In our last study we finished chapter 2 of this Fourth Gospel, which focused on the new beginning brought about by Yeshua's ministry. Both the turning of water into wine and the cleansing of theTemple spoke of the radical newness of Yeshua's person and ministry, especially compared to Judaism.
It seems to me that first and foremost the sign of turning water into wine put in the beginning of this Gospel is designed to indicate inauguration of the New Age with the coming of the Lord Yeshua; the age of the Law is passing away, the age of the fulfillment of all anticipated by the Law is now come. Lazarus said in the opening chapter, "The Law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Yeshua the Christ." And here we have one of the indications of that. We have the water pots used in the Jewish ritual, and now the Lord Yeshua transforms the water into the wine of the New Covenant grace with its forgiveness of sins. The wine replacing the water, in essence, symbolized the replacement of the Old Covenant and the superabundance of the New Covenant.
Then in the second half of chapter 2 we see Yeshua cleansing the Temple:
Yeshua answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:19 NASB
They asked for a sign and the sign that Yeshua gives them is His resurrection. They would destroy the Temple, His body, and He would raise it in three days.
The body of the risen Christ is the spiritual Temple from which the living waters of salvation flow (John 7:37-39; 19:34; Revelation chapter 22). Yeshua is declaring His Body, Himself personally and His Body the Church—to be the true Temple! The physical resurrection of Christ's Body is the foundation for His New Covenant people being constituted as the Temple.
Since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, there are no "sacred" buildings or places. Yeshua Himself is our Temple, not a cathedral or church building. We meet with God in Yeshua. We dwell in Him and He dwells in us. Believer, we are sacred space, Yahweh dwells in us.
Chapter 3 continues the emphasis on beginning new with the dialogue between Yeshua and Nicodemus on the new birth.
As we come to chapter 3, I want you to be aware that this is a place where it is difficult to determine where the words of Yeshua in conversation with Nicodemus end and where Lazarus' comments about Yeshua begin.
Scholars mention the fact that one of the difficulties of working with the Fourth Gospel is knowing for sure when Yeshua is speaking and when Lazarus is commenting on or interpreting the teaching of Yeshua. The matter seems quite simple when you are using a "red-letter edition" that prints the words of Yeshua in red. However, those printing decisions are made by human editors whose judgment is not infallible.
The dialog between Yeshua and Nicodemus continues the contrast between Yeshua and Judaism begun in chapter two:
Now there a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; John 3:1 NASB
"Now"—is de in the Greek and if de has its more usual adversative force "but," it means that in contrast to those who believed in Christ because of the signs, here is Nicodemus who saw the same signs but did not believe.
"A man"—in many of the modern translation we miss the important three part repetition of the word "man":
and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; John 2:25-3:1 NASB
Remember, there were no chapter breaks in the original text. Nicodemus, being described as a "man," appears to be a deliberate connection to the previous verse.
So we see Nicodemus as a "man" whose heart Yeshua knew. Yeshua knew what was in a man (and what follows with Nicodemus is a specific example).
Now what we need to see here is that in the Tanakh it is stated that only God knows what is in the heart of men. If we look at 1 Kings, chapter 8, there is a passage there which records Solomon's prayer of dedication at the Temple:
"Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; 1 Kings 8:28 NASB
So he is praying to Yahweh and in the midst of his prayer of dedication he states:
then hear in heaven Your dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart You know, for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men, 1 Kings 8:39 NASB
So Solomon says the only one who knows the hearts of men is Yahweh Himself. But here in John chapter 2 we are told that Yeshua knew what was in man. The conclusion should be obvious, our Lord Yeshua is Yahweh.
Here we meet a man named "Nicodemus"—it is surprising for a Jew in Palestine to have only a Greek name (as do Philip and Andrew, cf. John 1:40,43). This Greek name means: "people crusher" or "conqueror of the people." This is a fitting name for a member of the sect of Pharisees whose harsh interpretation of the Law of Moses made the Law an intolerable and oppressive burden to the people.
The name was quite common among Jews, and history reveals several prominent persons bearing the name Nicodemus in Jerusalem in the first century. This Nicodemus is mentioned three times in the Fourth Gospel (3:1; 7:50 and 19:39), but is not mentioned in the other Gospel accounts.
Lazarus tells us that Nicodemus was "A man of the Pharisees"—the Pharisaic party originated, it seems, during the period preceding the Maccabean wars a century or so before the time of Yeshua. And the attitudes that those men originated were a kind of reaction against the secularistic spirit of Hellenism in which they were living.
There were six thousand Pharisees, according to Josephus, in the land of Israel at that time. They were the most devout, the most conscientious keepers of the Law. Not only the Law of Scripture, but all the other laws that they made up, prescriptions to produce holiness, they thought. The word "Pharisee" comes from the word meaning: "separated." They were the separated people, separated from the rest of the people by their devotion to the Law, separated from sin, separated from evil, etc., etc. They were at the very heart of apostate, corrupt Judaism.
They were right in many of their doctrines. They believed in divine predestination. They believed in man's moral responsibility. They believed in the resurrection of the body, contrary to the Sadducees. They believed in the existence of angels and spirits. They believed in rewards and punishments in the future life. And they produced men of unusual skills and renown. For example, there was Gamaliel, who the Apostle Paul studied under. There was Paul himself, he was a Pharisee. Josephus, the Jewish historian, was also a Pharisee.
As a Pharisee, Nicodemus had respect for the Jewish Scriptures and was nationalistic politically. He would have stressed the careful observance of Israel's laws and the traditions of the elders. This was the way of salvation for Pharisees.
Yeshua denounced the Pharisees because they were characterized in the time of our Lord by exhibitionism and a "holier then thou" attitude. They loved to pray in the marketplaces, they loved also to sit in the prominent seats.
Listen to the testimony of Paul, who was one of them, a Pharisee, in Philippians 3:
although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. Philippians 3:4-6 NASB
That's the testimony of a Pharisee. I dotted every i; I crossed every t religiously. I observed the laws, I was kosher, I carried out the traditions, I did it all. And it really came down to some bizarre minutia. There are records that tell us, for example, that a Pharisee could not look in a mirror on the Sabbath. A mirror would be a piece of flattened metal, not glass. But a Pharisee couldn't look in a mirror on the Sabbath because he might see a gray hair and be tempted to pull it out, and that would be a violation of the "no-work on the Sabbath."
A Pharisee who had a sore throat would normally gargle with vinegar; that's what they used, this kind of an antiseptic. But Pharisees couldn't gargle on the Sabbath because that was work; they had to swallow it immediately when they drank the vinegar.
The best description given in the New Testament of Pharisees was given by our Lord in Matthew 23, in the last week of His life and ministry before His death:
Then Yeshua spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. Matthew 23:1-3 NASB
They put themselves in the chair of Moses. In other words, they became the interpreters of the Law of Moses. These men were very corrupt as we'll see as we look further in this chapter; so why does Yeshua say, "All that they tell you, do and observe"? Why should His followers listen to these corrupt men?
There are some scholars that say that this should be "all that he tells you" referring to Moses not "they," the Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees were telling the people not to believe in Yeshua; should they have listened to them? Notice what Yeshua says about the Pharisees, who are the religious elite in Jerusalem:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Matthew 23:27 NASB
If a preacher said this today about a political leader, he would be arrested for hate speech.
"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Matthew 23:33 NASB
If you read Matthew 23, you will see the very strong language that our Lord uses against these religious hypocrites.
Morris has a note here that is informative. He states, "The Pharisees had no vested interest in the Temple (which was rather the domain of the Sadducees). A Pharisee would, accordingly, not have been unduly perturbed by the action of Jesus in cleansing the Temple courts. Indeed, he may possibly have approved it, partly on the general principle that anything that put the Sadducees down a peg or two was laudable and partly in the interests of true religion." [Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John: Revised Edition, p. 186.]
Not only was Nicodemus a Pharisee, he was a, "Ruler of the Jews"—in this context, this is a technical phrase for members of the Sanhedrin (in other contexts it could mean a leader of a local synagogue). According to the Anchor Bible Dictionary our English rendering, "Sanhedrin," comes from the Greek word synedrion, which literally means: "a sitting down with." This term is found in Greek literature and is one of several general words used for governing assemblies and various types of courts of law. It is in the sense of a court of law that this term is used in the New Testament and in the Jewish oral law known as the Mishnah. There appears to have been 71 members and a High Priest who served as the president of the assembly of the Sanhedrin, yielding the significant number of 72 members. For the Old Covenant people this assembly was probably an outgrowth of the assembly which ratified the covenant with Yahweh in Exodus 24:9-11. In that historic event Moses, as covenant mediator, leads Aaron and his two sons and 70 elders up the mountain of Sinai, and they eat a sacred meal in the presence of Yahweh.
The authority high court had been quietly limited by the Romans, but it still had great symbolic significance to the Jewish people.
So, as Pharisee ruler (member of the Sanhedrin) and teacher, Nicodemus represented the essence of Judaism at that time. This is a formidable man in the religious system of Israel. In fact, he may have been one of the most formidable men of his day based on what Yeshua says in verse 10:
Yeshua answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? John 3:10 NASB
This man has reached the pinnacle of Judaism, because he is the teacher (definite article) the teacher of Israel. He's a leading man in apostate Judaism.
Now in his favor, Nicodemus was a very unusual man because he preserved a measure of open-mindedness amid the Pharisee conventionalism in which he had been brought up.
this man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2 NASB
"This man came to Yeshua by night"—is there some significance of him coming at night? I love MacArthur's comment here. He says, "Much has been written on the fact that he came by night, pages and pages and pages and pages. Let me tell you what it means. It means this: he did not come during the daylight. That is what it means. That is the depth and height and length and breadth of what it means. If you asked me why did he come at night? I don't know. More, I don't care."
Well, unlike MacArthur, I do care because I think that Lazarus tells us this because it is significant. Why is it significant? I'm not sure anyone can answer that with certainty.
The Pillar New Testament Commentary gives us many options, it states: "Why Nicodemus came to Jesus at night is uncertain. Some have thought this reference to 'night' is nothing more than a personal reminiscence of an historical detail. Others remind us of the texts demonstrating that rabbis studied and debated long into the night. Still others speculate that Nicodemus came to Yeshua at night in order to benefit from the cloak of darkness, fearing to be identified in the public mind with the Galilean teacher and wonder-worker. The best clue lies in John's use of 'night' elsewhere: in each instance (3:2; 9:4; 11:10; 13:30) the word is either used metaphorically for moral and spiritual darkness, or, if it refers to the night-time hours, it bears the same moral and spiritual symbolism. Doubtless, Nicodemus approached Yeshua at night, but his own 'night' was blacker than he knew (cf. Hengstenberg, 1.157-158; Lightfoot, p. 116).
Since night/darkness in the Fourth Gospel symbolize the realm of evil, untruth and ignorance, it is unlikely that Lazarus tells us this just as a detail. Nicodemus, "the teacher of Israel," was himself in darkness.
W. Hall Harris writes, "Out of the darkness of his life and religiosity Nicodemus came to the Light of the World. John probably had multiple meanings or associations in mind here, as he often does."
"Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him"—Nicodemus calls Yeshua "Rabbi." That was a title which Nicodemus would have borne. For a common man to call Yeshua "Rabbi" might not mean much; but for a chief Rabbi or teacher to do so, indicated that Nicodemus recognized something of Yeshua's authority.
The construction of the Greek text suggests that emphasis be placed on the words, "from God." Thus Nicodemus understood Yeshua as more than a typical or ordinary teacher.
"We know"—here Nicodemus speaks in the first person plural "we know," not "I know." Who is the "we"? Nicodemus could have been representing others on the Sanhedrin besides himself, such as Joseph of Arimathea (cf. 19:38). Another option is that "we" suggests the current popular opinion about Yeshua.
Here is a man who is a member of the most hostile, the most aggressive, the most angry, the most hateful enemies that Yeshua had on earth, the Pharisees. And he is saying, "We know that you have come from God as a teacher." Nicodemus' courtesy and lack of hostility mark him as a very non-typical Pharisee.
"For no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him"—what is really cool here is that this isn't the testimony of one of His followers. This is the testimony of one of His enemies. We know that God is with you!
"God is with him"—this statement places Yeshua in the same category as such Old Covenant persons as Moses and Jeremiah, both of whom hear God say, "I will be [or am] with you."
In chapter 2 the signs led the people to believe in the name of Yeshua:
Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. John 2:23 NASB
Remember in the Tanakh it was said that the Messiah, when He came, would perform mighty miracles. This was one of the ways by which Israel was to identify their Messiah. When He came He would heal the sick, He would raise the dead, He would cleanse the lepers. They saw these signs and believed.
But for Nicodemus all the signs have meant was that Yeshua is a great teacher sent from God. So some believe in Yeshua when they observe the signs, and others don't; what causes the difference? Same signs; some believe, some don't. Why? Yeshua tells us in the next verse:
Yeshua answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." John 3:3 NASB
"Truly, truly"—literally, this is "Amen! Amen!" Yeshua's doubling of this term is found only in John's Gospel, where it appears twenty-five times. What is the significance of this? In English "Amen" carries the general meaning of: "so be it" or "I believe" or "it is true," but the Hebrew word "emn" is a Hebrew acrostic formed from the first letters of three Hebrew words: El Melech Ne'eman, which is translated: "God is a trustworthy King." The word "Amen" itself appears for the first time in the Book of Numbers:
and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away." And the woman shall say, "Amen. Amen." Numbers 5:22 NASB
It is also used as a response by a congregation to a prayer as in Psalms 89:53, or as a declamation as it is used in Deuteronomy 27, it is used like an oath, swearing that God is a trustworthy King who will make sure we will keep the oath we swear. [see Talmud: Shabbat 119b; The Jewish Book of Why, vol. I, page 152].
To have an appreciation of the original meaning of this word, look at:
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: Revelation 3:14 NASB
Yeshua is the Amen, He is the faithful and true Witness. This double "Amen" found in the initial position in a sentence was a unique way of drawing attention to Yeshua's significant, trustworthy statements or revelation from Yahweh.
Notice that our text says, "Yeshua answered and said to him"—what is the question Yeshua is answering? Nicodemus didn't ask a question, he made a declaration, a confession. Nicodemus didn't yet ask the question, but Yeshua answers the question that is on his mind. Remember verse 25:
and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. John 2:25 NASB
Yeshua knew what was in the heart of man, and the next verse says:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews; John 3:1 NASB
Yeshua answered Nicodemus' question before he ever asked it. This must have had an impact on him. He knows that only Yahweh knew the heart of man.
Nicodemus has not yet asked anything, though the implied question seems to be something like, "How may I enter into the Kingdom of God, or how may I have eternal life?" That was his question. And Yeshua's answer is:
"Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God"—the idea of being "born again" is a very familiar concept to believers. At least the terminology is a very familiar part of evangelical lingo. It has been popular for a long time, to speak of oneself as being a born-again Christian. But born-again Christian is redundant. To be born again is to be a Christian, and to be a Christian is to have been born again.
The Greek verbs translated "born" in verses 3-8 (eight of them) all derive from gennao, the normal word for being born. The word translated "again" is anothen, which has a double meaning, as pointed out by Z. C. Hodges. The word may mean either "again" or "from above."
Lazarus uses this word anothen four times in this Gospel (3:3, 7; 3:31; 19:11) and in the latter 2 cases the context makes clear that it means: "from above." Here (3:3, 7) it could mean either, but it seems that Hodges is right that the primary meaning intended by Yeshua is: "from above." This phrase points to God as the source and origin of this birth.
The only other Biblical reference to being "born again"is found in 1Peter:
for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:23 NASB
Here a different word is used: anagennao (ana [again]+ gennao [to be born]). While anothen (from above) points to the source of this new birth, anagennao (born again) points to the fact that this is a second birth, distinct from the first physical birth. This entire verse clearly teaches the spiritual and divine source of this second birth.
Our Lord uses a passive voice in "born," which means He is declaring the necessity of a condition that someone else must bring about on our behalf. The passive voice expresses the subject being acted upon. So Yeshua told Nicodemus, you cannot birth yourself spiritually so that you enter the Kingdom. Someone else must birth you, and apart from that new birth, you cannot enter the Kingdom.
The whole point of the analogy of being born from above is to demonstrate that Yeshua is saying something has to happen to you that you can't do, that you can't contribute to in any way. We made no contribution to our physical birth, and that is why the Lord chooses this analogy, because we also make no contribution to our spiritual birth.
No one gives himself or herself physical life, and no one by any means gives himself or herself spiritual life. That's the whole point. Spiritual birth or regeneration is the work of God in salvation.
What does it mean to be born from above? The term "born again" or "born from above" is synonymous with "regeneration." Being born from above is the same as "receiving a new heart" (Ezekiel 36:26), or what Ephesians 2 calls being "made alive." 1 Peter calls it "being called out of darkness into His marvelous light." All of these terms refer to what theologians call "regeneration."
Hodge says that regeneration is "the instantaneous change from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regeneration, therefore, is a spiritual resurrection, the beginning of a new life." Thiesseen says, "Regeneration may be defined as the communication of divine life to the soul, as the impartation of a new nature, or heart and the production of a new creation."
There are many different views of regeneration within the Church. The Pelagian view says that regeneration is a moral transformation, a work of man. Most liberals today hold this view. It was condemned by the Church in 431 at the Counsel of Ephesus. Practically, the Pelagian says, "I can save myself by my works." Adam was the first Pelagian; he tried to cover his sin with fig leaves. God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with the skins to picture Christ's righteousness.
The Catholic view says that regeneration is accomplished by baptism, so it is a work of man through a divine ordinance. The Church of Christ also holds the view of baptismal regeneration. The Arminian view is called "semi-pelagianism." Regeneration is not exclusively God's or man's work—it is the fruit of man's choice to cooperate with the divine influences. They teach that the work of man, a decision to trust Christ, is prior to the work of God. This view is held by most evangelicals. They believe it was necessary for them, in an act of their own will, to cooperate with the grace found in the preaching of the Word.
Then there is the position that we hold here at Berean Bible Church, called the "Calvinistic or Reformed View," which teaches that "regeneration is of the Lord"; God made us alive, who were dead; God made us willing, who were unwilling. Salvation from beginning to end is a work of God, according to the Reformed View.
The basic debate in the Church is between Calvinism and Arminianism. Those who hold the Pelagian or Catholic views are not Christians, because they trust themselves, not Christ. Calvinism proclaims a God who saves, while Arminianism speaks of a God who enables man to save himself. One makes salvation depend on
the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God's gift of salvation, the other as man's contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of salvation to God, the other divides the praise between God, who built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.
What does the Bible teach about regeneration? Well as we saw in John 3:3 we MUST be born from above, because the condition of humanity demands it according to:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1 NASB
Fallen man, in his natural state lacks all power to commune with God, because man is spiritually dead. Apart from the new birth, man cannot understand spiritual things:
But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14 NASB
Who is the natural man? Jude uses this same Greek word translated: "natural" here and "sensual" in Jude 17. Jude says, "sensual, having not the Spirit." So, the natural man is the man without the spirit of God. Regeneration is absolutely necessary, because apart from regeneration man has no ability to understand or desire the things of God.
Plutarch has a parable of a man who tried to make a dead body stand upright. And after a long time of trying to make the body stand upright and failing, he is said to have said. "There is something lacking within." Well that's the trouble with man, there is something lacking within.
Do you remember back in chapter 1?:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, John 1:12 NASB
Becoming children of God implies birth, doesn't it? In order to be a child, you have to be born. In order to become a child of God, you have to be born from above; that's what He says. He talks about having the right to become children of God by believing in His name. Then verse 13 makes it clear:
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13 NASB
"Who were born not of blood"—that is, this spiritual birth isn't something you inherit. "Nor of the will of the flesh"—this refers to human sexual impulse, not born by human sexual impulse. The flesh cannot produce children of God. Crossing the boundary from the world's realm to God's realm is possible only by divine agency. "Nor of the will of man"—the word that John uses here for man is andros, which speaks of a male, not the generic term for mankind. This word is often translated as: "husband." The NIV interpreted it properly as: "husband" here. This probably refers to the father's authority in deciding to have a child. Spiritual life does not come because of a human decision.
Three different expressions of human reproduction, "of bloods," "will of the flesh," and "will of man," are denied as effective in creating children of God. Rather, the children of God are those who are born of (the Greek literally has "out of") God.
God works in the new birth is to sovereignly bestow new life upon individuals who in turn immediately believe the message that they hear. And then having been regenerated and having come to faith, they are installed in the family of God as the children of God.
Without a birth from above, Yeshua says, "He cannot see the kingdom of God"—"to see the kingdom," and the phrase in verse 5, "to enter the kingdom," both mean: "to experience the kingdom." Yeshua uses the term "see" in the sense of "experience, encounter, participate in"—e.g., "see death" (8:51), "see life" (3:36).
To "see the Kingdom of God" or "to enter the Kingdom," both mean to: "obtain eternal life" (cf. Mark 9:43, 45, 47). Lazarus used "Kingdom" language rarely (vv. 3, 5; 18:36). This is the only passage in John that mentions the "Kingdom of God," though Yeshua spoke of "My kingdom" in 18:36. He generally used "life" language instead (cf. 1:12-13).
To a Jew with the background and convictions of Nicodemus, "to see the Kingdom of God" was to participate in the Kingdom at the end of the age, to experience eternal, resurrection life. Predominant religious thought in Yeshua's day affirmed that all Jews would be admitted to that Kingdom apart from those guilty of deliberate apostasy or extraordinary wickedness (e.g. Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:1). But here was Yeshua telling Nicodemus, a respected and conscientious member not only of Israel but of the Sanhedrin, that he cannot enter the Kingdom unless he is born from above.
The Kingdom of God is spiritual, not geographic. God reigns in the hearts of people! What do you need to have a Kingdom? Only two necessary components: a king and subjects. You don't need a geographic realm.
The idea of "Kingdom" in both the Tanakh and New Testament is primarily dynamic rather than spatial. It is not so much a Kingdom with geographic borders as it is a "kingdominion," or reign. In the Scriptures, the spatial meaning of Kingdom is secondary and derivative. The Kingdom of God or Kingdom of heaven is, quite simply, the rule and reign of God. Christianity is the Kingdom of God.
We live in a democracy. And as good as democracy is for a government, it raises certain issues with us about authority. If we don't like who is in authority, we vote them out. But a Kingdom isn't like that. These people would have understood that a Kingdom means that the king is in charge: the king makes the rules; the king breaks the rules; the king establishes whatever needs to be established. And there isn't anything you do about that. You just surrender to the will of the king. That's the way a monarchy works.
One of the dangers when living in a democracy is that we start to take that same concept and apply it to our theology—as if God is kind of a democracy and lets us have a dicussion about this. But the Kingdom of God is not a democracy; it's a monarchy. God is in charge, and that's the way it works. And the only way to become a Kingdom citizen is to be born from above. So how do you know if you have been born from above, is there evidence to demonstrate the new birth? Yes, the evidence of the new birth is faith in Yeshua:
Whoever believes that Yeshua is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 1 John 5:1 NASB
The Greek text reads, "Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Christ has been [perfect tense] born of God." Wuest translates it, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ, out from God has been born and as a result is His child." Law said, "The Divine begetting is the antecedent (go before) not the consequent of the believing."
The reason, the only reason, that you believe that Yeshua is the Christ is because you have been born from above. Which means Yahweh gets all the glory for your salvation. You play no part in the new birth.