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My question concerns two verses in John's Gospel. I'm using the English Standard Version here but I think the same question arises in other translations:

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” - John 3:3 (English Standard Version)

and

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. - John 3:5 (English Standard Version)

Often I have heard and assumed that being 'born again' is the same as being 'in' the kingdom of God. Is 'seeing' and 'entering' used as synonyms/interchangeable metaphors here, or are they clearly indicating different sorts of actions in relation to the Kingdom of God?

I was wondering if anyone more knowledgeable than I could give me some textual insight.

  • 2
    Welcome, and good question! Interestingly, the NA28 apparatus gives a text variant in v. 5: ἰδεῖν (to see) instead of εἰσελθεῖν εἰς (to enter into). The variant doesn't seem to be given much credence, so I'm guessing (?) it has been chalked up to a scribe harmonizing with v. 3. Apparently you're not the first to think it's odd! – Susan Sep 19 '14 at 0:58
  • @Susan - The Codex Sinaticus does affirm that John 3:3 and John 3:5, (codexsinaiticus.org) are using the same verb. So, perhaps there is more support for the textual variant issue. Also, if I remember correctly, the Syriac Peshitta affirms this. I think perhaps the Curetonian as well, (and the Armenian)? The point is: Because the textual variant issue is irreconcilable, I am not sure how helpful the doctrinal application can be. – elika kohen Jul 10 '17 at 2:48

12 Answers 12

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The two verses are parallel and complementary. That is, the context points to delivery from the kingdom of darkness, and in this respect one "sees" the Kingdom of God. In this regard, the Apostle Paul cited the words of Jesus, when he (Paul) was before King Agrippa:

Acts 26:15-18 (NASB)
15 And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’

The idea is that one leaves the dominion of Satan (darkness) and enters the dominion of God (light). That is, when one "enters" the kingdom of God (John 3:5), one "sees" the kingdom of God (John 3:3) because the transition is from darkness to light.

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The kingdom of God is defined in Romans 14:17.

17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (KJV)

To see or become aware of something is different from entering into that thing.

In this case, seeing equates to knowing what is right in any given situation and entering is doing what is right in that same situation (James 4:17).

This is similar to Titus 2:11 - God's grace has appeared to all men. However only those who choose to Humble themselves before God receive God's empowerment which enables them to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:11-12).

James 4:6 But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble." (NET)

  • Welcome to BH.SE! I'll format this answer the way the network does. It's an easy system once you get used to it. Please take the site tour to see how it works. Also, please check that my attempt to draw a clear line in the James 4:17 paragraph did not change your meaning. – Frank Luke Jul 12 '17 at 17:47
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The kingdom of God is entered through revelation. It is a deeper understanding of the authority of Christ over your life. Not all who confess Christ as savior or are born again live in the kingdom. This high realm of Christ's ruler ship is accompanied by a deep seeking what you have seen. (Matthew 6:33) You cannot seek something you do not see. Jesus said, when you find this field in which is the treasure of the kingdom, you will sell all you have and buy the field for it's treasure.

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In my opinion there is the difference between 'seeing' and 'entering it' and here is my logical explanation.

In example in:

2 Kings 6:17 (NIV):

And Elisha prayed, "Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

or: 2 Kings 2:11 (NIV):

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

we can clearly see that the heaven (angels and other deities) can be seen by other people without entering it and in 2:11 we have example of entering the heaven.

The heaven you can compare to parallel realm to ours but on higher density planes. In Kaballah it's called "World of Yetzirah", in Islam - Barzakh, some call it astral plane and scientists would call it the quantum mind/consciousness.

Therefore the kingdom of God (heaven) can be seen (by our spiritual eye), but to see or enter the heaven permanently you need to be born in the Spirit (or Life-force/Chi) again (so your old body dies and new one is born), so you can see parallel realms at the same time.

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IF the reading is the preferred reading then it could possibly be an allusion to Moses who died short of the promised rest along with his whole generation for beating a rock, that Paul says is Jesus. If so the sense would be "you won't even see it":

KVJ Deu 34:4  And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.  Deu 34:5  So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.  Deu 34:6  And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

It appears that To the Hebrews warns of the same fate:

Heb 4:1  Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.  Heb 4:2  For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.  Heb 4:3  For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

Paul says that apart from faith, all fall short:

Rom 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

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This means that once your born of water and the spirit you will enter into the kingdom of God then only then will you be able to see the kingdom . Otherwise you cannot see it from outside but need to do John 3v5 in order to see it John 3v3 . Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1v11 NLT). Jesus is inviting us to the second birth which is spiritual that is why He said that except a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. So now verse 20-One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, "When will the Kingdom of God come?" Jesus replied, "The Kingdom of God can't be detected by visible signs 21You won't be able to say, 'Here it is!' or 'It's over there!' For the Kingdom of God is already among you." - Luke 17:20-21 NLT

  • Welcome to BH.SE! We're a little different from other sites. Please take the site tour to see how. I'm not sure this addresses is "entering" and "seeing" the Kingdom are the same. Can you edit it to show how? – Frank Luke Jul 12 '17 at 17:43
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They mean the same thing, the same reality.

In Numbers both words are used interchangeably in Numbers 14:23 ("not one of them will ever see the land I promised in oath") and Numbers 14:30 ("not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand").

They are, thus, identical semantically in two ways:

  1. Linguistically, for "see" is used to signify not only physical beholding, but:

it is usual to use word "see" as "to get there", "enter there", or "come to there", as in expression, "long suffering Odysseus wanted to see his native Ithaca", or in 1 Peter 3:10 "whoever wants to see good days, let him abstain from evil tongue". In the first case Odysseus wants not to look at his native island, but to return there for good; and in the second case, Peter does not promise his reader just seeing good days as a neutral observer, but to live a good life.

  1. Expressing the same spiritual reality.

"Entering the Kingdom" and "Seeing the Kingdom" is one and the same thing, for this Kingdom is invisible and eternal, for as Paul says "We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for visible is temporal, but invisible - eternal" (2 Cor.4:18); now, how can one behold, or "fix eyes" on invisible? This oxymoron simply means that we also possess intellectual eyes that behold the invisible divine realities, that are imperishable. Exactly gathering those realities - love, wisdom, courage, mercifulness, in short, the gifts of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:20-23) is to establish the Kingdom of Heaven in us, through gathering and cultivating those treasures in our hearts, for "where is your treasure, there will be your heart" (Matt 6:21). However, how can we gather that which we do not see with eyes of our minds? Thus, seeing must precede and always accompany the gathering and cultivating of the gifts of the Spirit, which we can after having been born in the Spirit (John 3:3).

Thus, that in us that absorbs the spiritual gifts, the "inner man" (2 Cor. 4:16), or soul that unites the Lord, becomes one with the Spirit of Lord (1 Cor.6:17), and this Spirit will teach us, that is to say, give us vision of the eternal realities, for without Spirit it is not possible to see them. That is why Jesus says to His disciples that the Spirit will teach them the things they do not understand by their own unaided intellects (John 16:13).

Now, in the case of a physical vision, it is possible to see something from afar and not be there, for instance, if you see a beautiful lake but have to cross fields and mountains to get there, but in the case of the intellectual vision of invisible divine realities through the aid and enlightenment of the Spirit of God it is impossible to see and not have it, for there is nothing between the viewer and those eternal gifts revealed by the Spirit, for what you see in the light of the Spirit, that you also absorb and possess; to make perhaps a clarifying analogy: if one sees a funny point in a joke, he immediately laughs, for there is nothing between the vision of the funny point and the laughter (even if you intentionally suppress laughter for any reason, it still proves that the laughter has been there, for it should be/exist priorly in order to be suppressed); similarly, for instance, when you understand/view the divinity of Christ through the Spirit you also worship Him in praise, immediately calling Him "Lord Jesus"(1 Cor. 12:3), and when you worship God in Spirit, then you already are in His Kingdom, for what is the "entering of the Kingdom of Heaven" if not worshiping God in Spirit and Truth? (John 4:23).

Therefore, "seeing" and "entering" in this context denote the same spiritual reality.

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I agree with the fact that seeing and entering can be stages : So we see first and then we enter what we see through a choice but my focus if on the word born which link the two verses.

As long as we are born again we will both see the kingdom and enter for i don't believe we become born again to remain in this world. We are born again for a different place which is the kingdom and we get to enter as soon as we see.

As soon as Adam and Eve ate the apple their eyes were opened and they saw and entered the kingdom of darkness and as such we were all born into this dark world.

Our only hope is to be born again by the water of the word of the kingdom/truth and the Spirit of God.

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What matters is that one must be born again, worry not on the rest. Be born of water & of spirit as Jesus said then worry about what happens after. For what happens after you cannot know now as what happens now is what is needed for what is next.

  • Hello Joe, welcome to BHSE! If you have the time, make sure to take the tour, to get yourself familiar with this site, and to see how we are different than other sites or forums. Thanks! hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour – sara Aug 13 at 6:31
  • @Joe Please try to answer the questions by sharing some Biblical text &/or supporting documentation. Users here are from different religions and beliefs. Thanks. – John Martin Aug 13 at 19:32
  • sometimes questions cannot be answered by anything but direct experience, So if I were to do as you say I'd be wasting the mans time. For when you have been born again your question will be answered, and before that the question cannot be answered by anything but the experience. And thats actualy what the scripture of Jesus says if you read the versus. Jesus answered, "I am telling you the truth: no one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again. – Joe Aug 22 at 11:31
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[[Eph 1:18]] ASV having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, / This is something different than Job's statement in Job 42:5"now mine eye", etc.. and Rev. 1:7"every eye shall see him " /versus the work of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so to speak, based on a different covenant and different promises.. compare with John 8:56"Abraham rejoiced to see my day"...

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I'm adding something that is important. Seeing and entering the Kingdom can only be done in the "now". It is a traumatic experience, the 2nd spiritual birth, one that is incredible. One must look on the inside of oneself, and identify the thing that will never perish. Transitioning from the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God is a euphoric event, never to be forgotten, yet most people never find it because they didn't know to look for it. When one starts to look for the Kingdom, do not stop until one finds it.

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Let us start by Explaining "Where" the Kingdom is

nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21 NKJV)


So let us break down the Question**
How does one see what is inside of them? Or is it seeing what is inside someone else? You see what is inside someone else by being "Born of the Breath". When this occurs the truth can be seen through "Understanding". See?

How does one enter into what is already inside of them?

He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness. (Isaiah 57:2 NKJV)

So one "Enters into Peace"
When one is both "Born of the Breath" and "Drinking the Water of Words".

The Importance of Listening
Mar 4:3, Jhn 8:43, Mat 10:14, Mat 10:27, Mat 11:5, Mat 11:5, Mat 13:9, Mat 13:13-18, Mat 13:43, Mat 18:16, Mat 18:17, Mat 21:16, Mar 4:9, Mar 4:12, Mar 4:15-24, Mar 7:16, Mar 8:18, Plus more, just tired of looking them up.

  • Are you saying the kingdom isn't physical? It seems like luke 17:21 is the only verse people used to say that. It should be translated "in the midst of you " and "within you" , if you read a few verses after that you will see what is meant by "see here or see there". – diego b Jan 12 '18 at 21:28

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