Was John the Baptist the Reincarnation of Elijah?

Currently at White Fields Church we are studying through the books of 1-2 Kings in our series called Desiring the Kingdom. We recently looked at the taking up of the Prophet Elijah in a whirlwind (watch or listen to that message here: 2 Kings 1:1-2:12 “The Legacy of Your Life”

Check out: Did Elijah Really Go to Heaven?

One of the questions this brings up, is in regard to the identity of John the Baptist. Was John the Baptist actually the return, or the reincarnation of Elijah?

Here are the key issues:

Elijah Never Died…

Elijah is one of only a handful of people in the Bible who never tasted death. Another is Enoch, in Genesis 5.

Some people speculate that maybe Moses never actually died, but was also taken by God before tasting death. The reason for that has to do with something in Revelation 11, which I will address further down in this article, but Deuteronomy 34:5 clearly states that “Moses died in the land of Moab according to the word of the Lord.” The speculation here comes from the idea that this chapter of Deuteronomy was not written by Moses, and therefore the writer only assumed that Moses died. That conclusion seems to be clearly in contradiction of what the text clearly states, however, and as people who believe in the inspiration of the Bible, we should reject it.

The Prophecies

Malachi 3:1, speaking about the coming of the Messiah, says: “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.”

Malachi 4:5, also speaking about the Day of the Lord and the coming of the Messiah says: “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.”

The Words of Jesus

Here’s what Jesus had to say about John the Baptist:

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written,
“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.’

For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

Matthew 11:7-15

Two important things here:

  1. Jesus is claiming that John is the promised messenger from Isaiah 40:3 who would prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.
  2. Jesus is claiming that John is the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophecy about the messenger in Malachi 3:1.

This statement of Jesus that “if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” has led some people to believe that John was the return, or reincarnation of Elijah. However…

The Claim of John the Baptist Himself

John the Baptist explicitly denied being Elijah the Prophet:

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

John 1:19-23

Rather, John identifies himself as the promised messenger from Isaiah 40:3, which Jesus also identified him as.

Are John and Jesus contradicting each other?

Some people believe that John was in denial about his identity as Elijah…

I don’t believe either of these options to be true, rather there is a simple explanation:

“The Spirit and Power of Elijah”

In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, when the angel Gabriel is telling Zechariah (John the Baptist’s Father) about who his son will be, he says that John “will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1:15-17)

Here, Gabriel is quoting from Malachi 3:1 and 4:5. This tells us that those verses are speaking about the same person, and it tells us that that person is John.

In conclusion, John the Baptist was not literally Elijah, i.e. the reincarnation of Elijah, rather he is a prophet sent by God in the spirit and the power of Elijah.

This is why Jesus said John “was Elijah, if you are willing to accept it.” In other words, John is the fulfillment of the coming of the prophet Elijah in the sense that he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but he is also not literally Elijah reincarnated.

The Transfiguration

Further proof of this fact is that Elijah himself appeared at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:11-12), not John the Baptist.

Furthermore, both Herod and the people distinguished between Elijah and John the Baptist (see Mark 16:14-16 & 8:28)

Will Elijah Come Again During the Great Tribulation?

Revelation 11 describes two witnesses who will come on the scene during the Tribulation, a time of great trouble for the world before the return of Jesus.

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.

Revelation 11:3-12

From the descriptions given of the two witnesses, it seems clear that allusions are being made to Elijah and Moses.

In 2 Kings 1, when Ahaziah sent soldiers to arrest and assumedly kill Elijah, Elijah called down fire from Heaven to consume them. This isn’t exactly “fire pouring from their mouths to consume their foes” but it is similar.

Elijah did shut the sky by his prayers so it did not rain (1 Kings 17 & James 5), and Moses struck the waters and they turned to blood.

Some people assume that it is because Elijah did not die that he is able to return, and that this might be a further fulfillment of Malachi 4:5, in this case Elijah returning in the flesh as opposed to John the Baptist coming in the spirit and power of Elijah. This is also the reason why some people assume that Moses never died, because they assume that the reason Elijah is able to come back is because he never tasted physical death. Others speculate that perhaps the second witness is Enoch, the other person in the Bible who never tasted death.

However, I am not convinced that having never died is a prerequisite for being one of these witnesses. Although they didn’t die physically, their Earthly lives did end.

Furthermore, it seems that if John the Baptist could fulfill Malachi 4:5 by coming in the spirit and power of Elijah, it is not necessary that these two witnesses be the literal reincarnations or reappearances of Elijah and Moses; they could be people who come in the spirit and power of those men.


In summary: John the Baptist was Elijah in that he came in fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 & 4:5, and he came in the spirit and power of Elijah, but he was not a reincarnation of Elijah himself.

7 thoughts on “Was John the Baptist the Reincarnation of Elijah?

  1. John of Kedron ( the Baptist,) WAS the incarnation of Elijah. Jesus said so Himself. These so called proofs are just wrong. John didn’t know that he was Elijah, and to take the word of people who had never seen Elijah is nonsense. The truth about Edgar Cayce is beyond question.

  2. Reincarnation is theme of Christianity, Christianity is the truth of creation. But, this isn’t the way to explain it, as reincarnation as you just simply return ! You must use your mind (Nous) and heart (like a dove) to think about it, God gave you all logic and reasoning, but with your heart to forgive and let go. (but, remember the lessons) Isn’t your soul eternal ? and, if everything presides from the Father (Trinity) then doesn’t that means you also come from the father (Trinity) as well ? Christ is one with the father, as one of the father from the body of God, humanized and incarnated in human form, the God-Man. Yahushua Emmanuel the Christos. The only way we, humanity can understand God in expression in “material” universe is with the Trinity. The Greek explanations, Jesus (Isos) spoke Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. The international language was Greek, Koine Greek in these days. So, reincarnation is a return of humanization of the “spirit-soul-ego” self, this means God (Jesus) sends you into life, chosen by God (Trinity) and Your spirit self. We all agree that, we all “Incarnated” on earth, as we are alive on earth. But, what if your life was terrible and short, that God (Christ-Logos) will send you back to incarnate with Beautiful parents in a good life, to taste the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil. (The Tree of Knowledge). Think about these properly ! In Greek Orthodox they regard Adam and Eve as Saints, the Catholic Church changes the narrative into fallen, and women fell. (false). Moses taught these in a way to explain certain principles, but they are miss-understood today. Jesus was the humanized incarnation of the Logos (Son of the Father) directly to show us what we must do to our personalities. Jesus’s story in the bible, is not by mistake, or chance. Jesus radiated in “Past-Present-Future” (without time/space/place limit) and made each parable of his religion in a way, each passage contains new meanings. Jesus did everything that we must do, (A) forgive, learn and let go, (B) Avoid Temptation By our own created Desires (daemons are created by our desires), and (C) to purify ourselves by self reflections, receive the baptism of water, fire and spirit, then to proceed further to eventually Crusify our “Self-Created-Egos” spiritually. This means to Transfigure yourself, as Christ did, to spiritually resurrect your innerself. You can only accomplish by looking within you. Inside of you are many layers and layers of thoughts, expressions, emotions and created personalities, but deep inside is your inner-soul, the permanent ego. Christ is also inside of you, learning and witnessing your life together with you, seeing your choices and helping to improve you, giving you ideas, feeling love and feeling of remorse if you had dont wrong to someone. Reincarnation is the progression of yourself, a second chance, a contract with God, essentially with yourself. You already live in Heaven, and when you die you will see the place that Moses described in the Genesis book as the heavens, but there are greater places without form-space-time and higher existences, your higher-self is already from there. Everybody has a purpose in life, good and bad, we are left to be in free-will as we are like, Gods, but subjective to cause and effect. sadly, many return to reincarnate to pay karma, but God (Trinity) always gives you love in life or chances to see the goodness and self-improve. How can we be eternal and only live up to avg. 87 years ? does that make sense ? My thoughts are the Spirit lived on earth as Elijai and John the Baptist, it is not Elaija returning as John the Baptist. This is false, because Elaija passed away, but his experiences and improvements are with John the Baptist, and now a more enhanced being in the heavens (place Moses described in Genesis) may be awaiting to return on earth, more enlightened to work again on Gods (Trinity) plan for all of us. And, each one of us are part of the Humanized family of spirits of God, Jesus is the God (Trinity) principle that incarnated and humanized himself to show us what we all must do. Jesus mentioned about the lampshade, and maybe some verses were removed, unsure, but the Lampshade is a way to explain the spirit inside of us, if you lack the right type of good inside of you, your lampshade is just dirtier than others. But, once you clean the lampshade, it will shine through like all other lampshades. Reincarnation is God’s (Trinity) way of allowing you to progress into life through experience to self-improve who you are inside and expressing outward. There is only heaven, the grace of God. Remember that Christ said, My father can forgive you, I can forgive you but the Holy Spirit cannot. This explains that the body you live in, is made by the holy spirit, given you to to reside your consciousness inside to live a life of self-improvement and self-choices (Total free will), but when you harm others, do good or bad, it is returned to you. The holy spirit must make it happen, but if you ask for forgiveness, Jesus and the Father can, but you still must learn. to improve and let go of the polarity of Good and Evil until you have only Good. You should Research the Truth, there are many good theological areas in Cyprus, and in universities that have been studying many Christian texts, theologians, and others to explain. If it is truth, you will feel it within you, and eventually find reasoning. you dont need to believe anything you hear. but you should explore. You are not the body, nor the personality you created, you are consciousness (mind/heart/existence). Seek within you, forgive and let go, evaluate all obstacles in life, seek how you will improve yourself, improve relationships, detach yourself from unclean desires or bad passions. Do this as a form of stillness, quiet time after prayer, ask yourself questions, and remove attachments by feeling it let go. and, using reasoning evaluate daily what you had done wrong, what you should have improved on, what you should not have done, or what you should next time. Pray for forgiveness but you must let it Go, let go of the attachment. Inside of you is the kingdom of heaven ! It is not limited to your mind, your mind/heart is already part of it. Feel love within you, and express . and, please dont mistake kindness for weakness. God is everywhere and everything. Darkness is only the shadow of light. Doesnt exist, eliminated by light.

  3. I forgot one early Theologian you should research, Origen of Alexandria. He was teacher to Saint Vasilios (Basil) and many others. Also, you need to know, not to attach iconography, they are there to express teachings. St. George the Dragon Slayer, this is symbolic of Christianity. The dragon is your egoism-desire, Speer is reasoning, St. George riding on horse is the inner-soul, the Horse is the material body, Lady in back is guardian angel. What do you think St. Georgios (George the Greek) and many others were doing ? There is meditations in Christianity.

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