Man, born of woman, is flesh and blood, subject to death and corruption. The Bible tells us that, apart from God, man’s fate is the same as that of animals. “For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Eccl. 3:19-20).
In spite of this, man has a tremendous potential. So tremendous that the Apostle Paul tells us, “But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him” (Heb. 2:6-8). Notice it! Man has been given powers far above those of animals, and even power over his own environment, but he does not yet have all the power God intends to give him. God has a purpose, a plan that transcends man’s wildest dreams. In this plan man has been crowned with glory and honor. But he has not yet received the power that will eventually be given him.
Jesus Christ is the precursor. He wears a crown of kingship (Rev. 14:14). He inherited the entire universe and has been given control over it (Heb. 1:2). Of Christ, Paul writes: “Who being the brightness of his [God the Father’s] glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3). Man also has been crowned (Heb. 2:7). This denotes kingship. Jesus Christ is a king, but also by means of the resurrection-He is a born Son of God (1 Cor. 15:20-23). He is a born Son of God with power. Paul affirms this when he wrote of Christ: “And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). As a born Son of God, Christ IS God (John 20:28). While on the Earth, Christ was God in the flesh; He is now God glorified in the spirit-immortal, not subject to death. The Apostle John describes Christ in His glorified form:
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore. . . (Rev. 1:13-18).
Christ is going to share the power and glory He has as God with man, for Christ is the firstborn of many to follow Him. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). See also Col. 1:15, 18. Christians are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). “For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10). Christians must be born again in order to share in this glory.
Jesus Christ Explained What
It Means to Be “Born Again”
Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, acknowledged that Jesus was sent from God. Jesus told him, “. . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus could not grasp the real significance of Jesus’ statement. He knew what it meant to be born, so he asked, “. . . How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?” (John 3:4). Jesus was not talking about a physical birth; He was talking about a spiritual birth. He explained, “. . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Jesus told Nicodemus that as he had been born physically, he must also be born spiritually. He told him he must be born a second time; he must be born of God. The physical birth, Jesus explained, was only a type of the spiritual birth. He made it plain that without the spiritual birth, one cannot enter into the Kingdom of God!
Jesus, then, went on to further explain. “Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:7-8). What an astounding statement! Jesus told Nicodemus that one who is born of the Spirit is spirit! Man is made of the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7). Man is material. God is composed of spirit (John 4:24). He is spiritual. The material man must be changed into spirit in order to be saved. How will man be changed? By the resurrection from the dead! Of this present physical body that man possesses, Paul wrote: “But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die. . . . So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:35-36, 42-44).
By the example of blowing wind, Jesus illustrated that one who is born of God will be invisible as God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17). Both angels, made of spirit (Ps. 104:4), and God, who is spirit (John 4:24) are invisible to the human eyes. So is everyone who is born of the spirit. Converted Christians are not invisible to human eyes. They are not yet born of God. They have been begotten of the Holy Spirit but not yet born of the Spirit. They have received the earnest of the spirit only (Eph. 1:13-14). Human conception and birth are a type of the spiritual birth. Humans are conceived and remain in their mother’s wombs for approximately nine months before birth. A converted Christian is begotten of the Holy Spirit, and like a physical child in its mother’s womb, must, over a period of time, grow and develop in the Jerusalem that is above-that is, the church (Gal. 4:26). They will then be ready for the spiritual birth. Those who have died in faith in times past are awaiting the resurrection-the time when they will be born again and enter into eternal life in God’s kingdom. Those who are alive when Christ returns will be instantly changed into spirit (1 Cor. 15:51). “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2).
But some may argue that the Greek word gennao, from which the word “born” is translated in John 3:3, also means begotten. Therefore, one does not have to be “born” of spirit to be in God’s Kingdom. One merely has to be begotten. In the Greek language there are a number of words beside gennao which refer to birth. But an examination of the words used for birth clearly shows it is gennao alone that refers to the spiritual birth. No other Greek word refers to being born into spirit. Gennao is translated as both “born” and “begotten,” and refers to both physical and spiritual birth. We find it is translated “born” thirty-nine times and “begotten” forty-eight times. Ten other texts translate it in other variant ways. But, as pointed out above, when referring to the spiritual birth-the one Jesus spoke of in John 3:3-gennao is used. Jesus made it plain by His statement in John 3:3; one must be born of the spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God. But one must first be begotten of the spirit before he can be born of the spirit. This is why being begotten of the spirit is extremely important; but one who is begotten is not yet saved. He can still fail to develop spiritually and lose out in the end. What the spiritual birth means is eternal life in God’s kingdom. One begotten of the Holy Spirit has only started the process. One who has the Spirit of God is a child of God, but he is not yet born of God. Spiritual birth does not take place until the resurrection!
There are a number of Scriptures which demonstrate the spiritual birth. Notice what Paul wrote: “For our [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Ph’p 3:20-21). The Bible teaches that the soul is mortal, subject to death (Ezek. 18:4, 20). But, it also teaches the resurrection of the dead. When does the resurrection occur? “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:22-23). What kind of body will those who are resurrected possess?
The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly (1 Cor. 15:47-48).
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:50-54).
The only hope of life after death is the resurrection from the dead. We have clearly seen from the Scriptures that man must be changed from mortal to immortal. He will be born again-this time as a spirit being-just as Jesus told Nicodemus.
A False Assumption
A major assumption is that when one is converted-has repented, been baptized, and received the Holy Spirit-he has been “born again.” This false concept has completely clouded the real meaning and significance of being born again. As a result the world has failed to understand what salvation is, what the reward of the saved really is, and what is the real purpose of life. “Born again” is viewed as some kind of ethereal, mystical experience, or feeling one is supposed to experience upon receiving Christ. What is not understood is that conversion and the spiritual rebirth into the Kingdom of God are two different things. One must be converted before he can be saved, but he is not saved until changed from flesh into spirit. When the converted Christian receives the Holy Spirit, he is begotten by God. He is not born of God until changed from mortality to immortality. Like a child begotten in its mother’s womb, the converted Christian must grow and develop until he is ready to be born again. God begets His children by the Holy Spirit; they are born of God at the resurrection.
Since the Greek language uses only one word-gennao-for both “begotten” and “born,” translators of the Authorized Version sometimes translated gennao as “born” when it should have been translated “begotten.” One is not born of God when he receives the Holy Spirit; rather, he is begotten. Examples of how gennao was mistranslated are found in John 1:13, 1 John 2:29; 4:7 and 5:1, 4. In most of these examples the word “born” should have been translated “begotten.”
But notice 1 John 3:9 where gennao is correctly translated as “born” two times. One who is actually born of God does not sin; that is, he is “not able to sin.” Converted Christians can and sometimes do sin, for John wrote, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). But, Christians have an advocate. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Also notice 1 John 5:1. Gennao is used three times in this verse. It is incorrectly translated as “born” the first time, but in the two latter instances, it is correctly translated as “begotten” and “begat.” Those who are converted are “begotten” as Paul clearly shows in 1 Corinthians 4:15. “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” Christ, who was begotten of the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:5), was later born of God by the resurrection of the dead (Rom. 1:4).
Man Not Yet Born of God
Man has been promised glory and power. But this promise has not yet been fulfilled.
But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him (Heb. 2:6-8).
God has no intention of sharing the kind of power and glory He possesses with sinning, rebellious men. Until man has developed the kind of character God has, man can never be trusted with the responsibility required to exercise rule over “all things.” Man’s power and jurisdiction are limited at the present. When born into the Kingdom of God, there will be no limitations. This present life is a training ground. Those called of God must overcome the pulls and lusts of human nature. They must strive to build holy, righteous character. This character will then give man the ability to always recognize right from wrong, and to always choose the right in opposition to the wrong. Man must partake of God’s divine nature by means of the Holy Spirit. “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4).
Christians are potential sons of God. John wrote, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1-2). At the resurrection man will share God’s glory as an heir of God. “And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:17-18). The entire creation awaits this event. “For the earnest expectation of the [creation] waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). At the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead, the spiritual birth into the Kingdom of God will take place. We will be born again! No wonder Isaiah the prophet wrote, “Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once?. . .” (Isa. 66:8). If we realize the tremendous purpose God has for man, we cannot afford to take this human experience and the knowledge of God’s truth lightly. “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:10-11).