We often think of reincarnation as a concept associated with Eastern religions. But did you know that the Bible also talks about reincarnation?
Let's take a look at some of those verses...
Reincarnation in the Old Testament:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.”
How can a man return to his mother’s womb if not through rebirth into another body?
"God indeed does all these things, twice, three times, with mortals, to bring back their souls from the Pit, so that they may see the light of life."
"If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come."
If we go back and find the original Hebre word for "renewal" that word is “chaliyphah”
"chaliyphah" means “change of garments” and in this context that can only mean a “change of bodies”
Several Old Testament verses mention a “raising up” of prophets:
Amos 2:11 "'I also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths. Is this not true, people of Israel?' declares the Lord."
Jeremiah 29:14-15 "'I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.' You may say, 'The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon.'"
Another understanding of "raising up" is reincarnation of the soul.
The return of Elijah
It was known amongst the Jews that Elijah was prophesied to “return” and pave the way for the messiah.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert. A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted. And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth;”
"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the LORD you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.”
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
In Luke, we find an interesting prophecy given about who Elijah's return…
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.
He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Zechariah knew his son would be the return of Elijah.
The belief and expectation of certain figures to return in different bodies was prevalent amongst the Jews in that time and the early followers of Christ.
Just consider this conversation between Jesus and his disciples:
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
This is quite an interesting assortment of guesses! And it clearly proves that the people in Jesus' time believed in reincarnation of the soul as well as the "return" of the prophets and messengers. One of these guesses brings up an important question: how could Jesus possibly be the return of John the Baptist? John the Baptist was alive at the same time as Jesus. According to Luke 1:26-38, the age difference between John the Baptist and Jesus is approximately 6 months. So this conversation, which Jesus had with his disciple reveals something very important about the beliefs of the Jewish people in Jesus' time. They believed in transmigration of the soul into an adult body.
Most people imagine that the soul enters the body at birth and leaves the body at death. But, clearly, the people in Jesus' understood it differently. Some people were saying that John the Baptist's soul had gone to Jesus after John was killed. Even King Herod, the man who ordered John's head on a platter, believed Jesus was the reincarnation of John.
“Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”
"At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, 'This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'"
"Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life."
Herod had John’s head on a platter, he knew his body was dead and destroyed
There was not a word for reincarnation - to them, it simply was “return”
John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah
Jesus said that John was Elijah.
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Clearly, Jesus believed in and taught the doctrine of return or reincarnation.
They asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
If John was not Elijah, that would mean Jesus wasn’t the Messiah. The Old Testament prophecy about Elijah returning before the coming of the Messiah failed to come to pass. Had Elijah’s spirit not reincarnated in the life and body of John the Baptist, the prophecies of Malachi 4:5 and Luke 1:17 would never have been fulfilled; and the Messiah -- with Elijah yet to come -- could not have possibly arrived
The souls of Moses and Elijah were Jesus' disciples
When Jesus revealed his light body to some of his disciples, they fell down into prostration only to lift their heads and lo and behold, Jesus was standing in his light body and accompanying him were two dead prophets, the souls of Elijah and Moses.
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.”
Once again, Jesus proclaims John to be the return of Elijah. These verses offer us a peek into the unseen and prove that the soul lives on after death. Just think about it: why aren’t Moses and Elijah in heaven? If the soul doesn't continue its journey in the earthly realm after death, it would stand to reason that Elijah and Moses should be in heaven. But they are not...
Karma and Reincarnation:
Jesus taught about the relationship between karma and reincarnation.
“As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
If he was born blind, his sins which caused the blindness, would have to be from a previous life. Whether he had sinned or his parents had sinned, this verse illustrations the concept of Karma. Jesus talked about Karma more than once. He famously told Simon Peter this:
Matthew 26:52 "Jesus said to him, 'for all who draw the sword will die by the sword."
What does it mean to be “born again”?
“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
The Greek word for "again" is "anothen", it also means "from above," as in "born from above" which is why so many other translations of the Bible say "born from above." Clearly, this verse is talking about transmigration of the soul to an adult body.
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