CLAIM: New Age teachers argue that this passage supports the doctrine of reincarnation. Jesus said, “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come” (Mt. 11:14). Is this the case?
RESPONSE: There are a number of reasons for doubting this interpretation:
First, even if John was Elijah, this would be far from the New Age or Hindu view of reincarnation. Elijah never died; he was translated bodily into heaven (2 Kin. 2:11; Heb. 11:5). This doesn’t fit with reincarnation, which teaches that we need to die and then be reborn. Moreover, this would only show one reincarnation—not an endless cycle of reincarnations.
Second, Elijah was still alive (in bodily form) at the Transfiguration (Mt. 17; Mk. 9; Lk. 9).
Third, John the Baptist denied that he was Elijah (Jn. 1:21).
By contrast, John the Baptist’s ministry was similar to Elijah, but he was not the same person. The angel told Zacharias that he would be “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk. 1:17).