(Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version).
The Oxford Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary defines reincarnation as the rebirth of a soul in another body. Adherents of the doctrine of reincarnation postulate that when human beings die, their souls can come back to earth again in another body, and that the death of an individual does not mark the end of his existence on earth, as the person has the opportunity to come back to the earth, again and again, though in different bodies. What is the biblical view on reincarnation? Does Scripture teach that the souls of people can come back to earth again, to be born in a different body, after death?
The first thing we need to make clear here is that the soul of man does not die at death, and that what dies at the expiration of life on earth is the body of man, not his soul. Next, we need to be clear about what the Bible says happens to the soul of each individual after its separation from the body at death. For those who are united with Christ in a faith relationship (those who are born again), the Bible teaches that at physical death, their soul separates from their body and goes to be with Jesus in paradise. The righteous souls will remain in paradise until the first resurrection, when their physical bodies in the dust of the earth will rise again, and their souls in paradise will reenter their resurrected bodies, and they will return back to heaven (paradise) in their resurrected bodies (the rapture). The resurrected saints will remain in paradise until the end of the reign of the antichrist, when they will come back to earth with Jesus, during his second coming, to destroy the antichrist and establish the millennial reign of Christ on earth.
Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
St. Luke 16:19-31
“Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day. A certain beggar, named Lazarus, was placed at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. Yes, even the dogs came and licked his sores. It happened that the beggar died, and that he was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried. In hell, he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far off, and Lazarus at his bosom. He called out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue! For I am in anguish in this flame.’ “But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you, in your lifetime, received your good things, and Lazarus, in like manner, bad things. But now here he is comforted and you are in anguish. Besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that those who want to pass from here to you are not able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ “He said, ‘I ask you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house; for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, so they won’t also come into this place of torment.’ “But Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets. Let them listen to them.’ “He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rises from the dead.'” (NHEB).
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
For unbelievers who die without having a saving/ faith relationship with Jesus Christ (those who were not born again and were therefore not saved), their souls depart to hell, after separation from their dead bodies. The souls of unrepentant unbelievers remain in hell until the second resurrection, when their dead bodies will arise to be united with their souls, so that they can stand in judgement before God, for their works while on earth, and for their unremitted sins. After the final judgement, those whose names are not found in God’s book of life (those who do not possess eternal life by virtue of not being in union with Christ) will be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. There, they will burn eternally, along with Satan and his fallen angels, as God finally obliterates all the causes and effects of sin in his universe.
I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and they opened books. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and hell gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. Death and hell were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire (NHEB).
The Scripture teaches unequivocally that all men are given just one shot at life, and after this, all die, and their souls go to their respective resting places to await God’s final judgement. The souls of all dead people either go to paradise or to hell, to await the final judgement, which will take place at the end of the millennial reign of Christ, following his second advent. Thus, according to the Bible, no dead person’s soul comes back to live again on the earth in a different body. No soul of any deceased person gets to be reborn in a new body. Simply put, no soul undergoes reincarnation, according to the Bible.
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
There’s another fact we need to make clear and to distinguish from the doctrine of reincarnation —the doctrine of resurrection. The Bible teaches about the resurrection of all dead people eventually, both of the righteous and of the wicked dead. The bodies of all dead people will rise up some day to be reunited with their souls (which are either in paradise or in hell). By the resurrection, the Bible means the disintegrated bodies of dead people will arise from the dust of the earth, being called up by God, and their souls will enter those bodies so that the person will live again in their renewed spiritual bodies. Resurrection differs from reincarnation in that in resurrection, the soul gets back into the body it was living in before death, that body having been raised up again to life in an imperishable form; reincarnation, on the other hand, teaches that a departed soul gets back to the earth in a new body, a different body from the one it inhabited while previously on earth, usually as a newborn in a rebirth. Those who believe in reincarnation teach that the soul of a dead person can either enter a new embryo and be born as a baby, or it can enter the body of another adult, and come back as an adult (transmigration of the soul). There’s no biblical support for either type of reincarnation. The souls of dead people will come back to earth someday (at the end of the ages), but it will be in the form of a resurrection and not a reincarnation.
So Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
1 Corinthians 15:1-26
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
To be clear, some dead people in the Scripture were brought back to life through God’s miraculous powers. Their departed souls were brought back into their dead bodies that had not yet disintegrated. That’s a type of the resurrection, a preview of it. The souls came back into the same bodies as before death, and not into a new body. The difference between this raising of the dead in the Scripture and the final resurrection is that, those who were raised to life in the Bible eventually died again, and their bodies finally disintegrated into their elemental components, because they were raised up in their corruptible, natural bodies. But in the final resurrection, people will be raised in incorruptible bodies—same outline of bodies that they had while on earth, but an incorruptible version of it that cannot die again (spiritual bodies). And that’s the state both saints and sinners will remain eternally, in paradise and the lake of fire respectively.
1 Corinthians 15:35-57
But someone will ask, How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come? You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall 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 shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass 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.
There’s another scenario we need to recognize from Scripture which needs to be distinguished from reincarnation. That’s the case of some people in Scripture who once lived on this earth, but have died or were taken away to heaven, and have come back to the earth (though briefly) but not in a resurrected body. Three people like that stand out in Scripture —Moses, Samuel and Elijah. Moses died and his body was buried by angels, but he was seen hundreds of years later appearing alongside Elijah with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. Elijah too had been translated bodily to heaven hundreds of years before that appearance with Moses and Jesus. Now, this wasn’t a resurrection, because Jesus had not yet risen from the dead, as the first-fruit of the resurrection, and he had not yet ascended to heaven. As for Elijah, because he didn’t experience physical death, but was taken to heaven in a transformed natural body, he just appeared in that body in which he was taken to heaven. In the case of Moses who died and was buried and his body had decomposed and had not resurrected, it was his soul that appeared from paradise on the mount of transfiguration. So, the appearance of Moses and Elijah on earth again, several centuries after the end of their lives on earth, was not a resurrection, nor was it a reincarnation. God simply permitted their souls to come out of paradise, to appear to men on earth briefly, and to go back to paradise again, awaiting the final resurrection of their bodies. That was the same thing that happened to Samuel— he was permitted to come out of his rest in paradise to rebuke Saul for having wandered away from God. The souls of dead people are alive in paradise or hell, and can be sent by God to appear briefly to men on earth, and then go back again to their respective abodes.
1 Samuel 28:3-19
Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. And when Saul inquired of the LORD, the LORD did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. Then Saul said to his servants, Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a medium at En-dor. So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you. The woman said to him, Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death? But Saul swore to her by the LORD, As the LORD lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing. Then the woman said, Whom shall I bring up for you? He said, Bring up Samuel for me. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, Why have you deceived me? You are Saul. The king said to her, Do not be afraid. What do you see? And the woman said to Saul, I see a god coming up out of the earth. He said to her, What is his appearance? And she said, An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped in a robe. And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage. Then Samuel said to Saul, Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up? Saul answered, I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do. And Samuel said, Why then do you ask me, since the LORD has turned from you and become your enemy? The LORD has done to you as he spoke by me, for the LORD has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, Rise, and have no fear. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Furthermore, let’s look at the issue of transmigration of the soul, a postulated form of reincarnation in which the soul of a dead person enters another adult person (or animal), to live within them. By this theory, the soul of a dead person continues to live in a new adult body, and recalls the experiences of his previous life in the new body the soul is in. As we’ve seen from Scripture in the preceding paragraphs, that’s impossible, as the soul of every dead person goes straight to paradise or hell at death, and can’t reenter any other body, while it awaits the final resurrection, when it will finally be reunited with its spiritual body that will be raised up incorruptible. If a departed soul cannot possess or reenter another living adult body (transmigration of the soul), how can we explain the phenomenon whereby a few persons have been known to have intimate, personal recollections of a deceased person’s life, almost as though they lived through the experience themselves, especially for people who did not know the deceased nor had close personal contact with them? Well, even though human souls can’t move from one body to another, demons or evil spirits can. Demons are dismembered evil spirits that can possess human beings and animals, and can speak through them and use them to achieve diabolical ends. These vile spirits are intimately aware of people’s lives (especially those they possess), and they can transfer such knowledge to a new body they possess, making some people think that the soul of such a person has entered another person. It’s not transmigration of souls, but simply demon-possession at work!
When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me. For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, What is your name? And he said, Legion, for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you. And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.
The Acts 19:11-16
And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists undertook to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, I adjure you by the Jesus, whom Paul proclaims. Seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva were doing this. But the evil spirit answered them, Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you? And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
Now, let’s deal with a tricky portion of Scripture which some people have used to justify the doctrine of reincarnation. It involves Elijah and John the Baptist. Some people believed John the Baptist was the reincarnation of Elijah because of Jesus’ comment concerning the ministry of John the Baptist and the Elijah that God promised to send back to the earth again. Malachi prophesied that God would send Elijah back to the earth again, to prepare his people for his coming. Because of this prophecy, the Jews were awaiting the coming of Elijah to herald the coming of the Messiah. They thus believed that the Messiah would not come until Elijah had returned to the earth. At the mount of transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, and the apostles got a supernatural confirmation of Jesus’ divine sonship and messiahship, they were forced to question the rabbinical theory that Elijah must come first before the Messiah would come. Jesus confirmed that Elijah would truly come first before the advent of the Messiah, and went ahead to tell them that Elijah had already come and had been rejected by the people, referring to John the Baptist’s ministry as the coming of Elijah. So, according to Jesus, was John the Baptist a reincarnation of Elijah? Let’s examine the relevant Scripture closely to answer this question.
For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 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.
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him. When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, Rise, and have no fear. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead. And the disciples asked him, Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come? He answered, Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands. Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
We must understand that there are two advents of Christ, the first to bring salvation to mankind, and the second to bring judgement and take over rulership of the world. Each advent is to have a forerunner. Elijah is to descend bodily from heaven to herald the second advent, not as a newborn baby with the soul of Elijah (reincarnation), but as the adult Elijah who ascended bodily to heaven. Just like he descended on the mount of transfiguration with Moses, he will come in like manner to herald the second advent of Christ. That’s the ministry prophesied by Malachi, which will find fulfilment as one of the two witnesses of Revelation chapter 11. The ability to call down fire from heaven to consume his enemies, among other things, points out one of the two witnesses of Revelation 11 as Elijah of old, coupled with the fact that the two witnesses have been in heaven in the presence of God for centuries (already in heaven at the time of Zechariah), before they’ll descend to the earth during the great tribulation. Only Enoch and Elijah have such credentials to qualify as the two olive trees before the throne of God, which Zechariah saw even before the coming of Christ, for only Enoch and Elijah went to heaven before the coming of Christ.
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months. And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, Come up here! And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, What do you see? I said, I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left. And I said to the angel who talked with me, What are these, my lord? Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, Do you not know what these are? I said, No, my lord. Then he said to me, This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of Grace, grace to it! Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth. Then I said to him, What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand? And a second time I answered and said to him, What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out? He said to me, Do you not know what these are? I said, No, my lord. Then he said, These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
The first advent too had a forerunner, who was well known—John the Baptist. It was prophesied that John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah to carry out his work of heralding the Messiah’s first coming. Now, it didn’t say he was going to have the soul of Elijah, for that would mean the reincarnation of Elijah. Rather, John was to have the same spirit and power that Elijah manifested during his earthly ministry. Just like Elisha had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and the spirit of Elijah was said to rest upon him as a result, the same prophetic spirit that was on Elijah came upon John the Baptist, to carry out the ministry of heralding the coming of the Messiah. The spirit of Elijah resting upon Elisha did not mean a transmutation of the soul of Elijah into Elisha (reincarnation), but simply an anointing of Elisha with a similar anointing that had been upon Elijah. That’s the Scriptural way of interpreting John the Baptist coming in the spirit and power of Elijah —it means John the Baptist simply manifested the same anointing that Elijah of old (who was in heaven at the time of John’s ministry) had.
Malachi 3:1 Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight, John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been 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 before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will 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, and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.
And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
2 Kings 2:9-15
When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me. And he said, You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so. And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen! And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces. And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah? And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over. Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha. And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.
In conclusion, reincarnation, or the rebirth of a soul in another body, is a myth that’s not substantiated or supported by the Bible. The Scripture teaches that every individual is given just one shot at life, and after death, the soul goes to its deserved resting place to await judgement. Before the final judgement, there will be a resurrection of the dead, first of the righteous into everlasting life, and then a second resurrection of the wicked into everlasting shame and contempt. Though some righteous dead who have departed this earth were permitted by God to come back briefly for some special assignments, they came back as departed souls, and were not reborn in new bodies; their stay on earth was brief, and they went back to paradise as soon as they had completed their assignments. Some servants of God may have the same spirit and anointing that were upon some other servants who had gone before them (like Elisha and John the Baptist having the spirit and power that was on Elijah), but that does not mean that they were reincarnations of the souls of their predecessors. It was simply what it was—an enduement of the same anointing from the same God upon different servants at different times. Demon-possession however does exist, and may impart intimate knowledge of the lives of previously possessed people to those newly possessed, which some people wrongly attribute to reincarnation.
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