Is reincarnation a concept that exists in Christianity?
The concept of reincarnation is not considered a core belief in Christianity today. However, there are references to the phenomenon of reincarnation in the Bible. Imam Ahmad Al-Hassan (fhip) has clarified that reincarnation is a reality and that the prophets and messengers (pbut) return to this world time and time again.
Some of the Bible verses, which mention reincarnation are shown below.
“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 Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
– Holy Bible: Matthew 16:13-16
This verse shows that in the time of Jesus pbuh, the disciples had several theories on who the Son of Man could be. They mentioned the names of past messengers and prophets, such as Elijah and Jeremiah. This indicates that they knew it was possible for the soul of a Prophet from the past to reincarnate and return to life. The idea that a soul would return was clearly not a strange idea to the disciples of Jesus (pbuh).
“I also raised up prophets from among your children and Nazirites from among your youths. Is this not true, people of Israel?’ declares the Lord.”
– Holy Bible: Amos 2:11
“I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you
back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’ You may say, ‘The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon.'”
– Holy Bible: Jeremiah 29:14-15
What does it mean to ‘raise up’ prophets? It means prophets that have already left this world were brought back. And to be brought back means to be born back into this world.
“Now King Herod heard of Him, for His name had become well known. And he said, “John the Baptist is risen from the dead, and therefore these powers are at work in him.”
– Holy Bible: Mark 6:14
“At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the reports about Jesus, and he said to his attendants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead! That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.'”
– Holy Bible: Matthew 14:1-2
“Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead, others that Elijah had appeared, and still others that one of the prophets of long ago had come back to life.”
– Holy Bible: Luke 9:7-8
We can see from these verses that it was easy for the people in the time of Jesus (pbuh) to reach the conclusion that Jesus (pbuh) must be John the Baptist (pbuh), due to his incredible ability to perform miracles. However, John the Baptist (pbuh) had already been martyred. So this conclusion that the people had reached, while incorrect, proves that the concept of reincarnation was not unheard of, or considered impossible.
“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence,[d] and violent people have been raiding 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. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
– Holy Bible: Matthew 11:11-15
“They asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”
– Holy Bible: Mark 9:11–13
These verses clarify how the prophecy of Jesus (pbuh) being the truthful Messiah was fulfilled. Because before the coming of the Messiah, Elijah (pbuh) was meant to appear and call people to him.
And we know that John the Baptist (pbuh) was the one who did this, hence the only way to reconcile this is to understand that John the Baptist (pbuh) must be the reincarnation of Prophet Elijah (pbuh), as the bible verses clearly state.
“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.”
– Holy Bible: Malachi 4:5-6
“But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is 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 in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also 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. He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord.”
– Holy Bible: Luke 1:13-17
“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 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 dead.” 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.”
– Holy Bible: Matthew 17:1-13
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there.”
– Holy Bible: Job 1:21
“God indeed does all these things, twice, three times, with mortals, to bring back their souls from the Pit, so that they may see the light of life.”
– Holy Bible: Job 33:29-30
“If someone dies, will they live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come.”
– Holy Bible: Job 14:14
The word translated here as ‘renewal’ is the Hebrew word ‘chaliphah’ which can also mean suit, coat and outer garment.
Renewal or change of garments, in this case, could signify a change of bodies.
“This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything. First, the name Melchizedek means “king of righteousness”; then also, “king of Salem” means “king of peace.”
– Holy Bible: Hebrews 7:1-2
“One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.”
– Holy Bible: Hebrews 7:9-10
According to these verses, in an earlier incarnation, Levi’s soul was living in the body of one of the ancestors of his current body. How could a person have been in the body of their ancestor? The only way to understand this is through reincarnation of the soul.
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”
– Holy Bible: John 5:28-29
How is it possible for the dead to hear His voice, unless the dead return from the graves in new bodies? With other verses indicating towards reincarnation, it is clear this must refer to returning in new incarnations.
“The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;”
– Holy Bible: Matthew 27:52
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”
– Holy Bible: John 3:1-7
This conversation between Jesus (pbuh) and his pupil clarifies that the Kingdom of God will be established in the future and one must be born again or reincarnate in order to see it.
These are just some of the verses in the Bible, which point towards reincarnation. Although you won’t find reincarnation being taught in your average church today, it is clear from the words of the prophets and messengers that reincarnation was always a part of God’s message.