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New Wine for the End Times
Born Again Verses
To get a better understanding of various doctrinal systems that are believed, we need to take a look at John 3 to see what Jesus was talking about when he spoke to Nicodemus. What does it mean to be born again? Then we will compare and contrast Jesus' teaching about entering the kingdom of heaven with Paul's teaching about salvation.
Books have been written about the apparent dichotomy between the gospel of Paul and the gospel of Jesus. In other words, how do we resolve the difference between holiness verses and free-grace verses? Is salvation a journey from infant baptism? Or is salvation a decision that is made by one who understands what Christ has done for them and asks Christ to come into their hearts and to forgive them of their sins? Or could there be some truth to both of these viewpoints?
The "born again" debate is an area of Scripture of which the Catholics and the Baptists have had a major disagreement. It’s the issue of infant baptism vs. the believer’s water baptism by immersion. Which is correct? With infant baptism, salvation is a journey to holiness. This view would tend to put more emphasis on Jesus' words of the holiness that’s needed in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.
On the other hand, with immersion baptism, salvation is a "born again" decision or experience at the time when a person accepts Christ as their personal Savior. With immersion baptism, salvation is more of a decision than a journey. This view would tend to place more emphasis on Paul's free-grace verses than on the holiness verses of Jesus.
Augustine taught infant baptism. Luther was a big fan of Augustine. So the Protestant Reformation continued with the practice of infant baptism. Early on, Anabaptists were killed, by Protestants and Catholics alike, for their belief in immersion baptism. Today, Lutherans tend to hold a middle ground between Roman Catholics and Reformed Calvinists. On the other side of this issue, today Baptists and other Conservative Evangelicals place emphasis on missions and getting people saved. They tend to hold a "once saved always saved" view. Why is baptism such a divisive topic?
Barnabas (100 AD) spoke of baptism by water immersion (The Epistle of Barnabas, chapter XI). The early church fathers also seemed to interpret being born of water and of Spirit as water baptism. This included Justin Martyr (First Apology LX) and Irenaeus (Fragment XXXIV). In other words, they believed we are “born again” when we are baptized. By the time of Augustine, this had become infant baptism. Augustine wrote (Letter XCVII paragraph 2):
But the possibility of regeneration through the office rendered by the will of another, when the child is presented to receive the sacred rite, is the work exclusively of the Spirit by whom the child thus presented is regenerated. For it is not written, "Except a man be born again by the will of his parents, or by the faith of those presenting the child, or of those administering the ordinance," but, "Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit." By the water, therefore; which holds forth the sacrament of grace in its outward form, and by the Spirit who bestows the benefit of grace in its inward power, cancelling the bond of guilt, and restoring natural goodness [reconcilians bonum naturae], the man deriving his first birth originally from Adam alone, is regenerated in Christ alone. Now the regenerating Spirit is possessed in common both by the parents who present the child, and by the infant that is presented and is born again.
Notice the progression from Adam to Christ at the time of infancy. Could Augustine have been thinking of this verse?
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. (21) For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive . (23) But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ's, at his coming.
But I would argue that in context Paul is talking about the resurrection, not about a spiritual regeneration. The whole chapter is about the resurrection. One could argue that the death in Adam is a spiritual death, and thus all are made alive spiritually in Christ. But it's also just as valid to say that everyone will physically die because of Adam, and thus everyone will be physically resurrected because of Christ. That fits the context much better. But will everyone really be physically resurrected in Christ in the same way that everyone will physically die because of Adam? Protestant tradition says that only believers will be made alive at the resurrection. But the New Wine System says that everyone will be made alive. True, there are exceptions to the rule. The wicked will not be resurrected. And likewise, those alive in Christ at the time of Christ's return will not die. But as a general rule, everyone will be resurrected because of Christ's sacrifice just as everyone will die because of Adam's sin. So I believe that in context this verse is talking about the resurrection.
But Augustine probably believed 1 Corinthians 15:22 to be talking about a spiritual birth at the time of infant baptism. Likewise, Augustine believed that John 3:5-6 is also talking about infant baptism. But as we will see later in this chapter, I believe that 1 Corinthians 15:22 and John 3:5-6 are both talking about the physical resurrection. To be "born again" is not a spiritual regeneration at the time of infancy. Nor is it a spiritual regeneration at the time of a believer's faith in Christ. As we will see later in the chapter, to be "born again" is to be resurrected.
John 3:3, 5-6 ESV Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." ...(5) Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit .
But what happens to infants who die without being baptized? Many theorized a place called Limbo where infants would remain for eternity without growing up.
One issue that arises from the infant baptism view is who or what church organizations can perform the baptism? When the Protestant Reformation came along, Luther continued the practice of infant baptism. There was a need for Scriptural doctrine that would allow for infant baptism, and for the other ordnances, without the traditional Catholic Church being involved.
Therefore, the Reformed Covenantal System was put forth. This system states that Israel is all those who are in Christ, which is the spiritual one true Church. The new covenant is a continuation of the system of covenants in the Old Testament. The word “testament” means covenant. Older Bibles were divided into the Old Covenant and New Covenant sections.
Then it was observed that infant circumcision was the sign for being a part of God’s covenantal relationship with Israel. Therefore, it was reasoned, infant baptism should be the sign of God’s covenantal relationship under the new covenant. For the Reformation to work, the authority of the Catholic Church was replaced by the authority of the Covenantal System. Infant baptism became the sign of the new covenant. There is one verse that has been used to say that baptism is the new circumcision.
Colossians 2:11-13 in whom you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; (12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (13) You were dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. He made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.
One can make the case with this verse that baptism is the sign of the new covenant just as circumcision was the sign of the old covenant. John the Baptist was baptizing before the crucifixion, arguably under the old covenant. Nevertheless, baptism clearly took on the new meaning of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.
This verse doesn't explicitly state that baptism is the sign of the new covenant in the same way that circumcision is the sign of the old covenant. But many would see that it's strongly implied. One can then make the case that baptism should be for infants in the same way that circumcision was for infants. Or is this simply something that is being read into the verse to support a very strong tradition? We must all make up our own minds on that question. But there is a strong case for it.
The belief in infant baptism would be a hard tradition and belief to overcome. Parents would be terrified that their infant children might die and go to hell. Later, Baptists observed that in Scripture all occurrences of baptism were immersion in water by a believer. So they began to practice believer’s water baptism. And for infants, the concept of an age of accountability was developed, which is not found in Scripture.
Of course with the New Wine System, none of this is a problem. And there is no need for an infant Limbo. Infants were all reconciled to God, by the blood of Christ, before they were even born. Even infants can hear Christ’s voice. Infants grow up and continue to hear Christ’s voice. Any infant or child who dies young is simply resurrected to grow up in the millennium. Infants who die young do not go directly to heaven because no man (or infant) can come to the Father without first maturing in Jesus Christ.
As we have seen, the term “born again” traditionally means infant baptism. When the baby is sprinkled, he or she becomes a new creature. The original sin of Adam is removed.
Does this mean the baby is saved? Not under the Catholic system. Many Protestants are surprised to learn that to a Catholic, “born again” does not mean “saved.” Also, many Protestants are surprised to learn that salvation for Catholics is not by works. Salvation for Catholics is by faith through God’s grace.
The difference between the Catholic and Protestant systems is that Catholics are saved each time they confess their sins. Salvation is an ongoing process. Salvation is a journey. Salvation and sanctification are the same. You might ask a Catholic, “Are you saved?” He or she might answer, “No, but I will be.” There is truth in this view. We must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” (Phi. 2:12). It’s not so important where we begin on this path. The important thing is where we end up. Salvation is a journey, not a one-time decision.
A friend, while reading an earlier edition of this book, had a few comments to make. He wrote:
I was baptized as an infant, and after my "born again" experience in my late 20’s was baptized again as an adult. About a year later after gaining a greater understanding of God's grace, I came to realize my "real" baptism was my infant one. I came to understand that baptism is best understood as a picture of salvation which is best understood as God's commitment to me, not my commitment to God. This is a viewpoint that you will find common among Bible believing Lutherans. I was not raised Lutheran, but came to have a very high regard for the clarity of Law-Gospel in Lutheran theology.
Lutherans have held distinctly different positions from Calvinists for centuries and these are detailed in their confessions and creeds, particularly the Augsburg Confession. Lutherans have long held the middle ground between Reformed and Catholic theology.
This friend has realized in his own life that God has been working with him from infancy. Catholics and Lutherans experience this all the time.
The (Baptist) Conservative Evangelical has a very different meaning for the term “born again.” He or she believes we are born again when for the first time we confess our sins to Jesus, and ask Christ to save us. At this point in time we become new creatures. We are spiritually born again. Salvation and “born again” are equivalent. The born-again salvation experience happens only once. It’s the one-time baptism of the Spirit. Later, there can be many occasions for a renewing of the Spirit, or being filled again with the Spirit. Much more emphasis tends to be placed on the need for that first-time born-again experience.
When do we receive the Holy Spirit? If infant baptism is being born of water and of Spirit, then the infant, at the time of the sprinkling, receives the Holy Spirit. If the Conservative Evangelical is correct, then we receive the Holy Spirit when we make our first profession of faith.
How does the Evangelical interpret being “born of water and of Spirit” (John 3:5)? What is the water? Many Evangelicals tend to spiritualize the water, saying it’s cleansing or perhaps hearing of God’s word. Usually, anything that is not understood or does not fit one’s system is spiritualized. However, I believe the best answer is to say the water is our literal physical (flesh) birth from the womb of our mothers. Consider the following parallelism in the text.
John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit , he can't enter into the Kingdom of God! (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
In other words, the water is in reference to the mother’s water breaking right before she gives birth. There is nothing in the context of the passage to suggest baptism.
The Evangelical understands the term “born again” to be the same as salvation. However, salvation should be viewed as a continual process. We were saved (Rom 8:24), we are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18), and we will be saved (Rom 5:10). Salvation must include reconciliation, justification, sanctification, and finally the glorification of our bodies. Reconciliation is what Christ did on the cross for everyone. Justification means to be declared righteous (credited with righteousness), by faith. Sanctification is the journey towards that righteousness. Glorification of our bodies is to receive eternal life spiritual bodes. This cannot happen until we are entirely sanctified. When we start viewing salvation as a "born again" event, other than the event of spiritual bodies, we get into trouble. Salvation should be thought of as a road. We are on a journey of righteousness to complete holiness. The end of the road is eternal life. So the entire road can be considered the process of salvation, which is to receive eternal life. We are “born again” into spiritual bodies at the end of the journey.
It’s hard to view the term “born again” as a continual process. And Evangelicals do not. Evangelicals understand there is a sanctification process that continues. However, the Evangelicals mostly view one’s initial decision for Christ as being born again and salvation. Very rarely does the Evangelical ask, “Are you being saved?” Or, “will you be saved?” The Evangelical would never ask, “Are you being born again?” The Evangelical asks, “When were you saved?” Or, "When were you born again?" Many of us have the date of our salvation and the date of our baptism written in our Bibles. Often, very little emphasis is placed on our continual path towards salvation. Basically, it’s “once saved always saved.” For many, this removes much of the importance for our continued walk.
Jewish eschatology provides Scriptural evidence that children who die young do not go to hell. Solved by applying Old Testament Jewish eschatology to the New Testament Church.
In section 3.1 (above), we talked about Augustine’s view of infant baptism. He based infant baptism on John 3:5.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit, he can't enter into the Kingdom of God!
Augustine associated the original birth with Adam and the second birth of being “born again,” in infant baptism, with Christ. He wrote, “The man deriving his first birth originally from Adam alone, is regenerated in Christ alone,” as quoted in section 3.1 above. This developed into the Catholic belief that infant baptism removes the original sin of Adam. We also considered a Protestant view of John 3:5, which is to say the water is not baptism. It’s representative of the physical birth. Just before we are physically born, the mother’s water breaks.
Here again is the verse in 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 that relates to Christ being the second Adam.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. (21) For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. (22) For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive . (23) But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ's, at his coming.
I would argue that in context Paul is talking about the resurrection, not about a spiritual regeneration. The whole chapter is about the resurrection. To dig deeper, we also need to look at Romans 5. In this chapter Paul talks more about Christ being the second Adam. As we will see, there is nothing about baptism. However, there is a lot about the reversal of Adam’s original sin for everyone. Thus, the truth hides in the middle between the Catholics and the Protestants.
Romans 5:10-12 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we will be saved by his life. (11) Not only so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (12) Therefore, as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; and so death passed to all men, because all sinned.
While we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son. Everyone has been an enemy of God because everyone has sinned. Thus, everyone has been reconciled to God through the death of his Son. Again, this is while we were enemies. Everyone is reconciled because of Christ’s death. But only the believers are justified by faith. Our sins are forgiven only when we become believers. Is this splitting hairs?
No, because Adam’s original sin is removed for everyone, not just for infants who are baptized. The wages of sin is death for everyone because of Adam. But since everyone has been reconciled, everyone can be resurrected and live in the nations during Christ’s reign. Again, since everyone was an enemy, everyone was reconciled, and thus everyone “will be saved by his life” (verse 10). To be saved means one is saved from death. It means one is resurrected. Jesus paid the price (ransom) for everyone to be able to live under his kingdom and thus have the opportunity to have faith in Christ for eternal life. Next, Paul outlines a few differences between Adam’s one sin and Christ’s one act of righteousness.
Romans 5:15-17 But the free gift isn't like the trespass. For if by the trespass of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God, and the gift by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. (16) The gift is not as through one who sinned: for the judgment came by one to condemnation, but the free gift came of many trespasses to justification. (17) For if by the trespass of the one, death reigned through the one; so much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousnessreign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.
Everyone was condemned by the sin of Adam, because we were all born with a sinful nature. The free gift is that “those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness [will] reign in life through the one, Jesus Christ.” In other words, only those who have faith in Christ will receive this abundance of grace to become righteous. Everyone is reconciled. But not everyone becomes righteous. Everyone can be resurrected. But not everyone receives eternal life.
Romans 5:18 So then as through one trespass, all men were condemned; even so through one act of righteousness , all men were justified to life.
“All men were justified to life.” This doesn’t mean that all men are made righteous. In other words, not everyone will accept Christ and have faith in Christ. But “all men were justified to life” by the cross. The ESV translates it as “one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” The translators included the verb “leads to.” But that verb is not in the Greek. The translators have a bias that says not everyone will be given life. But that’s a bias of the translators based on their personal doctrines. The truth of the matter is that Christ’s one act of righteousness, the cross, brought a justification for everyone and everyone will be given life. Everyone will be resurrected. Of course there are exceptions to this rule. But it’s a resurrection of both the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15).
Romans 5:19-21 For as through the one man's disobedience many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one, many will be made righteous. (20) The law came in besides, that the trespass might abound; but where sin abounded, grace abounded more exceedingly; (21) that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Paul has been using parallelism. He draws the parallel between Adam and Christ, making Christ be the second Adam. In verse 19 (above), Paul continues his parallelism. “Many, [but not all,] will be made righteous.” This is in a parallelism with “many were made sinners.” Of course everyone was made a sinner. Paul is doing a play on words for the sake of the parallelism. One could argue that those who are made righteous are treated by God as if they were never sinners. The important point to see is that “all men were justified to life.”
All men were “justified to life” while we were still Christ’s enemies. In other words, before we were even born we were “justified to life.” The original sin has been removed for everyone. This means that infant baptism is not necessary. Everyone still has a sinful nature because of Adam’s sin. But no one has the penalty of death because of Adam’s sin. Everyone has be ransomed. That’s why Christ is the second Adam.
1 Timothy 2:3-6 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; (4) who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth. (5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (6) who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;
The New Wine System is entirely formulated using Scripture alone. And with the New Wine System, there is no need to add patches to the system in order to make it work. There is no need for purgatory, limbo, born again infant baptism, infant baptism as a sign of the new covenant, or an age of accountability. No man, not even infants and the mentally ill, can come to the Father except through Jesus Christ. An infant who dies is simply resurrected in the millennium. People with a mental illness that prevents them from understanding about Christ will simply be resurrected in the millennium.
But does the New Wine System require the elimination of infant baptism? No, because infant baptism can be seen as a symbol of the journey of righteousness that the parent intends to instigate in the child. Infant baptism should be seen as a dedication by the parents to help the child as he or she grows in the building of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It's a dedication to teach the child about Jesus and to help the child grow and understand about God. Then, perhaps, believer's immersion can also be included later on when the person grows to the point of taking on that responsibility for themselves. Ok, then what does Scripture say about being born again?
What most people miss about the born again passage is that Jesus indicates that being born again is a concept from the Old Testament. If possible, it’s always best to interpret the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament. This is necessary when following the hermeneutic of progressive revelation.
In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. Nicodemus didn't understand how he could go back into his mother's womb. "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things?" (John 3:10) Jesus was being kind to Nicodemus. He wasn't being sarcastic. Jesus was speaking of Old Testament Scripture about being born again, which Nicodemus was not recalling. Does the average Christian know where in the Old Testament it talks about being born again? Jesus was talking about the earth giving birth to her dead (Isaiah 26:16-21). In other words, at the resurrection we will be "born again."
We will be literally “born again” at the resurrection. But this is not to deny our spiritual “born again” experiences as we journey down that road. It’s like the word “salvation.” We were saved (Rom. 8:24), we are being saved (1 Cor. 1:18), and in the future we will be literally saved (Rom. 5:10) from sin and death at the resurrection. We were figuratively “born again” when we accepted Christ and received the Holy Spirit. With the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we become new creatures. All our past, present, and future sins are forgiven when we become believers. But in the future, we will be physically and literally born again at the time of the resurrection. We will literally be born into new bodies.
The term “born,” for a new spiritual birth, is used by New Testament writers in 1 Cor. 15:8, Gal. 4:29 1 Peter 1:3, 1:23 and 1 John 3:9. Paul said we become “new creatures” (Gal. 6:15, 2 Cor. 5:17) and “new selves” (Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24) in reference to our salvation experience. So Jesus was indirectly speaking about the road of righteousness. But more directly Jesus was speaking about the end of that road, at the resurrection, when we are literally saved from sin and death.
Nicodemus didn’t immediately connect the term “born again” to the resurrection. But Nicodemus was probably aware of the passage in Isaiah. It’s one of the few passages in the Old Testament on the resurrection. Nicodemus was a Pharisee. The debate of that time between the Pharisees and the Sadducees was whether or not there will be a resurrection. So Nicodemus probably was just not used to having the term “born again” used in reference to the resurrection. However, the term “born again” is quite appropriate for the verse.
Isaiah 26:17 speaks of a woman with child, about to give birth, who cries out in her pain. Isaiah compares this with Israel, whose task it was to bring salvation from sin and death into the world. But Israel only brings birth to wind (verse 18). Yet Isaiah prophesies (verse 19) that the dead will live. Their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy. The earth will give birth to her dead.
Then, in the next two verses, and into the next chapter, Isaiah speaks of the wrath of God. So the wrath of God immediately follows the resurrection. Also, notice that the context of these verses is “salvation to the earth … to the people of the world.” The resurrection is not just for Israel. It’s not just for the chosen. It’s for the entire world. From the Jewish perspective, this is a resurrection for both Israel and for the nations. These verses in Isaiah about the resurrection do not distinguish the righteous from the unrighteous.
In the Old Testament, both the righteous and the unrighteous die and remain in Sheol (Hades). In the New Testament, Gehenna was introduced, and the idea of going to Paradise was introduced. But in Old Testament times, no real distinction was made between the just and the unjust. Everyone went to Sheol when they died. Let’s be sure to read Isaiah 26:16-21 the way ancient Jews would have read it. At the resurrection, the majority of everyone who has ever died will be raised (John 5:28-29). But as we have seen, the truly evil (wicked) people, and those who will have taken the mark of the beast, will not be raised. They will not be raised because they choose to become enemies of God and thus they reject Christ’s salvation.
Let's look back again at what Jesus said in the context of Isaiah 26. It's "salvation to the earth ...to the people of the world."
John 3:5-6 Jesus answered, "Most certainly I tell you, unless one is born of water and spirit , he can't enter into the Kingdom of God! (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
At the resurrection, there will be two types of people raised. The wise will be raised with spiritual bodies, born of the Spirit. The foolish will be raised with natural bodies of flesh, which in nature are born of water. Both resurrections are new bodies and thus technically they are both born again. But in order to actually enter the kingdom, you must have a spiritual body.
John 3:5-6 says, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and of Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." So you have to have a spiritual body in order to “enter” the literal and natural kingdom of God.
John 3:3-5 ESV Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (4) Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (5) Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
What is the kingdom of God in this context? During the millennium, there will be sinners who reject Christ’s reign. This is apparent because when Satan is released, at the end of the millennium, many people will follow Satan and they will march against Jerusalem. Yet, the millennium is Christ’s reign. This presents a big problem for millennialists, those who believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ. Is not Christ’s reign the “kingdom of God?”
Nobody can “see” or “enter” the kingdom of God without being born again. Yet, during the millennium, there will be sinners in the kingdom of God who will reject Christ's salvation. Would not Nicodemus have understood the “kingdom of God” to be the Messianic reign? Christ’s reign will extend all over the world. Therefore, the entire world will be the “kingdom of God.” We should interpret Christ’s words in the context of how Christ’s audience (Nicodemus) would have understood. There will be sinners, who will march against Jerusalem and against Christ, living on earth during the Messianic reign. Yet they will see and enter the kingdom of God, here on earth.
Apparently, we must make a distinction between the kingdom on earth, and the kingdom in heaven, even during Christ’s reign. Those on earth that do not have spiritual bodies will not be able to “enter” the kingdom of God in heaven. But they probably will be able to see it from the outside. Unless one adheres to amillennialism, the only way to solve this problem is for Paradise, the New Jerusalem, to be in close proximity to the earth during the millennium. My guess is that it will be in orbit around the earth. All the people of the earth will be able to see the outside of it from here on earth. But only those literally “born again” of the Spirit, having received spiritual bodies, will be able to “enter” the kingdom and “see” it from the inside. Perhaps, however, we will be able to take pictures!
John 3:8 says, "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." Taken literally, if you have a spiritual body you can literally "come and go like the wind,” so that no one can tell where you come from or where you are going. Jesus demonstrated this after His resurrection with his spiritual body when he appeared in the middle of the locked room. So, literally speaking, this verse is a description of spiritual bodies. But figuratively speaking, this verse can be interpreted to mean the Holy Spirit leads us in ways that others don't understand.
John 3:12 says, "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?" If the things Jesus told Nicodemus are only about a heavenly “born again” experience when we accept Christ, then what are the earthly things of which Jesus was speaking? Instead, the "born again" event is an earthly thing that Nicodemus did not believe. The earthly things are about the literal kingdom of God that will come, and the literal "born again" event when the earth gives birth to the dead.
The heavenly things are the spiritual aspects of what it takes to walk the path of righteousness. But even though the heavenly aspects of becoming a “new creature,” or a “new self,” can be seen in the passage, the things Jesus told Nicodemus up to this point are only earthly things, according to this verse. So Jesus is really focusing on the earthly resurrection that comes on the “last day,” before the literal and earthly kingdom of God.
Jesus spoke of “seeing” the kingdom only this one time in John chapter 3, which is the main chapter that evangelicals use. It’s the chapter in which Jesus said that if you believe on Him, then you will have everlasting life (John 3:16). Elsewhere, Jesus spoke often of “entering” the kingdom. Jesus spoke of “inheriting” the kingdom only once, in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:34).
Paul, however, never mentions “entering” the kingdom. Paul seems to have preferred the term "inheriting" the kingdom over “entering” the kingdom. The word “inherit” much more relates to Israel “inheriting” the promise of Abraham. In other words, “inheriting” the kingdom is much more suggestive of the exclusive relationship that Israel believed they had with God. The word “inherit” seems to make more of a distinction between Israel and the nations. Perhaps that’s because Paul’s audience was mostly Gentile, and he wanted them to believe they are a part of true Israel. Jesus was addressing Jewish people who believed that anyway. In any case, Paul never speaks of “entering” the kingdom.
Let's do a survey of verses where Christ speaks of entering the kingdom. We will also include Paul's words about inheriting the kingdom. As we will see, most of these verses require a large journey toward holiness in order to enter or inherit the kingdom. Will this study say that you must overcome sin before you die in order to avoid the punishment of hell? A study of what Christ said about entering the kingdom, ignoring Paul's words, would seem to indicate this is the case. It's only through Paul's words that we find a gospel of Grace, which depends solely on faith in Christ's salvation, in order to avoid the punishment of hell. Did Jesus and Paul teach different gospels? Did Jesus teach salvation by works while Paul taught salvation by faith alone?
Jesus told believers to seek the kingdom of God and righteousness.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, there is no way you will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 19:23-24 Jesus said to his disciples, "Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. (24) Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."
Matthew 21:31 Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said to him, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Most certainly I tell you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering into the Kingdom of God before you.
Matthew 23:14 "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you don't enter in yourselves, neither do you allow those who are entering in to enter.
Acts 14:21-22 When they had preached the Good News to that city, and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, (22) confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many afflictions we must enter into the Kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Or don't you know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, (10) nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor slanderers, nor extortioners, will inherit the Kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 15:50 Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood can't inherit the Kingdom of God; neither does corruption inherit incorruption.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, (21) envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Under a two-type system of heaven or hell when you die, these verses (above) would say you have to overcome sin in order to enter heaven and be saved. Under the three-type New Wine System, these verses would only be talking about the foolish becoming wise by overcoming sin and maturing in righteousness.
However, what about the following verse? Would it be saying that if you don't overcome sin before you die, that you will go to hell?
Mark 9:47 If your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out. It is better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire,
If death is the end of the journey, then such would be the only conclusion. If you are continuing to sin, you should pluck your eye out. Or perhaps you could sidestep the verse by inventing two types of sin. But Scripture does not teach two types of sin. In order for the New Wine System to work, entering the kingdom must be entering the New Jerusalem in heaven. And some people will need longer than this age to complete the journey.
But it's clear that Jesus was placing much more emphasis on becoming holy in order to enter the kingdom (New Jerusalem), whereas Paul taught that we are all on that journey of righteousness, and that salvation is by faith. Jesus seemed to be saying that the alternative is the punishment of hell. But the message of hell was directed primarily at the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. They were in danger of losing their reconciliation by deliberately rejecting Christ. Paul, on the other hand, was talking to people who had no knowledge of Christ and therefore could not deliberately become Christ’s enemy. Most of Paul’s audience was not in danger of committing the unpardonable sin. Paul's message was to build the body of believers, whereas Jesus' message was to build the holiness that is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven, which is the New Jerusalem.
The difference between Jesus and Paul is that Jesus is the Messiah and Paul is simply a witness of the Messiah. Jesus is the King. It’s one thing to refute and disbelieve a witness of the King. It’s quite another thing to refute and disbelieve the King himself. Also, Jesus performed many more miracles than Paul, and the miracles of Jesus were much more public. Attributing the miracles of the Holy Spirit to Beelzebub is unpardonable. While Jesus preached, the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand because Jesus is the King. After Jesus arose and ascended to heaven, the earthly Kingdom of Heaven was no longer at hand. It would have to await the second coming.
Assuming death is not the end of the journey, what will be the message when Christ returns? The message will be more like that of Jesus and less like that of Paul. The message will be that you must overcome sin in order to enter the New Jerusalem. If not, you will die the second death and wind up in the lake of fire. In other words, with the literal kingdom present, with the King of Kings physically present here on the earth, the emphasis of the message becomes that of holiness. When the kingdom is in our hearts, but is not yet in the world, the message is to have faith in Christ for salvation, and to build the body of believers.
In the age to come, holiness becomes more and more the way to avoid the lake of fire. When the King of Kings was physically here, the literal earthly kingdom was forcefully advancing (Mat. 11:12). The earthly kingdom was much more at-hand. But the Jewish leaders were not ready to reign with Christ. When Israel rejected the Messiah, the earthly kingdom was delayed until a time when Christ would have people from every nation, tribe, people, and language who will have overcome sin in order to reign with Christ. Today, the kingdom is in our hearts and we await the age to come. When Christ was physically here, the message was the same as it will be when Christ returns.
Let’s go back and review again the “born again” symbolism that begins with Isaiah 26:17-21. Verse 19 (NIV) says, “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You, who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy.” This is the resurrection. Verse 17 speaks of the woman with child who is about to give birth. She cries out in pain. Verse 19 says, “The earth will give birth to her dead.” In verses 17 and 18, Isaiah compares the woman to Israel. So the woman is Israel. But he says Israel cried out in the pain of childbirth, and was only able to give birth to wind. Giving birth to wind means exactly what you visualize when you think about it. Isaiah is a book of poetry. Giving birth to wind is a poetic way of saying Israel gave birth to nothing.
Isaiah 26:17-19 ESV Like a pregnant woman who writhes and cries out in her pangs when she is near to giving birth, so were we because of you, O LORD; (18) we were pregnant, we writhed, but we have given birth to wind. We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth, and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen. (19) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead.
Of course we know that through Christ, the woman (Israel) will bring salvation to the earth. In this poetic analogy, it’s the earth, or the Creation that brings this birth. In reality the Holy Spirit will give birth to the dead. But in a poetic way, Isaiah is showing that this will be like a new act of Creation.
The same symbolism can be found in Isaiah 66. Don’t miss the pregnant-woman symbolism, which indicates this verse is talking about the resurrection. Also, don’t miss the resurrection of Christ. Compare this with the woman who is about to give birth in Revelation 12.
Isaiah 66:7-9 NIV "Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. (8) Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. (9) Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?" says the LORD. "Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?" says your God.
Zion (or Israel) is in labor. So the woman is Israel. Before the birth pains, she brings forth a male son. This is Christ. Christ is the firstborn of Israel (Rom 8:29, Col 1:18, Heb 1:6, 11:28, 12:23, Rev 1:5). According to this verse, Christ was resurrected into a spiritual body long before the birth pains of the woman. It’s interesting that Luke 2:7 and 2:23 brings out the fact that Jesus was the firstborn of Mary. Jesus is the firstborn of Mary in his original physical body, and is the firstborn of Israel in his spiritual body.
In the end-times, the birth pains appear as a sign of Christ’s return. The birth will come forth in a single day. In “one day,” those who are dead in Christ will rise into a spiritual body, and those who are still alive will be changed into spiritual bodies. This is the new birth. Notice also that the “earth [is] caused to bring fourth in one day.” This is like the earth giving birth to her dead in Isaiah 26:17-21. The new birth is a new creation.
If we are spiritually born again, we are new creatures (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 6:15). Some translations say we are new creations. The Greek word is the same as in Mark 10:6, 13:19, Rom 1:20, 2 Peter 3:4, and Rev 3:14. It’s the same word as God’s Creation. We are new creatures from the perspective that our hearts are being changed. But this is in preparation for us literally becoming new creations in new spiritual bodies. In this we see the tie back to the verses in Isaiah. When we are resurrected, or when we are changed to new spiritual bodies, it’s an act of a new creation. The earth gives birth to her dead.
In Matthew 24:7-8, Jesus again uses the symbol of the woman in labor. He begins to give the signs of his return. He said, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” When Christ returns, the resurrection occurs. The earth will give birth to her dead. This is a tie back to Isaiah. It’s interesting to note how Jesus ties the birth pains to earthquakes. This idea is that the earth itself groans and is about to give birth.
In Romans 8:18-25, Paul relates the groaning of the Creation to the redemption of our bodies. This passage is talking about the time when the curse will be removed from the Creation, and when we will receive spiritual bodies. We are not actually "revealed" as sons of God until we receive spiritual bodies (Romans 8:16, 8:19, and 8:23). Those mature in Christ will become sons of God. This is literally fulfilled at the resurrection (Luke 20:36). We are literally “born again” by the Holy Spirit. So at that time, we become literal sons of God. This passage, like Isaiah 26:17-21, depicts the Creation as giving birth. In Isaiah, the “earth gives birth to her dead.” It all stems back to this original passage in Isaiah. What’s interesting about this passage is that Paul equates our bondage to decay with the Creation’s bondage to decay. The Creation was subjected to decay because of Adam. The Creation will be liberated due to Christ.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:3, Paul speaks about the Day of the Lord. He says the day will come upon people suddenly. They will be saying “peace and safety.” But sudden destruction will come on them, like the birth pains of a woman, and they will not escape. The Day of the Lord is the entire millennium. Paul is relating the coming of the Day of the Lord with the birth pains of the woman. The resurrection is on the “last day” before the “age to come.” Right up to this time, the people of the world will be “eating, drinking, and giving in marriage.” Then “sudden destruction” will come on them and they will not escape. Therefore, this reference to birth pains of a woman is a reference to the resurrection.
In Revelation 12:2, John speaks of the woman who is about to give birth. Back in Isaiah 66:7-9, quoted earlier, we saw that the woman has already given birth to her firstborn, which is Christ. Likewise, in Revelation 12:4-5, we see the birth of Christ. These verses certainly seem to suggest the birth being spoken of is Christ’s physical birth, with the woman being Mary. The story of Herod killing all the children in Bethlehem would seem to be an aspect of these verses. But is the woman Mary? In verse 17, we see that the dragon went to make war against the rest of her offspring, those who obey God’s commandments and who hold the testimony of Jesus. Are we all Mary’s offspring?
Catholics may believe that Mary is our mother. But verse 1 says the “woman [is] clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.” This is from Joseph’s dream (Gen 37:9). The twelve stars are the twelve tribes of Israel. So the woman is Israel. The Israel gives birth to Christ as firstborn. This is Christ’s resurrection. Then she gives birth to many of his brothers (Rom 8:29). This parallels the woman in Isaiah 66:7-9, quoted earlier.
The woman is also identified as Israel back in the original passage of Isaiah 26:16-21. Verse 18 says, “We were with child, we writhed in pain, but we gave birth to wind. We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world.” In other words, the purpose of Israel is to give birth to the people of the world. But Israel herself had only given birth to wind (nothing.) The true Church is the true Israel. In the millennium, true Israel will be “born again” into spiritual bodies and will lead many in the nations to righteousness. Thus, Israel will give birth to the world in the millennium.
Christ is the firstborn from the dead. If the term "born again" is to be interpreted literally, and refers to the resurrection, then "first born" would mean the first to be resurrected. Christ was not the first person to be brought back from the dead. Lazarus was brought back from the dead. But Lazarus still had his same body. So you could not characterize the resurrection of Lazarus as a literal birth. However, Christ received a new body that can live forever. So the resurrection of Christ was literally a birth. Christ was the first to receive a new spiritual body. Thus, Christ was the first person from the dead who was "born again." Both Paul and John tell us that Christ is the firstborn from the dead.
Colossians 1:18 He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead ; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
Revelation 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood;
Also, consider the fact that we will also be "born again," and thus we will all be younger brothers of Christ. Even Christ's father David will be his younger brother after the resurrection.
Romans 8:29 For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Our new spiritual bodies will be born entirely from the Holy Spirit. That means we will no longer have the bodies of flesh that we received from our natural parents. We will have new spiritual bodies from the Holy Spirit. Thus, God will be our literal Father, not just our spiritual Father. And Christ will be our oldest "brother."
When it's understood that Christ is the firstborn from the grave, there is new understanding as to why Christ is the "Son of God." It's true that Christ was born of a virgin, and thus his biological Father is the Holy Spirit. This makes Christ be the Son of God in one sense. But the primary reason for Christ being the Son of God is the resurrection. Consider these verses in Hebrews.
Hebrews 1:5-8 For to which of the angels did he say at any time, "You are my Son. Today have I become your father?" and again, "I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son?" (6) Again, when he brings in the firstborn into the world he says, "Let all the angels of God worship him." (7) Of the angels he says, "Who makes his angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire." (8) But of the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your Kingdom .
These verses in Hebrews contain several quotes from the Old Testament. They are all in context of the coming Messiah.
Psalms 2:6-8 "Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion." (7) I will tell of the decree. Yahweh said to me, "You are my son. TodayI have become your father . (8) Ask of me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession.
Why did Christ become the Son of God "Today?" Was not Christ always the Son of God? The emphasis here is on the coming kingdom, when Israel will rule the nations. Christ became God's Son when Christ was "born again" into a Spiritual body. In this sense, Christ was the firstborn of God. And again, this verse in Hebrews states that Christ is the firstborn. So in that context, Christ is the firstborn of God. Again, as it says in Isaiah 26:19, "the earth will give birth to her dead." Before Israel was in labor she gave birth, as it says in Isaiah 66:7-9. Therefore, Christ is the firstborn of Israel. But there is another twist to all of this. Israel is the firstborn of God.
Exodus 4:22-26 You shall tell Pharaoh, 'Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my son, my firstborn, (23) and I have said to you, "Let my son go, that he may serve me;" and you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.' " (24) It happened on the way at a lodging place, that Yahweh met him and wanted to kill him. (25) Then Zipporah took a flint, and cut off the foreskin of her son, and cast it at his feet; and she said, "Surely you are a bridegroom of blood to me." (26) So he let him alone. Then she said, "You are a bridegroom of blood ," because of the circumcision.
Here we see all the connections. Israel is God's firstborn. But what does that mean? The purpose of Israel is to bring about the redemption of man and thus save us from the grave. This was seen back in Isaiah 26.
Remember that Isaiah 26:17 speaks of a woman with child, about to give birth, who cries out in her pain. Isaiah compares this with Israel, whose task it was to bring salvation from sin and death into the world. But Israel only brings birth to wind (verse 18). Yet Isaiah prophesies (verse 19) that the dead will live. Their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust wake up and shout for joy. The earth will give birth to her dead.
Christ is a "bridegroom of blood," giving his life for our sins. He is resurrected on the third day, and thus becomes the firstborn from the dead. He is the firstborn of Israel. And Israel is the firstborn of God. Therefore, all who are in Christ are in Israel, and Christ will become be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29, quoted above.) But at the same time, all who are in Israel are firstborn, because Israel is firstborn. This can be shown in Hebrews.
Hebrews 12:22-24 But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem , and to innumerable multitudes of angels, (23) to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, (24) to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel.
Christ is the firstborn of the God (Hebrews 1:5-8, quoted above.) And Israel is the firstborn of God (Exodus 4:22-26, quoted above.) Therefore, Christ is Israel. All who are in Christ are firstborn, and thus all who are in Christ are Israel.
The Messiah is Israel in the same way that the King can be considered the same as the Kingdom. All who are in the kingdom of Israel are firstborn. Thus all who are in Israel will be born again with Spiritual bodies so they can enter (or inherit) the kingdom. And that kingdom is the heavenly Jerusalem (Paradise) that will be in orbit around the earth when Christ, bringing the kingdom to the earth.
With all of Israel being the firstborn, and Israel ruling over the nations, it means that the people of the nations will also have the opportunity to become born again and inherit Spiritual bodies. The people of Israel are simply the first, after Christ, to become sons of God.
Romans 8:22-24 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (23) And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies . (24) For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
Jesus was the firstborn from the dead. Thus, Jesus was "born again" at the resurrection, on the third day. Jesus Christ is Israel. Therefore, Israel is also the firstborn from the dead. As we will see in section 3.11 below, the people of Israel, will also be "born again" on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
The Church does not replace Israel. Since Christ is Israel, all who are in Christ are in Israel. Gentiles are grafted into the vine of Israel, which is Christ. When Christ returns, he will reign over the nations. And those who are in Christ during this age will reign with Christ as priests and kings. Thus we are all Israel, whose purpose is to reign over the nations, bringing righteousness to the nations.
Today, we do not have many monarchies. We have systems of government in which there are high offices, such as president. But the president does not have absolute authority. So the president is not considered to be the same as the country. The congress makes the laws. But with a king, his word is the law. Thus, a king is not distinguished from the kingdom. The law of the government is the word of the king. When this is the case, the king can be considered to be the same as the kingdom. Christ Jesus is the King of the nation of Israel. The Messiah is Israel, which is simply a kingdom. But the kingdom of Israel is a special kingdom in that it will rule over all the nations of the world.
The fact that Christ is Israel makes several otherwise difficult verses easy to understand. In trying to show that Jesus is the Messiah, Matthew quoted Hosea.
Matthew 2:14-15 He arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt, (15) and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, "Out of Egypt I called my son."
Many theologians have pointed out that Hosea was talking about Israel, not the Messiah. And Hosea was talking about a past event. He was not prophesying a future event about the Messiah. Thus they considered Matthew to have interpreted Hosea's words very much out of context.
Hosea 11:1 "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.
However, when you realize that the Messiah is Israel, then Matthew's statement makes a lot more sense. If it was commonly understood that the Messiah and Israel are one and the same, then it would logically follow that because God had called Israel out of Egypt, then it would naturally follow that God had also called the Messiah out of Egypt. After all, how can you call a nation out of Egypt without calling its King out of Egypt? The fact that the King came out of Egypt many years later only shows that Israel is really God's work in progress. Israel itself is the promise of Abraham. Israel itself is a promise that God made through the covenants. Israel itself has not yet been fully birthed.
Israel is not simply a nation among nations. Israel is the nation that rules all other nations. And yet it's also recognized that Israel was once a slave to Egypt. The fact that Israel does not yet literally rule over all the nations does not matter to the Hebrew mindset. God has stated it. Therefore it will come about in the future, just as sure as anything that has happened in the past.
It's the same concept as being saved. We are saved from the grave. And yet literally, we still die. But we state we are saved in the past tense because God has paid the price and stated that we will be resurrected. In the Hebrew mindset, that which has not yet happened, but is sure to happen, can be stated in the past tense.
Romans 4:17-18 As it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations." This is in the presence of him whom he believed: God, who gives life to the dead, and calls the things that are not, as though they were. (18) Who in hope believed against hope, to the end that he might become a father of many nations, according to that which had been spoken, "So will your seed be."
Notice the past-tense verb of "I have made." God "calls the things that are not, as though they were." God also "gives life to the dead" (present tense.) And yet the resurrection is still in the future. We are saved, by God's word. And yet we still die. But by God's word we will be raised from the dead. So we are "saved" in the past tense.
Likewise, Israel is the nation that rules over all other nations. The Messiah is the King of Israel. It has not as yet been literally fulfilled. But we can say Christ is the King of all nations, and that Israel reigns with Christ. Likewise, Hosea could say, "When Israelwas a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt," and yet just as much be speaking about Christ being called out of Egypt in Hosea's future as the people of Israel in his past.
Many Christians today do not know where in the Old Testament it talks about the Messiah suffering, dying, and then being raised on the third day. But that's exactly what Jesus showed his disciples in the Scripture, after the resurrection.
Luke 24:44-46 He said to them, "This is what I told you, while I was still with you, that all things which are written in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me must be fulfilled." (45) Then he opened their minds, that they might understand the Scriptures. (46) He said to them, "Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day."
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures ,
The fact that the Messiah had to die for our sins can be argued from Isaiah 53. "But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed" (ESV Isaiah 53:5). (Notice the past-tense verbs?) But where in the Old Testament does it say the Messiah would rise from the dead on the third day?
Hosea 6:1-6 NIV "Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. (2) After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. (3) Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." (4) "What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. (5) Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you. (6) For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Is Hosea saying the Messiah will be restored on the third day? Or is he saying Israel will be restored on the third day? Literally speaking, Hosea is talking about Israel. But just as Hosea 11:1 can also be about the Messiah, Hosea 6 can also be about the Messiah. The Messiah is Israel because he is the King of Israel. Gentiles who are in the Messiah (Christ) are grafted into Israel, because Israel is the Messiah.
Just as God's firstborn son, Israel, was called out of Egypt, God's firstborn Son, the Messiah, was called out of Egypt. Likewise, just as Israel will be raised on the third day, the Messiah was raised on the third day. When it's understood that Israel is the Messiah, it's easy to see that this passage is talking about both. Israel, at the time of Moses, had to be called out of Egypt so that the Messiah could later be called out of Egypt. Likewise, the Messiah had to die and be raised on the third day in order that Israel can also be "torn to pieces" and raised on the third day.
How did the Jews interpret these "days?" Did they really believe they would be broken to pieces and then restored two 24-hour days later? Actually the Jews believed in the concept that with the Lord a day is a thousand years.
Ancient-text evidence for this is found in the Talmud Sanhedrin, Folio 97a. Here we find the millennial week itself. Here we see that the days of Psalm 90:4 are being interpreted as a literal thousand years. Also the days of Hosea 6:2 are being interpreted as a literal thousand years. Bottom line is that there was a strong association at that time with God's days being a literal thousand years.
R. Kattina said: Six thousand years shall the world exist, and one [thousand, the seventh], it shall be desolate, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. Abaye said: it will be desolate two [thousand], as it is said, After two days will he revive us: in the third day, he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.
It has been taught in accordance with R. Kattina: Just as the seventh year is one year of release in seven, so is the world: one thousand years out of seven shall be fallow, as it is written, And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day,' and it is further said, A Psalm and song for the Sabbath day, meaning the day that is altogether Sabbath — and it is also said, For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.
The Tanna debe Eliyyahu teaches: The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era.
Naturally, thinking the Messiah would come soon, they believed the Messianic Age would be the fifth and the sixth millennial days since Adam. Thus, the first and second day would have been two thousand years of the Torah (since Moses). However, the Messianic age was delayed because they failed to recognize Christ.
With this delay of the kingdom, the passage in Hosea 6 can just as easily be interpreted as two thousand years since the first coming of Christ. The Messiah was crucified and raised up on the third day. Likewise, Israel will be raised up on the third millennial day. Again, this just goes to show that the Messiah and Israel are the same. Therefore, Jesus could easily teach his disciples from the Scripture saying, "It is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:46, quoted above).
Luke 13:31-35 NIV At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." (32) He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' (33) In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! (34) "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (35) Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say , 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"
Was Jesus strictly talking about the crucifixion and this own resurrection? Or was he also talking about the resurrection of Israel? If this is only about the crucifixion, then why would the two days in the grave be referred to as "today and tomorrow?" And was Jesus really casting out demons and healing the sick during those two days? Yes, he was paying the price for this to happen. So figuratively, it was happening while Christ was in the grave. However, literally speaking, the demons have been cast out and the people have been healed of their diseases for the past two thousand years. Then, when Christ returns, he will reach his goal.
Also, notice the direct tie to the fact that Israel, as a nation, would be scattered. Israel's house (Jerusalem) was made desolate. And Christ will not return until the Jewish leaders say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord," thus recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. So again, this passage is talking about the two thousand years between Christ's first coming and the second coming. Christ was crucified and raised on the third day in order that Israel can also be raised on the third day. Gentiles, who are in Christ, are grafted into Israel, which is the Messiah.
With this understanding of Israel, we can understand a little about living under the law or living under grace as an heir of the kingdom. The word of a king is the law of the kingdom. The young son of a king, as he is growing up, must obey his father's laws just like any other person living in the kingdom. An immature son, even after growing up, does not earn the respect (favor/grace) of the king. So he remains under the law of the kingdom. But when the son matures, and is devoted to carrying out the wishes of his father the king, he is no longer under the strict rule of the law. He keeps the spirit of the law naturally. But his main purpose in living is to carry out the will of his father. He is no longer judged by the letter of the law.
Certain ordinances, which are designed to bring the people into obedience to the king, become unnecessary for the son of the king to keep. One can even argue that for the mature son to bother keeping these ordinances could even be a detriment to the son from simply doing the will of his father. The rules themselves become one's life, instead of the desire to please the father.
The love of the son for his father also becomes a love for the people of the kingdom, whom his father also loves. So the son's purpose in life becomes all about helping the people of his father's kingdom. At this point, the son is living under the respect/favor/grace of his father, and is no longer living under the law of his father. There is freedom from the law, but the love that brings that freedom compels the son to live a life that is not for self, but entirely motivated towards the good of the kingdom and its people.
Matthew 12:3-6 NIV He answered, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? (4) He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. (5) Or haven't you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent? (6) I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.
As far as grace is concerned, everything changed at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit now comes to all believers as we ask. This became possible become there is now one person who is qualified to fulfill the promise of Israel. Jesus is the king of Israel, so the kingdom of Israel now exists. After Christ's resurrection, Christ became the firstborn of Israel. And thus Israel is also the firstborn Son of God. The kingdom is here in our hearts. And it will be literally here in the world when Christ returns.
Jesus often spoke of what it takes to enter the kingdom. These teachings were always aspects of holiness. Paul preferred the term “inherit the kingdom.” Paul’s term can be easily understood in that Israel would inherit the promises of Abraham when the Messiah comes. Paul wanted Gentiles to understand that those who are in Christ will also inherit the promises of Abraham.
Jesus, on the other hand, more often used the term “enter the kingdom.” What does it mean to “enter the kingdom?” Traditionally, the terms “born again” and “enter the kingdom” have been understood to be spiritual terms. The kingdom is in our hearts, and we spiritually enter a spiritual kingdom. Traditionally, we are spiritually “born again” when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior (or when we are baptized as an infant.) Therefore, the traditional understanding of “entering the kingdom” would be along the same spiritual lines.
If, however, the term “born again” is to be interpreted more literally, and refers to the literal resurrection, then the term “enter the kingdom” should also be interpreted more literally. Also, note that we will literally “inherit the kingdom” when Christ returns. So what does it mean to literally “enter the kingdom”? Let’s take a look at Revelation.
In Revelation 21 and 22, we have the description of the New Jerusalem. Its shape is like a cube, with length, width, and height all being 12,000 stadia (Rev 21:16). There are 600 stadia in 1 degree of latitude at the equator. This works out to be 608.7 of our feet per stadia. (There were 600 Greek-feet in a stadium.) Using our measurement of feet and miles, the New Jerusalem is thus 12,000 x 608.7 / 5280 = 1383.41 miles (2226.26 km) on a side. This is huge.
Many scholars have not wanted to interpret this as being literal, because it’s too large for them to believe it would be literal. But nothing is impossible for God. The millennialists, on the other hand, have often interpreted this size to be literal. However, millennial traditions have placed the New Jerusalem as only appearing after the new heavens and the new earth, after the 1000 years.
Consider the possibility that the New Jerusalem may be seen during the millennial reign of Christ, or even before. Revelation 21:9 says the New Jerusalem is the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. Given this name and description, and given its tremendous size, would it not be the location of the wedding feast? The Bride becomes the Wife at the wedding feast. Therefore, the New Jerusalem should be here at least by the start of Christ’s earthly reign.
Revelation 21:9-10 ESV Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." (10) And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,
This verse sounds very much like the start of a new major part of Revelation. In other words, it should be the start of a new chapter. Compare this with verse 4:1, where John is told to “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” This verse towards the end of Revelation could easily be interpreted as a break from chronological events. Now consider this verse in John:
John 14:2-3 ESV In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
What kind of house has enough rooms for the entire wedding banquet of the Bride? The New Jerusalem is big enough to house billions of people. But no one who continues to sin will be able to enter.
Revelation 21:27 ESV But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life.
Revelation 22:14-15 Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city. (15) Outside are the dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
Many millennialists have wondered at the possibility of sinners that are outside the New Jerusalem. If this is after the Great White Throne Judgment, and after those not in the Book of Life have been cast into the lake of fire, then why would there still be sinners outside the New Jerusalem? However, this verse makes more sense if the New Jerusalem is to be here during the millennium.
This is what Jesus meant when he said you must be born of the Spirit in order to “enter” the kingdom of heaven. You must have a spiritual body in order to “enter” the New Jerusalem. Only the Bride of Christ will be able to enter.
However, those of the nations resurrected with natural bodies can still live on earth during the millennium. The New Jerusalem will simply be orbiting the earth. They will be able to see the outside of it, but they will not be able to “enter” it unless or until they mature in Christ and receive spiritual bodies.
Revelation 21:23-25 The city has no need for the sun, neither of the moon, to shine, for the very glory of God illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. (24) The nations will walk in its light. The kings of the earth bring the glory and honor of the nations into it. (25) Its gates will in no way be shut by day (for there will be no night there).
The New Jerusalem is a cube. Light will be inside the city. Being in orbit, there is no night. (Night occurs only on earth as the earth rotates.) The verse says, “By its light will the nations walk.” Old Jerusalem, on the earth will be capitol city of the world. But the home for the rulers of the world will be the New Jerusalem.
As Jesus says that he is coming quickly, and that his reward is with him.
Revelation 22:12 "Behold, I come quickly. My reward is with me, to repay to each man according to his work.
Why is the reward singular? If it's a different reward for each of us, according to our works, then would not the "reward" have been plural? To see the reward, look at the context. The reward, when Christ returns, is the New Jerusalem.
Each of the seven letters to the seven churches has a promise to those who overcome sin. Basically, each of these promises are various aspects of inheriting the kingdom. One of the promises mentions the New Jerusalem.
Revelation 3:11-12 I am coming quickly! Hold firmly that which you have, so that no one takes your crown. (12) He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God , the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.
This event, of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, is in the direct context of other events that are understood to happen at the time of Christ’s return. Our rewards are given to us when Christ returns. And Christ’s return is explicitly mentioned in these verses. The evidence would indicate, therefore, that this happens when Christ returns, not after the millennial reign.