Definition: Being born again involves being baptized in water (“born from water”) and begotten by God’s spirit (“born from . . . spirit”), thus becoming a son of God with the prospect of sharing in the Kingdom of God. (John 3:3-5) Jesus had this experience, as do the 144,000 who are heirs with him of the heavenly Kingdom.
Why is it necessary for any Christians to be “born again”?
God has purposed to associate a limited number of faithful humans with Jesus Christ in the heavenly Kingdom
Luke 12:32: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.”
Rev. 14:1-3: “I saw, and, look! the Lamb [Jesus Christ] standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand . . . who have been bought from the earth.” (See pages 166, 167, under the heading “Heaven.”)
Humans cannot go to heaven with bodies of flesh and blood
1 Cor. 15:50: “This I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption.”
John 3:6: “What has been born from the flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit.”
Only persons who have been “born again,” thus becoming God’s sons, can share in the heavenly Kingdom
John 1:12, 13: “As many as did receive him [Jesus Christ], to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” (“As many as did receive him” does not mean all humans who have put faith in Christ. Notice who is being referred to, as indicated by verse 11 [“his own people,” the Jews]. The same privilege has been extended to others of mankind, but only to a “little flock.”)
Rom. 8:16, 17: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.”
1 Pet. 1:3, 4: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for you.”
What will they do in heaven?
Rev. 20:6: “They will be priests of God and of the Christ, and will rule as kings with him for the thousand years.”
1 Cor. 6:2: “Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?”
Can a person who is not “born again” be saved?
Rev. 7:9, 10, 17: “After these things [after the apostle John heard the number of those who would be “born again,” those who would make up spiritual Israel and would be with Christ in heaven; compare Romans 2:28, 29 and Galatians 3:26-29] I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ . . . ‘The Lamb [Jesus Christ], who is in the midst of the throne, will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life.’”
After listing many pre-Christian persons of faith, Hebrews 11:39, 40 says: “All these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise, as God foresaw something better for us, in order that they might not be made perfect apart from us.” (Who are here meant by “us”? Hebrews 3:1 shows that they are “partakers of the heavenly calling.” The pre-Christian persons who had faith, then, must have a hope for perfect life somewhere other than in heaven.)
Ps. 37:29: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
Rev. 21:3, 4: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
Is it possible for a person to have God’s spirit and yet not be “born again”?
Regarding John the baptizer, Jehovah’s angel said: “He will be filled with holy spirit right from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15) And Jesus later said: “Among those born of women there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is [Why? Because John will not be in the heavens and so there was no need for him to be “born again”]. But from the days of John the Baptist until now [when Jesus stated this] the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press.”—Matt. 11:11, 12.
The spirit of Jehovah was “operative” upon David and “spoke” by him (1 Sam. 16:13; 2 Sam. 23:2), but nowhere does the Bible say that he was “born again.” There was no need for him to be “born again,” because, as Acts 2:34 says: “David did not ascend to the heavens.”
What identifies persons today who have God’s spirit?
If Someone Says—
‘I’ve been born again’
You might reply: ‘That means that you expect someday to be with Christ in heaven, doesn’t it? . . . Have you ever wondered what those who go to heaven will do there?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘They will be kings and priests, ruling with Christ. (Rev. 20:6; 5:9, 10) Jesus said that these would be just a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32)’ (2) ‘If they are kings, there must also be subjects over whom they will rule. Who will these be? . . . Here are some points that I found to be very interesting when they were drawn to my attention. (Ps. 37:11, 29; Prov. 2:21, 22)’
‘Have you been born again?’
You might reply: ‘I find that what people mean by “born again” is not always the same. Would you tell me what it means to you?’
Or you could say: ‘You want to know whether I have accepted Jesus as my Savior and have received holy spirit, is that right? May I assure you that the answer is Yes; otherwise I would not be talking to you about Jesus.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘But when I think of having the holy spirit, I find that evidence of that spirit is sadly missing in many who claim to be Christians. (Gal. 5:22, 23)’ (2) ‘Would you enjoy living on this earth if everyone reflected those godly qualities? (Ps. 37:10, 11)’
Another possibility: ‘If you mean by that, “Have I accepted Christ as my Savior?” the answer is Yes. All of Jehovah’s Witnesses have done that. But, to us, being born again involves much more than that.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘When Jesus spoke about being born again he said that it was necessary in order to enter the Kingdom of God, that is, to be part of God’s Kingdom, his heavenly government. (John 3:5)’ (2) ‘The Bible also shows that many people who do the will of God will live here on earth, as happy subjects of that Kingdom. (Matt. 6:10; Ps. 37:29)’
An additional suggestion: Those who are of the heavenly class could reply: ‘Yes, I am. But the Bible cautions all of us not to be overconfident of our position. We need to keep examining ourselves to be sure that we are really doing what God and Christ require of us. (1 Cor. 10:12)’ Then perhaps add: ‘What responsibility did Jesus lay upon his true disciples? (Matt. 28:19, 20; 1 Cor. 9:16)’