After the last conversation, one of my friends brought the book she said had convinced her of reincarnation. It was in Chinese, but it was a Chinese translation of a Western author, so I knew I could get the gist of it from Amazon reviews or even go read it at an English bookstore. Our class was just starting, though, and how to deal with it without having read it?
I knew that regardless of what the author's experiences were and what interpretation he put on those experiences, Jesus, on the other hand, had already demonstrated his credibility by rising from the dead. Assuming Jesus rose from the dead and has complete power over life and death, I figured he could be completely trusted on anything he had to say about the afterlife. Regardless of what any multitude of people may be able to say about "past lives" while under hypnosis, you can't beat rising from the dead, and being able to raise other people on command, for sheer authority on the subject.
I don't remember how much of this I communicated right away to my two friends but I did say, "Let's see what Jesus had to say on the subject," and took them to Luke 16:19-31, the story Jesus told of the rich man and the poor man who both died and went to Hades, but ended up on different sides.
"Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man's table ; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores.
"Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.'
"But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.'
"And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house - for I have five brothers - in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'
"But Abraham said, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.'
"But he said, 'No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!'
"But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.'" (Luke 16:19-31, NASV)
Even if we assume for the sake of argument that reincarnation is true, it obviously doesn't work for some people, and you're still back to wondering if you'll get another chance or go straight to the bad place. You're NOT GUARANTEED A SECOND CHANCE.
(And yes, we reviewed how Hades is the waiting place before the judgment, and no humans have gone on to heaven or hell yet.)
Just in case someone still thinks this is referring to a temporary punishment between multiple lives on earth, Matthew 25:31-46 is something else Jesus had to say about the afterlife:
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 'For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'
"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'
"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'
"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46, NASV)
Regardless of what you believe about reincarnation Jesus is still coming back at an event when every eye will see him and every knee will bow before him (Romans 14:10b-11). So even if reincarnation is true, when Jesus comes back, all those second chances run out. And there are still going to be some people on his right and some people on his left.
Furthermore, the punishment after that judgment is eternal and can not possibly be construed as some temporary punishment between lives. Considering that the earth and it's works will be burned up at the second coming, it would be a little difficult to reincarnate back to earth anyway.
(Another point I heard later but didn't get to share with them is that if the "eternal punishment" is temporary, then the "eternal life" would have to be temporary, as well.)
"So," I said, "I don't know what is in your book, but if Jesus wasn't a liar or mistaken, then you have to reconcile anything you read in that book with what Jesus said about life after death."
Then we read Paul's speech on Mar's Hill in Acts 17:
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, "What would this idle babbler wish to say?" Others, "He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities," - because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean." (Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)
So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, 'TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.
The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, 'For we also are His children.' Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:16-31, NASV)
Once again it says he has appointed a day when someone will judge the world in righteousness, and he's given proof as to who it is by raising him from the dead. "Jesus, right?" said Friend 2.
Then we read the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15. The ending of it hadn't made sense until they'd read the whole interesting chapter (you can click there to read it), which, and this is why I love studying Bible with them, they were fascinated by. Here's just the conclusion:
Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58, NASV)
Alas, that's about all the discussion I had time to jot down after class, but I remember we read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 as well:
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, NASV)
There were many more places I wanted to show them in the Bible but our time was up.