Adapted from Complete Bible Answer Book by Hank Hanegraaff. 

Reincarnation, literally, “rebirth in another body,” has long been considered to be a universal law of life in the Eastern world. Tragically, today in the West, it is now also believed to be backed by the Bible. The words of Jeremiah, John, and Jesus are typically cited as irrefutable evidence. A quick look at the context of these Scripture passages, however, reveals that they have nothing whatsoever to do with reincarnation.

First, in Jeremiah, God allegedly tells his prophet that he knew him as the result of a prior incarnation—“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). In reality, far from suggesting that his prophet had existed in a prior incarnation, Jeremiah underscores the reality that the One who exists from all eternity pre-ordained Jeremiah as “a prophet to the nations.”

Furthermore, in John’s gospel, the disciples allegedly wonder whether a man born blind is paying off karmic debt for himself or for his parents (cf. John 9:1-2). The gospel of John dispels this notion by overtly stating that the man’s blindness had nothing to do with either his sin or that of his parents (John 9:3). If indeed the man was suffering for past indiscretions, Jesus would have violated the law of karma by healing him.

Finally, Jesus himself is cited as suggesting that Elijah was reincarnated as John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 11:14). This tired tale is explicitly dismissed by Scripture itself. When the priests and the Levites asked John if he was Elijah, he replied, “I am not” (John 1:21). In context, Elijah and John are not said to be two incarnations of the same person, but rather two separate people who function in a strikingly similar prophetic role. Or as Luke puts it, John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (1:17).

One thing is certain! Reincarnation is completely foreign to the teachings of Scripture.

For further study, see “Can reincarnation and resurrection be reconciled?” p. 303.

“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 good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

John 5:28–29