Reincarnation in the Bible
There are several places in Scripture that seem to hint at the reality of reincarnation:
Seeking God after death
“When He slew them, then they sought Him, and they returned and enquired early after God” (Ps. 78:34). Did they seek Him after He slew them? It sounds like it, doesn’t it?
Jeremiah before conception
“Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying: Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee, and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jer. 1:4,5). God is telling Jeremiah that He knew him before he was even conceived in the womb, and ordained him to be a prophet before his birth. How did God know Jeremiah was qualified to be a prophet before he was conceived in the womb, unless he existed before he was conceived? And how did Jeremiah qualify to be a prophet of God before he was born unless he lived in obedience and submission to God at least one lifetime before his birth as Jeremiah? After all, think what it must take for someone to qualify as a prophet of God. Surely a person has to know God, understand His will, and then choose to submit and obey. This takes time and maturity. It seems to me that Jeremiah had to have lived several lifetimes before his birth as Jeremiah.
Most people object that this simply means that God knew Jeremiah in the same sense that He knows everything and everyone past, present, and future. But that doesn’t explain to my satisfaction the fact that God not only said He knew Jeremiah before he was conceived, but that He ordained him as a prophet before he was born. This objection also implies that we don’t exercise free will in choosing our way, but that God has our future mapped out in advance. This would mean we are what we are because we have been pre-programmed this way before we were conceived. If this were true, then salvation would not be necessary since some of us are predestined for heaven, and some for hell, and nothing we think, say, or do will have any effect on our destiny. I know of no such doctrine in Scripture, although there are some who express such a belief! Also, the word “knew” here means more than just know about. The deeper meaning of the word is to have a close intimate relationship. In Scripture, this is usually the way the word “know” or “knew” is used.
Jesus said John was Elijah
One of the most direct statements concerning reincarnation is found in Matthew 11:13-15 where Jesus tells His disciples;
“For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias [Elijah], which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Also: “And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed [wished]. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist” (Mt. 17:10-13).
We need to notice several things about these verses. The prophecy that the disciples were referring to is found in the last two verses in the Old Testament; Malachi 4:5,6: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD, and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Most people explain those words of Jesus by quoting Luke 1:17 where an angel is telling Zacharias that he will have a son named John; “And he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias…” So they claim that Jesus meant that John had come in the “spirit and power” of Elijah, not that he was Elijah. The problem I have with that explanation is that in Malachi 4:5, God said He would send Elijah, not someone else in the spirit and power of Elijah. Also, Jesus said John was Elijah, not that John had come in Elijah’s spirit and power. As to the angel’s statement; who would be better qualified to come in the spirit and power of Elijah than Elijah himself? Also, there may be a special significance to the word “spirit” in that statement. Perhaps we are being told that Elijah’s spirit occupied John’s body, which is, after all, what reincarnation is, isn’t it?
Another objection I usually hear is that John himself denied that he was Elijah when specifically asked (Jhn. 1:21). John may not have known he was Elijah. Or, if he knew, he couldn’t admit it then or his ministry would have been prematurely cut short, because he hadn’t yet baptized Jesus. If he had admitted he was Elijah, the authorities probably would have arrested him on the spot. Does this mean he lied? No, he could have denied being Elijah and still told the truth. What they asked him was, “are you Elijah?” not “were you Elijah?” His name was Elijah in the past, during his lifetime as Elijah, but now his name was John. So if he knew he had been Elijah, he may have just truthfully answered them literally in order to escape premature arrest. The fact remains that on two separate occasions, Jesus said John was Elijah.
I also find it interesting that when Jesus gave this answer to His disciples, He qualified His statements with “if you will receive it,” and “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” These statements indicate to me that even though reincarnation is true, it isn’t the most important message in Scripture, and therefore it isn’t crucial that we believe it. It simply is a fact. Salvation is the most important message in Scripture, and a belief in reincarnation is not necessary for salvation, although an understanding of reincarnation certainly answers a lot of questions that otherwise remain mysteries. Today, Jesus might have said, “if the shoe fits wear it.”
The rebirth of the scribes and Pharisees
During Jesus’ condemnation of the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, He made this statement:
“That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar” (Mt. 23:35).
Jesus said those scribes and Pharisees to whom He was speaking had taken part in slaying Barachias between the temple and the altar, which occurred hundreds of years before they were born. Reincarnation explains how this was possible…