"The soul having been often born or, as the Hindus say, "Travelling the path of existence through thousands of births . . . there is nothing of which she has not gained the knowledge: No wonder that she is able to recollect . . . what formerly she knew . . . for inquiry and learning is reminiscence all."
-Emerson, "Representative Men"
Understanding the law of karma and its corollary, reincarnation, is displayed in numerous Biblical passages; e.g., "Who so sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." -Genesis 9:6
If every murderer must himself be killed – by man; the reactive process obviously requires, in many cases, more than one lifetime.
The early Christian church accepted the doctrine of reincarnation, which was expounded by the Gnostics and by numerous church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria, the celebrated Origen* (both 3rd century) and St. Jerome (5th century). The doctrine was first declared a heresy in A.D. 553 by the Second Council of Constantinople. At that time many Christians thought the doctrine of reincarnation afforded man too ample a stage of time and space to encourage him to strive for immediate salvation. But truths suppressed lead disconcertingly to a host of errors. The millions have not utilized their "one lifetime" to seek God, but to enjoy this world – so uniquely won, and so shortly to be forever lost. The truth is that mankind reincarnates on the earth until he has consciously regained his status as a son of God, i.e., until he achieves God-self-realization. Also known as Satori, Samadhi, Nirvana, Tao, heaven, the covenant, etc.
Him that overcometh (achieve self realization, at-onement, Satori, Nirvana, Christ, etc.) will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. And he shall go no more out (i.e., shall reincarnate no more). . . to him that overcometh (achieves union) will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame (achieved heaven, enlightenment, etc.), and am set down with my Father in his throne (heaven, consciousness prior to thought).
-Jesus, Revelation 3:12, 21
"But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John . . . And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him** in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."†
Jesus twice unequivocally identified Elijah (Elias) as John: "Elias is come already, and they knew him not . . Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist." Again, Christ says: "For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come."
*Greek philosopher (A.D. 185? - 254?) and theologian who reinterpreted Christian doctrine through neo-platonist philosophy. His influential work was later condemned as unorthodox.
**"Before him," i.e., "before the Lord."
† Luke 1:13-17.