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John 3:1-8 (YLT)

And there was a man of the Pharisees, Nicodemus his name, a ruler of the Jews, 2 this one came unto him by night, and said to him, `Rabbi, we have known that from God thou hast come -- a teacher, for no one these signs is able to do that thou dost, if God may not be with him.' 3 Jesus answered and said to him, `Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born from above, he is not able to see the reign of God;' 4 Nicodemus saith unto him, `How is a man able to be born, being old? is he able into the womb of his mother a second time to enter, and to be born?' 5 Jesus answered, `Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born of water, and the Spirit, he is not able to enter into the reign of God; 6 that which hath been born of the flesh is flesh, and that which hath been born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 `Thou mayest not wonder that I said to thee, It behoveth you to be born from above; 8 the Spirit where he willeth doth blow, and his voice thou dost hear, but thou hast not known whence he cometh, and whither he goeth; thus is every one who hath been born of the Spirit.'

1 Corinthians 15:39-54 (YLT)

39 All flesh [is] not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another of fishes, and another of birds; 40 and [there are] heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but one [is] the glory of the heavenly, and another that of the earthly; 41 one glory of sun, and another glory of moon, and another glory of stars, for star from star doth differ in glory. 42 So also [is] the rising again of the dead: it is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body; there is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body; 45 so also it hath been written, `The first man Adam became a living creature,' the last Adam [is] for a life-giving spirit, 46 but that which is spiritual [is] not first, but that which [was] natural, afterwards that which [is] spiritual. 47 The first man [is] out of the earth, earthy; the second man [is] the Lord out of heaven; 48 as [is] the earthy, such [are] also the earthy; and as [is] the heavenly, such [are] also the heavenly; 49 and, according as we did bear the image of the earthy, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly. 50 And this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood the reign of God is not able to inherit, nor doth the corruption inherit the incorruption; 51 lo, I tell you a secret; we indeed shall not all sleep, and we all shall be changed; 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, in the last trumpet, for it shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we -- we shall be changed: 53 for it behoveth this corruptible to put on incorruption, and this mortal to put on immortality; 54 and when this corruptible may have put on incorruption, and this mortal may have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the word that hath been written, `The Death was swallowed up -- to victory;

Notice the striking similarity between John 3:3 and 1 Corinthians 15:50:

  • Verily, verily, I say to thee, If any one may not be born from above, he is not able to see the reign of God (John 3:3)
  • And this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood the reign of God is not able to inherit, nor doth the corruption inherit the incorruption (1 Corinthians 15:50)

Question: Are Jesus (John 3:1-8) and Paul (1 Corinthians 15:39-54) describing the same event?

Or worded alternatively: Are we "born from above" in this life or at the resurrection?


Related: When does eternal life begin? When we believe in the Son (1 John 5:11-12, John 3:36, 5:24) or on Judgement Day (Matthew 25:31-46)?


Note: this (probably quite controversial) question has been inspired by:

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  • There is an old Christian saying - If you are born twice, you will only die once. If you are born once you will die twice.
    – Dottard
    Feb 22, 2022 at 10:33
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    @Dottard - does that old saying contemplate the possibility of losing one's salvation? In that case there would be two births and two deaths :-)
    – user38524
    Feb 22, 2022 at 11:09
  • Yes - you are quite correct!
    – Dottard
    Feb 22, 2022 at 20:44

2 Answers 2

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Yes and no, for John's Gospel speaks about regeneration in Spirit already in this life, whereas Paul speaks about the end-result of this regeneration, which is total vanquishing of corruption and death.

In fact, the second birth in Spirit does not denote immediately the Salvation and victory, but acquisition of power and authority over sin, demons and death, which means to have authority to become "son of God" (John 1:12). Now, one can use this authority, i.e. collaborate with Grace of God, or remain sterile and not use it, and if the latter is the case, such a Christian who is that only by name and not by deed (cf. 2 Tim. 3:5), in whom faith becomes dead due to his sluggishness and irresponsibility (James 2:26) and loving their own sinful delectations, which they consider as their life and soul, more than Christ (Luke 14:26), will not capture the citizenship of the Eternal Kingdom (Matthew 11:12) and will be punished even more than a similarly vile non-Christians would be for the same misdemeanor (Luke 12:47).

Paul however, speaks of victors, of practitioners of their faith, the collaborators of divine grace given to them till the victorious end - the vanquishing of sin and its consequence - death itself (Romans 5:12).

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  • Very good answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Feb 22, 2022 at 10:32
  • @Dottard thanks, your feedback is an encouragement for me Feb 22, 2022 at 10:47
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    But the second birth brings also a deposit guaranteeing one's inheritance, no? And Jesus will lose none of all that the Father gives him, yes? Feb 22, 2022 at 12:23
  • @MikeBorden I adhere to the tradition of the Eastern Church fathers in whose vision even a greatest ascetic and miracle worker can perish eternally if he abuses his free will; grace and chosenness do not abolish our horrible freedom and we can perish even after baptism or even after, as evangelicals like to say, “receiving Christ as personal Savior”. Christ received by us does not castrate our freedom, we can reject Him and apostasize even after a sincere conversion Feb 22, 2022 at 13:02
  • Are you afraid that you may apostasize? Feb 23, 2022 at 12:58
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Are Jesus (John 3:1-8) and Paul (1 Corinthians 15:39-54) describing the same event?

No.

In John 3, after Jesus mentions being born again, Nicodemus wonders about crawling back up inside a Mother's womb and Jesus contrasts the flesh and the spirit in the perfect tense of both (indicating a present account of a past action):

that which hath been (perfect tense) born of the flesh is flesh, and that which hath been (perfect tense) born of the Spirit is spirit.

And then a second time Jesus indicates that the spirit born are a present reality:

The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is (present tense) every one that is/has been (perfect tense) born of the Spirit.

Nicodemus cannot fathom how this can be and Jesus goes on to indicate that Nicodemus, as Israel's teacher, should already know these things:

Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

Thus, in John, Jesus' report of the new birth is not involving the flesh but is a present tense report of a past spiritual action.

The passage from 1 Corinthians 15 is entirely dealing with the fact and nature of the resurrection body:

But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

It is obvious that we have not yet received our resurrection bodies:

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

And also obvious that the new birth can be a present condition:

Being/having been (perfect tense) born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

The bodies that we have now are corruptible and cannot inherit the kingdom of God:

Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

And the entire context of 1 Corinthians 15 is concerning the fact of the resurrection of the body and the nature of that body for those who have already been born again.

These are not separate reports of the same thing. Flesh births flesh and spirit births spirit. We are born again in a natural body which will die and we will someday receive a spiritual body at the resurrection of the dead.

New Birth:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

Resurrection of the body:

Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

 

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    I like this answer also. +1.
    – Dottard
    Feb 22, 2022 at 10:32

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