If a person is not born again, it is impossible for that one to see the Kingdom of God. John 3:3
What did Jesus mean when He used this phrase born again?
On this page:
- Change of heart
- The conversation
- Born of water
- Born of Spirit
- The Book of Life
- Eternal Life
Change of heart
The Gospel of John, chapter 3, verses 1 through 21 records a conversation between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus, a local religious leader who had come to speak with Him. Much of so-called Protestant Christianity has interpreted and propagandized this passage to infer that God is offering a sort of premier membership in the Club of Heaven and mankind is welcome to exercise his free will and join up.
According to the teachings of the ever popular religious beliefs of American Christianity, one might think God exists primarily to see to it that club members are stupidly happy and all are leading fulfilled lives, having marvelous careers with beautiful houses and large savings accounts and the latest cars and meaningful hobbies as they each discover God’s wonderful plan for their respective lives. Non-members may have even more of all those things, but their lives are likely unfulfilled. Unless they join. And donate.
While the various denominations within so-called evangelical Christianity may disagree regarding the technical requirements of such membership, they largely agree that the label of born again is applicable to bona fide members. To them, being born again is synonymous with becoming a Christian and implies one may have had a sincere change of heart or, at the very least, a change of mind. Apparently Jesus, who is portrayed as the founder of Christianity, didn’t know how to say change of heart, so he used the overly dramatic, yet purely figurative phrase, born again.
Jesus did not tell Nicodemus that people need to change their minds or have a change of heart in order to see and enter the Kingdom of God.
Were you aware that the word Christianity never appears in the Bible, not once, not anywhere? In fact, the word Christian appears only three (3) times:
And when he had found him, he brought him with him to Antioch. And a whole year they met together in the church, and instructed many people. From that time forth, the disciples were first called Christians, at Antioch. Acts 11:26
King Agrippa said to him: Almost, thou persuadest me to become a Christian. Acts 26:28
But if he suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on account of this name. 1Peter 4:16
Antioch, Syria may have been the cultural center and bridge between the Aramaic speaking world of Syria, Israel, Asia Minor, Persia, Assyria, Babylon and the Greek speaking Western Roman Empire. Followers of the Messiah were first called כרסטינא (Kristyane) in Antioch. Kristyane is a transliteration of the Greek Χριστιανός (Christianos) and was apparently a rather derogatory label meaning, “little Christs!”
As you re-read all three (3) verses, above, if you will simply replace the word Christian with little Christ(s), curling your lip a bit and kind of snarling as you you say it, you may get a little closer to conveying the original intent behind the word. I am not suggesting it is a bad thing to be called a little Christ, or Christian. I am saying those who did the name calling meant it to be a bad thing. The king said to Paul, “You are so convincing: I almost want to be one of these little Christs!” Peter was saying, “…don’t be ashamed of being name-called a little Christ.\ Glorify God because of this name!”
Please note that our LORD Jesus never referred to Himself as a Christian. More to the point, neither did any of His disciples. They never called one another Christians. And, just in case you were not already aware, Jesus most certainly did not start a new religion called Christianity!
For more on this topic, see my article titled, “The House of God.”
- Question: Why does any of this matter?
- Answer: Whether one belongs to the religion of Christianity or not, or considers himself to be a Christian or not, is of no consequence. However, whether one is born again, or not, is of eternal consequence.
Nicodemus, a Pharisee and leader of the Judeans, visited Jesus one night. He told the Master:
We know that you are a teacher sent from God, for no man is able to do these miracles that you are doing unless God were with him. John 3:2
Nicodemus stated that Jesus’s ability to perform these miracles, these signs, was proof that He was sent from God. We know that Nicodemus was not speaking for all Judeans, as his contemporaries would later accuse Jesus of having a demon in him, having Beelzebub in him or casting out demons/devils by Beelzebub the Prince of demons/devils, the Chief demon/devil.
Nicodemus told Jesus he knew that Jesus was from God, and God was with Him, to which Jesus responded,
Timeless truth I am telling you: If a person is not born again, it is impossible for that one to see the Kingdom of God. John 3:3
What? What did that have to do with what Nicodemus had just said?
Jesus didn’t thank Nicodemus for giving Him such a nice compliment. Jesus didn’t praise Nicodemus for his devotion to years of study which gave him the intellectual knowledge necessary to make good decisions, and properly distinguish between true and false teachers.
Instead, Jesus revealed what it was that allowed Nicodemus to recognize that Jesus’ ability to perform miracles was of God, while others could not: Jesus explained to Nicodemus that, without a second birth, no man could perceive what Nicodemus perceived.
Jesus went on to explain,
Timeless truth I am telling you: If a person is not born from water and The Spirit, it is impossible that he shall enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born from flesh is flesh, and that which is born from The Spirit is spirit. John 3:5
Jesus clearly contrasted flesh with Spirit. He explained that what comes from (is born of) flesh is (remains) flesh. What comes from flesh is NOT Spirit. It does not become Spirit – It does not grow or evolve into Spirit, not even with years of practice and/or study. What comes from (is born of) Spirit is spirit.
Born of water
NOTE: The leaders of the various sects within Christianity will often speak of the concept of spiritual rebirth. This particular use of words demonstrates extreme ignorance of the Holy Scriptures and of the Kingdom of God. Not only is the English word rebirth never found to exist in the Scriptures, but there is no such notion of a spirit being reborn. Before you get huffy, read on to gain insight into precisely what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus. For even more on this topic, see my article titled, “The Origin of Man.”
To even recognize the Kingdom of God , a person must have already been born again. I will visit this detail again a little later…
Nicodemus blew right past that revelation from the Master, as he got entirely hung up on the whole birthing thing. He understood Jesus to be saying that in order to be born again one would have had to have been born the first time. This is confirmed by his question, “How can an adult re-enter the womb to be born again?” He was not rebutting Jesus’s strange choice of words. He was not arguing with Jesus. Nicodemus got it right: there must be another birth, a second birth which implies a first birth. What confused him was just how this was to be accomplished. Was Jesus saying a man needed to duplicate his first birth?
NOTE: This was Nicodemus’s attempt to understand the phrase born again.
You may recall the story of Angel Gabriel who entered Maryam’s presence to inform her she was about to conceive and give birth to a son who would be called The Son of The Highest (see Luke 1:26-38). She didn’t argue with Gabriel. But she did ask, “How will this be, for no man has known me?” She didn’t understand how God would accomplish this, as she was a virgin. She happened to be engaged to a man, but would not have sexual intercourse with him until after they were married. Her question to the Angel confirms that she understood Gabriel to be speaking of an imminent event, not of some day in the future (at least 9 months from now) when Maryam would naturally get pregnant and have a child. Gabriel told her that nothing is difficult for God, and Maryam’s response was, “As a mere handmaid of God let it be done to me according to your word.”
In addition to seeing (recognizing or perceiving) the Kingdom of God, in order to enter that Kingdom Jesus said that a person must have been born BOTH of water AND of Spirit.
- Question: What is water birth?
- Answer: Being born of woman, being born from flesh, out of water – “My water broke… The baby is coming!”
“That’s ridiculous,” men will say. “If water birth means to be born of woman, then everyone qualifies. Why would Jesus make that which is already common to all a condition for entry into God’s Kingdom?”
It isn’t a ridiculous question, at all. Is water birth common to all? Firstly, were you aware that neither adam or Eve had a water birth? Adam was formed of the dust of the Earth, and Eve was formed of adam. Consider adam’s end: God said to adam, “From dust you came. To dust you will return.” He did not say, “From dust you came, but you shall be with me in Paradise.” God gave adam 930 years before the man returned to dust. Guess, just guess, what adam did not enter – what adam could not enter…
Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to be born of the Spirit one MUST have first been born of water.
Born of Spirit
Do not be surprised that I said to you that all of you must be born again. The Spirit breathes where he will, and you hear his voice, but you do not know from where he comes and where he goes; thus is everyone who is born from The Spirit. John 3:7
In the English translations of the Scriptures, the words Spirit, breath, and wind are typically derived from the same word in the original language(s). This is due to the fact that in these languages one word can have all three meanings:
- Hebrew – רוּחַ (Ruach)
- Aramaic – רוחא (Rookah)
- Greek – πνεῦμα (Pneuma)
But words Spirit, breath, and wind do not all have the same meaning in English. Look at two translations of this popular passage:
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 3:8 (KJV)
The Spirit breathes where He will, and you hear His voice, but you do not know from where He comes and where He goes; thus is everyone who is born from The Spirit. John 3:8 (FCAB)
- The wind blows
- The Spirit breathes
There is a considerable difference between an amorphous, random breeze blowing in a given locale on a given day and the Spirit of the Living God breathing life into a person. Which do you think Jesus was referring to when He was teaching Nicodemus about the Kingdom of God and being born a second time, being born of the Spirit?
There is a nonsensical interpretation of John 3:8 commonly presented in religious circles that goes something like this:
A gentle wind blows, surely not a tempest, gale or hurricane. It has a mind of its own and does whatever it wants. You can hear it (so perhaps it’s not so gentle, after all) but you can’t see it. And you have no idea where it originated from or what its destination will be. Jesus was saying that is precisely what Christians are like!
Rather, Jesus told Nicodemus that God alone gives life and you have no say in the matter. You do not control Him. Just as you didn’t choose to be born from the water in your mother’s womb, let alone dictate the time and the place, you certainly don’t choose to be born of Spirit. The Spirit breathes where He will!
Nicodemus was only familiar with the first birth, a water birth, which had prompted him to ask:
How can an old man be born (again)? Is it not impossible for him again to enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born? John 3:4
He had clearly understood the Master to say that a second actual birth is required in order to even see God’s Kingdom, let alone enter into it. What he demonstrated in his question was his utter lack of knowledge regarding the things of the Spirit. He was so rattled by this teaching he exclaimed:
How can these things be? John 3:9
Jesus then said to Nicodemus,
You are the Teacher of Israel and you do not know these things? John 3:10
Jesus did not provide the man with “How To” instructions! There was no altar call, no “Repeat-after-me-instant-access” prayer, no baptism, no invitation to “Come to my church,” not even a pamphlet on “How to become a Christian.” Was Jesus missing an opportunity to lead this soul to Christ? Not on your life!
Organizational or club membership does not constitute Spirit birth. A lifetime of religious service does not constitute Spirit birth. Being baptized does not constitute Spirit birth. Changing your mind does not constitute Spirit birth. Becoming a Christian does not constitute Spirit birth.
- Question: What is Spirit birth?
- Answer: The Spirit breathes where He will – The seed of God is birthed within
There are two distinct births of consequence presented by our LORD:
- Born of the flesh, from water
- Born of the Spirit
With all this talk of birth – a water birth, then a Spirit birth – Jesus matter-of-factly described the TRUTH of God’s intent to Nicodemus: children. God’s own children. Born of His Spirit. Born to see, enter and dwell in His Kingdom.
This is not about re-birth. The flesh is not born a second time.
This is not about re-birth. The spirit is not born a second time.
This is addressing a man of flesh who has already been born once, via water. He is informed that he has also been born a second time, of spirit. That is why he has come to the Master, and NO ONE ELSE is with him.
The Book of Life
The Scriptures contain eight (8) verses that refer to the Book of Life and the names it does or does not contain. Two (2) verses refer to those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Two (2) verses reference the blotting out of names. One (1) verse tell us the dead are judged by what was written in the Book of Life. Three (3) verses speak of those whose names are NOT written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
Four (4) actions are associated with the Lamb’s Book of Life:
- Names are written in – Philippians 4:3, Revelation 21:27
- Names are blotted out / not blotted out – Psalm 69:28, Revelation 3:5
- Dead are judged by what was written – Revelation 20:12
- Names are NOT written in – Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8, Revelation 20:15
- Question: Whose names are blotted out?
- Answer: The enemies of God, including those who do not overcome – Psalm 69: Revelation 3:5
- Question: When is a person’s name entered into the Book of Life?
- Answer: “From the foundation of the world” – Revelation 17:8
- Question: Who are the people NOT written in?
- Answer: (Read on…)
And all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:8
The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. Revelation 17:8
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15
Did you realize those whose names are NOT written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are the very ones who worship the beast? These verses refer to the generation of people who experience the fulfillment of the prophecies just prior to the return of the King. Among them are those who do not receive the mark of the Beast, those who overcome, those who are alive and remain at his coming. But there are others: those whose names are not written in the Book of Life. If a name that had been written in the Book of Life was subsequently blotted out of the Book of Life, then it could said of that name that it was not be found in the Book of Life, and this readily explains Revelation 20:15. But both Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 speak of those whose names were never written in, never entered in the first place. Let that sink in…
…and consider Jesus’s words to Nicodemus about the requirement of first, being born of water…
As enticing as it might be to believe, the Lamb’s Book of Life is not a listing of mostly pleasant, religious people throughout the ages with the addition of the names of a handful of wealthy donors who purchased a spot in the Book. Nor did it begin as an empty book into which God added names as people became Christians, got baptized, joined a church, etc.
This Book contains the names and deeds of all those born of water and the Spirit. The requirement of being born of water would would exclude adam and Eve, as well as any who are/would be created in laboratories. The requirement of being born of the Spirit would further restrict the names in the Book.
Do you now perceive the significance of Jesus’s words to Nicodemus, when He said:
If a person is not born from water and The Spirit, it is impossible that he shall enter the Kingdom of God. John 3:5
If you are not born of water AND The Spirit, you cannot even perceive the Kingdom of God, let alone enter into it!
If you can see His Kingdom, it is because God has birthed you: not just once – of water. But again – of spirit. Now you may enter in.
For we do not rejoice in those things that are seen, but in these things that are unseen. For things seen are time related, but those things that are unseen are eternal. 2Corinthians 4:18
In short: time is a construct, a created linear structure in which man dwells and for which the sun, moon and stars (lights in the firmament) were given as instruments of measurement. That which is constrained by time, or time-related, is not eternal. That which is eternal is not constrained by time. Eternal life is not immortal life, per se. Immortality, as it is perceived and presented by men, is typically equated with never aging. It is not even necessarily equated with never dying. Eternal life is Spirit life, life outside of time, having no beginning and no ending.
Concerning the hope of eternal life, which The True God promised before the times of the world. Titus 1:2
At the time of the conversation Jesus was having with Nicodemus, a detail remained in order to secure eternal life for God’s children, those born of His Spirit. Jesus would handle this detail, shortly. He described it to Nicodemus this way:
Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, thus The Son of Man is going to be lifted up, so that every person who believes in him shall not be lost, but shall have eternal life. John 3:14
By the way: it was not a live, hissing snake coiled around a staff that Moses lifted up, that which would later come to be adopted as the universal symbol of the witchcraft and sorcery of so-called modern healthcare. Read the passages for yourself:
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived. Numbers 21:9
He (Hezekiah) removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. 2Kings 18:4
Jesus came to die as the sacrifice for the sins of many, and was lifted up for all to gaze upon. Why was this necessary?
For all have sinned… Ecclesiastes 7:20, Romans 3: 9, Romans 3:23, Romans 5:12, Galatians 3:22
There is none righteous… Psalm 14:3, Romans 3:10
The wages of sin is death… Romans 6:23
He that is dead is freed from sin… Romans 6:7
The One died in the place of every person; so then every person died with him … 2Corinthians 5:14
I was co-crucified with Christ… Galatians 2:20
Your life is hidden with Christ in God… Colossians 3:3
For God loved the world in this way: so much that he would give up his Son, The Only One, so that everyone who trusts in him shall not be lost, but he shall have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world that he would condemn the world, but that he would give life to the world by him. Whoever believes in him is not judged, and whoever does not believe is judged already, because he does not believe in The Name of The Only Begotten Son of God. This is the judgment: The Light has come into the world and the children of men loved the darkness more than The Light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does what is hateful, hates The Light and does not come to The Light, lest his works should be convicted. But he who does The Truth comes to The Light, so that his works may be revealed, that they are performed by God. John 3:16-21
And this is the testimony: God has given us Eternal Life, and that life is in his Son. Everyone who lays hold of The Son lays hold also of The Life, and everyone who does not lay hold of The Son of God does not have The Life in him. These things I have written to you that you will know that you have Eternal Life, you who believe in the name of The Son of God. 1Jn 5:11-13