Many Christians think or assume that they are born again. They are not. But the truth is even more inspiring! This truth is revealed throughout the entire Bible, but nowhere is it more inspiring than in the epistles of Peter.
When the Apostle Peter wrote these letters, God’s people were being persecuted and scattered all over the world. They were still spreading the gospel, but some of them were losing hope. Jerusalem was about to experience a holocaust, and Peter himself was about to be martyred.
Yet in this dark period, Peter was not depressed. The epistles he wrote at that time are the most hope-filled epistles in the Bible. Why was he so hopeful?
Peter’s Living Hope
Peter began his first epistle by addressing the “elect” who were “chosen and destined by God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2; Revised Standard Version). Notice his focus on God the Father. This is very different from what you hear in most “Christian” churches, which focus on “Jesus.”
Here is a crucial verse: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [the Son], which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (verse 3). Two sentences into his epistle, Peter focuses us on a lively hope. The rsv translates it “a living hope.”
And where does that living hope come from? The fact that God the Father has “begotten us.”
Most Christians don’t understand this: They believe they are already “born again.” They think this “birth” is metaphorical or in the mind. As you will see, that is not what the Bible teaches. Peter understood what God’s Word reveals. His hope was not that he was already “born again” because he had accepted Jesus. It was not that he would go to heaven after he died and become like an angel. His living hope was that the Father has begotten us.
The hope is in the begettal. This transcendent hope is the only real hope there is!
What does begettal mean? Herbert W. Armstrong often used the example of human reproduction. Each human being was literally begotten by their physical father, grew in the womb of their mother, and was born into a family. It is exactly the same with spiritual salvation. True Christians are literally begotten by God the Father when He gives us His Holy Spirit. We become literal sons of God, and we are going to literally be born into God’s Family!
Christians don’t realize what a tremendous event it is to truly be “born again”! It means becoming His children—literal God beings in the literal God Family! It starts with being spiritually begotten in this life—and it ends with being spiritually born as a child in the glorious Family of God!
When you truly believe God, repent, obey and become baptized in His true Church, God gives you a portion of His Holy Spirit, which is His power, His life. Spiritually, you become like a fertilized egg: There was no spiritual life there before, but now there is! All because the Father begets you.
If you continue to grow spiritually, you will definitely be born spiritually into the spiritual Family of God. The Father will make sure of it!
Jesus’s ‘Born Again’ Teaching
Here is how Jesus Christ Himself described being born again: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Many Christians think being born again is figurative—and many think the Kingdom of God is figurative. Not true! They are both real!
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (verse 6). Do you believe Christ’s plain words? When you are born the first time, of the flesh, you are flesh. But when a person is born again, of the spirit, that person will be spirit! He will actually be composed of spirit. Someone who says he is “born again” and is still flesh and blood refutes Christ!
In fact, it is impossible for you to enter the Kingdom of God without being literally spiritually born into the Family of God! You will never see, you will never experience, the Kingdom of God if you are not born again. And you will never be born again unless you are first spiritually begotten by the Father.
When speaking with Nicodemus, Christ compared being a powerful, invisible spirit being to the wind. “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” (verse 8). Christians who believe they are already “born again” because they have new beliefs or a new attitude are not like the wind. They are not composed of spirit, they are not in God’s Kingdom and they are not born into the Family of God—yet!
Nicodemus did not understand what “born again” means. The religious leaders Christ preached to did not understand. The crowds of people who listened to Him did not understand. And believe it or not, hundreds of millions of Christians today do not understand!
The Apostle Paul agreed with Christ. “As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly,” he wrote. “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). As human beings, we can be spiritually begotten, but we cannot be spiritually born—born again—until we are resurrected as spirit beings in the actual Family of God. This is coming: It will happen in “the twinkling of an eye” (verses 50-52).
It is critical to understand the Father’s role in this process. Christ said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him …” (John 6:44). Only those whom the Father specifically calls can become true Christians, and they only become true Christians when He begets them. Jesus Christ (previously the Word) became God’s Son when He begat Him (Luke 1:35) and became His firstborn Son when He was resurrected (Colossians 1:15; Romans 1:4; 8:29).
God is the Father of the Family. Jesus Christ is His Son. He is “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). Who are those brethren, those fellow children of God? True Christians!
Like Jesus Christ was begotten of God and resurrected as His Son, you and I can be begotten of God and be resurrected as His sons. “[A]nd I will raise him up at the last day,” Christ said (John 6:44).
How inspiring! Christ is the resurrection. But the begettal comes from even higher: from God the Father Himself!
Peter saturated his mind with this astounding truth! That is how he wrote these hope-filled epistles at such a terrifying time.
As 1 Peter 1:5 shows, God was inspiring Peter to write for “the last time.” Lange’s Commentary states that “Peter thought immediately impending was that last time.” At that time, he did not realize this prophesied period would not occur until our lifetimes.
What happened to Peter and what happened to the inhabitants of Jerusalem shortly after he wrote his epistles was horrific. Peter died a violent death. Thousands of other Jews were murdered. And this terrible violence right after Jesus Christ’s first coming is a warning and a prophecy for us prior to His Second Coming! Our massive sins are leading to a massive destruction far worse than even the a.d. 70 holocaust in Jerusalem.
In addition, the life of a true Christian is full of difficulty. In verses 6-7, the apostle writes to God’s people, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
True Christians struggle against sin, against Satan and against society. They suffer persecution. Yet they “greatly rejoice” (verse 6). Why? Because “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has “begotten us again unto a [living] hope”! (verse 3). And if we endure and grow through trial, at the return of Jesus Christ we will be born into God’s Family!
When we are born again, we won’t be human beings. We won’t be like the angels. We will be God’s literal children! Jesus was made “a little lower than the angels” to make it possible for us to be forgiven of our sins (Hebrews 2:9). He empowers us to spiritually struggle and develop and overcome our sins and grow. Then Jesus Christ was resurrected and became God’s firstborn Son, far above the angels (Hebrews 1:5, 13). What about us? Hebrews 2:5-8 tell us God has made us a little lower than the angels, but He has placed the universe not under them but under us! “Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him” (verse 8).
As human beings, we are certainly lower than the angels. But when we are made spirit, we will be above the angels. Yes, even those resplendent spirit beings will be in subjection to us!
Verse 10 states that God is “bringing many sons unto glory.” Human beings will be born, not as angels, but as literal children in God’s Family. We will then have the appearance, power, glory, bodies and minds like God’s! Jesus Christ will change our bodies to “be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21; Psalm 17:15; 1 John 3:1-2; Revelation 1:14-16). How glorious! Faces that shine like the sun at full strength! Eyes like flames of fire! When the Apostle John saw merely a vision of the firstborn Son of God, he collapsed as if he were dead! (Revelation 1:12-17).
The truth about being born again has all the glory and majesty you could imagine! It is filled with hope—living hope!
Those who are begotten by God and remain faithful to Him are going to become spirit beings—God beings! It is going to happen. God already considers His plan for His people accomplished (verse 6). This is why God created human beings. Before He created the first people, He stated why: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
Once you are begotten by God the Father, you have the Holy Spirit. You know you are on your way. You are going to be born—born again—this time into the Family of God!
This is what Peter saw. This is why he was so filled with hope, why he really mastered that hope. This is why God inspired him to show us where that hope lies: in being begotten by God the Father, growing by the power of the Holy Spirit, and being born into the God Family!