What Does It Mean to Be ‘Born Again’?

What Does It Mean to Be ‘Born Again’?


The truth about Christ’s teaching on being “born again” is even more inspiring, more spectacular than what most today make it out to be.
From the September 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

It was utterly dumfounding! This teacher was telling him that one must be born a second time! But how could that be? he wondered.

Ever since Nicodemus’ mind-boggling conversation with Jesus Christ, many have been just as confused as he was concerning the truth about what it means to be born again.

Why couldn’t he understand this concept? Why don’t many understand it today? It actually stems from most people’s misunderstanding of Christ’s gospel. If you don’t understand that, you can’t comprehend what it means to be truly born again.

The word gospel means “good news.” What was that good news? Mark 1:14 defines it:”Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” It was not a gospel about Him, but about a coming Kingdom—a coming government to rule this earth.

Christ’s message raised curiosities among the religious of His day. Nicodemus was one of them. “The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).

Christ, being a teacher from God, taught Nicodemus the message behind the miracles. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (v. 3). Christ told Nicodemus, the only way he could be a part of this Kingdom—part of the fulfillment of Christ’s message—was to be born again! Years later, many professing Christians read this and frantically run to get themselves “born again” so they can be a part of this kingdom.

But Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews” (John 18:36).

Not understanding the timing of the Kingdom, Nicodemus obviously did not understand this “born again” concept: “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). Physically, this is impossible.

Christ answered, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (v. 5). Being born of water is baptism. Here, Christ meant that we cannot be born of the Spirit, or “born again,” unless we are first baptized.

And being born of the Spirit was the main focus of Christ’s teaching. He defines it in verse 6: “That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of Spirit is spirit.” Christ’s words are so plain. That which is born of the flesh is flesh: in a physical birth, we are physical beings. But that which is born of the Spirit is spirit: in a spiritual birth, we are spiritual beings!

So unless born again, born of the Spirit, one cannot enter the Kingdom of God (v. 5). He or she cannot even see the Kingdom (v. 3). “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” (v. 8). And yet so many professing Christians will argue that they are born again, when the Son of God clearly states that if you are born again (born of the Spirit), you are like the wind—no one can see you!

“Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” (I Cor. 15:50). Flesh and blood are visible. So if you are still flesh and blood, you have not inherited the Kingdom and therefore are not born again.

Now, we must define the word kingdom. A kingdom has four parts: 1) a king or ruler, in this case Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:16); 2) an area of land which the king will rule, in this case the Kingdom of God will rule the earth for 1000 years (Rev. 20:4); 3) subjects to rule, in this case submissive human beings striving to live according to God’s way; and 4) a law by which to rule these subjects, in this case the perfect law of God—the Ten Commandments (Rev. 22:14).

So where do those born again (born of the Spirit) fit into the Kingdom? “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them:and Isaw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God…and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20:4). They are the ones ruling with Christ. These saints have died and now live! They are Spirit (invisible) and will reign with Christ. In other words, they have entered the Kingdom of God. They are born again!

Notice! Being born again means being part of God’s Kingdom—which is, in other biblical passages, referred to as the family of God. In this world, kingdoms and nations are merely families grown large. So those “born again” are actually born into God’s spiritual family. Why would Christ use the word “born” if it didn’t compare to physical birth?

So many have misunderstood this fabulous truth. Why the confusion?

The New Testament Greek does not have two words to differentiate between being merely begotten and actually being born. The Greek word in all cases, gennao, actually includes the entire process from begettal to the birth. Strong’s Concordance defines it as follows: “to procreate (properly of the father, but by extension of the mother); figurative to regenerate:—bear, beget, be born, bring forth, conceive, be delivered of, gender, make, spring.” English has two separate, distinct words for this process. The King James Version of the Bible bears this out, at times translating gennao as “begotten” and other times “birth.”

It is the context that must determine what the Greek word actually denotes. (Translators were not always right.) If it refers to us receiving God’s Spirit now, while in the flesh, we know this refers to begettal, since the Kingdom is not yet here and no fleshly human is spirit and sinless! But if it refers to us being like God, not able to sin or living forever, we know that is the true, spiritual birth!

Now, understand this. Before a human being can be physically born, the baby must be begotten. Romans 8:16 shows how this relates spiritually as well. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” Notice, humans have a spirit. Job 32:8 states, “But there is a spirit in man….” Spiritual begettal, which makes us God’s children, is when the Spirit of God combines with this human spirit—just like the male sperm combines with the female ovum to create a child.

So how and when is one spiritually begotten? When does this Spirit of God enter the mind? Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy [Spirit]” (Acts 2:38).

This is why Christ, in John 3, mentioned being born of water first. This is the spiritual begettal, when man is forgiven of his past sins and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. Upon receipt of this Spirit, man becomes a member of God’s spiritual family in embryo!

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26). Man looks like God in physical form—he has His likeness. This is proven in the sense that the Word became flesh and looked like the Father (John 14:9). But in order to be a member of God’s family, man had to gain the image of God! He needed the character of God, the mind of God. He needed to think like God.

Physically, the purpose of conception is to make another human being similar to the parents—with two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, two arms, two legs, etc. But at the moment of conception, the begotten does not look like a human being. It looks like a cell! It actually takes over nine months to come to the complete “image” of a human being. Over the months, little by little, the embryo takes on the features of a human. Soon, an independent heart, a toe here, a finger there, and so on. The same applies spiritually. When man is begotten of God, he actually seems to have none of God’s image—he may not act like or think like God. But over time, he begins to take on the features, the character of God. The equivalent of an arm might develop, or a leg, until he is fully ready to be born as a spirit being into the family of God.

“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. 8:11). The Spirit of God in a human being is what quickens his or her body to be changed into spirit composition. It happened first to Christ. That is why He is called the “firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29). To this point, He is the only one born again, because He is the only one who was flesh and is now a Spirit member in the God family. And how did it happen to Him? By the resurrection. “For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raisedincorruptible, and we shall be changed” (I Cor. 15:52). Those dead at the return of Jesus Christ, when He comes to establish His Kingdom on earth, will be resurrected incorruptible, spirit children in the image of God.

This is the most fundamental truth to God’s plan for humanity—the very reason life exists on this planet! God is making a family. He intends that every single willing human being be born again into His family. It starts at the birth of water (being baptized and forgiven of our past sins) and the receipt of God’s Spirit, and then growing as a baby would in gestation until the embryo has formed the image of God—when the human, by the guidance of God’s Spirit, learns to think and act like God. Finally, he or she will be changed to a spirit member of God’s family—unable to sin and able to live that way forever. He or she will be, as Christ said, like the invisible wind and a part of an invisible Kingdom, or family. The parallels are astonishing!

And what is more astonishing is that the Kingdom of God will be set up on this earth imminently! Christ will soon return to rule this earth with those born-again members in His family, to teach the rest of the world how to live God’s way, how to be more like God and, in the end, how to be born spiritually into the eternal, glorious family of God.

A Father’s Example

From the September 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

Experts agree that a true leader is trained from early childhood. Strong families—with an active father at the helm—build strong leaders. Let’s look at an example of the kind of male leadership we are referring to.

Lee Iacocca, former CEO for Chrysler, wrote this about his father. “Whenever times were tough in our family, it was my father who kept our spirits up. No matter what happened, he was always there for us. He was a philosopher, full of little sayings and homilies about the ways of the world. His favorite theme was that life has its ups and downs and that each person has to come to terms with his own share of misery. ‘You’ve got to accept a little sorrow in life,’ he’d tell me when I was upset about a bad grade in school or some other disappointment. ‘You’ll never really know what happiness is unless you have something to compare it to.’

“At the same time, he hated to see any of us unhappy and would always try to cheer us up. Whenever I was worried about anything, he’d say: ‘Tell me, Lido, what were you so upset about last month? Or last year? See—you don’t even remember! So maybe whatever you are worried about today isn’t really all that bad. Forget it, and move on to tomorrow.’

“During hard times, he was always the optimist. ‘Just wait,’ he’d tell me whenever things looked bleak, ‘the sun’s gonna come out. It always does.’ Many years later, when I was trying to save Chrysler from bankruptcy, I missed my father’s comforting words. I’d say, ‘Hey, Pop, where’s the sun, where’s the sun!’ He never let any of us surrender to despair, and I confess there was more than one moment in 1981 when I felt ready to throw in the towel. I kept my sanity in those days by recalling his favorite saying: It looks bad right now, but remember, this too shall pass’” (Iacocca: An Autobiography, p. 10). This is the kind of father-leadership our families need today. Unfortunately, the majority do not have it.

Kosovo Before the Turks

From the September 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

Prior to 1389, the medieval Serbian state had developed from an agglomeration of Slavic peoples descended from the Slavs who settled in the Balkans following their westward migrations from the northern and northeastern areas of the Black Sea.

By the fifth century a.d., Slavic tribes, of which the Serbs and Croats were two in particular, occupied areas north of the Danube in Central Europe. The Croats had migrated to the area of modern Croatia and Western Bosnia by the early seventh century. The Serbs had settled by this time in Rascia to the northwest of Kosovo and in the region of Montenegro (see map). The Albanians, who comprise the majority of Kosovo’s population, appear to be of Illyrian descent. Settling in the mountainous area along the Adriatic, opposite the heel of the Italian “boot,” Albanians seem to have, through the proof of numerous versions of history and the longevity of the Albanian language in the region, a significant presence in Kosovo which predates that of the Serbs.

From the ninth to the early eleventh centuries a.d., a succession of Bulgarian Khans ruled Kosovo. With the rise of the Byzantine empire, Byzantine emperors ruled the region from the eleventh century until the closing decades of the twelfth.

It was in the 1160s a.d. that Serbian domination in Kosovo commenced, under the aggressive territorial gains of Stefan Nemanji, leader of a new Rascian-ruling dynasty that held sway in the region for 200 years.

Taking advantage of the Balkan instability resulting from the shock seizure of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade, 1204, Stefan’s successor, his son (also named Stefan) took over the whole of Kosovo by 1216. This Stefan’s brother gained autonomy for the Serbian Orthodox Church from its Greek Orthodox parent. The Serbian Empire reached the peak of its power, with both church and state combining to strengthen its dominance in the Balkans, from 1219 to the 1380s.

It is thus that we arrive at the crucial turning point in Serbian history and in the history of strife-torn Kosovo, the famous Battle of Kosovo of 1389, which marked the beginning of over 400 years rule of the region by the Turks.

Beware La Niña

From the September 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

What could possibly be worse than our most recent clash with El Niño? Experts warn La Niña could bring more devastation to this world than her brother. The most costly natural disaster in United States history was the category 4 hurricane Andrew which struck Miami in 1992. Leaving in its wake over $30 billion in damage and 160,000 people homeless, Andrew could be a mere foretaste of what is just ahead.

Some computer models predicted severe changes with La Niña, but no one expected the precipitous drop in sea-surface temperatures that occurred in June. In one month, equatorial waters in the Pacific cooled over 15 degrees Fahrenheit—five times the normal rate of cooling. Climatologists have never seen anything like this before. If the cooling trend continues at its current rate, we can expect a prolonged hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean.

Hurricanes feed off the warm tropical ocean water and the blustery equatorial atmosphere. Easterly trade winds push the storms from the west coast of Africa across the Atlantic and slam them into the eastern U.S.

La Niña creates conditions ideal for hurricane development by essentially blocking the strong sub-tropical jet-stream. This allows Atlantic storms to build into the atmosphere to heights of 50,000 to 60,000 feet. The enormous storms gain strength as they glide through the balmy equatorial waters toward the United States.

By the end of August, Hurricane Bonnie careened into the U.S., causing widespread damage.

The real strength of the hurricane season begins in August and can last through November. As worldwide climate patterns fluctuate, we had better prepare for phenomena the likes of which we have never seen before!

Generation SEX

From the September 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

A Time magazine article, “Where’d You Learn That?”, (June 15) quoted a teacher who was asked by an 8- and a 10-year-old to define certain perverted sex acts. Two older kids, still only 14, went to a teen-center nurse for advice on heightening their arousal during sex. The nurse gave the nearly pubescent couple several books (not to educate, but to bring them “closer in bed”) and “a billion condoms.” Middle schools in Denver have had to institute sexual-harassment policies because of increasing incidents of “lewd language, groping, pinching and bra-snapping.”

The facts show that kids are desensitized to and nonchalant about sex. One Denver middle school student pinned the blame on role models. Time stated, as another cause, the blatant sexual content in popular music. Another cause is the absence of parents from the home. One girl said, “Parents haven’t set boundaries, but they are expecting them.”

Fear to educate, fear that “they’re going to do it anyway,” along with all the media’s enticing promotions, are all symptoms of the greater cause: our failure to respect real, absolute law.

God gave human beings a perfect law consisting of ten basic commands. These are not old-fashioned, harsh codes of conduct, but moral standards based on love and give, existing to give us joy. When these laws are broken, the result is unhappiness. The two commandments that ensure happiness in the realm of family and sex are the seventh and tenth. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and “Thou shalt not covet.” These are absolute laws. So why the confusion?

Parents have lost sight of these laws and formulas for happiness. Now, according to Time, “They aren’t quite sure how they feel about teenage sex.”

Neither Time nor most parents realize this basic cause and solution, because they are even leery to call it a problem. In fact, Time has actually found a silver lining in this ominous, foreboding cloud: An increased use among teens of birth control has yielded a decrease in teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Children, although they may circumvent the physical penalties of a law, have not found a way around the emotional, mental and psychological consequences.

This young generation of sex experts is a tragic reflection on our lack of moral standards. Unless we return to true absolutes, we will truly and absolutely fall.

Russia, Venezuela Unravel Financially

From the September 1998 Trumpet Print Edition

The Russian ruble and Venezuelan bolivar are currencies which have become the new battlefields in the volatile and spreading financial turmoil gripping the entire globe.

In spite of billions of dollars spent attempting to prop up Russia’s economy and financial markets, the bottom finally fell out on August 13. Despite furious denials and promises to the contrary by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the ruble has now been devalued by 34 percent, and Russia has stopped paying a huge section of its foreign debt which will likely never be repaid.

In an abrupt and drastic maneuver, Yeltsin has fired his newly-appointed 36-year-old prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, and his entire team of reformers after 100 days on the job. He was replaced by 60-year-old Viktor Chernomyrdin whom Mr. Yeltsin had dismissed in March, and who is the man most responsible for the current desperate state of Russia’s economy. International investors now fear they may lose a large portion, if not all, of their investments in Russia. Economic gloom and doom are settling like a dark and foreboding cloud over the Russian bear.

Equally shocking from the other side of the world, Latin American markets have begun unraveling in the face of continuing onslaughts of plunging global currencies and disemboweled commodity prices. Venezuela is fighting devaluation of its bolivar in a valiant but seemingly futile effort with few options and even fewer hopes of succeeding. Even the Venezuelans themselves are abandoning their own currency as quickly as they can buy U.S. dollars, sensing that the edge of the precipice is near for the bolivar.

Venezuela is one of the world’s major exporters of oil to America. The first half of 1998 has seen oil prices and other commodity values come crashing to earth, leaving countries like Venezuela with greatly diminished oil revenues to stave off the economic wolves.

Other global markets like Mexico and Brazil, and even far-away Australia and Canada, are also now suffering tremendously because of the scent of blood in the nostrils of currency speculators, the piranhas of the worldwide monetary system.

Russia and Venezuela desperately need foreign capital, and a lot of it, but many foreign investors have already pulled their money out of Russian and Venezuelan stocks and bonds. International credit is nowhere to be found, not even from the IMF, which had recently put together a $22.6 billion bailout for Russia. In an obvious panic mode, interest rates are now rising dramatically to attract foreign capital, but Venezuelan rates have already exceeded 60 percent and Russian yields on domestic government treasury bonds have soared to nearly 150 percent. Such severe inflation may well now finish the kill.

Next month in The Trumpet, look for an article about how America’s exposure to the devastating effects of foreign capital flight, like in Russia and Venezuela, implodes an economy, leaving nothing but a skeleton and vultures picking the meat off the bones.