New Birth

Scripture: John 3:3, 1 Corinthians 15:50, Matthew 27:50-53
The Bible tells us that we must be born again if we would see the kingdom of God. Some believe this new birth experience takes place at the end of the world. What does the Bible teach on this important subject?
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Probably the great majority of people under 40 years of age can prove just when they were born by a birth certificate or other documentation. A few oldsters have found it difficult to actually prove they were ever born because of incomplete or destroyed records.

Today I want to talk about millions of people who have absolutely no written evidence, but they can still tell you exactly when they were born. Now I am talking about the new birth, so I should have said that they can tell you when they were born again.

But in spite of these millions who feel so strongly about their second birth, and the fact that it has actually happened to them, there is a doctrine among some Christians that no one has been born again, yet. They believe that the new birth will not occur until the resurrection takes place at the end of the world. Their strange doctrine seems to be based upon the idea that the new birth is a change from flesh and blood into a spirit being and that the resurrected saints will have shed their flesh and blood state, thereby being born in the Spirit, or born again.

Once again friends, I am glad that the Scriptures are clear and plain and have the answers to this question as well as the others. Let's examine God's word for an answer to when the new birth takes place.

Jesus himself introduced the subject of the new birth in His conversation one night with Nicodemus, a teacher and prominent member of the Jewish ruling body. Nicodemus wanted to get a theological debate going but Jesus promptly cut him off and brought into focus the real issue. Jesus said in John 3:3, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." This was a shock to Nicodemus. He knew of the custom of the Jews that when Gentiles wanted to embrace the Jewish faith they were considered to be born again, adopted into Abraham's family. But he thought that, being a Jew, he was automatically a part of God's kingdom. But Jesus spoke plainly and said that every man had to be born of water and of the Spirit or he could not enter the kingdom. Jesus explained why. He said "That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of spirit is spirit." In other words a person must be born from above in order to inherit the kingdom of God.

Right here is where the controversy comes in. Those who claim that the new birth comes at the resurrection site this passage: "that which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of spirit is spirit," and combine it with Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 15:50, "that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." They say that the new birth must come when a man is changed into a spirit being at the resurrection.

But friends, is that what the Scriptures say? They must be our only guide. We can't depend on the theories of men; we must check it out in God's Word.

First, we must honestly state that Jesus in His address to Nicodemus did not say specifically when the new birth takes place. We must answer this question from other Scripture. But where should we begin? Let's start with the key assumption of this theory. The key assumption is that the resurrected saints are spirit beings; that is, they have no bodies. Only because they are spirit beings, it is assumed, can they enter God's kingdom, because flesh and blood can't. Therefore, they conclude, the new birth comes when flesh is transformed into spirit.

This is an assumption that we can test, because we have at least two definite examples of godly people raised from the dead. One is the large number of saints who were resurrected from the graves when Jesus died on the cross. Let's read about this in Matthew 27:50-53. "Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice yielded up the ghost. And behold the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And the earth did quake and the rocks rent and the graves were open. And many bodies of the saints which slept arose. And came out of the graves after His resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared unto many." Now, that is interesting, friends. They got up, walked into the city and were seen by many people. How could invisible spirits be seen? The saints must have had bodies. I mean real, flesh and bone bodies to be seen by the people in Jerusalem.

The next instance is even clearer. It is the experience of Jesus himself after His resurrection from the dead. He appeared to His disciples in the upper room where they were gathered the evening after the resurrection. Let's read the story in Luke 24:36-39. "As they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have." Isn't it amazing, friends, Jesus was not a spirit. He was flesh and bones. He explained about being real and invited them to handle him, to be sure. If he was merely an apparition, then He is guilty of deceiving the disciples by pretending to be real. After this, He said that He was hungry, and they fixed him a meal. Still later, doubting Thomas actually did place his finger in the wounds of Christ to prove that He was real flesh and bones. Now I want to read a text that will forever settle the question as to what kind of bodies we will have in the resurrection. It is so clear and plain that no one could misunderstand what it means. Here it is in Philippians 3:20, 21. It plainly states that when Jesus comes back the second time He will give us a body like His own. "For our conversation is in heaven, from whence we also look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who shall change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."

But someone asks, what about the text that says flesh and blood can't inherit the kingdom? Obviously, friends, we need to discuss what the Bible means when it says "spirit." Again, the Bible leaves no question. The word of God plainly states that flesh and spirit are two natures that continually war against each other, inside a man who has accepted Christ as Savior. "Flesh" does not refer to man's body but to his carnal, sinful nature. And "spirit" does not refer to a spirit being, but to a spiritual nature. Two influences, good and evil, vying for supremacy in man. Galatians 5:17 describes the action: "For the flesh lusteth against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. And these are contrary, the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

Now Jesus' words take on real meaning. "That which is born of flesh is flesh, and we are all born of the flesh." We are all sinful by birth. We inherit Adam's sinful nature and indeed a sinful flesh. A sinful nature cannot inherit heaven. This is where the new birth comes in. We must be born again and come into possession of a new nature, a spiritual nature. Paul describes the difference between these natures in Romans 8:1, 5-10. "There is now therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, they that are after the spirit the things of the spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

Paul continues on to say, "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness."

There it is, friend, becoming a Christian involves a new birth. It is dying to your old fleshly sinful nature and letting Christ dwell in you by His Holy Spirit to give you a spiritual nature. Paul described it in Galatians 2:20, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, And the life I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

The New Testament uses the illustration of a new birth over and over again and always applies it to the life of a person who has turned from sin and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. In 1 Peter 1:21-24, Peter tells about it. Urging his hearers to obey the truth through the Spirit, thus being born again. He speaks of now, not some future date, and to follow it up in chapter two, verse two, he urges the new converts, as new born babes, to desire the sincere milk of the word that they grow. And John, the beloved disciple, who recorded the original conversation with Nicodemus makes five references in his first epistle to being born of God. Paul says that everyone that doeth righteousness, everyone that loves, everyone that believes in Jesus Christ, everyone that overcomes is born of God. Surely, if anyone knew what Jesus meant, it was John, for he recorded the original statement. And John pictures the new birth as happening now, not at the resurrection.

Friends, we need to be born again. Our sinful nature is so full of pride and selfishness that we would be miserable in God's perfect heaven, where all is love and kindness. We need to start all over again with the innocence of a child. A child is so teachable, so humble, and a perfect illustration of the simple innocent trust that we need to have, trust that is faith. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him says God. But to have that child-like faith and trust you must be born again. Jesus was teaching one day and parents began to bring children to him. The disciples tried to send them away but Jesus rebuked them. And taking a child on His lap said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven." "Verily, I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child he shall not enter therein." Friends, I am looking forward to the Second Coming of Jesus. I will be glad to have the process that Jesus began in me by the new birth brought to its conclusion when I will be changed. I am glad we will have bodies and be recognizable. I don't know just what our new bodies will look like, but I do know what John said in 1 John 3:2: "Beloved, now are we the Sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

That is one of the glorious things about Heaven and the New Earth, perhaps the most glorious of all. We will see Christ face to face. I am sure that no aspect of that eternal reward will be quite so thrilling as to see the one who died for us. It would be reward enough just to get one glimpse of His face, but the Bible says we will dwell with Him for all eternity. Our loved ones will be there also, and we will do many exciting things in that future sinless world that is being prepared for you and me.

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