Does Jesus Teach Reincarnation?

Hi friends,

Last weekend, I talked with someone at a party who told me he adhered to “Spiritism.” I was immediately fascinated and asked him to explain his beliefs to me.

Among other beliefs, he told me that he saw himself as a Christian who believed in reincarnation.

I asked him if he thought that Jesus taught reincarnation?

He said yes, and quoted John 3:3,

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

I asked for permission to share my thoughts on this passage, and he was curious to hear how I saw it.

I told him that we needed to take into account a larger thematic issue in the Gospel of John: the contrast between people who interpreted everything in terms of physical reality and those whose hearts were opened to understand spiritual realities.

Then, in the dialogue with Nicodemus, we see that Nicodemus interprets Jesus’ words in a physical way. He asks Jesus,

“How can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

In a gentle way, I suggested to my new friend that this was the way of understanding Jesus that reincarnation suggests: repeated physical births.

However, Jesus corrected Nicodemus and said, “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit.”

So, we can see that Jesus is not teaching reincarnation. Rather, he is teaching the necessity of knowing the Holy Spirit.

As I reflect on the conversation, I realize I also could have shared that the idea of a Jewish Messiah teaching reincarnation would be culturally impossible.

After the conversation, another friend reminded me of Hebrews 9:27-28, which reads:

And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment— so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

One reason I think this conversation went well is that I was intentionally gentle, kind, calm, and patient. That helped us to discuss our religious differences together without any animosity.

Another reason is that I was genuinely fascinated by his perspective, and that made it easy to stay curious and ask questions.

Another is that I was well prepared to discuss the Scriptures, and he was eager to discuss the Bible too. Carefully reading and rereading the Bible is foundational for evangelism.

Have you ever had a conversation like this? What verses would you bring up to discuss the claim that the Bible teaches reincarnation?


Hi @Carson, when in conversation with those of different worldviews, we often fear conflict and avoid the topic of religion altogether not knowing how to approach the topic. Thanks for sharing your conversational experience with the Spiritist and your advice on being genuinely curious, being calm and well-prepared.

In my conversations with those who think the Bible supports reincarnation, a few other verses that have been brought up for discussion are Matt 17:12-13, Mal 4:5, John 1:19-20 and Gal 6:7-9. All but one of these verses refer to the same prophecy that Elijah must come before the Messiah. But this prophecy has nothing to do with reincarnation, as Elijah did not even die, a requirement for rebirth, but was taken up alive to heaven (2Kings 2:11). In Matt 17:12, Jesus is not teaching Elijah was reincarnated as John the Baptist, but as described in Luke 1:17 he was teaching that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah.

The reincarnationist who believes that we reap the penalty for our sins in successive rebirths may claim Gal 6:7-9 as support for reincarnation. However, this is only possible when we take this verse out of context and deny the overall message and history of the Bible, of the necessity of Christ dying for the sins of the world, the sufficiency of this atonement and the hope we have in the resurrection of Jesus. Whether it’s one lifetime or many lifetimes, we as humans are incapable of atoning for our sins (Rom 3:10-12). Jesus Christ being the Son of God and the ultimate Judge (Acts 17:31), he alone can determine what kind of payment will be sufficient for our sins to meet the justice of God and this was accomplished at the cross (Heb 9:22, 1 Peter 1:18-19). The Bible also teaches that just as Jesus Christ was raised physically (Acts 2:31-33), one day all believers will receive resurrected bodies at Jesus’s return in glory (1 Cor 15: 52-54, Rom 8:11). To sum up, if someone believes that reincarnation is in the bible, it would be impossible to fit the rest of the Bible into that view.

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