Search for the Bride
By Arlen L. Chitwood
Entering the Kingdom
Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, [‘born out of water and Spirit’], he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).
The first eleven chapters of John’s gospel have been built around seven signs (from the marriage in Cana of Galilee [chapter 2] to the resurrection of Lazarus [chapter 11]). And an eighth sign is seen in the gospel (Christ’s resurrection [chapter 20; cf. Matthew 12:38-40]) immediately prior to John stating the reason why he recorded these signs:
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30, 31).
The signs in John’s gospel all point to events leading into or occurring during the Messianic Era. And these signs are directed to the Jewish people, for it is the Jew who requires a sign (1 Corinthians 1:22).
These signs were recorded in order that the Jewish people “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God [the Saviour, Who would rule and reign, with ‘Sonship’ implying Rulership].” Thus, these signs were recorded to effect belief on the part of the Jewish people, for only though belief could they have “life in His name.”
And life in John’s gospel, seen in connection with these signs, has to do first and foremost with life (salvation) to be realized during the same time as the time dealt with in the signs — i.e., with life during the Messianic Era. John wrote his gospel, recording these signs, about three decades after the close of the reoffer of the kingdom to Israel; and any thought of life, or salvation, in connection with the Jewish people, at this point in time, would have to begin with salvation by grace. But the thought of salvation in John’s gospel, though beginning with salvation by grace, would have to include far more. It would have to include present and future aspects of salvation as well.
Salvation by Grace
Salvation by grace is eternal in nature, though that is really not the way salvation in any one of its three aspects (past, present, or future) is dealt with in John’s gospel. Rather, salvation in John’s gospel is inseparably connected with the signs, around which the gospel is built. And these signs point to things surrounding the kingdom, not to things surrounding the eternal ages.
Thus, the thrust of salvation by grace (past aspect of salvation), as the salvation of the soul (present and future aspects of salvation), points to and relates to exactly the same time as that seen in the signs. And with salvation being dealt with in John’s gospel in connection with these signs — which point to the Messianic Era, not the eternal ages — salvation is presented in this gospel in connection with millennial rather than eternal verities.
And salvation is also seen in this same respect elsewhere in Scripture. This will explain why Jesus said:
Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again [‘born from above’], he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3)
The birth from above — the Spirit breathing life into the one who has no life, effecting a passing “from death to life” — is dealt with in relation to the kingdom of God, not the ages beyond the kingdom. Though the birth from above provides life that will last for not only the Messianic Era but throughout all the ages beyond that era, it is dealt with in relation to the Messianic Era in John’s gospel for two reasons: 1) This is the way in which matters were set forth in the beginning (Genesis 1:1-2:3), establishing a septenary structure upon which the whole of subsequent Scripture rests; and, as previously stated, 2) salvation in John’s gospel is connected with the signs, which point to events surrounding the Messianic Era alone.
A man must be born from above if he is to see the kingdom (v. 3). Then Jesus goes on to deal with that which is necessary if one would not only see the kingdom but enter the kingdom as well (v. 5).
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit [lit., ‘born out of water and Spirit’], he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5)
Verse three deals with the salvation that saved man presently possesses, the salvation of the spirit (past aspect of salvation). But verse five moves beyond this and deals with the salvation of the soul (present and future aspects of salvation). And the whole of man’s salvation (past [v. 3]; present and future [v. 5]) is dealt with relative to a single revealed goal — the kingdom.
Saved for a Purpose
Man has been, is being, and will be saved for a revealed purpose. There is a revealed goal in view, and, relative to salvation, that goal is always the same in Scripture, regardless of what aspect of man’s salvation is in view. That goal is the same for the whole of man’s salvation — spirit, soul, and body. That goal is man being placed back in the position for which he was created in the beginning, and that position will be realized during the Messianic Era.
(Thus, salvation, viewed in this respect, is not something peculiar to John’s gospel. Rather, this is the manner in which Scripture presents salvation throughout, with the unchangeable foundational pattern set in the opening verses of Genesis.
The inhabited world to come will not be placed in subjection to angels, as the present world [Hebrews 2:5]. This is the message seen throughout Scripture. A new order of Sons is about to be brought on the scene [Romans 8:18-23] — Christ and His co-heirs. And, from a Scriptural standpoint, man’s salvation centers on that coming day when this new order of Sons holds the scepter and rules the earth.)
Man invariably deals with salvation in relation to eternity and going to heaven, while seldom mentioning salvation in relation to the Messianic Era and the kingdom of the heavens. Scripture, on the other hand, presents the matter in a completely inverse fashion. Scripture invariably deals with salvation in relation to the Messianic Era and the kingdom of the heavens. Heaven (the present dwelling place of God) and the ages beyond are mentioned at times, but not relative to salvation in the same sense that man relates them to salvation.
Man is not going to spend either the Messianic Era or the eternal ages that follow it in the place known today as heaven. And, in relation to the eternal ages that follow the Messianic Era, God is not going to dwell in this place either. God is going to dwell on the new earth throughout the ages comprising eternity.
And even when Scripture does deal with saved man in heaven (e.g., Christians following death, or Christians following the rapture) matters are always completely consistent with the way Scripture elsewhere deals with saved man. If future time comes into view, reference is made to things surrounding the Messianic Era, not the ages beyond (though in several instances the Messianic Era is connected with and seen as the first of these ages, though separate from them [e.g., Luke 1:33; Ephesians 2:7]).
During the Messianic Era, man will dwell either on a restored earth or in the heavens above this restored earth, with there being a Jerusalem above and a Jerusalem below (capital cities both over and on the earth, with Christians [along with certain Old Testament saints] inhabiting the city above, and Israel inhabiting the city below). During this era, there will be a rule from the heavens over the earth. And this rule, as today, will originate with God in heaven and progress through rulers placed in the heavens in relation to this earth.
Today, this rule progresses from God through Satan and his angels (though rebel rulers), who reside in the heavens above the earth. But during that coming day this rule will progress from God through His Son and His Son’s co-heirs, who will reside in the new Jerusalem above the earth.
A rule of the preceding nature, from the heavens over the earth, must continue during the Messianic Era, for this is the manner in which God established the government of the earth in the beginning. Such a rule must continue as long as the earth remains, which will be until the end of the Messianic Era — to the full end of the seven days, the 7,000 years, set forth in the beginning (Genesis 1:1-2:3).
A rule from the heavens over the earth (one province in God’s kingdom) is not only the way in which God originally established the government of the earth but the way in which He evidentially established His government throughout all other parts of the universe as well (all other provinces in His kingdom). And this can never change in relation to any one province, for “the heavens do rule” (cf. Daniel 4:25, 26).
Thus, God’s Son, with His co-heirs, must rule throughout the Messianic Era in exact accord with the way God established the government of the earth in the beginning. Such a governmental rule will have to continue during this time, for the present earth will not pass out of existence until the end of the Messianic Era (Revelation 21:1-5).
God’s Son, with His co-heirs, will rule over the earth for 1,000 years — the earth’s coming Sabbath, foreshadowed by the seventh day in Genesis 2:1-3 (cf. Exodus 31:13-17; Hebrews 4:1-9). They will rule for 1,000 years to effect order where disorder has prevailed for millennia in one province in God’s universe. And once order has been restored, the kingdom will be delivered up to God the Father, that God might be “all in all [i.e., permeate all, be ‘everything in all things’].”
Then, once order has been restored and the kingdom has been delivered up to the Father, the present heavens and earth will be destroyed. A new heavens and a new earth will be brought into existence, and the new earth will become the place in the new heavens (as the earth today, suspended at a point in the heavens) from whence universal rule will emanate. God will move His throne to the new earth, the Son will sit with His Father on this throne (called “the throne of God and of the Lamb”), and saved man will exercise power from this throne as well (2 Peter 3:10ff; Revelation 21:1ff; 22:1-5).
Therein lies man’s destiny, not going to heaven per se. Man’s destiny has to do with regality, the earth, and the universe — first, ruling over this present earth from the new Jerusalem above the earth (during the Messianic Era); then, ruling out in the universe from the new Jerusalem on the new earth (during the ages that follow).
Salvation in Scripture is always dealt with in relation to the scope of Scripture; and Scripture deals centrally with everything moving toward a seventh day, a seventh 1,000-year period. Events during this coming day, the Messianic Era, must be brought to pass first. And therein lies the reason why Scripture deals with man centrally in relation to this time, with the ages beyond seldom being in view (regardless of which aspect of salvation is being dealt with — past, present, or future).
Only following the Messianic Era can the ages that lie beyond this era be brought into view in all their fullness. During the present time they are briefly dealt with in Scripture so that man can have some understanding of God’s plan for the ages, where the whole of the matter — 6,000 years, followed by a 1,000-year Messianic Era — will eventually lead. But only following the Messianic Era will matters move beyond that dealt with extensively in Scripture. Only then will God begin to open up and fully reveal that which will occur during the period that man thinks of today as eternity.
And the manner in which Scripture presents this whole matter — particularly as it relates to man’s salvation — has become very difficult, practically impossible, for most Christians to see and grasp. These Christians have been taught wrongly for years — not necessarily concerning how to be saved, but concerning the purpose for salvation and that which lies ahead for redeemed man. And because this erroneous teaching surrounding salvation has become so ingrained within their way of thinking, attempts to present salvation from the correct biblical perspective usually meet with askance looks, opposition, or antagonism on almost every hand.
When that depicted by the woman placing the leaven in the three measures of meal in Matthew 13:33 occurred very early in the dispensation (which deals with an attempt on Satan’s part to corrupt all biblical doctrine having to do with the Word of the Kingdom), anything related to the Word of the Kingdom began to be adversely affected. And this working of the leaven, of necessity, would extend even into the biblical scope of salvation by grace.
This would have to be the case because of the inseparable connection salvation by grace has with the Word of the Kingdom. It is man passing “from death to life” (“salvation of his spirit”) that places him in a position where he can realize the salvation of his soul.
The whole of the matter surrounding salvation simply can’t be divided up, with part relating to the eternal ages and part relating to the Messianic Era. Scripture doesn’t make such a division, and it is wrong for man to step in and make such a division. Scripture, first and foremost, relates the whole of the matter (beginning with salvation by grace) to the Messianic Era.
Thus, one way to introduce corruption into correct Scriptural teaching surrounding the Word of the Kingdom is to remove salvation by grace from its correct scriptural setting, relating it solely to the eternal ages, while ignoring the Messianic Era. And then a corruption of the message surrounding salvation by grace itself is introduced through other means. The Lordship Salvation teaching, rampant throughout much of Christendom, would be one such means.
Satan, introducing corruption surrounding the Word of the Kingdom through different ways and means, has one revealed goal in view — a corruption of all correct scriptural teaching surrounding the message concerning the coming kingdom.
If salvation by grace is separated from the kingdom and related solely to the ages that follow the Messianic Era, the message cannot be presented within a completely correct scriptural framework. An element of corruption will have been introduced (even though the simplicity of salvation by grace might be proclaimed in a correct manner), for the kingdom will have been removed from view.
And matters become even more negative surrounding the relationship that salvation by grace has with the kingdom through the message of those advocating Lordship Salvation. Those proclaiming this message take things having to do with the Word of the Kingdom and seek to bring these things over into and apply them to the message of salvation by grace (i.e., things having to do with present and future aspects of salvation are removed from their respective contexts and applied to things having to do with past aspects of salvation). And, through this means, those proclaiming this message not only remove the kingdom from view but they do two other things in the process. They both destroy the Word of the Kingdom and corrupt the message of salvation by grace.
Interestingly enough, those who proclaim a correct salvation message per se but ignore the kingdom and those who proclaim a lordship salvation message (who, through this means, destroy one message and corrupt the other) form two major groups in Christendom today. Those from these two groups remain at almost complete odds with one another on the salvation message; but when it comes to correctly relating this message to the kingdom, it can only be said of both groups that they have been similarly, adversely affected by the same leavening process that is rampant in the Laodicean church of today.
Out of Water and Spirit
John 3:5 is usually understood as an explanation of that which was previously stated in verse three. However, this can’t be the case. Verse three has to do solely with a spiritual birth, a birth from above. But verse five begins with a birth out of water. Further, that stated in verse three is set within a context of seeing the kingdom, and that stated in verse five is set within a context of entering the kingdom.
(Attention should be called to several things about the structure of the Greek text in John 3:5. There are two nouns [hudor, “water”; Pneuma, “Spirit”] governed by one preposition [ek, meaning “out of”] and connected by a conjunction [kai, meaning “and”; or the word could be understood as “even,” depending on its contextual usage]. Whenever such a construction occurs in the Greek text, both words must be taken in either a literal sense or in a figurative sense. One cannot be taken one way and the other another way.
For example, it is quite popular to understand “water” in a figurative or metaphorical sense [usually referring to the Word, or to the Spirit] but, at the same time, understand “Spirit” in a literal sense. The Amplified New Testament alludes to this type understanding of the two words in an alternate translation [“…born of water, even the Spirit”]. This though would run counter to the rules of Greek grammar. And so would the common practice of making “water” refer to the Word in a metaphorical sense, while understanding “Spirit” in a literal sense.
All attempts to explain the matter through interpretations of the preceding nature, in reality, originate from another error — attempts to align verse five with verse three rather than looking at the exact wording of the text and coming to the realization that verse five is not dealing with the same thing as verse three at all. And any interpretation resulting from this error can only produce the same end result — man’s ideas on that which God has stated, with the end of the matter being confusion.)
The fact that seeing the kingdom and entering the kingdom in John 3:3, 5 are not the same can perhaps best be illustrated by reference to the experiences of Moses, and then those of Caleb and Joshua, relative to entrance into the land set before them.
(The expression, “see the land,” was used in the sense of enter the land when God dealt with the Israelites at Kadesh-Barnea [Numbers 14:21-23]. This though was an expression — the word see used in the sense of enter [v. 24; cf. Joshua 5:6]. But in God’s dealings with Moses, and then with Caleb and Joshua, a sharp distinction was made between seeing and entering. And only a distinction of this nature could possibly be in view in John 3:3, 5 [where requirements for seeing the kingdom and entering the kingdom are different; cf. Matthew 5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23, 24; Mark 9:47; Acts 14:22].)
Moses, because of his striking the rock to which he was told only to speak (Numbers 20:8-12), was denied entrance into the land to which he had led the Israelites. Immediately prior to God instructing Joshua to lead a second generation of Israelites into the land, God took Moses “to the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah” and allowed him to look over into the land. Moses was allowed to see the land, but he was not allowed to enter the land (Deuteronomy 34:1-5).
On the other hand, Caleb and Joshua, from the accountable generation overthrown in the wilderness, were allowed to enter the land. Caleb and Joshua had another spirit within them (that of belief, not unbelief), and they followed the Lord God fully (Numbers 14:24). And the whole of that set forth in the typology of the Israelites under Moses, and later Joshua — from the death of the firstborn in Egypt, to that which occurred relative to entrance into the land set before them — is what John 3:3, 5 draws from and has to do with.
The Israelites, following the death of the firstborn, had been called out of Egypt (a type of the world) to an earthly land. Those inhabiting this land (Gentile nations, infiltrated by the Nephilim [cf. Numbers 13:31-33]) were to be overthrown; and the Israelites were to realize an inheritance in this land, within a theocracy. The Israelites, as the wife of Jehovah, were to be placed at the head of the nations; and the nations were to be ruled by and blessed through Israel as the nation occupied both the position of God’s wife and that of firstborn son.
In the antitype, Christians, following the death of the firstborn, have been called out of this world to a heavenly land. Those inhabiting this land (Satan and his angels [Ephesians 6:10-18]) are to be overcome, later overthrown; and Christians are to one day realize an inheritance in this land, within a theocracy. Christians, as both the wife of Christ and God’s firstborn son, are to rule as co-heirs with Christ; and the nations are to be ruled by and blessed through Christ and His co-heirs in this manner.
An individual must go to the types — particularly the type having to do with the Israelites under Moses, and later Joshua — if he would properly understand what John 3:3, 5 deals with. Ignore the types — i.e., ignore God’s way of explaining the matter — and these verses can never be properly understood. But pay attention to the types, which have been given to shed light upon and help explain the antitype, and the whole matter will become self-evident.
This is what Nicodemus, a religious ruler and leading teacher among the Jewish people, should have been able to easily see and understand. Jesus drew from the Old Testament scriptures; and Nicodemus should have been able to go back to the complete overall type, extending from Exodus chapter twelve through Joshua, and easily ascertain the things to which Christ was referring.
John 3:3 draws from the death of the firstborn in Exodus chapter twelve. Then John 3:5 draws from the Red Sea passage and that which lay beyond, detailed in subsequent chapters of Exodus and succeeding books (Leviticus through Joshua). If a person misses this, he will find himself lost in the same sea of misinterpretation in which so many find themselves today.
And, again, note one thing at this point. It matters not whether a person is dealing with events in Exodus chapter twelve or with events in subsequent chapters of this book or chapters in subsequent books, the same goal is in view — the land, wherein a theocracy was to be realized.
1) Out of Water
(The word “born” in John 3:3-8 [Gk., gennao] has to do with a bringing forth. The word is used throughout the New Testament mainly in connection with birth, but the word is also used at times apart from birth [e.g., Philemon 10]. The word is used both ways in John 3.)
Born out of water in the type has to do with the Red Sea passage. The Israelites (who had experienced the death of the firstborn [pointing to the birth from above]) were taken through the Sea (through the place of death), raised up out of the Sea, and positioned on the eastern banks. They stood on the eastern banks of the Sea through supernatural means, wherein resurrection power was exhibited; and they stood in this position with a land set before them.
And, in the antitype, this is pictured through the act of baptism. A Christian who has experienced the death of the firstborn (pointing to the birth from above) is taken through and raised up out of the waters of baptism (through the place of death). He then, within the symbolism involved, finds himself in the position of having been raised with Christ (Colossians 2:12; 3:1). And in this position — wrought through supernatural, resurrection power — the Christian is to walk “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4), with a view to a land set before him.
The Israelites, passing through the Sea, had gone down into the place of death. Only the dead are to be buried, and the death of the firstborn had just occurred. Thus, a burial must also occur. But beyond burial, there must also be a resurrection. The Israelites, through the death of the firstborn, possessed spiritual life. Thus, they must be raised from the place of death to walk “in newness of life” — something having to do with the spiritual man alone, for this resurrection has nothing to do with the man of flesh. He is to be left in the place of death.
In the antitype, matters are exactly the same. It is going down into the place of death because of the death of the firstborn, and it is rising from this place because the person possesses spiritual life. And this rising has to do with the spiritual man alone, for, again, this resurrection has nothing to do with the man of flesh. He is to be left in the place of death.
And the symbolism seen in rising from the waters is not only inseparably connected with Christ’s resurrection but in the land set before Christians (as seen in the type in Exodus 14ff). In Colossians 2:12-15, Christ, through His resurrection, stripped the present principalities and powers inhabiting this land (Satan and his angels) of their power; and following His resurrection, He openly triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15). In this respect, His resurrection was inseparably connected with regality, as is that seen in the symbolism of a Christian rising from the waters of baptism.
Christ, following His resurrection, was positioned as “the Head of all principality and power” [Colossians 2:10]. The Father has delivered “all power…in heaven and in earth” unto Him (Matthew 28:18). And, because of this, Satan and his angels have been stripped of all power (the word “spoiled” in Colossians 2:15 could be better translated and understood as “stripped”), and Christ has openly triumphed over them relative to that which has been done.
However, though stripped of power, with all power having been given to the Son, the time is yet future when this power will be taken from Satan and exercised by Christ. In the interim, the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father, and the Spirit is in the world calling out a bride for the Son. The former is with a view to Christ’s enemies being made His footstool; and the latter is with a view to that same time, when the second Man, the last Adam, takes the scepter and rules the earth (Christ must have a wife to rule with Him during this time, else He cannot reign [cf. Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 110:1ff]).
Scripture also presents Christ triumphing openly over the present principalities and powers following His resurrection in 1 Peter 3:18-22. And baptism is dealt with in the text as well, exactly in the same manner seen in Colossians 2:12-15 (cf. Romans chapters six through eight where all these things are again seen in a more detailed and expanded sequence).
Relative to Christians and baptism, 1 Peter 3:21 clearly states, “There is also an antitype that now saves us — baptism …” And the statement not only draws from another type — “eight souls” saved through water during Noah’s day — but it occurs in a book that begins by making specific reference to the subject matter of the book, the salvation of the soul (cf. 1 Peter 1:5, 9, 10).
How does baptism save (and note that the salvation of the soul is being dealt with, not the salvation that Christians presently possess)? The reader is not left to his own imagination. The text goes on to explain how baptism saves, with the physical, outward act of baptism itself (as the Flood itself, or the Red Sea passage itself) having nothing to do with the matter.
The salvation in view is associated, not with “the removal of the filth of the flesh,” but with “the answer of a good conscience [‘proper spiritual awareness’] toward God.” The salvation in view has to do with walking “in newness of life [something that a man without spiritual life cannot possibly do],” which is inseparably connected with Christ’s resurrection (cf. Romans 6:4-6; 1 Peter 3:21b).
This is why Paul was so completely obsessed with knowing Christ, knowing the power of His resurrection, knowing the fellowship of His sufferings, and being made conformable unto His death (Philippians 3:10 [the word for “know” in the Greek text of this verse has to do with a knowledge gained by experience]).
Paul, whatever the cost might have been, strained every muscle of his being (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) as he passed through the experiences associated with being raised from the place of death (born out of water, pictured through rising from the baptismal waters, drawing from the type in Exodus 14), for he wanted to be among those who would “attain to the resurrection [‘out-resurrection’] from the dead” (Philippians 3:11).
2) Out of Spirit
In John 3:5, Christ not only referred to a birth out of water in the preceding respect, but He also referred to a birth out of Spirit as well.
In the type, this is seen through the Israelites, on the eastern banks of the Sea, being led by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, as they moved toward the land set before them.
And the antitype is evident. A Christian, raised from the waters to walk “in newness of life,” has the indwelling Spirit to lead him into all truth, as he moves toward the land set before him.
There must be a resurrection in view. Then, the one raised from the place of death must follow the man of spirit, allowing the Spirit to fill and lead him throughout his pilgrim journey (cf. Ephesians 5:18, 19; Colossians 3:16).
This is why both (“water” and “Spirit”) are set forth side-by-side in John 3:5; and this is why the epistles, drawing from the types, go to such great lengths to call all the various facets of this matter to a Christian’s attention. Only through this dual means can a Christian be successfully led to the goal of his calling. Only through this dual means can a Christian enter into the kingdom of God.