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Many speak of having been “born again.” Millions of Protestants and tens of millions of evangelicals think that after becoming “believers” they have been “born again.” Having no idea what the term actually meant, they had been taught that “professing Jesus” was a kind of “new birth”—that they were in some mysterious way “born a second time.” It next became their Christian duty to bring others to this belief.
What does the Bible teach about this subject? And what did Jesus really say about it? It is far from what you have been taught. In this Personal, the truth about being born again will be made absolutely PLAIN! We will be thorough. And it will be impossible to misunderstand.
Almost none take the time to examine—to prove—what God’s Word says about being born again. If they did, they would be stunned—astonished—at what they found! In fact, this would apply to almost any Bible subject.
Most professing Christians assume the Bible says what they have been told it says. They have been taught that being “born again” occurs in this life, upon “receiving Jesus.” But this is not what the Bible teaches. “Born again” has nothing whatsoever to do with “professing Jesus”—or “just believing in your heart”—or “giving your heart to the Lord”—or any so-called religious experience. This does not happen at conversion—but rather, the Bible teaches that rebirth comes long after this initial step in a new Christian’s life.
The popular concept of “born again” is based largely on ignorance of God’s Word, coupled with outright silly reasoning. Yet the deception that this one misunderstanding presents is even more important when considering how many other true doctrines fall like dominoes in its wake. God’s purpose for man, that He is expanding His Family, the true gospel, the kingdom of God, the meaning of being sons of God, character development, the pagan trinity doctrine, who is the antichrist—and many more Bible teachings—become impossible to properly understand.
Jesus taught, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This makes correct understanding of this subject vital. So few grasp Jesus’ words. Consider them carefully. Note what is at stake in just this single scripture. One’s ability to “see God’s kingdom” hinges solely on whether he is “born again.” Obviously, one had better comprehend the enormous importance of how and when people are born again!
When Jesus said, “Except a man,” He left no room for misunderstanding. Keep this simple. Remaining deceived about being born again makes salvation impossible. I did not say this—Jesus Christ did! Certainly, when this occurs is inseparable from properly understanding how it happens or what it means. Also, if one believes conversion allows a person to “see the kingdom,” then he must believe the kingdom is here now. Thus it must be spread by individuals. Yet the Bible clearly teaches otherwise!
Of the 12 rules of Bible study, the most crucial for proper doctrinal understanding is to start with the clearest scriptures on any subject. There are several plain verses about the born again doctrine that introduce everything that follows. Knowing and understanding them is the only proper way to approach the subject. The entire doctrine becomes quite easy to learn when you keep these few basic verses straight. Let’s examine three before reviewing Jesus’ “see the kingdom” statement.
First notice a startling scripture recorded by the apostle Paul. Recognize that the Bible always interprets itself—another great rule of Bible study—and to always accept what it says after it does. Now notice: “[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature…And He is the head of the Body, the Church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence” (Col. 1:15, 18).
This is a big key to seeing when one is born again. Jesus is firstborn from the dead. Believe God, and fix this phrase in your mind. One’s new birth occurs after death—and involves returning from the dead. Again, accept what the Bible says, without adding to or subtracting from it. The phrase “firstborn of every creature” adds double emphasis to Paul’s statement—and the meaning.
Some dismiss this verse as merely a title given to Christ—“Firstborn from the dead.” This is silly—even foolish—and in fact dishonest. It is also easy to disprove!
Notice the phrase “who is the beginning.” This alone proves Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead refers to the order in time sequence that this occurs. He is the “beginning” of those others who will receive eternal life at His Return—when the Resurrection of the dead occurs. “Beginning” references who is first. The next passage builds on and helps explain this one.
Paul also recorded, “For whom [God] did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). Grasp this! God intends to have many sons—Jesus’ brethren, born later in His Plan. If one is designated as first, others must follow, or first has no meaning. It must include more later. In the case of salvation, “many” will follow. This is further proof “firstborn” has nothing to do with any supposed title!
Jesus is not the only Son in God’s Plan. More will follow Him in the Resurrection. We saw He is firstborn of every creature—the other sons. These other brethren are those converted over the last 2,000 years (with a few in the Old Testament). These are called to become younger brothers and sisters with Jesus. If Jesus is firstborn, all others would be “second-born,” “third-born,” “hundredth-born,” and so forth.
A second verse confirms when Jesus was born again. The apostle John recorded, “…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the first-born out of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth…” (Rev. 1:5, Young’s Literal Translation).
Though the Authorized Version (King James Version) translates this as “first begotten,” virtually every other translation renders it “firstborn from the dead.”
These verses make absolutely plain one is born from the dead at the Resurrection. So then, only at that point will—or can—anyone “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
A series of verses in John 3 is commonly misunderstood by people who believe they can be “born again” in this life, as physical human beings, and, therefore, somehow “see God’s kingdom.” This misconception causes so much unnecessary controversy and confusion.
In this account, Nicodemus questioned Jesus, who answered, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Confused, Nicodemus replied, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered…Except a man be born of water [the first physical, human birth, but can also refer to baptism] and of the Spirit [later, at the Resurrection], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:4-5). To see and enter God’s kingdom, you must become spirit. This will be clear. But people are physical. Entering the kingdom is impossible for them because scripture states, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 15:50)!
While Nicodemus knew exactly what being born meant, he was confused about how it could happen again—a second time. This is why he asked about re-entering his mother’s womb. But ministers and religious leaders today are deceived and confused in a different way. They claim born again has nothing to do with an actual birth—that it is a feeling, an experience, conversion and the like.
Jesus explains what it means to be “born of water and of the Spirit” and why, if this does not happen, one “cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Yes, the kingdom is something that can be “entered into.” Jesus explains, “That which is born of the flesh IS flesh,” but also “that which is born of the Spirit IS spirit” (John 3:6).
Of course it is. Flesh and blood cannot enter God’s kingdom. The point is that spirit can! Human beings are made of dust, not spirit. Those who are born again are composed of—made of—spirit.
When born as humans, we are delivered from a physical mother. When born of spirit, we are delivered from a spiritual Mother, the Church. (Carefully read these verses: Galatians 4:26; II John 1:1, 13; Revelation 12:1-5; Hebrews 12:23.)
People are destined to be born as spirit—like Christ was—as surely as they are born physically of a human mother—like Christ was.
This will become plain.
Because Jesus wanted no room for misunderstanding, He likened spirit to wind. Wind, like spirit, is invisible. It cannot be seen. He told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it [does], and you hear the sound thereof, but cannot tell from where it comes, and where it goes: so is everyone that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). Those born of spirit will be like wind—they will be invisible! But human beings are flesh and blood, and can be seen.
See how simple this is?
Another comparison is important. Wind often demonstrates enormous power. While invisible, its effects are readily seen. The force of hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes and straight-line winds can be tremendous. But people possess relatively little power. Wind power vastly exceeds that of the strongest human being—or thousands together!
So, there is a limitation on who can actually see and enter the kingdom. Anyone can see physical things. Therefore, the kingdom cannot be something physical, or everyone could see it. Understand these critical points Jesus made. You must be spirit to see the invisible kingdom of God!
Grasp this about the John 3 account! Jesus was making an exciting announcement about the kingdom of God coming to Earth—and that people can enter it. But His message was received as a threat to religious leaders. They saw themselves losing power to both this kingdom and Jesus because of His influence over the people.
Nicodemus acknowledged, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God” (John 3:2). He admitted that he knew who Jesus was and that God had sent Him. Notice Nicodemus was speaking for more than himself. He said, “we know.” He was a Pharisee, and was referring to himself and the other Pharisees who understood who and what Jesus was. These religious leaders well understood that Jesus’ authority to teach the truth and perform miracles came from God. They could not deny God’s power evident in the miracles He performed. But they still resented Him, and called Him a blasphemer, drunkard, heretic, seditionist, bastard, ignorant, demon-possessed, false prophet—and crucified Him!
The Romans usually installed the Pharisees into positions of rulership under their occupying authority. This gave the Pharisees important status and made life generally better for them than the admiring multitudes for whom Jesus taught, healed, cast out demons, and performed other miracles.
Exactly like the Pharisees, many today see the obvious truth of the Bible, yet choose to ignore it in order to hold to their own traditions and ideas—and sometimes religious status! Many ministers today are no different. The Pharisees felt threatened by the potential for immediate loss of personal power to this new kingdom. This is why Jesus spoke so bluntly when He said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
Despite the plainness of these verses, some still dispute them. They reject the obvious meaning, claiming that upon “accepting Jesus,” one sees the kingdom in his mind’s eye. In addition to ignoring that the kingdom must be entered, this conclusion brings them another serious problem.
If Jesus was not born again when He was “born from the dead,” then when else could He have experienced this? Remember, professing Christians believe one is born again upon conversion.
When did Christ experience conversion? When did He repent and accept Himself as Savior? No one can explain this!
Since Jesus had the Holy Spirit from begettal in Mary’s womb, again, when was He converted? Understand! The Bible clearly teaches the Holy Spirit is given at conversion. Yet Jesus had God’s Spirit from conception. Would any suggest He could see the kingdom from inside His mother’s womb? Did He give His heart to the Lord—meaning to Himself!—as an embryo?
These questions take on greater significance for another reason. True Christians copy Christ. The apostle Peter wrote, “Christ…leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (I Pet. 2:21).
It is impossible for Christians to follow Jesus’ example of rebirth at conversion because He was never converted in the human sense. He had God’s Spirit from the moment His physical existence began.
We have learned another important point about being born again that applies here. Remember, Jesus said, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). This reinforces the earlier verses about Him being born from the dead. After His Resurrection and return to heaven, Jesus was composed of Spirit—He had become like wind.
You must grasp this! The example that Jesus set—which Christians must follow—is that He was born—again—from the dead, not at conversion. Like Christ, we will also be composed of spirit—and be like wind.
Before we can delve more deeply into when one is born again, some background is needed as a foundation for understanding the big picture of this doctrinal teaching.
Like a newscaster ahead of his time, wherever He went, Jesus continually announced the kingdom of God. It was the subject of most of His parables. He came announcing a total change in the way the world would be governed at the establishing of God’s kingdom. With this change would come unprecedented world peace, happiness and prosperity.
The prophet Malachi spoke of two messengers. Notice: “Behold, I will send MY messenger [John the Baptist], and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord [Jesus], whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even THE Messenger of the covenant [Jesus], whom you delight in…” (Mal. 3:1).
Jesus came as the Messenger. When He commissioned the 12 apostles and sent them to preach, the only instruction He gave was to preach about the kingdom of God. When He later sent 70 more disciples, He also commanded they preach the kingdom.
The terms “kingdom” and “kingdom of God” are found throughout the New Testament. Yet it is astonishing how nearly everyone has lost the knowledge and meaning of what they refer to! Like the truth of born again, this understanding has been suppressed for 2,000 years!
The word “gospel” comes from the Old English term “god-spell” or good news. The word “kingdom” also derives from an Old English term, and simply means “government.” In other words, Jesus preached “the good news of the government of God.” World peace, happiness and prosperity for all will be good news for a mankind that has not known them for 6,000 years!
Jesus came saying, “Repent you, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). But what is the true gospel? The truth of the gospel has been hidden from the vast majority of professing Christians. Ever since the first century, there has been a conspiracy to deceive would-be Christians about the meaning of the gospel. However shocking, this is true!
Most believe the gospel is about the Person of Jesus. Certainly Jesus is an important subject, but He is not the gospel. The Bible shows He is preached in conjunction with the gospel.
Now notice: “Now after that John [the Baptist] was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14). This is the gospel Jesus preached, saying, “Repent you, and believe the gospel” (vs. 15). What gospel?—the kingdom of God. Verse 1 refers to, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ…” (Mark 1:1). Jesus’ gospel is about the kingdom of God! One must believe that gospel to be saved. Counterfeits will not do.
No wonder Jesus answered Nicodemus as He did. Everything He said and taught He tied to the kingdom of God! We have seen Christians will be born again so they can see—or inherit—God’s kingdom. This much should now be obvious.
But what is the kingdom of God? The term has no meaning if it cannot be understood. If Christians inherit it, they should know what they are inheriting. Let’s make this impossible to misunderstand. In this life, people are born into: (1) a human family, and (2) any one of many earthly kingdoms. A kingdom is comprised of a nation of people under a government that rules the nation.
It is the same with God. At the Resurrection, humans are born into: (1) the God Family, which is also (2) the kingdom of God. These are essentially one and the same. The parallel is perfectly clear when comparing the human physical pattern to the divine Spirit pattern.
God has a throne in heaven, from which He rules His kingdom. (Read Isaiah 66:1 and Revelation 3:21, among other verses.) He literally rules the entire universe with Christ. When Christians are born again, they enter this kingdom—God’s ruling, governing Family!
Are you beginning to see God’s awesome purpose for your life—what can be your inheritance? Our book The Awesome Potential of Man tells a story that is incredible for those who will simply believe God’s Word. Read it online or order your free hardcopy version.
The prophet Daniel understood the kingdom of God involved a literal government that would one day rule real people and real nations on Earth. He held no illusion that this kingdom was merely sentimental fluff or a “warm feeling in the hearts of men.” Through a series of dreams and visions, God used him to explain much special understanding about how and when His kingdom would come to Earth.
All that Daniel was shown was to be “closed up and sealed till the time of the end” (Dan. 12:9). We are now in that time, and there are many proofs of this. To examine just some, read the booklet Are These the Last Days? Daniel’s message is for us—today. He reported tremendous news that will affect you in your lifetime. Daniel understood and spoke the same gospel Christ preached. It is vital we understand what he said!
Carefully read Daniel 2:28-44. This astonishing, detailed prophecy reveals many things about God’s Plan to restore His government to Earth—including the time sequence in which this will happen.
It describes a giant man: “This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay” (Dan. 2:32-33). The construction involves four distinct parts. Next comes a large “stone that smote the image [and] became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (vs. 35). Note that this stone “was cut out without hands” (vs. 34) because God, not men, formed it.
The stone shattered the image and replaced it, eventually encompassing the entire Earth. This is obviously the government of God coming to Earth. Daniel is announcing the same gospel—the kingdom of God.
These verses show a succession of world empires—kingdoms—depicted by different metals of which the giant statue was made. First, the Chaldean-Babylonian Empire of gold—second, the Medo-Persian Empire of silver—third, the Greco-Macedonian of brass—and fourth, the Roman Empire of iron mixed with clay. The message from history is that these four kingdoms once governed vast areas, with the fourth kingdom largely ruling the whole world just before the kingdom of God is established.
Daniel wrote much about God’s kingdom—and the saints’ role in it. He offered a direct connection to when Christians will be born again.
Chapter 7, verse 13, speaks of Christ’s Return. Just before this, God officially grants Him the authority to rule all nations: “And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:14). The apostle John, in Revelation, wrote of this time. Notice: “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” (11:15).
More verses in Daniel 7 are critical. Remember that God’s kingdom is foretold to replace the four world-ruling kingdoms of chapter 2: “These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (7:17-18).
The ultimate calling of Christians is to join Jesus Christ and share rulership in the kingdom of God over all nations and peoples. Truly, Christ is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16). This includes anyone willing to accept God’s terms for entering His kingdom.
Verses 19 to 20 shed more light on what happens when the saints return with Christ. Their first responsibility is to replace the “fourth beast,” which rules with the assistance of a “little horn.” This is a small, but powerful, religious kingdom—and it is the Babylonish whore who rides the Beast of Revelation 17. This kingdom has ruled all the previous revivals of the Holy Roman Empire. Another vital booklet is Who or What Is the Beast of Revelation? I urge you to read it.
Now notice: “…the same horn made war with the saints [the work of the Babylonish woman of Revelation 17:5-6, and prevailed against them; until the Ancient of Days came [Christ], and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Dan. 7:21-22).
Finally, verse 27 confirms what lies ahead for all true Christians: “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.”
This is the kingdom of God! What could be more plain?
No wonder Jesus taught, “And He that overcomes, and keeps My works unto the end, to him [not others!] will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father” (Rev. 2:26-27), and also, “To him that overcomes [no one else!] will I grant to sit with Me in My throne…” (3:21).
“In My throne” is used because Christ knew His throne will be on Earth, unlike the Father’s, which is in heaven. Luke 1:32 shows Jesus Christ will sit in Jerusalem on David’s throne. Many more verses show that the saints will rule with Christ from Jerusalem!
There is still much, much more to learn about the truth of when and how one is born again. Read my booklet What Does “Born Again” Mean? for additional information.
You do not need to be lost in confusion and deception as with so many millions today. You can understand.