BORN AGAIN ... OR NOT YET?

 

Many people over the past 2000 years have claimed to be born again.  It is the understanding of many "christians" - even up to this day - that THAT MOMENT when they had decided to put their trust in the Messiah as their Savior, was their moment of spiritual rebirth.  Some may prefer to be more subtle and talk about a PROCESS OF REBIRTH but in the end they also believe that they are truly born again and on their way to eternal bliss.  Some may even hold onto some outstanding spiritual experience AFTER their initial conversion and will refer to this event as their moment of rebirth.  Many people will testify that the climax of their being born again was some or other supernatural encounter with the Spirit of the Almighty.  And many thousands of hungry souls through the centuries have been told by evangelists and ministers of the gospel that if they want to be born again they must just follow a few steps and perhaps also say a certain prayer. I have heard so many people and so many testimonies referring almost mechanically - sometimes even arrogantly - to this concept of being born again that I have sensed the need to undertake a renewed study of the Word and let Yahweh Himself shed the light of his truth on this subject.

In order for us to understand why people are generally so keen to refer to themselves as "reborn" and why others are so eager to accept a message proclaiming the possibility of being born again, we must first understand the full extend of what happened right in the beginning in the garden of Eden.  Let us take a few moments to find an answer to this question: What was Satan's main achievement in the garden of Eden?   Although the answer may not be all that simple, I would like to suggest the following: One of the most crucial achievements of the adversary in the garden of Eden was the fact that he managed to get man in a position where he rejected the word of Yahweh and believed the word of Satan

Gen 2:16-17:  Yahweh Elohim commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat of it you will surely die."  

There was no vagueness or ambiguity in what Yahweh had said to Adam.  His command was quite clear: They were free to eat of all the trees in the garden except of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Should they eat of that tree, THEY WOULD SURELY DIE.  Absolutely no doubt was left as to what would happen if they would eat of the forbidden tree ... until the serpent came on the scene and confused the whole matter. 

Gen 3:1-5  Now the serpent was more subtle than any animal of the field which Yahweh Elohim had made. He said to the woman, "Yes, has Elohim said, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?'"  The woman said to the serpent, "Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, Elohim has said, 'You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"  The serpent said to the woman, "You won't surely die, for Elohim knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like Elohim, knowing good and evil."  

Notice how Satan corrupted the words Yahweh had clearly spoken to them.  The Almighty had said: "You will surely die!"  Satan comes along and says: "You won't surely die!"  And so Adam and Chawwah (Eve) consequently rejected the words of the Almighty, believed the lie of the Adversary and ate of the forbidden fruit.  Ironically, the lie of Satan that these two were unable to expose ("You won't surely die!"), is the same lie that millions of people believe up to this day, not being able to expose the underlying deception of a doctrine of this nature.  Despite the fact that Yahweh has stated emphatically that people would die as a result of sin, millions of people in religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam are deceived into believing that death is nothing serious - it is just a "gate of transition" from this life to another.   

What is the true meaning of death?  Is it not the opposite of life?  Is it not the absence of movement, of activity, of emotions, of thoughts and consciousness?  The Webster's Dictionary defines death as "total destruction" and "the permanent ending of all life in a person".  The testimony of the Scriptures is in agreement with this: 

Psa 6:5  For in death there is no memory of you. In Sheol, who shall give you thanks?

Psa 146:4  His spirit departs, and he returns to the earth. In that very day, his thoughts perish.

Isa 38:18  For Sheol can't praise you, death can't celebrate you: Those who go down into the pit can't hope for your truth.  

This is also the message of the New Testament, where Sha'ul (Paul) declares: "sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned" (Rom 5:12) and "For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive" (1 Cor 15:22). 

What Y'shua as the Messiah came to do was not to take death away. It was not to change death into  a "highway to heaven".  He came to die for the sin of the people of this world (the same death we still have to die as a result of sin) but He also arose from the dead - so that those who believe in Him, may also be risen from the dead.  When?  According to Scriptures there is no doubt when this "resurrection" is going to take place.  On that day when the Messiah will return from heaven with a shout, with the voice of a chief messenger and with the trumpet of Elohim (1 Thess 4:16,17).

The first, natural birth of man will always result in death.  The only way to acquire eternal life is to be born again into the kingdom of Yahweh.  Those who are born again will not taste death anymore - not in any way!  This means that we cannot say we are born again if we are still expecting to die someday.  The whole purpose of a "rebirth" is to clothe us with immortality and incorruption and thus prepare us for eternal life (see 1 Cor 15:47-54).  This process of rebirth can therefore not be completed before the second coming of the Messiah.  The so-called "immortality of the soul" (the notion that man's soul consisting of emotions, memory, thoughts, imagination and  reasoning never dies) is a man-made idea based on the oldest lie of Satan, and without any support from Scriptures.  Sha'ul (Paul) reminds Timothy:  "(Yahweh) alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and eternal power " (1 Tim 6:16).  It is this quality of immortality that He will bestow upon us - not when (or before) we die, but when we are risen from the dead at the coming of the Messiah. 

Let us take a good look at the New Testament concept of "being born again".  Most of us know this phrase from Y'shua's encounter with Nicodemus in Yochanan (John), chapter 3, verse 3: "Truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he is unable to see the reign of Elohim."  Notice that Y'shua used the words "born from above" (Greek: "Gennethe anothen"), meaning: the opposite of being born in the flesh or being born in the natural.  Nicodemus did not understand the meaning of these words and Y'shua explained to him that one must be born of water and Spirit  in order to enter into the reign of Elohim (verse 5).  These words immediately reminds one of the words of Sha'ul (Paul) in 1 Corinthians 15:50:  

"This I say, brothers, that flesh and blood is unable to inherit the reign of Elohim, neither does corruption inherit incorruption."   

He goes on to say that this change or rebirth (as far as the true believers are concerned) will take place at the second coming of the Messiah ("at the last trumpet" when "the dead shall be raised incorruptible" - verse 52).  Flesh and blood refers to natural man.  It is impossible for natural man or corruptible man or man not being born from above to enter into the reign of Elohim.  "Flesh and blood" is the direct opposite of "water and spirit" - the former  referring to those who have only been born in the natural but the latter referring to those who have also been born from above.  When these two chapters (Yochanan 3 and 1 Cor 15) are read alongside each other, it is clear that the actual process of being born from above will only be completed at the future coming (or "parousia") of the Messiah. 

The Greek word used in Yochanan 3 for "born" or "birthed" is "gennethe".  This word comes from the root "gennao" which means "to begin, to generate or to conceive".  It is the same word that forms the backbone of the Greek word "Genesis" which is used for the first book in our Scriptures.  The proper Hebrew name for this book is "Bereshith" which means "in the beginning".  Interestingly enough, this is literally the first word (or the beginning word) in what we know as the Word of Yahweh.  From this it is clear that "gennao" means a lot more than simply "to give birth" or "to be born".  This  extended meaning of "gennao" may also be seen in the announcement of the birth of the Messiah in Matthithyahu (Matthew) chapter 1.  Verse 18 in most translations will read something like this: "The birth (Greek: "gennesis" from the root "gennao") of Y'shua Messiah was as follows ..."  Reading through the rest of the chapter, however, reveals that it is not a description of the actual birth of the Messiah, but rather the series of events leading up to his birth.  In verse 20 the angel (or messenger) of Yahweh appeared to Yoseph and said to him: "...that which is in her was brought forth from the Set-apart Spirit ..." (Greek: "gennethen", from the same root "gennao"). 

From this narrative preceding the actual birth of the Messiah it is clear that "gennao" is sometimes used in a wider sense as "the process of birth beginning with conception".  Somehow I feel that this chapter reveals far more than just a few interesting facts concerning the process of Y'shua's birth.  The conception that took place within Miryam (Mary), described as "something" brought forth ("gennethen") from the Set-apart Spirit, may be seen as a type of the conception that takes place in the life of the person who puts his trust in the Messiah.  Although the process of rebirth is still to be completed (at the second coming of the Messiah), a seed of new life has been "brought forth" ("gennethen") by the Spirit of Yahweh, and a new birth process is underway!  This principle was confirmed by Y'shua Himself when he told Nicodemus that the process of rebirth was a process of being born of the Spirit (Yochanan 3:5,6,8). 

What about the Messiah Himself?  Is there anything in the New Testament about Y'shua being "born again"?  O yes, there is!  Incidently, this did not take place at his baptism - at least not according to the New Testament.  Let us take a close look at Colossians, chapter 1: 

Col 1:15-18  "(Y'shua) who is the likeness of the invisible Elohim, the first-born of all creation ... He is before all and in Him all hold together and He is the Head of the body, the assembly, (Y'shua) who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that He might become the One who is first in all."

He, Y'shua, was the first-born from the dead or, put differently, the first One to be brought forth from the dead.  When was Y'shua "born again"?  When He was brought forth, born, delivered from the dead (in other words: when He was risen from the dead).  It was the Father's design that Y'shua would be the One who is first in all - including this most important process of being born again. This is confirmed by Sha'ul in 1 Cor 15:22-23: 

1 Cor 15:22-23 "For as all die in Adam, so also all shall be made alive in Messiah.  And each in his own order: Messiah the first fruits, then those who are of Messiah at his coming." 

Against this background it will now be most enlightening to study the other instances in the New Testament where the concept of being born again is used.  The Greek word usually translated with "born again" or "rebirth" is "palin-gennesia" - "palin" meaning "again" or "anew" and "gennesia" meaning "beginning" or "birth" as we have already established .  Let us start off by looking at the Messiah's own use of this concept in Mattithyahu (Matthew) 19:28: 

"And Y'shua said to them, Truly I say to you that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration (some translations: "rebirth", Greek word: "palin-gennesia"), when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."   

There is absolutely no doubt that "rebirth" in this context refers to the situation after the second coming of the Messiah "when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of His glory". 

The only other place where this word "palin-gennesia" is used, is in Titus 3:5:

"not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Set-apart Spirit..."

Once again "palin-gennesia" is translated as "regeneration" and here it is used in connection with the concept of "washing" in the phrase: "the washing of regeneration" (some translations: "the bath of regeneration").  There is little doubt that this is a reference to baptism.  Baptism, then, must have something to do with regeneration or the process of being born again.  However, to say that baptism equals regeneration in the sense that regeneration begins and ends when a person is being baptized, is not doing justice to this (or any other) Scripture.  The idea in this chapter is that baptism marks the beginning of the process of rebirth and that the actual (everlasting) life that will proceed from this new birth, is still something of the future.  This is confirmed in verse 7: 

"that being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to the hope (or: expectation) of eternal life" 

In 1 Corinthians 10:2 Sha'ul (Paul) also refers to baptism in the sense of the beginning of a process that was only completed much later than the actual immersion.  When the nation of Israel was immersed (or baptized) in the Red Sea, it was only the beginning of a long process of taking the Promised Land in possession.   No one would disagree that the process of regeneration for the nation of Israel was far from completed at that early stage when they had undergone their "baptism" in the Red Sea. 

In 1 Pet 1:3 and 1 Pet 1:23 Kepha (Peter) uses the word "ana-gennao" (the prefix "ana" is usually an indication of repetition or intensity) when he refers to the process of rebirth. 

1 Pet 1:3  Blessed be the Elohim  and Father of our Master Y'shua Messiah, who according to His great mercy have regenerated us to a living hope through the resurrection of Y'shua Messiah from the dead 

1 Pet 1:23  (the believers) being regenerated, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the living Word of Elohim 

The idea in both these verses is very clear: Although Yahweh, through his Son, Y'shua, had already begun this new process of regeneration (or rebirth) in the lives of the believers, the process was not yet completed.  They were regenerated to a living hope - the hope that one day they would be resurrected like Y'shua was resurrected.  The hope that one day they would obtain an incorruptible inheritance, undefiled and unfading, being kept in the heavens for them (verse 4).  In the meantime there would still be grief and manifold trials (verse 6) - almost like a woman in travail - for the actual deliverance and salvation had not yet been revealed (verse 5, 7, 9).  The time of their acceptance of the Messiah was not exactly the time of their rebirth, it would be more correct to view it as the time of their conception as children of Elohim. 

Let us look at two more passages from the New Covenant Scriptures:

Joh 1:12-13 But as many as received Him, He gave to them authority to become the children of Elohim, to those who believe on His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but were born of Elohim.  

This view on regeneration is not intended to negate or devalue any kind of spiritual experience that people may have had in what they thought was the point in time when they were truly born again.  These spiritual experiences may all have been quite extraordinary and very real and I do not wish to be the one who belittles something that has made a deep impact in someone's life.  What I would like to suggest however, is that we keep our testimonies and our expressions of faith and our presentation of the Good News within the norm and the framework of the Scriptures and refrain from making claims that go beyond those made by the Messiah and the prophets and the apostles in Scriptures proclaiming his Name and spreading his message. 

In Ephesians chapter 1, verse 13-14 we read:  "(Messiah) in whom also you, hearing the Word of Truth, the gospel of our salvation, in whom also believing, you were sealed with the Set-apart Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance, to the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His esteem." 

An earnest is a guarantee or a pledge or a down payment.  It is the initial "payment" given as the assurance that the full "amount" will be "paid".  What has taken place when someone is drawn to the Messiah and makes a decision to put his/her trust fully in Him as Saviour and Messiah?  I believe that  the main thing that has taken place in such a person's life is that Yahweh has sovereignly put a seal and a deposit of His spirit in this person's heart and spirit (comparable to a seed of conception) which serves as a principle of growth and a continual assurance of the inheritance that will fully be realized at the coming of the Messiah and the resurrection of the believers.  Only on that day it will truly be possible for believers in the Messiah to say: I have been completely born again or born from above - not born of flesh and blood, but born of water and spirit, risen from the dead through the death and resurrection of Y'shua, the first born from the dead, and no longer subject to the threat and the reality of death!