Leap of Faith: Daily Lessons About Jesus Christ
Chapter: Reincarnation/Past Lives (Pages 237-240)
The idea of reincarnation is for us to learn enough lessons and gain enough experience in our earthly lives that reincarnation will be no longer necessary. You could think of this as a graduation. Eternal life means never having to suffer death again. The goal is overcoming death and experiencing rebirth. This is also how we may understand the lives of significant figures in the Bible…
When we consider the resurrection of the dead we see the reincarnation of the spirit into a new body. We can think about it as doing away with the “old self ” and putting on the “new self.” This is what we call a spiritual awakening that comes through our new life with Christ.
We need to also consider the pre-existence of Jesus. Was He a man who became God? Was He God born as a man? The Roman faction rejected pre-existence and reincarnation and believed Jesus was God become man. The Jerusalem faction knew Jesus was a man who achieved the human-divine at-one-ment, which is the ultimate goal of everyone to escape reincarnation cycle of birth and death and obtain eternal life.
Zoroastrian religion in ancient Persia (of Magi fame) is important to consider in regards to reincarnation. During the Babylonian exile of the Jews in the Old Testament times, the Jews were influenced by Zoroastrian concepts such as the resurrection of corpses, a final day of judgment, the dualism of good versus evil, the hierarchy of angels including fallen angels, and the arch rival of God called Satan.
When Jesus began His ministry, many people wondered if He was the reincarnation of one of the prophets. Some people asked the same question of John the Baptist. Jesus affirmed to His disciples that John the Baptist was indeed the reincarnation of the prophet Elijah. Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught people about the true resurrection, which is a spiritual rebirth within a living person. This was a radical new principle that few to none could understand. In simple terms, it was a rebirth of the spirit, not into a new body as when we are born of our mother’s womb, but a rebirth of our spirit within the body we now inhabit. Jesus was distinguishing between what was already believed in those days concerning the afterlife and a new teaching concerning a spiritual change within us that would lead to liberation.
In December 1945, writings containing many of the secrets of early Christianity were unearthed in Upper Egypt. This area was one of the main locations where Christians fled to when the Romans invaded Israel. Undisturbed since their concealment almost two thousand years ago, these writings of the secret teachings belonged to an early sect of Christians called Gnostics and these writings ranked in importance with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered two years later. These secret teachings concerning life and death are strikingly similar to what we know about near-death experiences.
In Christian Gnostic terms, Jesus became the “Word” who acts in the world on God’s behalf and can appear in human form and through whom all things are made as divine. The Gospel of John identifies Jesus as the incarnation of this Logos.
One of the best examples that the Bible refers to concerning reincarnation is when Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the reincarnation of Elijah the prophet.
Matthew 11:13-15 (nasb) says, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come. He who has ears to hear let him hear.”
In very explicit language, Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the reincarnation of Elijah. Even the disciples of Jesus understood what Jesus was saying. The identification of John to be the reincarnation of Elijah is very important when it comes to Bible prophecy. By identifying John with Elijah, Jesus identified Himself as the Messiah. The Hebrew Scriptures mention specific signs that would precede the coming of the Messiah. One of them is that Elijah will return first.
Malachi 4:5 (nasb) says, “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”
This is one of the major Messianic promises from God that is found in the Bible.
Now let’s put this together.
And they asked him, and said to him, “Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them saying, “I baptize in water but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.
John 1:25-27 (nasb) (emphasis added)
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him, and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.
John 1:14-15 (nasb) (emphasis added) Now let us take a look at the witness of John to Jesus.
“John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven. You yourselves bear witness, that I said, “I am not the Christ, but, I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. And so this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all, he who sits of the earth is from the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He bears witness; and no man receives His witness. He who has received His witness has set his seal to this, that God is true.”
John 3:27-33 (nasb) (emphasis added)
Let it be clear here that John is witnessing himself becoming Jesus the Messiah. John’s life was coming to an end in his own death, and he was to become the risen Christ. John had to undergo a life of sin and death in order to understand all things, most importantly the resurrection of the dead. This is one of the most profound secrets from within the Bible. This entire idea of reincarnation/resurrection is very real as we see here.The purpose of reincarnation/resurrection is instruction and perfection.
We must also be aware of the reality of pre-existence.
John 8:58 (nasb) says, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am’”
Know that the entire world as we know it was created by Him.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”
John 1:1-5 (nasb) (emphasis added)
For those who walk in the dark, they will not be able to see the truth.
This is a wake-up call for those who are asleep and a shock for those who are dead…