Re: Reincarnation in the Bible?
- From: James <bireda@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Sun, 03 Sep 2006 13:26:32 -0100
Re: Reincarnation in the Bible?
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"
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.
Many times the Bible explains itself later on. That is what happens
with the prophecy at Mal 4:5. The angel shed more light on what was
meant by that prophecy.
At Lu 1:17, that angel didn't say that John would be the reincarnated
dead prophet Elijah, or that the dead prophet Elijah would be born to
her but they would call his name "John" etc. No, the angel showed what
was meant by that prophecy. John would have "Elijah's spirit and
power", not physically be the dead prophet Elijah reincarnated.
It is like the delivering of the Ten Commandments and the other laws
to Moses. Even though it strongly appears in the OT that God directly
did all of that communicating etc, the Bible later on tells us that
those laws given to Moses came through angels, not directly from God.
(see Ac 7:53; Ga 3:13; He 2:2)
Jesus said John was Elijah, not that John had come in Elijah's spirit
Jesus also said that Jerusalems' temple would be torn down, but built
back up in 3 days. Joh 2:19-22,
"19. Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it
again in three days."
20. The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this
temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?"
21. But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
22. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what
he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus
had spoken. " (NIV)
Thus Jesus did not always speak literally. So the fact that Jesus said
John the Baptist was Elijah, is not proof in itself that John was a
As to the angel's statement; who would be better qualified
to come in the spirit and power of Elijah than Elijah himself?
Yes, that would be true if John really was the reincarnated dead
prophet Elijah. But there is not one shred of evidence from this verse
making such a claim. Rather as mentioned above, this verse helps to
understand the meaning of the prophecy at Mal 4:5.
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?
Of course as you know, the reading of it doesn't actually say that
does it. Here again is Lu 1:17(a),
"And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of
The question here would be, what doesn't the Bible mean by the word
"spirit? Can it mean a reincarnated person?
The Hebrew word for spirit is "ruach" and the Greek word "pneuma".
Both words have to do with a 'force in motion'.
For example, Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible, shows some
words used to define "ruach" as:
Notice the use of the Hebrew word "spirit" (ruach) at Ps 146:4,
"His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his
thoughts do perish."
Some translations use the word "breath" instead of "spirit". Thus
when this "ruach" or active life-force leaves the body, the person's
thoughts perish; there is no conscious existence.
Did you know that animals also have the same "spirit" as humans?
Notice Ec 3:19,
"Because the fate of the sons of men and the fate of the beasts is the
same. As is the death of one so is the death of the other, and all
have one spirit [ruach]. Man is not higher than the beasts; because
all is to no purpose." (BBE) (brackets mine)
Yes, when the animal's life-force or "spirit" goes out of it, just as
in humans, it ceases to exist.
In Luke 23:46 Jesus gave up his "spirit" (pneuma) and expired. It
"And Jesus called with a loud voice and said: "Father, into your hands
I entrust my spirit." When he had said this, he expired. "
When his "spirit" or life-force left him, he did not go to Heaven. He
wasn't resurrected until the third day. Then it was not until 40 days
after that, that he went to Heaven. (Acts 1:3,9) In Luke 23:46 Jesus
was saying that he trusted God would resurrect him to have a future
Yes, when the animal's life-force or "spirit" goes out of it, just as
in humans, it ceases to exist.
Thus the BIBLE does not teach that humans have some immortal thing
inside them that survives death. Rather the BIBLE teaches us that the
hope for humans at death is the promised resurrection of Ac 24:15,
"and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a
resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." (NIV)
Thus the "spirit" of Elijah that John the Baptist had was like
Elijah's motivation and determination to carry out God's will etc. Or
as this Bible encyclopedia puts it:
"John the Baptizer demonstrated the same vigorous drive and energetic
zeal that Elijah had shown, and this resulted in John's having a
powerful effect on his listeners; hence he could be said to have gone
forth "with Elijah's spirit and power."" (Insight On The Scriptures,
Vol. 2, p. 1026 )
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?"
Actually, if he was the reincarnated dead prophet Elijah, then "are"
still should get a positive 'yes" response from John. But John flatly
denied it. So did John not know he was the reincarnated Elijah, as you
That is unlikely, since John was apparently familiar with the Hebrew
Scriptures (Isaiah and Malachi etc) and when they asked who he was, he
quoted Isaiah 40:3. So let's put it all together.
They asked John who he was at Joh 1:22,23,
" 22. Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back
to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?"
23. John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice
of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'""
Here is Isaiah 40:3,
"A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD ;
make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God." (NIV)
Now, John the Baptist would also have been familiar with Mal 3:1,
which also talks about him,
""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
Now if John applies Mal 3:1 to himself, he would also have to apply
Mal 4:5, since it is discussing the same prophecy, but just adds some
more detail. Mal 4:5,6
"5. "See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and
dreadful day of the LORD comes.
6. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the
hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and
strike the land with a curse."'
(Also, the turning of father's hearts to their children etc, is also
mentioned by the angel at Lu 1:17)
So it can't be said that John didn't know he was Elijah, since the
Scripture he quoted at Isa 40:3 directly ties in with Mal 3:1 and Mal
4:5,6 showing the descriptive name of that person to come that would
prepare a way for the Lord, was Elijah. And John would likely have
been familiar with all those Scriptures pertaining to him.
Thus when John said "no", he was fully aware of what he was saying and
that it was the truth. He knew he was not the dead prophet Elijah, but
rather had the spirit and power like that person had, to prepare
people for the coming of the Messiah.
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.
Unlike Peter etc, there is no Scriptural indication that John the
Baptist was afraid of humans, and even lie to protect himself. We can
see his boldness and directness, even criticizing the chief political
leader of that area, Herod, for sleeping with his brother's wife. (Mt
14:1-4) As you know, that eventually got him beheaded. No, fear of man
would not have prompted him to speak an untruth.
The fact remains that on two separate occasions, Jesus said John was
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
Or Jesus' qualifications simply meant that many of the people failed
to make the connection between John the Baptist having the "spirit and
power" of Elijah when he came. They also failed miserably recognizing
the Messiah, Jesus, when he came. Yes, "Blind guides is what they"
were. (Mt 15:14)
And concerning reincarnation, is the concept of reincarnation in
harmony with the teachings in the Bible? No it is not.
First of all, the Bible does not teach that we have a "soul" which is
immortal and which can leave the body at death. Notice what the Bible
says a soul is. Ge 2:7,
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed
into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Does it say that the man was 'given' a soul? No, it says he "became" a
soul. Thus a soul is the whole person, his flesh, and his mind, all of
him (or her). If a soul is a person, then that means a soul is not
immortal, and thus when a person dies, a soul dies. Thus there is
nothing to come back in a rebirth. Eze 18:4 confirms that a soul can
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the
soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (KJV)
Also the Bible very plainly tells us that the dead are unconscience,
oblivious of anything. Notice Ec 9:5,
"For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is
Also Ps 146:3,4,
"3 Do not trust in princes, In mortal man, in whom there is no
salvation. 4 His spirit departs, he returns to the earth; In that very
day his thoughts perish." (NASB)
The Bible says that the dead are not recycled, but both the righteous
and the unrighteous are awaiting a resurrection. (see below)
Also, the reincarnation belief has some problems with it. If a person
is continually reborn in order to improve themselves, would it not be
advantageous to remember all the details of the previous lives in
order to be able to correct them and not commit the same mistakes over
True, a few claim to remember past lives, but it is usually just
partial memories, not all of them. And the VAST MAJORITY of people
have NO recollection of any alleged past mistakes made at all! Thus
they would continually make them.
Also, the rebirths are not limited to humans. Throughout the world,
such as in Africa, Asia, North and South America, islands of the
Pacific, and Europe, people believe that human souls migrate into
sharks, alligators, tigers, bear cats, weasels, mice, and even insects
such as wasps and dung beetles.
Neither is reincarnation limited to animal forms. Barren women in
Africa and India invoke trees believed to be inhabited by souls of the
dead. Similar customs also existed in ancient Europe.
Since the soul dies, what hope is there for the dead? Rather than
leaving sinful humans to work out their own destiny by undergoing
countless rebirths, filled with suffering and pain, the Bible answers:
"There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the
unrighteous." (Ac 24:15)
In his infinite wisdom and love, the Creator remembers the life
pattern of dead ones. He does not do this as a basis to judge and
punish them, as the law of karma says. Rather, He does so in order to
resurrect people, bringing them back from the dead with the same
personalities and characteristics that they had before they died.
Those who are resurrected to life on earth will then be judged on the
basis of their life course AFTER their resurrection. (see Ro 6:7,23)
Then, as humans, they will have the prospect of life again-in a
restored earthly paradise, concerning which the Bible assures us:
"Death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be
anymore. The former things have passed away." (Re 21:4.)
I hope some of this has made some sense to you.
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[From "Reincarnation in the Bible?"
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