Did you see the Jason Bourne movies? In the last one he finds out major things about his father that he didn't know. Sometimes the discovery of information about your father can be a pleasant surprise or a crushing discovery. Or what if someone told you that you had a sister that you never knew about, and your "friends" were keeping it a secret all along? Other times it could be like Luke Skywalker and you find out that your father wasn't who you thought! Our view of our Father and who is in our "family" can stretch us for good or bad depending on our vision of him.
Do you know what a conspiracy is? I don't mean crazy government conspiracy theories. I'm talking about technically that a conspiracy is a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful or evil purpose. When people collude to keep something a secret, or join forces for a purpose that is harmful it is a conspiracy.
Is it possible that the Church of our day has inadvertently participated in conspiring to hide the truth about Father God and who are his children? Would that be harmful to a person who is told they have to leap over certain thresholds in order for God to accept them? Would you agree that if, and that is if, God is the Father of all, and all humanity was a child of God, it would be wrong to hide it from them?
Of course, our religious culture already "knows" that isn't true because everyone has to believe and THEN they will be born again? But what if the Bible teaches we were ALL born from above 2000 years ago?
Is It A Choice?
Does our choice make God our Father? Jesus addressed this question with Nicodemus in John 3:
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 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.”
Jesus looks at Nic and says, "You MUST be born again!" I think we all agree this is an imperative, but here is something I think is often overlooked: the "you" is plural, not singular. In Tennessee vernacular he said, "ya'll" (you ALL). "All" must "BE" born again. "Be" indicates being the recipient of something not the creator or initiator of something. Everyone must be born again/born from above, so they can "see" the kingdom.
Then to further emphasize Nic's lack of control over the process, Jesus teaches him two ideas. Just as a child does not create himself, choose to be born, or initiate his own birth, so too, the Spirit gives birth to spirit. In addition, "ya'll" have no choice over the matter because the Spirit, like the wind is completely independent of our control or choice.
In fact, scholars suggest that the "again" is not the best translation of the word, and it should be born "from above". From above again denotes the origin of the action.
So Jesus taught that it was necessary for everyone to be the recipient of a new birth that would be created, not by the choice or the initiative, or the control of individuals. Rather, it would be by the choice, control, and initiative of God!
That is why we hear this in John 1:13, Young's Literal Translation:
who -- not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man but -- of God were begotten.
Therefore any presentation of the gospel that claims some additional step, instead of announcing a past finished event, is ignorance at best or participation in a conspiracy at worst.
When Were We Born From Above?
So does the Bible teach WHEN this apparent massive corporate rebirth would happen? YES!
1 Peter 1:3, "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." Do you see the timing of this new birth. It is past and coincided with the resurrection of Christ.
Not convinced? Let's see what Paul says was the timing:
Contrary to modern evangelicalism, Ephesians 2, Colossians 2, and 2 Corinthians 5 all teach that because Jesus is both the Creator holding everything together, and the Son of Man, incarnating God and mankind together in his body, when Jesus died within the "Last Adam" all died. When Jesus was made alive, all were made alive together with him. When Jesus was raised and seated we were all included.
Ephesians 2:4-7, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even WHEN we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
"When" is an adverb of time that modifies this whole passage. It says "turn around and look at the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus because at the same moment WHEN that it was happening to Christ, it was happening for all humanity. That is why he says "together with" over and over again.
So let's review... Jesus taught that everyone must be born again by the Spirit through no effort or choice of their own, but solely on the basis of God bringing us forth, and it happened 2000 years ago through HIS resurrection. Do you get it? Is it a choice? Yes. Just not our choice!
But If We Don't Believe We Will Perish Right?
Jesus tells Nic... (John 3:16-18) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Notice that he never says "if you believe you will be born again"! Plus this may come as a surprise but the word "perish" isn't a spiritual term, but a literal term to describe physical death and is associated with AD 70. The word is: 622 /apóllymi ("violently/completely perish") implies permanent (absolute) destruction, i.e. to cancel out (remove); "to die, with the implication of ruin and destruction" (L & N, 1, 23.106); cause to be lost (utterly perish) by experiencing a miserable end.
Jesus' words to people in their day (not us) warning them of perishing in a literal death just like the others. He says "likewise" or in the same manner. What manner was the first? Physical! Therefore the perishing in the second was physical. Notice Luke 13:2-5, "And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell YOU, no; but unless YOU repent YOU will ALL LIKEWISE perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless YOU repent YOU will ALL LIKEWISE perish.”
There was a literal perishing coming, and trusting in Christ would save them from it, but woven within this is the idea of "world" or "kosmos"... telling them that God loved more than just the Jews, but the entire cosmic order.
So God was doing something spiritually for the entire created order, but also as Jews reminding them that the Law's own final judgment would cause some to perish if they did not trust Christ. That is why Jesus said in Matthew 16:27-28, "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are SOME of those who are STANDING HERE who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His KINGDOM.” The judgment and the kingdom was to come in their lifetime, not ours.
Believing did not create a born again experience. Because they would ALL be born again through the resurrection, they could all "see" the coming kingdom, therefore they were without excuse if they did not believe the Son. To believe, was to physically save them from the destruction of the Law in the fall of Jerusalem where 1.3 million died at the hands of the Romans.
But NOT ONE believer died as the earliest church historian Eusebius wrote, “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”
Here is what the verse literally says in John 3:16- Young's Literal Translation (YLT)
for God did so love the world, that His Son -- the only begotten -- He gave, that every one who is believing in him may not perish, but may have life age-during.
Why "life age-enduring" instead of "eternal life"? The whole idea was that if they believed in the Son, recognized themselves as sons, forgiven and accepted, they would not perish in the fall of Jerusalem but instead would enter into the kingdom age. Yes, the kingdom age that we are living in right now. The Law was the age of death written on tablets of stone, but the fullness of the kingdom is life!
Yes, they would see it with their own eyes and enter the age where the Law, the violent blood sacrifices, the natural temple, and the Levitical priesthood would end, and the age of the kingdom where Christ rules with life from his throne with one single covenant. Believers were participating then in the life of the new ear of the kingdom before it fully arrived because of their faith.
And what would happen then? Jesus said in John 14:20, "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you."
I know, there is that verse that seems to say that if we believe, then we have the right to become a child of God... as if believing initiates the Fatherhood of God and the born again experience. I agree it does appear that way... until you look just a little bit closer.
So let's remove this objection once and for all. The Mirror version gives us a wonderful explanation of the meaning of each main word! You can skip over the technical if you like and just read the verse, or you can dig in for a minute and see why it is translated this way.
John 1:12, Everyone who realizes their association in him, convinced that he is their original life and that his name defines them, God gives the assurance that they are indeed his offspring, begotten of him; he sanctions the legitimacy of their sonship.
The word often translated, to receive, lambano, means to take in hand, to comprehend, to grasp, to identify with. This word suggests that even though he came to his own, there are those who do not identify with their true origin revealed in him, and like the many Pharisees they behave like children of a foreign father, the father of lies [John 8: 44]. Neither God’s legitimate fatherhood of mankind nor his ownership is in question; mankind’s indifference to their true origin is the problem. This is what the Gospel address with utmost clarity in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus has come to introduce mankind to themselves again; humanity has forgotten what manner of person they are by design! [James 1:24, Deuteronomy 32:18, Psalm 22:27].
The word, genesthai, from ginomai, means to generate; to become; John employs this verb in the Aorist Infinitive tense, which indicates prior completion of an action in relationship to a point in time. Greek infinitives could have either a present or aorist form. The contrast between the two forms has more to do with aspect than with time. The present infinitive is used to express progressive or imperfective aspect. It pictures the action expressed by the verb as being in progress. The aorist infinitive however does not express progressive aspect. It presents the action expressed by the verb as a completed unit with a beginning and end. This is an important point since many translations of this verse suggests that God’s ability to make us his sons can only be in response to something we must first do in order to trigger God into action!
Our grasping [lambano] is simply the awakening to the fact that our genesis is already completed in the Logos. [See John 1:3] The Logos is the source; everything commences in him. He remains the exclusive Parent reference to their genesis. There is nothing original, except the Word. We are his offspring. [see also Acts 17:28]. “He has come to give us understanding to know him who is true and to realize that we are in him who is true.” [1 John 5:20].)
The word, exousia, often translated “power;” as in, he gave “power” to become children of God, is a compound word; from ek, always denoting origin or source and eimi, I am; thus, out of I am! This gives legitimacy and authority to our sonship; teknon, translated as offspring, child.
“He has given,” didomi, in this case to give something to someone that already belongs to them; thus, to return. The fact that they already are his own, born from above and that they have their beginning and their being in him is now confirmed in their realizing it!
Convinced, pisteo; his name onoma, is mankind’s family name. [see Eph 3:15]. “He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.” — The Message) Toit, Francois Du. Mirror Bible: A selection of key New Testament texts paraphrased from the Greek (Kindle Locations 743-756). Mirror Word Publishing (Kindle Edition by Ten10 Ebooks). Kindle Edition.
I can hear people now offended that "It just can't be true that radical Muslims, and atheists, and war-mongers are born again? There is just no way you can convince me of that!"
I understand that their ignorance and worship of violent gods, or no god, seems to indicate that they are NOT born from above. They haven't changed yet right?
Paul faced this very issue and spoke to idol-worshiping pagans in Acts 17 telling them... "WE ALL have our very being (spirit) in God, and WE are ALL God's offspring/children!"
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since HE GIVES TO ALL LIFE, BREATH, AND ALL THINGS. 26 And HE HAS MADE FROM ONE BLOOD EVERY NATION OF MAN TO DWELL ON ALL THE FACE OF THE EARTH, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though HE IS NOT FAR FROM EACH ONE OF US; 28 for IN HIM WE LIVE AND MOVE AND HAVE OUR BEING, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘FOR WE ARE ALSO HIS OFFSPRING.’ 29 Therefore, SINCE WE ARE THE OFFSPRING OF GOD, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.
But like the prodigal son, he never ceased being a son, even when the father thought he was dead, he was still a son. The son "came to himself" in the far country, away from relationship with his father. He was willing to be a servant in the house, but that didn't undo his sonship. The son's awakening and turn around didn't create his sonship, it was the source of his hope because he knew what the father's house was like. The father refused to acknowledge him as a servant and reminded him that he was his son.
Darkness in others about their being a child of God, doesn't mean it's not true. What would happen if we quit perpetuating the religious "tier" system, and started proclaiming to people that they ARE God's children? I think the light bulb would come on called "belief" and they could experience and know God for who he really is!
Don't be a part of the Born Conspiracy!
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I have several other blogs that go into more depth on these topics. Please check out:
The Remnant: Only a Few Will Be Saved?