The story of Jesus and Nicodemus may be found through John 3:1-21. Nicodemus was said to be a ruler of the Jews. No, Nicodemus was neither a king or any kind of officer over the Jews but a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). Nicodemus was a Pharisee, therefore an expert of the Law. He was one of the seventy members of the powerful religious governing body of Israel – the Sanhedrin.
The term Sanhedrin is from a Greek word that means “assembly” or “council” and dates from the Hellenistic period, but the concept is one that goes back to the Bible. In the Torah, God commands Moses to “bring Me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you” – (Numbers 11:16).
The Great Sanhedrin was the supreme court of ancient Israel, made up of 70 men and the high priest. In the Second Temple (Herod’s Temple) period, the Great Sanhedrin met in the Temple in Jerusalem … The Sanhedrin as a body claimed powers that lesser Jewish courts did not have. As such, they were the only ones who could try the king or extend the boundaries of the Temple and Jerusalem, and were the ones to whom all questions of Law were finally put.
Nicodemus came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with Him. Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you unless one is born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:2-3)
Without a doubt, the Jews were expecting the coming kingdom of God, which was according to the prophecy of Daniel 2:36-45.
This was the dream. Now we will tell the king [Nebuchadnezzar] its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand He has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. Another kingdom [Mede and Persia] inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze [Greece], which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they [iron and clay] will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings [iron and clay] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.
The fourth kingdom was Rome; both Jewish history and the Bible tells us the four Gentile kingdoms starting with Babylon, the first foreign ruler over Israel. Next was Mede and Persia, then Greece and lastly Rome. Jesus Christ came at the time of the Roman rulers, so Nicodemus knew the time was up. He came to Jesus at night, perhaps out of fear of the Sanhedrin, to check on Jesus if indeed He was the promised Messiah of Israel coming to establish God’s kingdom. Hence, Nicodemus must have been dumbfounded hearing Jesus utter those words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).
Note: It is interesting that GotQuestions.Org got everything covered and explained out clearly, yet it suggested that something is still in the future in spite of Rome fulfilling the last of four Gentile Kingdoms spoken by God through Daniel, then the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. Here is another topic that needs to be cleared out. Perhaps in another blog.
Nicodemus, being a Pharisee, knew the Law. He knew fully well that Jews were born children of God through the sign of circumcision. See Genesis 17:9-14.
And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall My covenant be in your flesh [circumcision] an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.”
In other words, the Jews became God’s children, born to the flesh – that is, circumcision, the sign of God’s bilateral covenant made with Abraham. Genesis 17:14 said, “Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from His people; he has broken My covenant.”
Now, if the Jewish sign of “circumcision” making them God’s children won’t be enough or qualify them to enter God’s kingdom, then it must be another birth Jesus was referring to. You have to remember that male Jews were “circumcised eight days after birth.” That was the condition of God’s covenant with Abraham so that seems to be the assumption of Nicodemus. So Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4)
Then Jesus replied; see John 3:5-8.
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus was referring, not to water baptism as commonly suggested today, nor was He talking about a second birth and circumcision; rather, God’s Unilateral Covenant to Israel. See Ezekiel 36:16-27.
The word of the LORD came to me [Ezekiel]: “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before Me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey My rules.
By “water”, God would make Israel clean, whereas “spirit” refers to both the Holy Spirit and the Words of Christ. See John 6:63.
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
A covenant is an agreement between two parties. There are two basic types of covenants: conditional and unconditional. A conditional or bilateral covenant is an agreement that is binding on both parties for its fulfillment. Both parties agree to fulfill certain conditions. If either party fails to meet their responsibilities, the covenant is broken and neither party has to fulfill the expectations of the covenant. An unconditional or unilateral covenant is an agreement between two parties, but only one of the two parties has to do something. Nothing is required of the other party.
Genesis 17:9-14 is a conditional or bilateral covenant. Consequently, before Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the bilateral covenant with Abraham was renewed; see Exodus 12:43-51.
And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. No foreigner or hired worker may eat of it. It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.” All the people of Israel did just as the LORD commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the LORD brought the people of Israel out of the land of Egypt by their hosts.
Whereas, Genesis 17:1-7 was God’s unilateral covenant for Abraham, the father of God’s holy nation.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make My covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.
Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, explained it clearly. See Galatians 4:21-31.
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you [Christians], brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
Next, see Galatians 3:25-29.
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian [the Mosaic Law], for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
In conclusion, Jesus then was telling Nicodemus that entrance to God’s kingdom comes by obedience to His word (Spirit, John 6:63); that is, Nicodemus should no longer rely on the law but faith in Christ alone. God’s unconditional or unilateral covenant with Abraham was fulfilled in Christ Jesus, the Anointed One – Prophet, Priest and King eternal.
Still, Nicodemus said to Jesus, “How can these things be?” (John 3:9)
Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because He has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:10-21)
To be born again then is to believe in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, and by believing, we may have eternal life. But to those who rejected Jesus, God’s judgment remains in them.
Finally, see 1 Peter 1:22-25
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
Christ Jesus and His Gospel are one. Salvation then may be found by believing in the Eternal Gospel of the Bible.
Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come, and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.” (Revelation 14:6-8)
If the Eternal Gospel has been fulfilled, what is left then that is yet to come?
But for the sake of argument, to know the time of its fulfillment, we need to identify who is “Babylon the Great”. But that would be for another time.
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