The Soteriological and Eschatological Implications of Seeing the Kingdom and Being "Born Again/From Above" at Christ's Parousia in AD 70 – An Exegesis of (John 3:16)

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The Soteriological and Eschatological Implications of Seeing the Kingdom and Being Born Again at Christ’s Parousia in AD 70

My purpose in this article is twofold. First, I want to propose and defend that the Church (as God’s New Creation) was corporately born again at Christ’s parousia in AD 70. And secondly, it is my purpose to demonstrate that Christ laid His life down for the New Covenant/New Heavens and Earth “world” and that it is this world of believers that God alone willed not to perish in AD 70 and continues to will not to perish but have everlasting life.
One must be born again or born from above
Nicodemus, like so many of his day believed that when Messiah and His Kingdom would be manifest to Israel, that this would mean that the natural descendants of Abraham would be admitted with no or very little effort. However, here and in John 8 Jesus describes the teachers of the Law and the nation itself, as needing to be born again and set free from the bondage of sin. They were not “free” and entitled to Messiah’s Kingdom just because they were descendants of Abraham.
Under the Old Covenant, if a gentile proselyte desired to join the covenant community of Jehovah, he needed to repent from following his false gods, exercise faith in Jehovah, be circumcised, and be baptized with water. Upon believing and confessing that Jehovah alone was God and performing these outward covenant rituals (which outwardly pictured what was professed to have already taken place in the heart and mind), the gentile was said to be a “new creation” and born anew.
The Old Testament prophets foretold a second exodus, judgment, rebirth/resurrection of a nation, the sprinkling of water (baptism) by the Holy Spirit, and arrival of another New Creation as a result of the redemptive work of Messiah and His establishing the New Covenant (Psalm 87:4-6; Isa. 10-11, 44, 60-66; Eze. 11, 36-37). Nicodemus (a teacher of Israel) was as ignorant of what the Prophets had taught about these soteriological and eschatological events as those he sought to instruct. This was both an individual and corporate or covenantal re-birth that Jesus is discussing. Unfortunately, the Church has mostly emphasized the individual aspect of being born again and has not developed the corporate view of the Church being born again/raised from the dead. A few have seen the corporate aspect, but have failed to see that it was consummated at Christ’s return in AD 70 when Christ fulfilled all of Israel’s covenant promises.
Jesus’ Born Again experience and the Churches
In the book of Acts 13 we learn that Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was His born again experience:
“Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent…. But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings – that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus. As it is also written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’” (Acts 13:26, 30-32 quoting Ps. 2:7).
Futurist Derrick Olliff captures the essentially meaning of the text,
“Thus, Psalm 2 was not referring to the fact that the Son was “begotten of the Father before all worlds” as the Nicene Creed describes the second Person of the Trinity and His eternal generation from the Father. Instead, as the Psalm makes clear, the birth it mentions was the Messiah’s enthronement as King. Jesus was begotten from the dead by the Father and ascended to His right hand to reign. It was this foundational birth from above that then set the stage for the Spirit’s promised work. “Then 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, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.’” (Luke 24:46-49)
This is how Luke closed his Gospel account, and interestingly, he opened his “Acts” by describing the same promise.
“And being assembled together with them, [Jesus] commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, ‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” (Acts 1:4-8)
At last, the time had come. Fifty days after Jesus’ glorification, many Jews from all over the Roman Empire were in Jerusalem for Pentecost. “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind” (Acts 2:2). The Jews “were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4) and began to speak in other languages. Peter then explained that this was the “last days” effusion of the Spirit prophesied by the prophet Joel (Acts 2:14-21 quoting Joel 2:28-32). He then proclaimed that it was the resurrected Jesus who “poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:33). Many were convicted and they asked what they should do. Peter replied that they should “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38, 39)
This was the beginning of the rebirth that was promised by Ezekiel and described by Jesus. God had promised this water/Spirit resurrection of Israel, and on the Pentecost after Jesus’ glorification, He kept His word and began to breathe new life into Israel’s dry bones. The waters of baptism, quickened by the Holy Spirit, begot many faithful Jews into the kingdom of God by uniting them to the King and to His body (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 6:3-5; I Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26, 27). And throughout Acts, we are told of the effects of this event as the Pentecostal rebirth of Israel spread first to many Jews (“the promise is to you [Jews] and to your children”) and then on to the nations as the prophets had foretold (“the promise is to… all who are afar off”, e.g., Acts 10:44-47; 19:2-6).”[1] Although Jesus had come from heaven and was currently “in heaven” during His earthly ministry (cf. Jn. 3:13), He nevertheless needed to undergo the process of being born again for His posterity and brethren – the Church (Heb. 2, 12:23). At Christ’s resurrection, He became the Churches “firstborn” or “firstfruit(s)” from among the dead ones (Cols. 1:15-18; 1 Cor. 15:20-21). But in what way was Christ’s resurrection the “first”? He surely was not the first to be biologically raised from the dead. His resurrection was the “first” in which Adamic (spiritual) death was overcome and would soon be overcome for the Church at His AD 70 return. Christ would conquer “the sin” of “the [Adamic] death” magnified through Israel’s Old Covenant “the Law” at His return to close and bring an “end” to the Old Covenant age in Jesus’ “this generation” (ie. AD 70–Mt. 24/1 Cor. 15). This process had begun with His resurrection and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
The reference to Christ being the “firstborn” in Colossians is a new exodus theme. In the first exodus under Moses, God delivered Israel through the offering up of the blood of the firstborn lamb on the doorpost and through the sacrifice of Israel’s enemies – the first born among the Egyptians. This exodus and establishment of the Old Covenant at Mount Sinai resulted in God creating Israel as a heavens and earth (Isaiah 51:15-16).
The soteriological and eschatological pattern in the NT is that Jesus recapitulates Israel’s redemptive history, and then the Church follows. So just as Christ needed to undergo severe persecution and death before He would be raised and established as the “firstborn” from among the dead, so too the Church (pre-AD 70) was in the process of filling up what was lacking in the sufferings of Christ (Cols. 1:24-27). The Church was thus in the process of being united to Christ’s death in baptism and being raised into His resurrection image (Rms. 6:8ff.). She was a seed being sown into the ground and simultaneously dying and rising into this new image of the heavenly man (1 Corinthians 15: 43ff.). The Church had to undergo sever persecution (described as “birth pains”), to function as a general sign that the coming of Jesus to “gather” Her (or raise Her from the dead) into the Kingdom would take place in the first century “this generation” (Mt. 24:8, 30-34; Lk. 21:27-32). Under the Old Covenant, unfaithful Israel was in a perpetual state of child labor and in pain being unable to give birth or bring salvation to the Gentiles (Isa. 26:27-28). But the faithful remnant united to Christ’s death and resurrection would bring these soteriological and eschatological “groans” in “child birth” to the Gentiles, and thus “all Israel would be saved” or raised from the dead (cf. Romans 8:22-11:15, 26-27). The remnant would be faithful to give birth to a nation (the Church) in a day (Isaiah 66:8).
Seeing the Kingdom is to see Christ
What does Jesus mean by “seeing” the Kingdom? “Seeing” here is a synonym for faith/ belief or spiritual understanding/perception. Jesus is instructing Nicodemus that no one can truly believe in Him or the message of His Kingdom unless he is born again (or from above) by the Spirit of God. Most likely Jesus is addressing both the “already” and “not yet” aspects of seeing the Kingdom. With the giving of the Holy Spirit, Jesus (His image) was being formed within these transition Christians and thus they were in the process of being transformed into the glory of Jesus’ resurrection body (Gals. 4:19; 2 Cor. 3-5:17; Rms. 5-6). This obviously was a non-biological seeing and transformation process. The first century Christians were in the process of seeing the glory of God/Jesus’ face as in a mirror darkly because the Old Covenant Law and Prophets had not been completely fulfilled (1 Cor. 13:8-12; 2 Cor. 3-4). This was a spiritual perceiving and understanding that was being gradually given to the first century Church as Israel’s redemptive promises were being fulfilled in Christ and through the Church (2 Cor. 1:20). Christ’s parousia in the first century “this generation,” (ie. AD 70), was 1) the time frame in which the New Covenant Kingdom/Creation would come into its maturity/fullness, 2) with all the scriptures being fulfilled, and 3) this face to face sight realized inwardly (Lk. 17:20-37/21:22-32; 1 Cor. 13:10-12; Rev. 22:4, 6-7, 10-12, 20).
I would agree with classic Amillennialism which interprets the coming of Jesus in Matthew 24:30 and Revelation 1:7 as the one and only second coming of Jesus. And yet I also agree with the Postmillennial Partial Preterist interpretation that sees/understands that the seeing of Jesus in these texts is that of a mental and spiritual perception and understanding. Partial Preterist Gary DeMar correctly writes of the “seeing” of Jesus coming on the clouds in Matthew 16:27-28, 24:30; and Revelation 1:7,
“Those who pierced Jesus have been dead for nearly two millennia. This helps explain Revelation 1:7 where the same wording is used. Those who “see” Him are “those who pierced Him” (cf. John 19:7). John is telling us that those who pierced Jesus experienced His covenant wrath. Revelation 1:7 mjust be referring to a pre-A.D. 70 fulfillment, before that generation passed away (Matthew 16:27-28; 24:34).
““The crucifiers would see Him coming in judgment – that is, they would understand that His coming would mean wrath on the land (cf. the use of the world see in Mark 1:44; Luke 17:22; John 3:36; Rom. 15:21).”
Equating “seeing” with “understanding” is not Scripture twisting. It is a common biblical metaphor. In John 12:40 Jesus quotes Isaiah 6:10 to explain why some have not believed His message. Notice how “seeing” is equivalent to “understanding”:
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, lest they see whith their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and repent and be healed (Isaiah 6:10).
In quoting Isaiah, Jesus states that Jehovah “has blinded their eyes” (John 12:40). This is not a physical blinding. The blinding is spiritual. To be blind is not to understand; to see is to understand and believe. “To open their eyes” is an expression used by the biblical writers to describe recognition and understanding (Acts 26:18; cf. 1 Kings 8:29, 52; 2 Kings 2:16; 6:20; 19:16; Isaiah 35:5; 42:7, 16). The eyes of the disciples “were opened” by Jesus and “they recognized Him” (Luke 24:31).”[2] To see the Kingdom in its matured consummated form in AD 70, was to see God’s/Christ’s face at His return (1 Cor. 13:10-12/Rev. 22:4). Seeing the Kingdom and seeing the face of God, are covenantal terms. So even the enemies of the Old Covenant world feared His face and their cosmos fled before it in AD 70—(cf. Revelation 6:16, 20:11).
Born of water even the Spirit
Some have understood this phrase with that of Acts 2:38, to mean that in obeying the covenant ritual of water baptism, one mystically receives the forgiveness of sins and that without water baptism there can be no new birth or forgiveness of sin. However, covenant rituals never brought about regeneration/justification/salvation to those who obeyed them (cf. Rms. 4), only faith did. In the gospels, Jesus heals a leper and instructs him to go to the priest to be cleansed in order to be received back into the community. The actual healing/cleansing had already taken place through the power of Christ, but it would be outwardly confirmed and expressed through the baptism’s and cleansings that the Priest would perform before he publicly declared that the man indeed was now “clean.” So if water baptism is the reference, it would refer to the baptism of John in which after repentance and faith were professed, the ritual would picture the cleansing of the heart and mind through faith in the coming Messiah and the baptism He would give Israel – that of the Holy Spirit and fire (cf. Matthew 3). Since the forgiveness of sins was also associated with Christ’s return in the first century, water baptism served as a confession to the imminent obtaining of this soteriological and eschatological event for Israel and the Church (Matthew 3; Acts 2:38; Heb. 9:26-28; Rms. 11:26-27/13:11-12).
The Greek can also be translated as being “born of water even the Spirit…” With this translation, being born of the Spirit in ones soul is being illustrated as being cleansed inwardly with water. The Holy Spirit in conjunction with the Word or the Gospel, is likened to the agent of water because it satisfies and cleanses the soul of man (Isa. 44; Eze. 47/Jn. 7:38/Rev. 22:17; Jn. 4). Concerning this interpretation of being born of water even the Spirit, John Gill writes,
“…by “water” is meant, in a figurative and metaphorical sense, the grace of God, as it is elsewhere; see #Eze 36:25 Joh 4:14. Which is the moving cause of this new birth, and according to which God begets men again to, a lively hope, and that by which it is effected; for it is by the grace of God, and not by the power of man’s free will, that any are regenerated, or made new creatures: and if Nicodemus was an officer in the temple, that took care to provide water at the feasts, as Dr. Lightfoot thinks, and as it should seem Nicodemon ben Gorion was, by the story before related of him; see Gill on “Joh 3:1”; very pertinently does our Lord make mention of water, it being his own element: regeneration is sometimes ascribed to God the Father, as in #1Pe 1:3 Jas 1:18, and sometimes to the Son, #1Jo 2:29 and here to the Spirit, as in #Tit 3:5, who convinces of sin, sanctifies, renews, works faith, and every other grace; begins and carries on the work of grace, unto perfection;”[3] We shall now move on to the most quoted verse in the Bible and yet the most misunderstood and misapplied—namely John 3:16. What “world” did Jesus come to lay His life down for? Does the term “whosoever” infer that man has a “free will” and the ability to save himself or choose God?
“The world”
Being born again (or from above) in the context of Messiah laying His life down for the “world,” has to do with God loving and reconciling to Himself the New Covenant world or the New Heavens and Earth.
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65:17, 66:8 – for the birth motif).
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:17-19).
The “nation” that is being “born,” in the context of the New Creation, is the New Covenant Church or the New Heavens and Earth. She would come in Her fullness when the Old Covenant nation would completely stumble over Christ and be destroyed at His parousia in AD 70 (Mt.22:43; cf. 1 Pet. 2:9/2 Pet.3).
Great Puritan and Reformed theologians such as John Owen and John Lightfoot understood that the passing of the old heavens and earth and the arrival of the new of Isaiah 65-66 and 2 Peter 3 were covenantal worlds passing and being established at the coming of the Lord in AD 70,
“the heavens and earth whereof he (Peter) speaks were to be destroyed and consumed by fire in that generation. We must, then, for the clearing our foundation a little consider what the apostle intends by ‘heavens and the earth’ in these two places.”
To establish that Peter has in mind the heaven and earth of the old covenant, Owen examines the creation of this heavens and earth found in Isa. 51:15-16,
“…the time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God when he ‘divided the sea’ (v. 15), and gave the law (16), and said to Zion, ‘Thou art my people’- that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state. Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth-made a new world; that is brought forth order, and government, and beauty, from the confusion wherein before they were. This is the planting of the heavens, and laying the foundation of the earth in the world. And hence it is, that when mention is made of the destruction of a state and government, it is in that language that seems to set forth the end of the world. So, Isa. 34:4; which is yet but the destruction of the state of Edom. And our Savior Christ’s prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem, Matthew 24, he sets it out by expressions of the same importance. It is evident then, that, in the prophetical idiom and manner of speech, by ‘heavens’ and ‘earth,’ the civil and religious state and combination of men in the world, and the men of them, are often understood.”
“Peter tells them, that, after the destruction and judgment that he speaks of, verse 13, ‘We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth,’ etc. ‘They had this expectation. But what is that promise? Where may we find it? Why, we have it in the very words and letter, Isa. Lxv. 17. Now, when shall this be that God will create these ‘new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness?’ Saith Peter, ‘It shall be after the coming of the Lord, after that judgment and destruction of ungodly men, who obey not the gospel, that I foretell.’ But now it is evident, from this place of Isaiah, with chap. Lxvi., 21, 22 that this is a prophecy of gospel times only; and that the planting of these new heavens is nothing but the creation of gospel ordinances, to endure for ever. The same thing is so expressed, Heb. Xii. 26-28. Let others mock at the threats of Christ’s coming. – he will come, he will not tarry; and then the heavens and earth that God himself planted, – the sun, moon, stars of the Judaical polity and church, – the whole old world of worship and worshippers, that stand out in their obstinacy against the Lord Christ, – shall be sensibly dissolved and destroyed. This, we know, shall be the end of these things, and that shortly.’”[4] John Lightfoot agreed,
“‘The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ &c. Compare this with Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal. 4:9, Col. 2:20: and you will not doubt see that Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses.”[5] One of John Owen’s pupils John Locke, taught that God bringing all things together in heaven and in the earth was a reference to the New Covenant creation in Ephesians 1:9-10,
“If our Tanslators have render’d the sense of ἀναϰεϕαλαιώσασθαι, right, by “gather together into one,” it will give Countenance to those, who are inclin’d to understand, by “things in heaven and things on earth,” the Jewish and Gentile world…” “…the Apostle’s Design here, where he says in express words, that Christ makes τὰἀμφότερα ἕν, makes both Jews and Gentiles one, Eph. ii. 14. Now, that St. Paul should use heaven and earth, for Jews and Gentiles, will not be thought so very strange, if we consider that Daniel himself expresses the nation of the Jews by the name of heaven, Dan. viii. 10. Nor does he want an example of it, in our Saviour himself, who, Luke xxi. 26, by “powers of heaven,” plainly signifies the great men of the Jewish nation; nor is this the only place, in this epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, which will bear this Interpretation of Heaven and Earth: he who shall read the fifteen first verses of chap. iii. and carefully weigh the Expressions, and observe the drift of the Apostle in them, will not find that he does manifest Violence to St. Paul’s sense, if he understands by “the Family in Heaven and Earth,” ver. 15, the united Body of Christians, made up of Jews and Gentiles, living still promiscuously among those two sorts of people, who continued in their unbelief.”[6] In John’s theology, Christ is the propitiation (literally takes away God’s wrath not potentially takes it away!) for not only Christian Jews, but for the “whole world” (1 John 2:2). Again the idea here is that of the believing Jew/Gentile world. A comparison of 1 John 2:2 and John 11:51-52 makes this distinction clear:
a) “…and not only for ours… ”
b) “…and not for that nation only…”
a) “…but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”
b) “…but also for the whole world.”
As the Great High Priest and Shepherd, He laid His life down and interceded for the Jewish and Gentile folds who would become “one” (cf. John 10; 17).
“Whosoever will” and “free will”?
In approaching the subject of the Arminian doctrine of “free will” and the “whosoever” of John 3:16, we should point out that “whosoever” isn’t even in the Greek text. A literal Greek reading of the text supports the Calvinist view that Jesus came to lay His life down for those believing in Him (His sheep), and not the mass of humanity – even those who did not and do not believe in Him. R.K. McGregor Wright correctly points out:
“Arminians see the word whosoever and, because it is an idefinite pronoun in English, assume hat it must mean in Greek an undetermined person who acts by free will. But “whosoever will may come” is a phrase from a hymn, not a verse in the Bible. Consider, for example, John 3:16 as quoted from the KJV: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Arminians assume a great deal about this verse, some of which contradicts the Greek. They assume that “so loved the world” must mean “loves every existing human being equally and without difference.” This is an interesting speculative gloss on the verse, but it requires proof.
The passage states that as a result of his loving the world, God gave his Son, which is usually understood to be a reference to the incarnation and atonement. Then the Greek says “in order that every one believing in him may not perish.” There is no word for “whosoever” in the original. On the contrary, far from God’s giving his Son to provide a generalized atonement for everyone who exists, the verse states that he gave his Son for the express purpose of saving a specific group. Since this group excludes all unbelievers and is less than all existing human beings, John 3:16 states explicitly that the purpose of God in sending his Son to die was limited to atoning for believers only, that they “should not perish, but have everlasting life.”[7] Within the immediate context of our text, Jesus describes man as naturally hating Him and loving (agape) the darkness with the inability or desire to come to Him (John 3:19-20). Therefore, man’s will when left to it’s self only produces hatred toward God and a fleeing from His presence not a “free” disposition to love or hate God as the false Arminian gospel teaches. If there is faith in the Son as the “Light,” it is because man’s willing (faith) and deeds have been “wrought” (“caused to exist”) “in God” Himself (John 3:21). Jesus describes man as “dead” and that He raises to life and reveals Himself to whomsoever He wills (John 5:21, 15:16; cf. Matthew 8:22, 11:27). Because man’s disposition is that of fleeing from God, the initial work of God’s grace in the heart of man is described as God “dragging” (Greek helkuo) him to Himself (John 6:44). This Greek word is often translated as “draw” and interpreted by the Arminian as perhaps a man trying to call and draw a kitten to himself – “here kitty, kitty, come here now.” The cat by its choice may or may not decide to come to the will/call and drawing of the man. But this is not what the definition of this word means nor is this how it is used in Scripture. It means, “to drag off” or is “a metaphor to draw by inward power, lead, impel.” Let’s briefly examine where and how this word is used. Our Lord tells us that He would be lifted up and draw “all men” or His friends to Himself as those who looked to Moses staff/serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14-15). As John Gill correctly notes,
“Christ died indeed for all men who are drawn unto him; but this is not true of all men, that are, were, or shall be in the world. Add to this, that the word “men” is not in the text, it is only pantav, “all”: Beza’s most ancient copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin version read panta, “all things”; and by “all” are meant, all the elect of God, all the children of God, “that were scattered abroad”; the Persic version reads, “I will draw my friends to me”; it designs some of all sorts of men, of every state, condition, age, sex, and nation, Gentiles as well as Jews, and especially the former; which agrees with the ancient prophecy, #Ge 49:10, and with the context, and the occasion of the words, which was the desire of the Greeks, that were come to the feast, to see Jesus; and which was a specimen of the large numbers of them, that should be drawn to Christ, through the preaching of the Gospel, after his death: the Jews say, that in the time to come, or in the days of the Messiah, all the proselytes shall be Myrwrg, “drawn,” shall freely become proselytes {e}. The allusion here, is to the setting up of a standard or ensign, to gather persons together. Christ’s cross is the standard, his love is the banner, and he himself is the ensign, which draw souls to himself, and engage them to enlist themselves under him, and become his volunteers in the day his power; see #Isa 11:10.” (Gill, Ibid.).
As it was only those who looked upon Moses staff/serpent that received healing, so it is that all those believing in or seeing the Son/His Kingdom will have everlasting life.
The next occasion we come across this word is when Peter “drew” out his sword in (John 18:10). Obviously it took an outside force (Peter’s strength) to pull or drag/draw the sword out.
And the last two places where John uses this word is for dragging/drawing nets and multitudes of fish into a boat or the land (John 21:6, 11). Again it took the outward force and power of Peter to pull the net of fish where he wanted it/them to go. In the same way, Peter informs us that the Church and Her God given faith are “kept by the power of God” as He so intimately realized in his temporal denial and restoration through the intercessory power and prayers of Christ.
“Should not perish”
The Greek word Jesus uses for “perish” is apollumi and in John it primarily means “to perish” “to lose” or “to be lost.” And John makes it quite clear that it was the Father and the Son’s will that none within the Church would be lost but that He would raise them up on the last day (ie. at His parousia in AD 70) (John 6:39/Mt. 24:30-31ff.). In John 10 we are told that Christ only lays His life down for the sheep and that they will “never perish.” In John 17 we learn that Jesus does not pray for the world but only those that the Father had given Him. Jesus sustained all from being lost except Judas, so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled. It is clear in John’s theology that it is only the believing elect/New Covenant “world” and creation that God has come to redeem and wills not to perish–and not the entire human race.
To “see the Kingdom” or to be “born again” in John’s soteriology/eschatology, is not just an individual concept but a corporate and covenantal promise grounded in the Law and the Prophets. Jesus was discussing with Nicodemus Israel’s covenant promises. Derrick Olliff captures the corporate theme well when he writes,
“The new creation order is as follows. During His earthly ministry, Jesus received the Spirit from on high and was subsequently born (“from above”) from the dead. He was resurrected and ascended to heaven to claim His inheritance as Lord of all. He thus became the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5) and the new Adam, the first fruits of the new creation (I Cor. 15:20-22). He then sent the Pentecostal Sprit to breathe new life into Israel. This new life then flowed to the nations as God “in Christ” created one new man from the previous two (Eph. 2:11-22). So Jesus became the firstborn from the dead “among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29 cf. Heb. 12:22, 23). These brethren, the early Church composed of Jews and gentiles, were the first fruits of the new creation (Jas. 1:18). It is this objective shift in the world-order that provides the conceptual theme of rebirth/resurrection that we can then apply to individuals. (E.g., notice the order in Ephesians. Eph. 1:19-23 describes Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Eph. 2:1-6 then describes our resurrection and ascension.)
But the point of this paper is that in John 3, Jesus was not giving a general description of such individual transformation. Rather, He was describing the specific, historical rebirth that God promised would happen to Israel. Technically speaking, the nation had come back into the land after the Babylonian captivity. But in a real sense, it was still in exile. It was captive to Rome and to the demons, and it was full of unfaithfulness and rebellion. Israel was a nation of dry bones and she needed the cleansing water and life-restoring Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God, the promised new heavens and earth. This event had not yet occurred when Jesus talked to Nicodemus, and it would not occur until after Jesus – the true — Servant and Israel of God – had died and risen to new life. He was the firstborn from the dead, and from that rebirth came Israel’s rebirth and life for the world.” (Olliff, Ibid, bold emphasis added).
Israel being restored and seeing Her King and the Kingdom “eye to eye” (Isaiah 52:8) is described for us in Revelation 22:4. The first century church was promised the consummation of the New Creation to be rewarded to them at Christ’s imminent return in AD 70 (Rev. 1:1–3:11, 10:6-7, 22:6-7, 10-12, 20). Christ promised that when it arrived at His coming that one would not be able to see it with his or her physical eyes (Lk. 17:20-37/21:27-32).
Christ specifically taught throughout the Gospel of John, that He came to lay His life down for His New Covenant “world.” In Revelation he describes this “world” as the New Jerusalem or New Creation that was ready to come down at Christ’s imminent return. In Peter’s theology, this world is described as the New Heavens and Earth wherein His imputed righteousness and glory is accessible for His elect to enjoy forever dwells.
In John’s theology we have also learned that it was God’s will that none of His elect Sheep “perish.” Because of the new birth, the Christian cannot sin nor will he sin the sin of apostasy or the sin “unto death” (1 John 3:9, 5:16-18). In Revelation John describes this as God making him a pillar in the New Creation and him having no desire to walk out of the gates of the city (Rev. 3:11-12). The will has never been free. It is either a slave to sin “in Adam,” or a slave to Christ and delights to do His will. Christ truly has appeared a second time as our great and faithful High Priest to take away the sins of His people – the New Creation (Heb. 9:26-28—10:37; Rms. 11:26-27/13:11-12; 2 Cor. 5:17/Rev. 21-22). This is the good news of Gospel Eschatology.
[1] Derrick Olliff, The Eschatology of Being Born Again,
[2] Gary DeMar, LAST DAYS MADNESS Obsession of the Modern Church, (Atlanta, GA: American Vision Inc., 1994), 161-162.
[3] John Gill’s Commentary, Online Bible CD.
[4] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Banner of Truth Pub., Vol. 9, 134-135.
[5] Lightfoot, John, COMMENTARY ON THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM THE TALMUD AND HEBRAICA, Vol.3, p.452, Hendrickson pub, 2003
[6] John Locke, A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistles of Paul, Vol. 2, ed. Arthur W. Wainwright (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 618. John Eadie cites others who take “heaven” as Jews and “earth” as Gentiles, “…according to Schoettgen, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ernesti, Macknight, Schleusner, and Koppe—Jews and Gentiles;…” John Eadie, A Commentary on the Greek Text of Paul’s Letters To the Ephesians, (Solid Ground Christian Books, 2005) 55.
[7] R.K. McGregor Wright, NO PLACE for SOVEREIGNTY What’s Wrong with Freewill Theism, (Drowners Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 1996), 159.