We are so used to talk of heaven and hell that we overlook the fact that Jesus talked very little about going to heaven. He promised his followers that they would enjoy eternal life in the Age to Come, which would begin at the Last Day, when the dead would be raised.
Jesus talked of everlasting damnation, but he gave no systematic account of what happens to those who die before the Age to Come arrives. This is known as the eschatological gap, and it has been filled with a variety of speculative concepts. Indeed, heaven itself is speculation, as Jesus said very little about it.
Did Jesus Believe in Reincarnation?
The idea of reincarnation persists in Western culture, if not in mainstream Christianity: in June of 2013, internationally known talk show host Oprah Winfrey interviewed Dr. Brian Weiss, a best-selling author and expert in the psychiatric therapy known as past-life regression. According to the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), 288,000 viewers watched the Super Soul Sunday episode. Nonetheless, few people know that many early Christians believed in some form of reincarnation, but the idea fell out of favour in the sixth century.
John 9:1 shows that reincarnation ideas were present among Jesus’ followers. The apostles ask of the man born blind, “Did this man sin or his parents that he was born blind?” The idea that you were punished for your parents’ sins was common in Judaism, but that a man could sin and be born blind as a consequence is more difficult to explain. The most obvious alternative is that he had sinned in a previous incarnation – the idea of reincarnation was in circulation at the time, as it has always been in Hasidic Judaism.
This would indicate that the apostles and Jesus were discussing reincarnation. Note that Jesus did not affirm or deny the belief, so it was not something to which he strongly objected. Note also that Jesus at this moment did not deny the pre-existence of the soul, which is essential for belief in reincarnation.