The Bible & Reincarnation
By Warren M Mueller –
Is there any evidence in the Bible that supports reincarnation? I recently met a person who claims that Matthew 11:14 supports the idea that at least some people are reincarnated. In this verse, Jesus says that John the Baptist is Elijah or Elias and therefore, John is either the resurrected or reincarnated prophet. Since Elijah was taken bodily up to heaven, he presumably never died and so John could not be the resurrected prophet (2 Ki 2:11). His mother was Elizabeth, a relative of Mary (Lk 1: 36, 57-60) and he was special even from birth being filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:15). Jesus said that there was nobody greater than John the Baptist ever born which certainly would put him in an exceptional class with Elijah the prophet (Mt 11:11). Mark and Luke both attribute prophetic verses from the old testament prophets Malachi and Isaiah to John the Baptist as the messenger who prepares the way for the return of the Lord Almighty (Mal 3:1; Is 40:3). So is the literal sense of Mt 11:14 what Jesus meant?
Some of the Jewish priests wondered who John the Baptist was and asked him if he was Elijah. John said he was not Elijah (Jn 1:21) which clearly conflicts with the literal sense of Mt 11:14. During the transfiguration of Jesus, Elijah and Moses appear and talk to Jesus who is changed such that “his clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” (Mk 9:3, NIV) Peter is present and offers to set up three shelters for each of them Jesus, Moses and Elijah.(Mk 9:5) This event happened after the death of John the Baptist so if he was Elijah reincarnated, why didn’t Peter and the others recognize him as John? Also, after the transfiguration, the three disciples ask Jesus why the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come before the Lord. In Mk 9:12, Jesus responds to their question and affirms that Elijah does come before the restoration of God’s kingdom. This is fulfilled in the appearance of Elijah before the death and resurrection of Jesus which establishes the kingdom of God on earth inside of believers (Jn 3:3; 1 Cor 6:19). The appearance of Elijah at the transfiguration of Jesus could also fulfill Mal 4:5 which predicted that Elijah would return before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Jesus continues in Mk 9:13 to explain that John the Baptist is the Elijah that has come and suffered. John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets who were rejected and suffered at the hands of the kings and priests of Israel. Therefore, these verses describe both the return of the Old Testament prophet Elijah (at the time of the transfiguration) and John the Baptist as the last forerunner of the kingdom of God and the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Reincarnation is not supported by the Bible which teaches that each person lives once and then is judged by God to determine eternal life in heaven or hell (Heb 9:27; 2Co 5:8; Rev 20:11-21:4). Jesus and Paul taught that every legal matter should be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses (Mt 18:16; 2Co 13:1). The diety of Jesus was witnessed by both Elijahs at the baptism of Jesus and his transformation. Jesus taught that faith in him leads to perfection and unity with God, not multiple human life experiences (Mt 14:6).