“I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you
cannot see the Kingdom of God.” ―John
The vast majority of the many churches in the realm of Christendom
believe that a person must be "born again" in order to go to heaven and
be with Jesus. That belief is said to be based on the conversation that
Jesus had with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, who came to
Jesus after dark to visit him privately. When Nicodemus confessed that
Jesus must be from God―on
account of the many miracles, Jesus answered him, saying:
"I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is
born again," and be "born of water and the Spirit." (John 3:3-7;
NIV) What did Jesus mean by the term born again? And when a
person today claims to have been born again, or asks if you have been
born again, what exactly does he have in mind?
According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, this is what
most people understand born again to mean: "In
Christianity, to be born again is to undergo a 'spiritual
rebirth' (regeneration) of the human soul or spirit, contrasted with the
physical birth everyone experiences. The origin of the term 'born again'
is the New Testament: 'Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, no one can
see the kingdom of God without being born again."'[Jn 3:3 NIV] It is a term associated with salvation in
Christianity. Individuals who profess to be born again often state that
they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
Although Jesus spoke to Nicodemus of the need to be "born again" in
order to "see the kingdom of God," the Scriptures reveal that Jesus did
not use it in the context in which it became popular, as described in
the above definition. In fact, the term "born again" was adopted to
legitimize a new sort of resurrection that began to be taught during the
time of the apostles, and which was spreading rapidly among many of the
early Greek congregations.
The Jews believed in the physical resurrection of the body, although the Sadducees did not;
and neither did the Greeks. (Luke 20:27; Acts 23:6-8; 17:31,32) Jesus himself,
of course, believed in the resurrection, for he had absolute confidence that his
Father would raise him up from the dead on the third day. (Matt.
Since the resurrection was an important feature of Jesus’ ministry; and
he had shown himself to "upward of five hundred" disciples after his
death, in prove of the resurrection, how is it that some started to question the reality of
the resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor. 15:4-8) The apostle Paul found it
necessary to address this problem in the Corinthian congregation, when he wrote
them: “Now if Christ is being preached that he has been raised up from the dead,
how is it some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If, indeed,
there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised up. But if
Christ has not been raised up, our preaching is certainly in vain, and our faith
is in vain.” (1 Cor. 12-22)
It’s not that these were rejecting the resurrection hope outright; but
there were some among them who were “deviating from the truth” by preaching a different sort of
resurrection. Hymenaeus and Philetus were of these. That is why the apostle Paul
found it necessary to warn young Timothy of their dangerous influence: “Keep
away from worthless and useless talk. It only leads people farther away
from God. That sort of talk is like a sore that won’t heal (gangrene;
ESV). And Hymenaeus and Philetus have been talking this way by
teaching that the dead have already been raised to life. This is far
from the truth, and it is destroying the faith of some people." (2 Tim.
2:16-18; CEV) This deviation from the truth developed into the
popular doctrine of a spiritual resurrection.
When Martha’s brother,
Lazarus had died, and Jesus comforted her by saying that her brother will live
again, Martha replied: “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last
day.” Jesus proved that he had the authority and power from his Father to
resurrect the dead when he brought Lazarus back to life, although he had been
dead four days. (John 11:21-27, 40-44) That most certainly was a real
resurrection of a dead physical body coming to life again! Then how is it that
the teaching of a spiritual resurrection came to infect many
the establishing of Greek congregations by Paul, some of the disciples who were
still very much influenced by Greek philosophy—such
as that of an immortal soul—began
to interpret the resurrection hope that Jesus taught with a resurrection
that was merely spiritual in nature, one that could be explained
in terms of an immortal soul. Thus many were teaching that the
resurrection had already occurred in the case of those who had
accepted Jesus as their Savior. (2 Tim. 2:17,18) After all, if the soul
cannot die, then neither is there a need of a physical resurrection.
(Ezek. 18:4,20) This became a problem in the Corinth congregation that
Paul needed to address.
They may even have appealed to Paul’s own letters as confirming their
argument, "which the untaught and unsteady are twisting,
as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter
3:15,16) Take for example his letter to the Greek congregation in Ephesus, which
been twisted by some to bolster their false teaching, when Paul wrote: “And you were dead in the trespasses and
sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the
prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of
disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying
out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath,
like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great
love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us
alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with
him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:1-6; ESV)
Under the influence
of "the prince of the power of the air," Satan, apostates such as
Hymenaeus and Philetus
corrupt the meaning of Paul’s words in order to pervert the truth and
teach a resurrection different from the one that Jesus and Paul taught.
(John 11:25,26; 1 Cor. 15:3-8, 21,22) It gave rise to the “born again”
doctrine, which, as already noted, teaches that the person becomes alive
in a spiritual way by means of a spiritual resurrection at the time the
person accepts Jesus into his heart. The "born again" teaching began to
be widely accepted as the necessary means by which all Christians go to
heaven. The term itself was adopted from Jesus’ words to Nicodemus, and
the two teachings were married into one doctrine; but Jesus was not
teaching any spiritual resurrection when he told Nicodemus that he and
the Jews as a nation needed to be born again.
Did Jesus Say that the Resurrection Was
The doctrine of a spiritual resurrection, rather than the resurrection
from actual death of the physical body, has also found its way into most Bibles,
making even Jesus seem to have taught it. According to most translations, Jesus
is reported to have said: “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and
is now here,when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those
who hear will live.” (John 5:25, ESV) The New World Translation quotes
Jesus' words similarly: “Most truly I say to you, The hour is coming, and it
is now, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who
have given heed will live.”
words “and is now here” (English Standard Version); or “and it is now” (New
World Translation) are recognized to be an
interpolation, that is, they are spurious and do not belong in the Bible, for they
are missing in the oldest manuscripts. They were added in the margin by a
copyist who believed in a spiritual resurrection, later to find their way
into the main text.* Jesus never said that the hour of the
resurrection had already arrived, in which “all those in the memorial tombs will
hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of
life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.” (John
5:28,29; Acts 17:31; 24:15)
teaching of a “spiritual" resurrection, commonly referred to as being “born again,” is vital
for them in order to go to heaven. The Watchtower Society likewise teaches the
need of being "born again," but with a few variations, such as
restricting it to the 144,000,
who are the only ones to go to heaven. The claim is made that only those who are
"born again" are "God's sons"; that only they have their sins
forgiven and are declared righteous at the time of their anointing, when they
are said to be born again; while the rest of mankind is considered "spiritually"
don’t come to life "until the thousand years were ended”—which,
by the way, is based on another scripture acknowledged to be an
interpolation, namely Revelation 20:5. (Gal. 3:26; 1 Tim. 2:4-6)
should not confuse being "born again," or the “spiritual" resurrection—which is a "deviating from the
truth"—with that of the "first resurrection,"
that Jesus promised to his chosen
ones who will rule with him in his heavenly kingdom. (Matt. 19:27,28; Rev. 20:4,
6; 14:1, 3) In order for them to be with Jesus, these 144,000 "holy ones,"
who are his bride, will
give up their fleshly bodies and be made alive in the spirit, as in Jesus' own
case. (Dan. 7:27; 1
Theirs will be a real resurrection to the heavens as "spirit"
persons, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom," as Paul
explained in his letter to the Corinthians, adding further, “It is sown in
corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. It is sown a physical body, it is
raised up a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:35-54; Rev. 20:6) Clearly, the
expressions "spiritual" resurrection and "first" resurrection are not compatible
or interchangeable. They do not refer to the same thing. The one originates with
apostates, while the other is from God.
Watchtower also speaks of the "spiritual" resurrection as having already
occurred. The issue of October 1, 1986, said: “After 1914, during Jesus’ ‘presence’ in Kingdom power,
he, as the archangel, issues the heavenly command for those ‘in union with
Christ’ to assemble. In the case of such anointed ones ‘asleep in death,’ this trumpetlike summons calls for their spiritual resurrection into the heavens. The
Watchtower has long presented the view that this resurrection of anointed
Christians from death commenced in the year 1918.” (w86 10/1 pp.
13-14 par. 18 Comfort From the God of Peace) (Bold mine) Doesn't that
sound a lot like the claim made by those against whom Paul warned Timothy when
"These very men have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has
already occurred, and they are subverting the faith of some"? (2 Tim.
in discussing "Interpolations", explains (under the heading INTERPOLATIONS, AND WHY)
the likely reason for the addition of the spurious words in John 5:25:
John 5:25 --
"and now is," Soon after the apostles fell asleep
in death the church began to lose sight of the real hope of the resurrection.
The heathen doctrine of immediate survival after death -- which, in professed
Christian circles became the doctrine of inherent immortality -- made void the
necessity of a resurrection of the dead. The addition of the words "and now is"
to this text is intended to convey the thought that Jesus' promise of the
resurrection is fulfilled in some mysterious way when one hears the call of
truth and becomes a Christian. Thus not only is the real meaning of this promise
voided, but the text is made to contradict itself, because the resurrection
could not be `coming' and `now is' at the same time.
the Hartford Bible Students)
What Did Nicodemus Understand by "Born
Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a teacher of
Israel, a ruler of the Jews (that is, a member of the Jewish governing
body, the Sanhedrin), who is
mentioned only in John's Gospel. He was impressed with the signs
that Jesus performed in Jerusalem at Passover time of 30 C.E.
Consequently, he visited Jesus one night and confessed that Jesus must
have come from God. (Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, page 497)
According to John's account, the discussion went like this:
"He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher
who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you
are doing if God were not with him." 3
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the
kingdom of God unless he is born again." 4
"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he
cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" 5
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of
God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' 8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot
tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone
born of the Spirit."―John 3:1-8;
Nicodemus was puzzled by Jesus' reply about the
need to be "born again," although Jesus told him that he
"should not be surprised" at this. Since he was a teacher of the Jews
Nicodemus should have been familiar with God's promises and prophecies,
and that is why Jesus chided him, saying, "Are you a teacher of Israel
and yet do not know these things?" (John 3:10) What did Jesus mean when he
told Nicodemus that "no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born
again," and why should Nicodemus have understood this?
When we understand his answer we realize that with
these few words Jesus focused on the very heart of what Nicodemus had
just acknowledged, the evidence that he had come from God, the purpose of
his coming and how Nicodemus and all the Jews were involved, and the
changes that were about to come upon the entire nation of Israel in
fulfillment of God's promises as he had extensively foretold by means of
But before we can understand what Jesus meant we must first determine
whether Jesus had told Nicodemus that he must be born "again" or born
above," for the Greek word used, γεννηθή άνωθεν,
(gennithi' a'nothen), can mean either. That is why some Bibles translate Jesus as
"I tell you for certain that you must be born from above
before you can see God's kingdom." (CEV)
In the King James Version the word an'-o-then (Strong's 509)
appears 13 times: three times it is translated as "the top"
(Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; John 19:23), twice as "from the very first"
or "from the beginning" (Luke 1:3; Acts 26:5), five times as "from
above" (John 3:31; 19:11; James 1:17; 3:15, 17), and three times as
"again" (John 3:3, 7; Gal. 4:9). Therefore, how can we
determine whether Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born "again" or be born "from above"; or
do those two terms mean the same?
The simple answer to this, of course is, what did Nicodemus understand Jesus to
say? According to his reply, "How can an old man go back into his
mother's womb a second time," indicates that he understood Jesus
to say that he must be born "again" or "a second time," (δεύτερον
- Interlinear Translation). He did not
understand Jesus to say that he must be born "from above" as this
not fit his reply to Jesus. That is why the majority of Bible translations render
Jesus as saying "born again." (NWT, KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT,
NIRV, HCSB, NLV, ESV, NASB, RSV, ASV, Amplified, Young, Darby, Webster,
HNV) We can also be sure that Jesus said born again by understanding what
it was that he meant, why there was the need to be born "again" or a "second time."
For anything to happen "again" the same thing must have taken
place at least once previously. Did Jesus indicate to Nicodemus that he
was first born in the flesh? That is what Nicodemus thought, according
to his words. But, Jesus quickly ruled that out, saying, "What has been born from the
flesh is flesh, and what has been born from the spirit is spirit." (John
3:6) In other words, being born in the flesh has nothing to do with
being born again in the spirit. They are not the same at all! Nicodemus
and all the Jews had to be born again in the same way or manner that
they, as God's people, had already been born on a previous occasion.
Jesus and Nicodemus belonged
to a nation that had come into existence solely because of the promise that
Jehovah had made to their forefather Abraham. God had chosen Abraham to
be the one through whom he purposed to fulfill his promise of a future
seed by means of which blessings would come to all the nations of the
earth, and that time was now at hand.
The Conception and Birth of Israel, God's "Firstborn Son"
The most precious, profound
and personal gift that we can offer to Jehovah, from his standpoint, is
for us to have faith in him and his promises.
It indicates our complete trust in him, his care for us individually,
acknowledging his wisdom and power; and this in spite of never
having seen him or personally heard his voice. There have been countless individuals throughout history who have been
known to have had that sort of faith.
Faith results in love and
obedience. We cannot love Jehovah if we have no faith in him, which we
get by coming to know him; and we obey him because we have faith that
obedience brings blessings. (Heb. 11:6) Faith is something very
personal, something tangible by which we prove what sort of person we
are. No wonder that "faith is not a possession of all people." (2 Thess.
3:2) Abraham was a man who had such faith. In fact, he is called "the
father of all those having faith." He set the example for all of us.
Abraham had first proven his faith by leaving his home city of Ur,
moving to a distant land, as Jehovah had commanded him, and arrived in
the land of Canaan when he was already an old man of 75 years. He had no
offspring, and yet, God promised that he would make a great nation out
of him. And Abraham put faith in that promise.
Another ten years passed, and as Abraham's wife Sarah continued barren
she now offered to
Abraham her maidservant Hagar, in order to have a child by her. Perhaps
this was their attempt to help fulfill God's promise. And so at the age of 86 years Abraham
became father to his son Ishmael, by Hagar. (Gen. 16:16) But Ishmael was
not the son according to Jehovah's promise through whom the seed would
come, and by means of which all the nations of earth would bless
themselves. Jehovah confirmed to Abraham that his own wife, Sarah, though
barren, would give birth to a son, whom he was to name Isaac, and with
him Jehovah would conclude his covenant.
True to his promise, though another 14 years went by, Jehovah
miraculously enabled barren Sarah to become pregnant by her husband and to give birth to Isaac their son, when
Abraham was a hundred years old and she was ninety. With the birth of
Isaac was conceived the future nation of Israel.
“Listen to me, YOU people who are pursuing after righteousness, YOU who
are seeking to find Jehovah. Look to the rock from which YOU were hewn
out, and to the hollow of the pit from which YOU were dug out. Look to
Abraham YOUR father and to Sarah who gradually brought YOU forth with
childbirth pains. For he was one when I called him, and I proceeded to
bless him and to make him many." ―Isaiah
It would take time for the nation to
grow, much longer than the nine months it took from Isaac's conception
until his birth. (Ps. 139:13-17) In
the case of Israel it's development would be gradual, over a period of
more than 400
years from its conception to the actual birth as a nation at Mount
Sinai. During all that time Jehovah, as their Father, would
watch over his "son," his people, protecting them and helping them "even from the belly,"
which is "evidently referring to the very beginning of their development
as a people."
997-998 Son(s) of God.
The nation started to form when
two sons were born to Isaac and
Rebekah, namely, Esau and Jacob.
Jehovah chose Jacob, and repeated the covenant that he had made with
his grandfather also with him. (Gen. 28:14,15) Jacob's name was changed to
Israel and he came to have twelve sons. (Gen. 32:27,28; 35:10-12) The
danger now presented itself for the developing nation to be integrated
with the nations round about, as became evident when Dinah, Jacob's
daughter, became involved with a son of a chieftain of the Canaanites.
(Gen. 34:1-31) In order to protect his as yet unborn nation, Jehovah
maneuvered matters to bring them into the safety of Egypt, where he had
made Joseph, one of Jacob's twelve sons, a powerful ruler, only
subordinate to Pharaoh himself. Also, his families were left unmolested
by the Egyptians because they were shepherds and "every herder of sheep
is a detestable thing in Egypt." (Gen. 46:33-34) There, Israel could
increase in numbers, but when they started to
grow mighty the Egyptians began to fear them as a threat
and began dominating them by enslaving them.
Jehovah had foretold all this to Abraham, the gradual growth of the nation and the
time it would take for them to return to the promised land and take
possession of it. "And
he began to say to Abram: 'You may know for sure that your seed will
become an alien resident in a land not theirs, and they will have to
serve them, and these will certainly afflict them for four hundred
years. But the nation that they will serve I am judging, and after
that they will go out with many goods.'"
The years progressed. The four hundred years came to an end, and the few
family members of seventy, that had gone into Egypt, had grown into a
nation of over 600,000 male adults.* (Gen. 46:27; Ex. 12:37) The time had
now arrived for the momentous occasion of giving birth to Jehovah's "son," his "firstborn." But this
delivery would not be without labor pains. Jehovah sent Moses to
appear before Pharaoh: "And you must say to
Pharaoh, 'This is what Jehovah has said: "Israel is my son, my
firstborn. And I say to you: Send my son away that he may serve me. But
should you refuse to send him away, here I am killing your son, your
—Ex. 4:22,23; (*Possibly more than three million
left Egypt. For details see
Insight on the Scriptures, Vol. 1, page
Of course, Pharaoh refused to release God's "son," and it took ten plagues,
including the death of every firstborn among the Egyptians, before
Jehovah procured the release of his people. Even then Pharaoh changed his mind
and chased after them, resulting in the
destruction of his entire army when Jehovah trapped them in the Red Sea. To add to the
birth pains was the fact that they, a vast crowd, had to wander a long
distance through the wilderness, where they and their little children suffered from the heat, cold, hunger and thirst, before Jehovah brought
them to Mount Sinai (also known as Mt. Horeb). Here, in the year 1513
B.C.E., the nation of Israel, as Jehovah's son, was born when
Jehovah concluded a covenant with them, with Moses as their mediator,
validated by "the blood of the covenant" of animal sacrifices.
—Ex. 24:7,8; Ezek. 16:3-6.
Jehovah could rightly expect his people to learn from Abraham's example of
outstanding faith, and imitate it, as it is natural for children to look
with pride to their forefather, as did the descendants of Jehonadab, the
son of Rechab. (Gen. 18:18,19; compare Jer. 35:1-19) Especially should this
have been the case since they knew that their very existence came about
because Jehovah himself, the Creator of the earth and everything upon
it, was their Father, having caused their conception and now their
birth as a nation.
(Isa. 41:8; James 2:23) Along with
the covenant Jehovah made this promise to them:
"And now if YOU will
strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then YOU will
certainly become my special property out of all [other] peoples, because
the whole earth belongs to me. And YOU yourselves will become to me a
kingdom of priests and a holy nation."
If the nation of Israel would
prove faithful to his covenant, as a loyal son, Jehovah would choose exclusively
from among his sons the full number of those who would be kings and priests
in his future kingdom, by means of which blessings would come to "the
whole earth," the details of which God kept as a "sacred secret" until
his appointed time.
—Rom. 11:17-27; 16:25,26; Eph. 1:4;
Col. 1:26,27; Rev. 20:6.
The "People that is to be Born"
The covenant that Jehovah made with the
nation of Israel at Mt. Sinai, that gave birth to them as his sons, was
not the end of the journey, as if this was all there was to God's
purpose in fulfilling his promise made immediately after the rebellion
in the Garden of Eden. (Gen. 3:15)
From the very beginning Jehovah had purposed to redeem
all of Adam's descendants, all mankind "who had not sinned after the
likeness of the transgression by Adam." (Rom. 3:21-25; 5:14, 19; 1 Cor. 15:22)
Abraham's seed and the covenant God had made with them would be the
means by which he was going to accomplish this. For that reason the time would come when the Law covenant,
once it had served its purpose,
would be replaced by a new and better covenant.
“Look! There are days coming,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “and I will
conclude with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new
32 not one like the covenant that I
concluded with their forefathers in the day of my taking hold of their
hand to bring them forth out of the land of Egypt, ‘which covenant of
mine they themselves broke, although I myself had husbandly ownership of
them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah.”
33 “For this is the covenant that I
shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,” is the
utterance of Jehovah. “I will put my law within them, and in their heart
I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will
become my people.”
34 “And they will no more teach
each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, ‘KNOW Jehovah!’
for they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to
the greatest one of them,” is the utterance of Jehovah. “For I shall
forgive their error, and their sin I shall remember no more.”
Nicodemus, as a teacher of Israel, would
have (should have) been very familiar with Jehovah's promise of a new covenant, as
foretold by Jeremiah. The time had now arrived for Jehovah to bring this
about and Nicodemus, along with all the Jews, should have been in
expectation of it, especially since he confessed that the signs that Jesus
performed provided evidence that he had come
One striking difference of this new covenant was that God's law would be written
in the heart of his people, instead of on stone tablets and parchment as
had been the case with the old covenant, and to which the Jewish
religious leaders had added abundantly. (Matt. 23:1-4) Yes, instead
of obeying God because of some written code—made up of rules and
regulations, as is common among man-made organizations—under the new covenant
people would obey him because of their faith and deep love for him, all of them having
come to know Jehovah "from the least one of them even to the greatest one of
Please note that Jehovah says concerning the house of Israel and
the house of Judah that "I will become their God, and they themselves
will become my people." (vs. 33) Was Jehovah not already their God, and
were they not also his people who were born to him
at Mt. Sinai, due to the
covenant mediated by Moses? Yes, the Jews had enjoyed their relationship
with God as sons on account of that covenant. Since it was about to
become "obsolete" their relationship could no longer continue
based on a
covenant that no longer existed. The end of the old covenant would
also end their special relationship with God! Therefore, for them to again
become God's people,
and have Jehovah once more become their God, they needed to be born "again," a "second" time,
by being brought into the new covenant.
—Col. 2:13,14; Heb. 8:13.
Also, an outstanding feature of the new covenant is the forgiveness of
sins. (Jer. 31:34) How is this different from the forgiveness the Jews
obtained from their animal sacrifices at the temple? The life of an
animal is never equal to that of a man, and thus can never fully
compensate God for the sins committed by his people. Paul explains that
"it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take sins
away." (Heb. 10:4) God's people were guilty of sins by failing to live
up to all that the Law of the old covenant required of them, and were in
need of forgiveness. (Gal. 3:19) The new covenant made that possible
because of the superior sacrifice of the perfect man Jesus. (Heb.
9:12-14; 1 Peter 2:24) The Jews needed to accept the mediator of the new
covenant in order to have their transgressions forgiven and inherit the
promises God had made to the nation. The apostle Paul explains it this
way: "Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who
are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death
has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under
the first covenant." (Heb.
9:15, ESV) Having their sins thus forgiven would make it possible
for the nation to get a fresh start, in a cleansed condition, by being
born again. This new covenant was not "like the covenant that [God]
concluded with their forefathers." (Jer. 31:31,32) Nicodemus, as a
"teacher of Israel," should have understood most of these things.
This new covenant would further fulfill God's promise to Abraham that "all
the nations of the earth must bless themselves by means of him." It
would embrace not only Abraham's natural descendants, as God's
firstborn son, but now also people of all the nations would be
"born" to God as his added sons.
—Gen. 18:18; Ex. 4:22; Matt. 5:9; 2 Cor.
the ends of the earth will remember and turn back to Jehovah. And all
the families of the nations will bow down before you.28 For
the kingship belongs to Jehovah, And he is dominating the nations. . .
30A seed itself will serve him; It will be declared
concerning Jehovah to the generation. 31 They will come
and tell of his righteousnessTo the people that is to be born,
that he has done [this]."
Jehovah is a faithful God. (Deut. 7:9)
Abraham's faith in him was not in vain. Not only did Abraham's seed
become as "the stars of the heavens and like the grains of sand that are
on the seashore," but also through them blessings would come to all
mankind. (Gen. 22:17,18) It was his seed who
was entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God, and from among them
the promised "seed" or Messiah appeared. It was Abraham's seed that got
to know Jehovah because of their covenant with him, and now the ones who
put faith in Christ and were born again could "tell of his righteousness" to
"all the families of the nations,"
the people that is to be born."
—Rom. 3:1,2; 9:4,5; Gal. 3:7-9.
Under the new covenant people of all
nations would be born to God, but only the Jews who had been in the
previous covenant could be born "again."
The mediator of the new covenant, Christ Jesus, validated the
new covenant by means of his own shed blood. Anyone who exercises faith in "the blood of the covenant" will
have his sins forgiven and be "born" from God by being brought into that
—Gal. 3:14-16; Rev. 7:14.
"Everyone believing that
Jesus is the Christ has been born from God, and everyone who loves
the one that caused to be born loves him who has been born from that
one. 2 By
this we gain the knowledge that we are loving the children of God, when
we are loving God and doing his commandments. 3 For
this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments;
and yet his commandments are not burdensome, 4 because
everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And
this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith." ―1 John
Everyone born from God "conquers the
world" as Jesus did, by keeping integrity and not being any part of the
world of which Satan is the ruler. (John 12:31; 15:17-21) How different
this now was for people of the nations who previously were "without
Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the
covenants of the promise, and had no hope and were without God in the
world." (Eph. 2:12) They now had the same opportunity as the Jews of
being born from God and becoming his sons.
13 "But now in union with Christ Jesus YOU who were once far off have come
to be near by the blood of the Christ. 14 For
he is our peace, he who made the two parties one and destroyed the wall
in between that fenced them off. 15 By
means of his flesh he abolished the enmity, the Law of commandments
consisting in decrees, that he might create the two peoples in union
with himself into one new man and make peace; 16 and
that he might fully reconcile both peoples in one body to God through
the torture stake, because he had killed off the enmity by means of
himself. 17 And
he came and declared the good news of peace to YOU, the ones far off,
and peace to those near, 18 because
through him we, both peoples, have the approach to the Father by one
There would no longer be any distinction between a Jew and a Gentile
under the new covenant, for they would both equally be born as sons of God.
It is to these believing Gentiles that Jesus referred when he said, "And
I have other sheep, which are
not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my
voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd."
—John 10:16; Rom. 10:11,12; Gal.
The new covenant is actually the restored original
covenant of life that Jehovah
had made with Adam, which now makes possible for all of his offspring to
be completely reconciled to God through their faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Cor. 5:18,19; Col. 1:20) There is no other future third
covenant necessary. Jesus did not make "a covenant for a kingdom" with his
disciples on the night he was arrested, as is taught by the Society. On
that occasion he simply promised that they would receive the kingdom,
the means by which blessings will flow to redeemed
mankind under the new covenant, for God's kingdom will replace all present oppressive human governments.
—Dan. 7:13,14, 27; Luke 22:29,30;
Rev. 3:21. (see
Jesus make a covenant for a kingdom?)
The only distinction that will endure forever will
be regarding the "Israel of God," which had its root firmly planted in the
covenant Jehovah had made with Abraham. Since the root was holy, the 144,000 branches
would also be holy, even though some of the domestic branches had been
broken off [unfaithful Jews] and replaced by "wild" branches [believing
—Rom. 11:16; Rev. 7:4-8.
It might be good to note at this point that although the Jews were born
from God as his sons, none of them had the opportunity of ruling with Christ in his
heavenly kingdom, that is, not until the time of Christ's actual appearance; no, not
even John the Baptist who prepared the way for him. That is why Jesus
said regarding him: "I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived,
none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the
Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!" (Matt. 11:11, NLT)
King David certainly was God's son, yet he did not have the heavenly
hope. Therefore, Jesus told Nicodemus, "No man has ascended into heaven
but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man."
—John 3:13; compare Acts 2:34.
is evident, that to qualify as being born from God as his son, one does not need to
have the heavenly hope. There is no scriptural basis for suggesting that
this designation has changed. Those who will rule with Christ are chosen from
among God's sons. Such future rulers may be viewed as God's sons in a
special sense, as God spoke of his king designate, Solomon, "I myself
shall become his father, and he himself will become my son." (2 Sam.
7:14) All who will "inherit the earth" will be sons of God
just as Adam was a "son of God" before his rebellion.
—Matt. 5:5; Luke 3:38;
998 Son(s) of God.
"You were once not a people, but are now God's people." ―1 Peter
"A Nation Born at One Time"
"Who has heard such a thing? Who has
seen such things? Shall a land be born in one day?
Shall a nation be brought forth in one moment? For as soon as Zion was
she brought forth her children."—Isaiah 66:8,
The new covenant
came into operation at Pentecost 33C.E.,
which, according to the Jewish calendar was Sivan 6; and with that the
old Law covenant became obsolete. It is interesting what Insight on the Scriptures notes
regarding this date: "The Jews traditionally hold that
Pentecost corresponded to the time of the giving of the Law at Sinai,
when Israel became a distinguished people. It was early in the third
month (Sivan) that the Israelites gathered at Sinai and received the
Law. (Ex 19:1) Just as Moses as mediator was used to introduce Israel
into the Law covenant, so Jesus Christ as Mediator of spiritual Israel*
now brought that new nation into the new covenant."
―Vol. 2, page
The term "spiritual Israel" is not found in the Bible.)
It had taken the nation of Israel a period of several hundred years to
form; and its birth, with the covenant made at Mount Sinai, had been
accompanied with great birth pangs, labor pains. But their new birth,
with the new covenant, was going to be astonishingly different. It would
take place in one day, before there could even be any "birth pangs."
"Before she began to come into labor pains she gave
birth. Before birth pangs could come to her, she even gave deliverance
to a male child. Who has heard of a thing like this?
Who has seen things like these? Will a land be brought forth with labor
pains in one day? Or will a nation be born at
one time? For Zion has come into labor pains as well as
given birth to her sons."
Zion, in Jerusalem, was where Jehovah's
temple stood and where God's sons were worshiping him according to the
old Law covenant, although they continually broke it. But it was not
this Zion that Isaiah prophesied would give birth to her sons. Because
the sacred ark was situated in Jehovah's temple on Mount Zion, Zion came
to represent Jehovah's presence and heavenly realities. Quoting
Insight on the Scriptures, "Zion became a mountain especially holy
to Jehovah when David had the sacred Ark transferred there. Later, the
designation “Zion” embraced the temple area on Mount Moriah (where the
Ark was moved during Solomon’s reign) and the term was, in fact, applied
to the entire city of Jerusalem. (Compare Isa 1:8; 8:18; see MOUNTAIN OF
MEETING.) Since the Ark was associated with Jehovah’s presence and
because Zion was a symbol of heavenly realities, Zion was referred to as
the place of God’s dwelling and the place from which help, blessing, and
salvation would come." ―Vol.
2, page 1236.
Before his ascension to heaven Jesus had told his disciples not to
withdraw from Jerusalem, "but keep waiting for what the Father has
promised." While his disciples had already been baptized by John the
Baptist in water, showing "that they had repented of their sins and
turned to God to be forgiven," they were about to be "baptized in holy
spirit not many days after this." (Mark 1:4, 8, NLT; Acts 1:4) As
the Father had promised by means of the prophet Isaiah, Zion was about
to give birth to her sons and his new nation was about to be born in one
day, "at one time." The account in Acts tells us what happened when
Jesus' twelve apostles and 108 disciples were gathered together:
"On the day of
Pentecost all the believers were meeting
together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the
roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were
sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and
settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy
Spirit and began speaking in other languages,
as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability." ―Acts 2:1-4,
Regarding the Spirit, Jesus
had told Nicodemus that
"the wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot
tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone
born of the Spirit." (John 3:8) On the last night with his
disciples Jesus had promised them
"the helper, the holy spirit, which the Father will send in my name,
that one will teach you all things and bring back to your minds all the
things I told you." (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7) Now, on this day of
Pentecost, God sent the promised helper by pouring out the holy spirit
upon the 120 disciples. Since the holy spirit is not visible to the
eyes, God made it evident when it was accompanied by the sound from
heaven "like the roaring of a mighty windstorm" (NLT), so loud that it
brought the multitude, that had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival,
running to the house where the disciples were gathered.
They could hear the sound but could not see where it came from. Inside,
the holy spirit made itself evident when
"flames or tongues of fire" settled upon each of the 120 individuals receiving it.
The disciples had previously already been "born of water,"
having been baptized which made forgiveness of their sins possible once Christ
had paid the ransom, resulting in their clean standing before
God. (1 Cor. 6:11; Heb. 9:14) Now they had been baptized also with holy
spirit which filled them with "all the fullness that God gives,"
empowering them to understand and "grasp what is the breadth and length
and height and depth." (Eph. 3:18,19) Full of holy spirit, the apostle
Peter was able to explain to the crowd that had gathered the
significance of what had just occurred, according to Joel's prophecy:
“And after that it must occur that I shall pour out my spirit on every
sort of flesh, and your sons and your daughters will certainly prophesy.
As for your old men, dreams they will dream. As for your young men,
visions they will see. And even on the menservants and on the
maidservants in those days I shall pour out my spirit."
With the outpouring of his holy spirit Jehovah brought the new covenant
into force, thus giving birth to his new nation—his household, made up
of Christ's disciples. As foretold by his prophet Isaiah, his new nation
was "born in one day," "in one moment." It was not Zion, the city
of Jerusalem, that gave birth to God's new nation, but rather this came
from Jehovah himself:
bring to the point of birth and not cause to bring forth?' says the
LORD; 'shall I, who cause to bring forth, shut the womb?' says your
—Isa. 66:8,9; ESV.
Jehovah began to lay the foundation of his new nation with his chosen twelve apostles and 108 other
disciples, all of them natural offspring of Abraham; with "Christ
Jesus himself [as] the foundation cornerstone." (see
Summary) Keeping "the covenant in
force for the many for one week [of years]," Jehovah continued to choose
exclusively from among faithful Jews for another three and a half years
to add to the foundation of his household, until 36 C.E., when Cornelius
became the first Gentile to be added until the full "foreordained"
number of 144,000 would be fulfilled.
—Daniel 9:27; Acts 10:1, 44-48;
Romans 11:13, 17-24; Ephesians 2:19-22.
Of what use is a foundation, unless a building is constructed upon it?
(Luke 6:47,48; 14:29,30) A foundation is of a specific size, having
definite dimensions, which includes the one cornerstone. On the other
hand, that which is build upon it is only limited by what the foundation
can bear. After laying the foundation on the day
of Pentecost, Jehovah also immediately build upon the foundation with
"about three thousand souls [that] were added." These three
thousand had responded to
Peter's speech and consequently repented and were baptized for
forgiveness of their sins. (Acts 2:37-41) Likely Jehovah chose a number
of them in order to add them to the 120 foundation stones. But most of
the newly baptized disciples were built upon the foundation. The two loaves of newly
ripened grain that were presented to God at Pentecost under the old
covenant had pictured
these two groups: 1. The anointed disciples who would eventually number
144,000, and who were the foundation, with Jesus as the foundation
cornerstone; and 2. The countless others, "all those who [are]
rightly disposed for everlasting life," who are build upon this
foundation, and whose natural hope of life on earth is assured by
Jehovah. (Rev. 14:1, 3; 7:9,10; John 3:16; Acts 13:48; 1 John 4:9) Both groups were presented before Jehovah on that day;
from among sinful mankind as the loaves, having been baked leavened,
symbolized.* (See footnote)
The 120 disciples, who were anointed with holy spirit as the foundation
stones, and the 3000 who were baptized that day, were
thus "born again" and brought into the new covenant, becoming God's sons
for a second time since the old covenant was from this day on no longer
valid. Samaritans, and
later Gentiles, would also be born from God, but for their first time.
(Rom. 8:14; Gal. 4:4-7) In this way "the whole building [was] being harmoniously joined
together, growing into a holy temple for Jehovah," and "built up
together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit."
—Ephesians 2:19-22; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter
All who belong to Jehovah have been "born of water" (by
baptism) and are also born of the spirit. It is God's spirit that
teaches us to know the things of God, "for the spirit searches into all
things, even the deep things of God. . . But a physical man does not
receive the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to
him; and he cannot get to know them, because they are examined
spiritually." (1 Cor. 2:10-14) All of God's faithful people have God's
spirit, as a recent Watchtower article acknowledged: "Genuine
anointed Christians. . . do not believe that they necessarily have more
holy spirit than their companions of the other sheep have." ―The
Watchtower, May 1, 2007, page 31.
born from God, according to his will and promise, and are brought
into the new covenant as we are adopted as his sons and daughters. As
such we become members of his household, some as foundation stones,
others built upon this foundation; and if we remain there,
faithful, we will inherit the blessings that Jehovah had originally
intended for Adam's offspring, had Adam remained faithful.
—2 Cor. 6:16-18; Gen. 1:27,28; Ps.
37:10,11, 29; Rev. 20:3,4.
Do not allow anyone to rob you of your precious
relationship with your heavenly Father, for you were bought with
a price and have been brought into the new covenant, born from water (by
your baptism) and the Spirit (generously poured out upon us), which has
possible by the "blood of the covenant."
—1 Cor. 6:19,20; 7:23.
"When God our Savior
revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the
righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away
our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He
generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our
Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us
confidence that we will inherit eternal life." ―Titus 3:4-7,
New Living Translation.
Some may ponder the apostle Peter's words when he said that "we have
been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead.
Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless
inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and
undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay." (1 Peter 1:3,4; New
Living Translation) Does that not indicate that Christians are "born
Contrary to the idea that many hold, namely, that a person is first born
"from the flesh," according to one's natural or physical birth, and then
born again "from the spirit" when he accepts Christ, Jesus
himself made it clear that those two events have nothing in common when
he said: "What is born of [from] the flesh is flesh [of the physical is
physical]; and what is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6;
Amplified Bible) In other words, a person is not first born from the
flesh and then born again from the spirit. Then what did Peter
mean that "we have been born again to an ever-living hope?"—1
Peter 1:3; Amplified Bible.
The Greek word in this instance, rendered as "born again" according
to some Bible translations, is αναγέννησις (anagen'nisis). In most
Greek-English dictionaries it is translated as "new birth." Note, it is
not the expression Jesus used, γεννηθή άνωθεν
(gennithi' a'nothen), born again, when he was talking to Nicodemus.
Thus, many Bible translations quote Peter as saying: "Praise be to the
God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given
us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ from the dead." (New International Version; compare with
your own Bible.)
Peter was not contradicting what Jesus had previously said regarding the
need for the Jews to be born again. Peter was pointing to something
new, something that had not already existed before that time. It was
a new birth to a new "living hope to an incorruptible and undefiled and
unfading inheritance reserved in the heavens." (NWT) And it
belonged to those who had been chosen and anointed by Jehovah to rule
with his Son in his kingdom, and made possible by the resurrection of
Jesus, "the firstborn from the dead." (Col. 1:18) None of God's faithful
men of old was acquainted with this new hope, not even John the Baptist,
concerning whom Jesus said there had not been born a greater one among
women, yet, "a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than
Another point indicating that Jesus, when
speaking of the need to be "born again" did not refer to
the "new birth" that the apostle Peter speaks of, is
when he told Nicodemus: "Are you a teacher of Israel and yet
do not know these things?" (John 3:10) As a teacher of
Israel, Nicodemus should have known of God's promise regarding the
making of a new covenant with his people. (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb.
8:7-13) He should certainly also have been familiar with God's
purpose of raising up a prophet like Moses, who would become the
mediator, like Moses, of that new covenant. (Deut. 18:18; Heb.
8:6) Therefore, as a teacher he should have been able to understand
the necessity to be brought into the new covenant. But Nicodemus could
not have known about
the "new birth," the heavenly calling that Peter
explains, for Jehovah did not reveal this until after the
outpouring of his holy spirit at Pentecost. It had been his sacred
secret. (Rom. 16:25,26; Eph. 1:8-14) Since there was no way for Nicodemus to have known of the
"new birth" it would have been highly unlikely for
Jesus to criticize his lack of knowing this.
Clearly, the terms "born again" and "new birth" are not
interchangeable. They do not mean the same thing.
The Jews were born as a
nation at Mount Sinai, and became God's people when they, at that time, entered
into the covenant with God. The entire nation, "every man of Israel," including
the little ones, and their wives, were included in that covenant, "for the
purpose of establishing you today as his people and that he may prove himself
your God." (Deut. 29:10-13) That covenant was made with Abraham's offspring for
the purpose of producing the promised Seed, thereby safeguarding the lineage
through which the Messiah would come by means of whom "all nations of the earth
will certainly bless themselves," according to God's promise to Abraham. (Gen.
22:16-18; Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-34)
God also foretold that once this covenant had fulfilled its divine purpose, he
would then make a new and better covenant with his people, thereby rendering the
former old covenant obsolete. Nicodemus, a leader and teacher among the Jews,
should have been familiar with God's promise of a new covenant, as foretold by
the prophet Jeremiah. (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:7-9, 13) When he failed to get the
sense of Jesus' words, "You people must be born again," Jesus scolded him,
saying: "Are you a teacher of Israel and yet do not know these things?" (John
3:7, 9-10) Clearly, not only Nicodemus, but all the Jews should have been in
expectation of the Messiah, including God's promise of making a new covenant
Being God's people under the old covenant, the Jews needed to be "born again" by
entering into the new covenant upon termination of the old one; but how could
they if they rejected the mediator of that new covenant? (Heb. 9:13-15) Only by
entering into the new covenant could they inherit the promise God had made them:
"And you yourselves will become to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation,"
for it was by means of the new covenant that this was to be fulfilled. (Exodus
19:5,6) That is why Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Unless anyone is born again, he
cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3)
When Jesus told Nicodemus that "anyone" [of
you people, the Jews] must be born
"again" in order to see the kingdom of God, he was not referring to "people of
the nations," the Gentiles, who had not been previously in the old
covenant, but were "alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the
covenants of the promise." (Eph. 2:11-18; Matt. 15:24) Yet, through their faith
in Jesus, people of the nations could now also become God's people, under the new covenant;
no, not as proselytes as before, but as genuine "sons of God." (Rom.
10:12; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 2:19-22; 1 John 3:9; 5:1) Both Jews and Gentiles
are equally "born from God" when they are baptized,
in obedience to Jesus' command,
at which time they receive "the
free gift of the holy spirit." Thus they are "born from water and spirit."
This was true also in Jesus' own case.
(Matt. 3:16,17; 28:19; compare Acts 2:38; 8:14-17; 10:47; 11:15-17; 19:1-6; 1 Peter 3:21) It is only by means of this new covenant that anyone can enjoy a
personal relationship with God, just as he foretold regarding it: "'I will become their
God, and they themselves will become my people." (Jer. 31:33; Acts 15:14-18)
At the moment of a person's baptism, he also receives the benefits of the ransom,
including the forgiveness of his previous sins. (1 John 2:-3, 12) He is now a member
of God's household, which is God's holy temple, "a place for God to inhabit by
spirit." (Eph. 2:21,22; 3:5,6; 1 Cor. 3:16,17) As long as he remains within
God's temple he is assured of inheriting God's kingdom, which means the
everlasting life that God
promised, and as Jesus told Nicodemus. (John 3:16; Jude 21; Heb. 6:4-6; Matt.
13:40-43) The vast
majority of mankind will live right here on earth, according to God's original purpose
for Adam and his offspring; whereas a small number are chosen
from among Christ's disciples to rule
with Jesus in his heavenly kingdom, by which God will bring about
the blessings to the nations that he first promised to Abraham. (Daniel 7:13,14,
27; Matt. 5:5; 6:10; 19:27,28; Rev. 3:21; 20:6)
• "Born again" does not refer
to some sort of spiritual resurrection.
• The nation of Israel was born as God's people at Mount Sinai when God
made the covenant with them, with Moses as the mediator, "for the
purpose of establishing you today as his people and that he may prove
himself your God." (Deut. 29:12,13)
• God foretold: "Look! There are days
coming and I will conclude with the house of Israel and with the house
of Judah a new covenant; not one like the covenant that I
concluded with their forefathers . . . I will put my law within them,
and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God,
and they themselves will become my people." (Jer. 31:31-33;
Heb. 8:6-13) Please note, with the new covenant they would renew their
relationship with God as his people; he would become their God again,
and they his people again.
• The foretold new covenant became
operative on the day of Pentecost, with Jesus as the mediator, when he
poured out the holy spirit upon the 120 disciples. (Acts 2:1-42; Heb.
• Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled on
Pentecost: "Before she began to come into labor pains she gave birth.
Before birth pangs could come to her, she even gave deliverance to a
male child. Who has heard of a thing like this? Who has seen things like
these? Will a land be brought forth with labor pains in one day? Or
will a nation be born at one time? For Zion has come into labor pains as
well as given birth to her sons." (Isaiah 66:7,8) The Jews, who
exercised faith in the mediator Christ Jesus, became the nation that was
born at one time, in one day. They were thus born again, again
becoming God's people while He again became their God. The Jews who
failed to enter into the new covenant, by rejecting the mediator, would
no longer be God's covenant people. (Paul in his letter to the Galatians
illustrates the two covenants by comparing them to the birth of Hagar's
son and Sarah's son; Gal. 4:21-31;
Nicodemus, as a teacher of Israel, should have known these prophecies,
as Jesus indicated to him. (John 3:9,10) When he went to visit Jesus
that night, he had the privilege of being instructed by the mediator of
the new covenant. This is what Jesus was impressing on him.
The terms "born again" and "new birth" are not interchangeable.
They do not refer to the same thing! Whereas "born again" applied to the
Jews in the first century, who were in the old covenant but needed to be brought
into the new covenant, upon the termination of the old covenant (as discussed
above); the "new birth," mentioned by Peter, refers to those of Jesus' disciples
who will rule with him in his heavenly kingdom. (1 Peter 1:3-5) This hope of
going to heaven is something new, for it did not exist prior to Jesus
time. It remained God's "sacred secret" (mystery) until the time when it
began to be fulfilled, starting with the choosing of the twelve apostles, and applies
only to the ones who are chosen by God, the number of which will eventually
total 144,000. (Rev. 14:1, 3; Rom. 16:25,26; 1 Cor. 2:7) Even John the Baptist,
the greatest "among those born of women," was not among these, nor did he know
anything about this new hope reserved for them. (Matt. 11:11; 25:34-46)
All of God's people are "born from water and spirit," but they do not all have
the "new birth."
Regarding the two loaves presented on the day of Pentecost, Insight
on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, page 599, states: "The
fact that there were two loaves of newly ripened grain that were
presented to Jehovah at Pentecost indicates that more than one person
would be involved in the fulfillment. It may also point to the fact that
those who become spirit-begotten followers of Jesus Christ would be
taken from two groups on earth: First from the natural circumcised Jews,
and later from all the other nations of the world, the Gentiles."
The second loaf presented to Jehovah at Pentecost cannot symbolize
spirit-begotten Gentiles, for Gentiles were not presented to Jehovah
until three and a half years later, with the baptism and
anointing of Cornelius. (Acts 10:44-48) Since the two loaves were
presented together, and for them to have any
significance, they must also represent "two groups" who were present on that occasion
together, namely the 120 anointed disciples, and those
immediately joined to them, the 3,000 who were not
anointed with the spirit but were also baptized and presented to
Jehovah, being brought into the new
covenant. This second group, or loaf, would be cared for by the ones who had
been anointed for that purpose, and thus both groups were "being built up together into a place for God to inhabit by spirit."
on the Scriptures, Vol. 2, (page 599, par. 1) notes,"After the loaves were
waved, one of them was taken by the high priest, and the second was
divided among all the officiating priests." —Luke 12:42-44; John 21:15-17;
Acts 2:1-4, 37-42; Eph. 2:21,22; 1 Peter 5:2-4.
Another reason why the second loaf cannot represent spirit begotten
Gentiles is because of Jehovah's promise in connection with his covenant
made at Mount Sinai with only natural Israelites. "'And now if YOU will
strictly obey my voice and will indeed keep my covenant, then YOU will
certainly become my special property out of all [other] peoples, because
the whole earth belongs to me. And YOU yourselves will become to me a
kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words that you are
to say to the sons of Israel."
Since the festival of Pentecost (also known as the "Festival of
Harvest," "Festival of Weeks," and "the day of the first ripe fruits"),
was part of the Law "spoken by Moses to all the people" in connection
with the covenant Jehovah made with them, if the second loaf presented
to Jehovah on that day represented "spirit-begotten followers of Jesus
Christ" taken from among Gentiles then Jehovah was telling his people
from the very beginning of making his covenant that the promise he made
to them, about becoming a "kingdom of priests and a holy nation," was
unattainable for them, and thus he was already illustrating to them,
yes, reminding them yearly on that date, that they would eventually be
replaced by people of the nations. (Ex.
23:16; 34:22; Num. 28:26; Heb. 9:19,20)
That would render all his future appeals to his people to return to him
meaningless, even hypocritical, for he had already determined to reject
them from the beginning, that is, if the second loaf indeed pictured
anointed Gentiles. —2 Chr. 36:15;
But Jehovah is not the kind of God who makes false promises, as Insight
on the Scriptures, Vol. 1, page 1138, assures us: "Jehovah God is the Source of true hope and the One able to
fulfill all his promises and the hopes of those trusting in him. It is
through his undeserved kindness that he has given mankind “comfort and
good hope.” (2Th 2:16) He has been the hope of righteous men in all ages. He was
called “the hope of Israel” and “the hope of [Israel’s] forefathers” (Jer 14:8; 17:13; 50:7), and many are the expressions of
hope, trust, and confidence in him in the Hebrew Scriptures. In his
loving-kindness toward his people, even when they were going into exile
for disobedience to him, he said to them: “I myself well know the
thoughts that I am thinking toward you, . . . thoughts of peace, and not
of calamity, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11) Jehovah’s
promise kept alive the faith and hope of faithful Israelites during the
Babylonian exile; it greatly strengthened men such as Ezekiel and
Daniel, for Jehovah had said: “There exists a hope for your future,
. . . and the sons will certainly return to their own territory.” (Jer
31:17) That hope came to fruition when a faithful Jewish remnant
returned in 537 B.C.E. to rebuild Jerusalem and its temple.—Ezra 1:1-6."