Firstborn from the Dead
“Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
Jesus Christ was the first to be resurrected and glorified. Jesus is described as being the “firstborn from the dead”. In the book of Colossians God states:
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:”
Young’s Literal translation reads:
“Who is the image of the invisible God, first-born of all creation,”
In the book of John we also read,
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, 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 answered, Verily, verily, 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. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
“Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?”
Jesus said that we must be born again and in the book of Revelation we see that Jesus is the first born from the dead. Therefore, I suggest to you that the term “born again” refers to the resurrection from the dead.
Why do we need to be “born again”? If we follow out the analogy that Jesus gave I believe the reason for being born again becomes clear. We are born once into this creation through the will of the flesh. Likewise, we must be “born again” into the new creation of God, i.e. The New Heavens and New Earth, through the will of the Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit that dwells in you quickens your natural body through the resurrection of the dead and you are “born again.” As it is written,
“But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
Currently, many Christians believe that when they confess Christ as their Lord and savior that they are born again. However, the salvation experience is more akin to conception rather than birth. Just as a baby must be conceived in this creation and gestate for a certain period of time so to must a Christian be conceived and gestate for a certain period of time in the womb of the church before being born again into the next creation. When the fullness of time comes we are born again through resurrection and glorification of our bodies into the New Heavens and New Earth.
In the natural your physical body is born into this creation and so to your spiritual body also needs to be born again into the new creation. A person needs a body suitably adapted to this creation to function properly within it. Likewise, you need a body suitably adapted to function in the world to come. An imperfect body cannot exist in a perfect world. In 1 Corinthians we read,
“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.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-52
Jesus thought that the teaching of being born again should be obvious to Nicodemus and he wondered how a Pharisee, a master in Israel, could be ignorant of this truth.
God has been talking about a new creation since the Old Testament. In Isaiah God states,
“For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
“For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.”
The doctrine of the New Heavens and New Earth is a fundamental teaching of the New Testament Church. Sadly, like so many other fundamental teachings, it was lost to the church during the dark ages. Happily, God is again bringing the revelation of the new creation back to the forefront. I believe that God is restoring this truth to His people so that they can receive clarity in other areas of scripture. Many basic teachings, such as being born again, can only be properly understood in relationship to the world to come.
Likewise, the doctrines of the resurrection and rapture also come into full relief when considered in light of the New Heavens and New Earth. Peter revealed,
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
2 Peter 3:10-12
And in the book of Revelation John confirms,
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
And Paul prophesies,
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
We learn that this present creation will pass away and a New Heavens and New Earth will be created. We will be taken from here and put there in order to escape destruction. Jesus spoke about the New Heavens and New Earth in John when He said,
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
The underlying reason for the resurrection of the dead and the rapture is simply that we must be taken out of this present creation in order to be placed in a new one. Therefore the dead must rise, i.e. be resurrected, and those which remain alive must be taken out, i.e. be caught away. If we are not taken out of this creation we will perish along with it.
God has purposed in His heart to judge sin through fire. This is the reason that Hell is a lake of fire and why this present creation will likewise be burnt up. We, being the part of the new creation of God, must be removed from this old creation and placed in the New Heavens and New Earth in order to be “saved” from the fiery fate of this world. The purpose of salvation is to accomplish this task. Through the blood of Jesus Christ our sin is washed away and we become worthy to partake of the world to come. Do you still doubt there is a world to come? It is written,
“And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.”
Some, who dispute the doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism and the sign of speaking in other tongues, point to the lack of clear statements in some of the passages those who believe in glossolalia refer to. They say, “It does not say in every scripture that speaks about the Holy Spirit baptism that they spoke in other tongues.” However, the sign of tongues was such a fundamental phenomenon in the first century church that it was a “given.” All understood it and so it would have been considered laborious to go into it at length every time they spoke about it. Likewise, the doctrine of the New Heavens and New Earth is just as fundamental to New Testament theology as was Holy Spirit baptism and the sign of tongues. Once you understand how it underlies and supports so much of what the apostles wrote you realize that it is mentioned everywhere.
One of the greatest pictures of the Old Testament has to do with the deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt. The children of Israel were taken out of Egypt and placed in the Promised Land that God had prepared for them. Likewise, we are all coming out of spiritual Egypt (this present world) and going to our spiritual promised land (the New Heavens and New Earth). This is the everlasting kingdom of heaven. This is our inheritance that we have received a foretaste of through the Holy Spirit. It is written,
“Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
2 Peter 3:13
And finally God writes in the book of Revelation,
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.”