The Bible’s Viewpoint
Who Are “Born Again”?
NICODEMUS was a member of the Jewish high court, a scholar in religious law, and he had seen enough evidence of Jesus’ miracles to convince himself that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet, he could not understand what Jesus meant by the statement: “Unless anyone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”—John 3:1-3, 10.
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “He cannot enter into the womb of his mother a second time and be born, can he?”—John 3:4.
Millions of people today profess to be “born again” and claim to understand clearly what this means. Others, like Nicodemus, are puzzled with the whole concept of being born again. Since Jesus Christ made the point that this was a prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of God, it is vital that we do understand what he meant by being “born again.”
In response to Nicodemus’ question, Jesus further said: “Most truly I say to you, Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit. Do not marvel because I told you, You people must be born again.”—John 3:5-7.
Difficult to grasp? Jesus knew that understanding spiritual truths is not easy. So in order to make things clearer, he used an illustration about the wind. “The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So is everyone that has been born from the spirit.” (John 3:8) Nicodemus could hear, feel, and see the effects of the wind, but he could not understand its source or its final destination. Yet, the reality of the wind was beyond question. Similarly, those who lack spiritual insight would find it difficult to grasp how Jehovah, by means of his spirit, could cause a person to be born again and what the ultimate destiny of such a one would be. However, with the help of inspired Bible writers, we can comprehend such matters.—John 16:13.
Clearing Up the Puzzle
What did Jesus have in mind when he spoke about being “born from water and spirit”? Birth means beginning. A new birth means a new beginning. In the case of Jesus’ disciples, their first step toward being born again began once they repented of their sins, turned away from a wrong course, and were baptized in water. Starting at Pentecost 33 C.E., in response to such action, Jehovah gave them what Peter referred to as “a new birth to a living hope . . . reserved in the heavens.” (1 Peter 1:3, 4; 3:21) Jehovah’s holy spirit implanted in them a conviction that they would eventually live with Jesus Christ in heaven. This gave them a whole new outlook on life—a new beginning.
Was this simply an emotional religious experience? No. God’s holy spirit made them into something entirely new, “a new creation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) When they were first born as humans, they were sinful children of Adam, inheriting all the imperfection that he passed on to his descendants. Now, upon being “born again,” these disciples obtained a clean standing before God. How? The merits of Jesus’ sacrifice were applied in their behalf. Thereby, God viewed them as righteous even while they were still imperfect humans. (Romans 3:25, 26; 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 6:11) More than that, Jehovah now recognized them as his sons. The apostle Paul shows how: “For all who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons . . . God’s children.” (Romans 8:14, 16) They were now accepted as part of God’s heavenly family.
And there was more. Paul explains again: “If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:17) These spiritual sons of God now had the prospect of inheriting what Christ Jesus was going to inherit—kingly power in heaven. Jesus revealed to the apostle John the number of persons who would be corulers with him over the earth—144,000. (Revelation 7:4; 14:1-3) Then he went on to show John that these favored disciples “will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”—Revelation 20:6.
Benefits to Others
Does this mean then that in order to gain God’s favor, everyone must be “born again”? Not at all. Jesus’ sacrifice covers more than the 144,000 persons who have been specially chosen to be with him in the heavens. When the apostle John wrote to “born again” Christians toward the end of the first century, he said regarding the sacrifice of Jesus: “He is a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins, yet not for ours only but also for the whole world’s.” (1 John 2:2) How is this so?
In this way. Those who are “born again” will rule with Jesus Christ in Jehovah’s heavenly Kingdom to bring benefits to others of mankind who will live on earth. This was foretold in a remarkable promise made to Jesus’ forefather Abraham almost 4,000 years ago. “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves,” Jehovah told Abraham. (Genesis 22:18) Yes, great blessings were to be made available to all nations through Abraham’s “seed”!
Who was that “seed”? Jesus Christ, joined by his genuine “born again” followers. The apostle Paul explains: “Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed.” (Galatians 3:16, 29) And what are the blessings that come to people of all nations through Jesus Christ and these “born again” disciples? The privilege of being restored to God’s favor and enjoying all his provisions for a paradise earth.—Genesis 1:27, 28; Psalm 37:29; Proverbs 2:21, 22; Isaiah 45:18.
So the 144,000 “born again” disciples will “enter into the [heavenly] kingdom of God” to administer the marvelous blessings that God’s Kingdom will bring to untold millions right here on the earth. (Matthew 6:10; Romans 8:19-21; Revelation 21:1-5) Whether Nicodemus ever understood Jesus’ words and was “born again” to become part of this ruling body, we do not know. What we do know is that the opportunity to receive the benefits of their heavenly rulership is there for anyone who wishes to avail himself of it. Will you?
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Must everyone be “born again” to gain God’s favor?