So Nicodemus comes to see Jesus by night, to affirm Jesus’ ministry and declare his faith in Jesus as a God-sent teacher. Perhaps he came to hear in detail about Jesus’ teachings so he could determine for himself what to believe. I cannot tell. But I know he did come, and that he got no further on his mission than to approve of Jesus, based on the signs he saw. Jesus’ reply to him steered the rest of the discussion, in which Nicodemus’ speech was reduced to questions and his ignorance of spiritual things was clearly revealed by Jesus, who knew all things. Yet Nicodemus was a religious leader among his people. Thank God he was humble enough to come asking so he could hear the truth. And because of that, we now know those things which were spoken by the Lord Jesus in response to his inquisition.
Jesus’ first two statements revolved around his purpose for coming into the world – the kingdom of God. I call them “The Two Rules of Kingdom Exception”
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God”
“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God”
While Nicodemus ponders on the meaning of the first statement, Jesus quickly releases another one, that perhaps confuses him the more. The man is wondering, ‘How will a man be born the second time?’ But Jesus states the second rule instead of answering Nicodemus’ question. And then he goes on to explain more about what he is saying. I would like to look briefly at these two rules and their significance to us in this present age, as the world is coming to a close, as proven by the fulfillment of historical predictions by Jesus himself.
So, what is the kingdom of God? It is that realm (or location) over which God reigns as a king. In that realm, the word of God is law and his will is supreme, above all others. Is it a physical location? No, because God is not a physical being. He is a Spirit. Therefore his kingdom is spiritual. For example, heaven, where God dwells, is part of the kingdom of God. And like the ancient kings we read of in history, God wants to extend his kingdom from heaven to the earth. That was his original plan in sending Adam to be his ambassador on earth. But Adam failed, and sold out the kingdom to Satan through disobedience to God. But Jesus, through his obedience to God, has come to re-establish that plan on the earth.
However, to even be able to ‘see’ the kingdom of God, one has to be ‘born again’. What does it mean to ‘see’ the kingdom? It means to know, become aware and conscious of the lifestyle, standard and manner of operation of the kingdom as well as the power and authority that its citizens possess. In other words, to ‘see’ the kingdom means to know kingdom rights and privileges as well as kingdom code of conduct. What does it mean to be born again? It means to be born a second time! Yes! But this time, not to be born by a woman, but to be born by the Spirit (to be born anew inside). Just think of birth as a transition from one realm of existence to another, and being born again becomes easier to imagine. The human spirit (the real man) is transferred from one realm to another. Hence, the man has just been ‘born’ into this new realm. So naturally, like Nicodemus, my thinking is, ‘how can this be possible?’
To be born again is a concept that cannot be easily explained naturally, but can be compared to certain natural phenomena, such as birth. But to experience it is much simpler than to understand it. Since it is not natural, it cannot be felt either, but can be proven through experience. However, it is not subject to the scientific method of proving things. It is an experience that is obained by faith but which manifests in the natural. The evidence of the transformation that takes place inside is manifested outside, so that people will eventually know that such a person has been ‘born again’.
Now to the second rule: what does it mean to ‘enter’ into the kingdom of God? To ‘enter’ the kingdom means to gain access into the kingdom, to be accepted into or become a part of the kingdom. The implication is that one is recognised as a citizen of the kingdom due to his way of living, kingdom power and authority demonstrated, kingdom rights and privileges received as well as kingdom responsibilities discharged, especially as compared to one who does not belong to the kingdom. What does it mean to be born of water and the Spirit? I explained that to be born again is to be born of the Spirit, into a new spiritual realm, other than the one in which one previously existed. But this experience, from the first rule, is only sufficient to make one ‘see’ the kingdom. To ‘enter’ the kingdom, one has to be born of water and the Spirit.
Water, in this context, signifies cleansing, which is a critical use of water in the time of Jesus (especially in religious rites of worship). And the manner of cleansing implied here is not outward (external), but inward (internal). Hence, the tool for cleansing here, is not physical water, but spiritual water, which refers to the word of God. The Bible severally alludes to the word of God as having a cleansing effect. So it is not possible to enter the kingdom except one is born anew (by the Spirit of God) and cleansed inwardly (by the word of God). The implication of this is that those who are born of the Spirit, but are not cleansed by the word will se the kingdom but will be unable to enter into it. They will neither be qualified (due to uncleanness) nor enabled (due to weakness) to access the kingdom of God.
What is the significance of all this to us?. As this age approaches a close, God is actualising the plan to fill the heavens and the earth with his kingdom, and destroy whatever contradicts his kingdom in all of heaven and earth. To cross to God’s side and escape his judgment, one must become a part of his kingdom. And belonging to His kingdom attracts other present-day benefits that outweighs the cost. Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the door for all men to be born-again. The power that raised him from the dead is available for anyone who desires to be born-again, only on one condition: you must repent and believe. Anyone who repents from his sins, believes in Jesus and accepts him as Saviour and Lord with confession in his mouth is born-again. Very simple!
Man is at once spirit, soul and body. His spirit must be born again and his soul must be renewed by the word of God in order for him to be able to belong to and enjoy the benefits of God’s kingdom. Then his spirit and soul will be in agreement with God and his body will have no option but to be conformed to the kingdom. Thus, the man is delivered from destruction and translated into salvation, in this world and in the world to come! Amen.