Born Again or Born From Above
There was a pharisee who was the reason to have today the phrase “born again”. This pharisee named Nicodemus was one of the rulers of the Jews. He came to Yeshua by night for he was his secret follower and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from Elohim, for no man is able to do these signs you do if Elohim is not with him.”
But Yeshua answered Nicodemus (seemingly out of place), saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he is unable to see the kingdom of Elohim.” This answer has been understood to mean that if one is not born again, he or she will not see, i.e. will not go to heaven. Is this what Nicodemus asked Yeshua?
What Nicodemus said was not even a question but a plain statement of faith that he believed Yeshua was the prophet promised by Mosheh (Deu 18:15-20). And when Nicodemus being a pharisee said “we know”, who were the we he referred to who knew that Yeshua came from Elohim? Regarding what the rabbis believed about Mashiach, read the article Revealing Yeshua Secretly Guarded by the Rabbis – Time of Reckoning Ministry.
Do we misread the text, or we misunderstand something?
Let us reread the conversation, this time in its immediate context. Nicodemus said, “we know that you a teacher come from Elohim, for no one is able to do these signs you do”. They (the pharisees and the people) witnessed those signs and believed. (We should recall that both the pharisees and the commoners asked Yochanan: “Who are you? … Are you Eliyahu or the Prophet Mosheh bade us to await?”)
To which Yeshua said, “Unless one is born from above, he is unable to perceive the kingdom of Elohim”. This rendering is made from the literal reading of the available Greek text. Do we see the difference?
Yeshua did signs before the people, which were indeed signs from above no one was able to unless he had been sent from heaven. Nicodemus referred to those signs. Yeshua answered: “Unless one is born from above (like I was), he is unable to understand the secrets and wonders of the kingdom (which I did)”. We must therefore view this verse as telling us that as Yeshua was born from above without an earthly father, so should we be in order to perceive the kingdom of Elohim. Thus translated and interpreted in the correct context, Yeshua addressed Nicodemus’ words.
However, it was Nicodemus who did not understand Yeshua’s words. He marveled: “How is a man able to be born when he is old? Is he able to enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”
This confused question of Nicodemus has led the English translators to depart from the Greek text and render Yeshua’s answer like this: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (Joh 3:3 KJV)
This mistranslation changes the meaning of the entire message. When reading our verse, one might come to the conclusion that according to it, one must be “born again” otherwise he will not go to heaven. And to go to heaven, this “rebirth” is achieved by saying the “Sinner’s Prayer” (an evangelical Christian term referring to a specific prayer of repentance).
The common sense does not allow us to say that the salvation is a one-time event. Although, it is not in the scope of this study to address some concerns regarding this type of conversion, we still have something to say, more particularly, (1) there are also no examples of conversions in the Bible with people praying such a prayer, and (2) the absence of any specific examples of people praying the “Sinner’s Prayer” in the Apostolic Writings.
It is the opinion of the present author that a more prominent concern raises because of the false sense of security that is created within the sinner. Namely, that all a sinner needs to do is to say the pray-with-me prayer, after which the sinner is assured he or she is “born again”.
As we explained in the article “Once saved always saved” Delusion – Time of Reckoning Ministry, the repentance is a process, that can be lengthy and sometimes even painful to the person; thus the repentance should not be seen as a one-time act of saying a prayer but as a development of the sinner into a new creation.
This new view of Yeshua’s words entirely shifts the focus from an act done by a man here on the earth, as if it is up to his deed to get saved, to a renewal being done in heaven and from heaven that may take even years in pains and trials of true conversion.
In this introduction to the subject of “Born again of born from above”, we would like to clarify certain misconceptions that many have not touched upon or perceived. And in order to clarify these issues in their entirety, we must initially make some inquiries about being born a new in the Hebrew Scripture.
With that being said, we begin anew our study on the subject of being born again or born from above, as we shall have more to say upon this point presently.
To be born anew by the creative power of Elohim
A good departure point to describing the matter of “being born from above” is to explain the concept of having a new heart and a new spirit (Hebrew ruach). We will explain the whole matter in the following vein.
The Hebrew Scripture foretells that that when Israel casts away its transgressions and makes for itself “a new heart and a new spirit” its death will end and thus will the nation be reborn.
Cast away from you all the transgressions, by which you have transgressed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die house of Israel? (Eze 18:31)
The appeal in Eze 18:31 points back to the promise in Eze 11:19-20 when Ezekiel wrote:
And I shall give them one heart, and put a new ruach within you. And I shall take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, so that they walk in My laws and guard My judgements, and shall do them. And they shall be My people and I shall be their Elohim. (Eze 11:19-20)
A man can come to YHVH to receive a new heart and a new spirit when he is renewed by the Ruach of Elohim, i.e. by the creative power of Elohim (see Gen 1:1-2 and Job 33:4). The work of Ruach as the power of the Most High is best understood in the words of the messenger of YHVH who said to Miryam,
The Ruach haKodesh shall come upon you, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow you. And for that reason the set-apart one born of you shall be called: son of Elohim. (Luk 1:35)
Hence, in this parallelism and a remarkable word-play in Hebrew, we understand that Ruach haKodesh (Set-apart Breath) is the power of the Most High in work, and for this reason the Anointed (Mashiach) of YHVH born was called: Son of Elohim (Powers).
We have to explain the verse in accordance with what we have written about the Ruach of Elohim in the article The Hebrew Ruach HaKodesh vs the Roman Holy Spirit – Time of Reckoning Ministry.
This renewal YHVH is willing to do because He has no pleasure in the death of anyone but that any sinner should find a new life. Because while in sin the people are in death, and that it is only by renewal and conversion of the heart that they can come back to life again. See also Eze 36:25-27 and Eze 37:1-14.
But what do “born of Ruach” and “born of flesh” mean?
YHVH promises that he shall give a new heart and a new ruach within man, so that he or she shall walk in His laws and guard His ordinances to do them. This is what to be born of the Ruach means.
As for the “heart of flesh”, it is said about those who have Elohim’s laws as an external doing: the heart is cold as stone, cold as dead. Versus the heart of flesh that is warm and full of life to live by the laws in the Torah.
With that said, let us read again Yeshua’s words,
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he is unable to perceive the kingdom of Elohim. … unless one is born of water and the Ruach, he is unable to enter into the kingdom of Elohim. (Joh 3:3-5)
The repetition of a Hebrew word, as “truly, truly” is an intensive whose interpretation is “it is indeed true”. Hence, what follows is intensified and the parallel reading of the phrases: “unless one is born from above” and “unless one is born of water and the Ruach” indicates that to be “born from above” is the same as being “born of water and the Ruach”. Read more in Baptism through Water and Fire – Time of Reckoning Ministry.
Therefore, being “born from above” or being born “from the beginning” is not a phrase foreign to the Hebraic mindset. “Born from above” means to be born from the beginning, i.e. being born as before sin entered the world.
The Hebrew word רֵאשִׁית reishit, as in Gen 1:1 bereishit “in the beginning” means the first, in place, time, order or rank (specifically a first-fruit), beginning, chiefest, principal thing. It is derived from רֹאשׁ rosh which means “head”, “height”, “chief” or “beginning”, as the head is the highest and chief point of the body. Figuratively, reishit means most importantly, chiefly, primarily.
Hence, the righteous is not “born again” just once in lifetime, when he or she had said a prayer, but he or she is being “born from above” by the Breath of Life of Elohim (Gen 2:7). Therefore, being born from above, i.e., from heaven, is the primary focus of the progression into a renewed creature.
Or put it plainly, being born from above is being born over and over again, i.e. reborn from heaven. This process indeed begins on the earth with a genuine prayer for repentance but continues in heaven.
Hence, one is born from above, when he or she is being born anew, sinless like Adam was created in the beginning of the world.
And as Adam sinned and died, so do all die in him. But the opposite is also true: so also all will be made alive, i.e. reborn, in Mashiach but each in his own order: Mashiach as the first-fruit of the first resurrection, then those who will be found worthy for the second resurrection at his coming (1Co 15:22-23).
Thus all begin new life in Yeshua haMashiach in order to fulfill what has been said concerning the resurrection that will take place at the sound of the seventh, the last trumpet.
Behold, I speak a secret to you: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1Co 15:51-52)
The apostle must have been remarkably familiar with the prophecy in 2 Baruch (aka Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch) when he wrote the above verses. We will read from 2 Baruch 30, translation from the Syriac by R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, Oxford University Press, 1913:
And it shall come to pass after these things, when the time of the advent of the Messiah is fulfilled, that He shall return in glory. Then all who have fallen asleep in hope of Him shall rise again. And it shall come to pass at that time that the treasuries will be opened in which is preserved the number* of the souls of the righteous, and they shall come forth, and a multitude of souls shall be seen together in one assemblage of one thought, and the first shall rejoice and the last shall not be grieved.
The phrase “born from above” also appears in the writing of another apostle concerning those who have been born twice by the Ruach of Elohim through His Word as in a rebirth to a new life.
having been born again – not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible – through the Living Word of Elohim, which remains forever, (1Pe 1:23)
Here too the apostle echoes the parallelism in the prophecy in Ezekiel, namely, that being born again [and from above] is through the Living Word of Elohim, which remains forever (see also Isa 40:6-8).
Here in Isa 40:6-8, the term “living word of Elohim” refers to His Torah, as David clearly has made this point in Psalm 119 aka the Torah Psalm, wherein he praises the Torah in every verse.
Thus with the words “having been born again through the Living Word of Elohim” the apostle reminds us of the question he asked Yeshua: “We have left all and followed you. What then shall we have?” And Yeshua said,
Truly I say to you, when the son of mankind sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed Me in the rebirth, shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Mat 19:28)
In a similar way anyone who returns to YHVH Elohim is like being revived, as it is said in Psalm 119:
Revive me according to Your Word. I have recounted my ways and You answered me. Teach me Your laws. Make me understand the way of Your orders. (Psa 119:25-27)
It is not accidental for Mashiach to quote the words of his father David, that the revival according to His Word is to learn the laws of his heavenly Father, the Torah.
We will conclude with a remarkable statement found in The Babylonian Talmud. The sages are in agreement that repentance from sins renews the soul and makes the sinner reborn. And indeed, in the Jewish thought, a convert is like a new creation, when all his previous sins are forgiven.
Rabbi Jose made in Babylonian Talmud: Yevamoth 48b and Yevamoth 62a a remarkable statement that closely echoes the words of Yeshua haMashiach. He said, “One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born”.
Rabbi Jose’s comment should not be a surprise to us since a well-known Pharisee (Act 23:6) made the same statement long time ago, namely, that one who is in Mashiach is like a new creation—recreated and renewed after the image of Elohim.
Therefore, if anyone is in Mashiach, he is a renewed creation. The old things have passed away, see, all things have become renewed! (2Co 5:17)
and that you put on the renewed man which was created after Elohim, in righteousness and set-apartness of the truth. (Eph 4:24)
and have put on the new one who is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him who created him, (Col 3:10)
When we reflect on what we have written above, we will find that born once is born with the ruach below but born again is born with the Ruach above—born anew by the creative power of Elohim.
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!