I'm sure you've all heard the term "Born Again Christian" and that's probably what came to mind when you read the title of this section. However, in this case I'm not referring to the same thing Jesus was explaining during his conversation with Nicodemus in John chapter 3. There he was referring to a spiritual rebirth. I'm referring to a soul being literally being born more than once at different times into different human bodies. Yes, I'm referring to what most people would call reincarnation.
If you bring up the concept of reincarnation in the average modern church, most people would automatically oppose it. I know I did before I started personally studying the Bible. That's because for some reason most modern churches teach that you only have one life to live, and after that you are eternally sent to either Heaven or Hell. While there are many theories on the reasons why this concept has become so popular, I've found that Jesus himself actually taught that the soul is designed to live eternally. When life in the physical body is over, the soul lives on and can even come back and live another life. It doesn't just encounter a dead end in either Heaven or Hell. Don't get me wrong here, Heaven and Hell are both very real. It's just that the idea of a soul being stuck in Heaven forever after completing this lifetime is fundamentally flawed.
Let's not waste any time getting into the actual Biblical examples though so you can see for yourself what I'm trying to say. First of all, how do you imagine that Jesus would react if confronted with the concept of reincarnation? Do you think he would agree with it? Or, do you think he would say that the whole idea of being born into many lifetimes was wrong? Well, let's find out what he actually did do by looking at the following example:
|Matthew 16:13-16 (NIV)|
|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 Christ, the Son of the living God."
From this passage, it seems that the possibility of reincarnation was a fairly common concept among the general population. It wasn't odd at all to them that Elijah, Jeremiah or any other prophet might return to live another life. In fact, it seems to be what they assumed had happen to bring them Jesus. Notice that Jesus didn't correct the concept behind what people were saying, even though Peter's correct answer that Jesus was the Son of the Living God showed that they were wrong in this case about Jesus specifically. Wouldn't you think that if reincarnation was a concept completely against the nature of God that the very Son of the Living God would have taken this opportunity to correct these ideas?
Here's another example that sheds some light on what Jesus' own disciples thought about the concept of reincarnation:
|John 9:1-2 (NIV)|
|As he (Jesus) 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?"|
Now tell me, how could someone be BORN blind because of his sin unless he had lived before?
On the other hand, let's take a look at Jesus' reaction to the concept of one life, one death and a resurrection at the end of time. In the following example, Jesus is speaking to Martha after the death of her brother Lazarus:
|John 11: 23-26 (NIV)|
|Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
Jesus reacts immediately in this case and corrects Martha's statement. She believes that once a person dies, they stay dead until the resurrection at the last day. He wants to make sure she understands that her conception of one life followed by one death where we all stay until the resurrection at the end of the age is flawed. In fact, he specifically states that he represents BOTH the resurrection AND the life - the eternal nature of the soul is central to his teachings. He even specifically states that whoever believes in him will never die.
What does he mean when he says that they will never die? This isn't the only place where he presents this concept. The following example appears in all four Gospels:
|Matthew 16:28 (NIV)|
|"I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."|
|Mark 9:1 (NIV)|
|And he (Jesus) said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."|
|Luke 9:27 (NIV)|
|"I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."|
|John 8:51 (NIV)|
|"I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."|
If we all live just once, these passages don't seem to make sense, do they? Jesus said these things almost 2000 years ago. Are the people he was referring to still alive - still walking the earth in those same human bodies? If so, they'd be pretty old. Do you think that maybe Jesus was referring to what really makes a person - their spirit and soul? Perhaps he was simply saying that some of the souls who were present would continue to be reborn and live over and over again on this planet until Jesus himself returned in bodily form.
What really happens to the soul when it's time in the current body is complete? In the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, the author (who many believe to be King Solomon himself) seems to provide a pretty clear answer to this question when he writes the following:
|Ecclesiastes 12:7 (NIV)|
|"And the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."|
Since the spirit is designed by God to return to him when this life is over, is it so far-fetched to believe that God might very well allow it to repeat the life process again? After all, if the soul started with God, came to Earth, experienced life and returned to God, it seems it would be in the perfect position to repeat the process if it chose to. From what Jesus said, this sure seems to be his Father's intention.
|Malachi 4:5 (NIV)|
|"I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes."|
He is referring to a return of Elijah before the coming of the Messiah. He doesn't however, specifically tell us HOW Elijah would return. Is it possible that Elijah might return simply by being reincarnated into another life?
Jesus specifically refers to this prophecy more than once. In each case, Jesus himself simply states that Elijah did return by being reincarnated as the man we know as John the Baptist:
|Matthew 11: 12-15 (NIV)|
|"From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of 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. He who has ears, let him hear."|
Now, some people might say that he was speaking figuratively here and that the soul of Elijah didn't actually come back, he was just talking about someone being born who was like Elijah. But later Jesus reaffirms his point, and this time he is even more specific about exactly what he means:
|Matthew 17: 9-13 (NIV)|
|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 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.
It could also be argued that since Elijah never died and was instead swept up to heaven in a whirlwind (see 2 Kings 2:11) he may have continued to live and just come back down in that same whirlwind. Nope, the Bible clearly describes the method in which he arrived as John the Baptist:
|Luke 1: 57-60 (NIV)|
|When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, "No! He is to be called John."|
As you can see, John the Baptist was born in the same way that all of us are. Or should I say reborn in the same way that all of us are?
Christianity and Reincarnation
Who Invented the "One-Life" Belief Anyway?
The Long Forgotten Doctrine
If all twelve of the well-known apostles really are all back on Earth now,
don't you tend to wonder why today is such a milestone?
As amazing as this may sound, the Apostle Paul seemed to understand that people would be amazed when they discovered this fact. Did he share that amazement? Instead, he stressed that even those who continue coming back to earth on special missions (himself included), no matter what kind of Biblical reputation they have, are nothing compared to the Love of Christ who we all prepare the way for:
"According to the Lord's own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words."
- 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18
"And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love"
- 1 Corinthians 13:13