating nuts and fruits which they say, are freely given by the trees. They don’t eat honey – that’s violence to bees – and they also wear masks covering their mouths to prevent them from breathing in or ingesting a microbe. Some Jainas don’t even farm because it could kill or injure insects or worms!

This sort of lifestyle may be quaint, but if anyone is going to make it in the karma game, the Jainas are. Others who sweetly teach reincarnation but are not emulating them are just hypocrites. The irrationality of this belief becomes obvious when, for instance, you are in a situation when you have to protect your life or that of your family (like in a war), ahimsa flies right out of the window. And lest anyone put some hope in this folly, our body’s immune system attacks and kills millions of microbes every day, so, the karma debt is beyond what any man can pay.

This is where the truth and logic of the Bible shine brightly: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law…” No amount of right actions will save us from eternal doom because “our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Rom. 3:20; Is. 64:6). “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). God’s gift of eternal life is free of charge and we neither pay for it nor work to earn it. It’s simply received by faith in Jesus.

Fatalism, Memory and Justice

There’s another problematic outcome of karma: fatalism. It’s asserted that the law of karma cannot be limited to the sphere of human conduct. By karma, the sun, moon and planets keep their appointed courses, the tides rise and fall, the winds blow and all animate creatures pass through all the stages of their life from birth to death (Edgar Thompson, The Word of the Cross to Hindus, 1956, 102).

In other words, whatever will happen has already been fixed by karma. If a ship carrying passengers sinks into the sea or hundreds of children die in an explosion, that’s their karma. In this system, one’s karma (or higher self), instead of God, is the judge. It judges your actions daily and tells your future what reward you deserve. That is, you make your own policies, keep your policies and enforce them, ergo – you are your own judge. That was what Oskar Benhardt painted in rainbow colours in his Grail Message. Whatever happens to you is what karma or your “higher self” decides is the best for you.

Try to imagine the influence of this belief on cultures that have embraced it. If you see a starving woman with a sick child scavenging on the garbages of Mantola, don’t you dare help her! She is working out karma. If you take her in, give her a good meal, treat her child and give her a good job, she will just have to return in another lifetime and become a scavenger with a sick child all over again. So the beggars and invalids are left that way because to help them is to interfere in their karma. This is why these regions didn’t have hospitals or charity organizations until Christian missionaries set foot there.

From the reincarnationist’s prism, the 2012 gang rape in New Delhi was karma. Perhaps Jyoti Singh’s “higher self” had decreed that she would be raped on that day, so preventing the crime would have messed up her karma. The World Trade Centre attack was karma too, since the “higher selves” of those 2,977 victims simply worked together with the “higher selves” of the 19 plane hijackers. The 2008 earthquake in China which claimed 69,195 lives must have been karma too, after all, death is just a “transition.” You see, if we are just puppets on a playground playing out an unchangeable script, then we have no purpose in life. If we are just here to get recycled into another form like paper, then life is meaningless.

Now, if we have all lived before, why do we not remember? Most people live and die without knowing about their past lives or what they are supposed to be “paying back.” A response is that souls of the dead drink from “the river of forgetfulness” before they are reborn but their past memories can be recovered through occult meditation or mediumship.

This entails expending so much time, energy and money to know one’s previous lives or pay off karma. In some climes, “seekers” sit in lotus position for weeks, literally doing nothing, with all their bodily needs being cared for by others. Must we go into a permanent state of catatonia to know our “past lives”? I read a book on this subject in 2008. The author says if a woman is thinking of her husband before death, she will return as a man. If she was thinking of a pig, she would return as a pig. Interesting. So what about those who reincarnate as cactus plants or mealy bugs, do they also remember their past lives and work off their karma?

How can karma or reincarnation be a “learning experience” if rewards and punishments are meted out to people who have no conscious knowledge of why they are being rewarded or punished? If a 10 year old girl dies of cancer for being Adolf Hitler in her previous life, but never knows that fact, is this a gesture of justice? What lesson did her cancer teach her about her past life if she couldn’t remember it?

How do we learn our lessons if we are never told our mistakes? Why do the gods or the universe (whatever!) punish people for bad deeds in their past lives which they don’t know? Is it not sadism to put people through misery while withholding the very knowledge they need to solve it? Is this just? Is this sane? Even from a human standpoint, reincarnation is senseless.

“Proofs” of Reincarnation?

Some people have claimed to remember their “past lives” through hypnosis, but in the court of law, memories recovered via hypnosis are not scientifically reliable. Dr. Ian Stevenson, has published case studies of 2,500 children who claimed to have remembered their past lives over a period of 40 years. Keith Augustine observed in The Case Against Immortality that “the vast majority of Stevenson’s cases come from countries where religious belief in reincarnation is strong, and rarely elsewhere, [which] seems to indicate that cultural conditioning (rather than reincarnation) generate claims of spontaneous past life memories.”

A true scientific experiment must eliminate all other variables except the control, but since Stevenson’s works (and other “testimonies”) haven’t done this, then these children must have obtained their information, however accurate, from demons. Buddhist sage, Dalai Lama, boasted “If science can disprove reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism would abandon reincarnation.” Of course, science has disproved several ancient beliefs, but they are seldom given up.

Reincarnation is invalidated even by demography. The world population in 1350 was near 370 million, but as of March 2016, it is 7.4 billion and it’s estimated to increase to 11.2 billion by 2100. If we are all being recycled, why is the human population increasing exponentially? Where are all the new babies coming from? Or how did 200 souls emerge from one corresponding soul from 8 centuries ago? To affirm the existence of a Creator creating new spirits totally negates the pantheist worldview.

We are told reincarnation results in human upward evolution, but where is the evidence for this? Apart from our progress in science and technology, can we say human nature has made any significant progress in the last two centuries? Think of the two bloody world wars and the crises currently brewing in several nations. We boast of medical breakthroughs, only for more deadly diseases to strike the earth. We invent satellites, computers and split atoms, only for human depravity and wickedness to rise to another level.

Mankind has not evolved. In fact, if reincarnation is true, India and Nepal, with their arcane spirituality and traditions, should have been the most civilized and utopian nations on earth by now. But if what we see happening there today are the ideals of reincarnation, then it’s truely lamentable.

Some people claim John the Baptist in the Bible was a reincarnation of Elijah. But when John was asked “Are you Elijah?” He answered “no.” (Jn. 1:21) His office was similar to that of Elijah in the scale of repentance (Mal. 4:5-6). Elijah didn’t die and obviously didn’t reincarnate. John 9:1-3 doesn’t support reincarnation either because Jesus said: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned.” The Bible is clear: “People die once, and after that they are judged” (Heb. 9:27).

The Bible teaches resurrection instead of reincarnation and we have a reliable evidence of Jesus Christ who died and rose again. He didn’t reincarnate. What proof do reincarnationists have for this belief? Their “higher selves”? Some mystical books? Spirit guides? Vivid memories? These are not proofs. Rather than making us run on the treadmill of karma for centuries till we get it right, the true God offers complete forgiveness and salvation by faith in Jesus Christ (John 5:24). Reincarnation is an amoral and hopeless lie. It neither atones man’s sins nor redeems him from evil.