Life, Hope & Truth

What Does It Mean to Be Born Again?

How does the Bible use the phrase “born again”? What does it mean to be born again, and how can we make sure we participate in this new birth?

Jesus Christ explained that no one will “see” or “enter” the Kingdom of God, unless he or she is “born again” (John 3:3, John 3:5). This analogy is very important, because becoming a part of the Kingdom of God is the purpose of human life!

Entry into the Kingdom of God

Entry into the Kingdom of God is the gift that God will give His faithful servants when Jesus returns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matthew 25:31-34).

Nicodemus, a religious leader of Jesus’ day, had secretly come to Jesus and acknowledged that His teaching and ministry must be of God. Perhaps he was even admitting that Jesus was the long-anticipated Messiah who would bring the Kingdom of God. But Nicodemus, like many of his time, misunderstood the plan of God. They imagined that the Messiah would come as a conquering hero to release His physical kinsmen from subjugation to the Roman Empire.

Correcting Nicodemus’ misunderstanding, Jesus told him that people must be reborn spiritually to see or enter the Kingdom of God. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to Him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’” (John 3:3-5).

Ultimately, this rebirth—this being “born again”—means that those in the Kingdom of God will no longer be physical, imperfect beings, but spiritual beings! “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. … The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit. … For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him [Christ, as Savior] should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:6, 8, 16).

This rebirth, the change from flesh and blood to spirit that is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God, must be preceded by spiritual renovation as a human. It involves a process of being spiritually changed from our old, natural, sinful ways of doing and thinking to a way of life that is like Jesus Christ’s. This process takes time. This rebirth, the change from flesh and blood to spirit that is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God, must be preceded by spiritual renovation as a human. It involves a process of being spiritually changed from our old, natural, sinful ways of doing and thinking to a way of life that is like Jesus Christ’s. This process takes time.

The process of conversion

This process of conversion is also compared with a new birth in the Bible, as Christians are now called children of God and are encouraged to seek the pure milk of God’s Word in order to grow spiritually (Titus 3:4-5; Romans 8:16; 1 Peter 1:22-25; 1 Peter 2:1-3).

The conversion process is not just a shallow emotional decision. It requires that a person repent of his or her sins, be baptized in water, receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit of God, grow in the grace and knowledge of God and be guided by His righteous law. At the end of this process the person is finally changed into an immortal spirit being, thereby entering the Kingdom of God! In the final sense, he or she is then “born again.”

The apostle Paul said that his whole life of growing and enduring the challenges of the Christian life was directed toward this supreme goal. Being born again–entering the Kingdom of God by a resurrection to glory—is the whole purpose of being a Christian (Philippians 3:8-14).

Jesus Christ is the firstborn of many brethren (Romans 8:29). He set the pattern. He is the captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He was resurrected to glory by the Father, “and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Those who are faithful to the calling of God, and who are born again into that glorious Kingdom of God, will be “like” Him in the resurrection (1 John 3:2).

Speaking of this wonderful future when we can be born again as immortal and glorified sons of God, Paul wrote: “And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell 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 trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:49-53).

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