You Must be Born Again?
pulpit, the radio, the television, and the core of modern
Christianity comes the clarion call, "you must be born again". It is
a form of Christian identification, and considered a literal
passport into heaven, without which, Hell is the only other option.
It is what separates the saved from the unsaved, the good from the
bad, the lost from the found. To many Christians, anyone's failure
to affirm that they have been "born again immediately relegates that
person to an object of pity and a target of proselytizing. Many of
these zealots believe they will be forced to watch the suffering of
those in Hell, which they fail to save, from Heaven. Accomplishing
this seemingly impossible feat, or not, Christians claim it will
determine your fate for eternity.
Most people, including the pulpit-controlled flocks, believe that this concept is a well-defined and specifically mandated pre-condition required for salvation, which is found in scripture and must be achieved before death. They are correct on one point; it is well-defined, but definitely confused, in assuming that this must be accomplished before death in order to receive salvation. The orthodox view is quite simple. If you "accept" Jesus as your savoir, you are born again. Of course, you don't just disappear, but remain in your physical body and change after death, or when Jesus returns and "raptures" those fortunate enough to have made that choice.
It is very difficult to imagine how a Christian can believe one can be born again in this life, just from the lack of logic in the phrase itself. How can one be reborn? The Bible also poses this perplexing question, and answers it, yet those promoting this concept ignore that answer completely. It takes no great effort to find exactly what "born again" means. The phrase only appears three times in scripture. A man, named Nicodemus, once asked the expert in this matter about this concept, and the transcript of that query can be found in John 3:3-8. This is how the event unfolded:
♦ Jesus said "I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
♦ Nicodemus, obviously confused by his declaration, then asked "How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"
♦ Jesus then answered "I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
♦ And to reinforce the reality of his point, he then added "Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again. 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 every one that is born of the Spirit."
Ok, that seems pretty simple. We all know the concept of spirit and the Bible is clear as to the meaning. The word spirit in the phrase "Spirit is spirit" is translated from the Greek word pneuma, pronounced pnyoo'-mah, meaning; a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze. This certainly agrees with the widely accepted understanding of what spirit means. And, we can see that Jesus clearly describes the nature of "spirit" by using wind as an analogy. It should be noted that the word "tell" in the phrase "but canst not tell whence it cometh" comes from the word eido, pronounced i'-do and means; properly, to see (literally or figuratively).
So, Jesus is saying the spirit is like the wind; it goes where it does and you can hear it, but you cannot see it. In the simplest of terms; the spirit is invisible. Nothing complicated about that. Jesus simply says that "every one that is born of the Spirit" is like the wind, which you can't see or, therefore, is invisible. Jesus first said that spirit is "not" like flesh, the prime physical component of the human body, which can be seen, and then clearly confirms that anyone, who is "born again" is not flesh, but spirit, which is invisible.
All this being said and, no matter how you look at what Jesus said, there is no way to get around the fact that anyone who claims to be "born again" must be "invisible". So, anyone, who accepts scripture as the authority on this matter, but claims to be born again is saying they are invisible. Anyone, who is "in the flesh", cannot justify claiming they are "born again" scripturally.
There are no exceptions to the rule in Christianity that only those who are born again will escape the tortures of Hell. You can believe in the certain coming of the Christ, declare Jesus as the Savior of humanity, expose the evil of the world, urge mankind to eschew greed, hatred, judgment, and intolerance, and encourage all to practice love, forgiveness, generosity, and service to others, but still be in danger of eternal suffering. There is no room for thinking God is a god of love and forgiveness, who will save "all" humanity and will not condemn those he created to horrible eternal suffering, because of predestined ignorance. Such a doctrine dictates that Jesus only died to save only the fortunate and strong-willed. Only those who, through the good fortune of being exposed to fundamentalist Christianity and publicly accept Jesus as their "personal" savior are forgiven their shortcomings.
Acceptance of this concept means that one must believe that Jesus would allow someone to suffer for eternity, simply because they never knew they were supposed to "accept" Jesus as their Savior. Somehow, one must accept that Jesus would torture someone in the worst possible way forever, only because they had the misfortune of being born a Jew, Muslim, Hindu or anything but a Christian. And, one must ignore that Jesus taught us to forgive others, not just once, but every time they wronged us, and that Jesus taught that we should love everybody, even if they hated us, not just those who believed what we believe.
Logic and fairness also tells us that, if someone is completely ignorant of the rules they shouldn't be condemned for violating rules they knew nothing about. The "accept me now or suffer eternally" Jesus will not forgive someone for not accepting him as their Savior, even once. This Jesus died for and loves only those, who accept him as their Savior, in this life. How fair and logical is a Jesus that will not even consider complete ignorance as a reason to forgive? Such a Jesus is definitely a being, who believes in the concept of "do as I say, not as I do".
Jesus Contradicts the Need to Believe in Him
There is one more very serious hurdle to jump in accepting that anyone not heeding the words, or believing in Jesus will not be saved; his own words, which contradict the concept:
♦ "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47)
Again, let's use logic to understand this clearly. Imagine that two people are in a discussion about salvation. One claims you must believe Jesus, or he will judge you unworthy and you will not be saved, while the other claims that belief in the teachings of Jesus is not necessary for salvation. Suddenly, Jesus actually appears to them and says he will answer the question. The believer asks, "Is it not true that someone must believe in your teachings or they will not be saved?" Jesus then answers and asks, "Didn't you read what John wrote that I said I will not judge a man just because he does not believe what I say? I came here to save the world, not judge it on the basis of what it believes."
How Real is Hell?
The incentive for accepting that one is born again is Heaven. The punishment for not accepting this is horrible beyond words. Anyone who fears this fate usually learns about the horros of Hell from the pulpit, which is very effective at portraying those horrors. But, is there actually such a place, made specifically for the torture of humans? Not withstanding that this concept completely contradicts the belief in a loving and forgiving God, Christianity insists Hell is very real. But do the facts back such a belief?
The Old Testament
Of all biblical concepts, hell is one of the most mysterious and feared. The word "hell" appears 54 times in the Bible, 30 times in the Old Testament, 24 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, hell is taken from the word, Sh'owl, pronounced sheh-ole' or Sh'ol; Hades or the world of the dead (as if a subterranean retreat), Sheol, including its accessories and inmates: KJV--grave, hell, pit. It is interchangeable with the word grave or a pit. Basically, hell is a hole in the ground, where bodies are buried. A thorough study of its appearance in Old Testament scripture will show it is not referred to as a place of eternal fiery damnation. It should seem strange that Hell is never threatened as punishment by any of the prophets, patriarchs, edicts of God, or in messages from angels.
Another word translated into hell is only used once and refers to the place of imprisonment for the angels that are described here:
♦ Genesis 6:4. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.
The New Testament
In the New Testament it is taken from three words. First, we will examine the one from which the fiery place of eternal torture, so often associated with this word, is taken, Ghenna. It may surprise many to realize that we actually know where this place is, not an ethereal place where Satan dwells, but actually the Jerusalem city dump.
The word is Geena, pronounced gheh'-en-nah of Hebrew origin; valley of the son of Hinnom; ge-henna, or Ge-Hinnom, a valley of Jerusalem, used figuratively as a name for the place or state of everlasting punishment:
The actual place referred to is Hinnom, a deep, narrow ravine separating Mount Zion from the so-called "Hill of Evil Counsel" to the southwest of Jerusalem.
Hinnom is first mentioned here:
♦ Joshua 15:8. And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward:
It was formerly the place, where the idolatrous Jews burned their children alive as a sacrifice to Moloch and Baal. A particular part of the valley was called Tophet, the "fire-stove" or furnace, where the children were burned. After the Exile, in order to show their abhorrence of the locality, the Jews made this valley the receptacle of the refuse of the city. As with refuse, in those times it was burned to keep down vermin, the obvious offensive odors, and to maximize space, and a fire was kept constantly burning there. Excavations carried out at this site from 1975 to 1980 by an archaeological mission turned up remains of nine burial caves around the ravine. In earlier excavations of the actual dump, it was found that the fire was still smoldering after centuries.
Here we have all the elements of the modern concept of Hell. A place of death, a burial area, destruction, (anything placed in this fiery pit was consumed), a fiery furnace, where in the past children were burned alive, and unquenchable and everlasting fire, which is burning to this day.
The next word is familiar to most, the Greek word Hades. And, as with the Hebrew word Sheol, it is interchangeable with the word grave. There is a serious problem trying to designate this as a place of eternal fiery torture rather than a burial place. The problem being, mainly, that Jesus spent three days in Hades after his crucifixion. Since it is clear that this place was actually a sepulcher, not a furnace, and that Jesus committed no sin to warrant such punishment; it would justify the logical conclusion that this is the grave. Attempting to insinuate that Jesus had to go to this fiery Hell to defeat it presupposes that such a place exists without solid scriptural evidence. Jesus performed his ultimate miracle by defeating death, not fire. In the case of Lazarus, it must be noted that this is a parable and is used in a metaphoric sense as with the use of the word Ghenna.
The third word translated into hell is translated from is haides, pronounced hah'-dace; properly, unseen, i.e. "Hades" or the place (state) of departed souls: KJV--grave, hell.
Hell - A New Doctrine
To completely cover the doctrine of how "Hell" became a place of eternal and fiery torment in Christian doctrine, in a proper manner, would require an entire book. Many theological works have been presented over the ages, which contradict the concept of Hell as a place of eternal suffering, since this concept was formally introduced to the Christian world by Justinian, in 530AD. (William Barclay, J.W. Hanson, John A.T. Robinson, Lightfoot, Westcott, F.W. Farrar, Marvin Vincent, etc.) Claiming that Hell is a place of eternal suffering is a doctrine with a solid foundation, is to ignore theological reality, and, in fact, is to discount simple logic. Here are just a few points of logic that give strong evidence that the Hell of the Bible and the Hell of Christian doctrine are two completely different concepts:
♦ Is God a hypocrite by commanding his people to do something evil and, yet, condemning billions to the same fate, not in a temporary mortal sense, but eternally? "And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." (Jeremiah 32:35)
♦ No doubt, Hell, as portrayed in Christian dogma, is the worst possible fate any human could possibly imagine. That being obvious, why did Moses, not give warning about this horrible fate in the Mosaic Covenant, which contained over 600 laws, ordinances, and warnings, yet, only stated blessings and cursing in this lifetime.
♦ The concept of "any" human suffering eternal torture, after death, is completely contradicted by this New Testament verse:
“Since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)
And this one:
"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (Romans 5:18)
And this one:
"For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." (1 Timothy 4;10).
Unless the word "all" has been declared as synonymous with "some", this gives strong evidence that the Christian doctrine is "negated" by the very scriptures they claim as authority for all their doctrines.
♦ Why did Paul never mention “Hell” in any of his epistles, except to declare the triumph of Christ over it in 1 Corinthians 15:55? The word “grave” in the passage is the Greek word “hades.”, the same word translated into Hell in other verses. And, why is it not mentioned once in the book of Acts, or in any of the evangelistic sermons that were recorded by the early Apostles?
♦ Why is the concept of a place of eternal suffering not used by any contemporary of Christ, nor was it ever thus employed by any Christian until Justin and Clement first used it in 150AD?
♦ If most of the world's population will end up a place of eternal torture, doesn't that imply that Jesus, at least partially, failed in his mission, which is found in this verse?
"And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world." (John 12:47)
And, does that mean that the Father of Jesus, also, failed because of this verse?
"For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:17)
It is obvious that Jesus did say humans will be born again and equally obvious that such a change will not happen in "this" life. It is also clear that anyone arguing that you must believe in Jesus in "this" life and be born again does not get that concept from scripture, but that it is truly a doctrine of men. There is no other reason for this doctrine to be present in Church teachings other than ignorance of the biblical teachings on this concept. And, the terrorist tactic of using Hell as a way to force humans to believe they are in danger is not only unsupported by scripture but, perhaps, one of the strongest and most justifiable reasons why so many reject church dogma.
In fact, evolution may never have been such a serious problem for the Church if they had not embraced the "Damnation Doctrine". Scholars generally agree that Charles Darwin, the "father" of the theory of evolution, sought other answers to replace the horrible dogma the Church taught. The science historian, James Moore, in his book The Darwin Legend points out that, from the 1840s to his death, Darwin rejected the biblical revelation regarding the doctrine of eternal damnation as "damnable", itself.
Is it any wonder that the "believe or suffer eternally" dogma of the Church is often referred to as a "weapon" to keep the flock in line? If it has no solid foundation in scripture, departs from biblical doctrine, and, actually, contradicts the specific statements of Jesus on this matter, what other possible purpose could such a tool of terror have?
Salvation is the Gospel that Jesus taught, but what does it really mean? We have conducted exhaustive research into what Jesus was trying to convey to mankind and this can be found in our research work "The Incredible Gospel of Jesus". It presents the biblical alternative to the Church's very confusing and contradictory teachings on the ultimate destiny of human kind.
What's here and how to get there.
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