Way back in June of 2012, James Jordan wrote a very interesting piece on regeneration or “the new birth” in John 3. Here is an excerpt (the full article can be read HERE):
Jesus begins “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless someone is born again/from-above he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Now, if you’re Nicodemus you might be frustrated by this. Let’s fill in the conversation in a sane and careful way. “But Jesus, rabbi, we both know that God’s people have been born again over and over from above. God has give us new births many times, and showered new blessings of His Spirit on us. We got a new start at the Flood, but then look what happened? Then again at Sinai, a nation was born in a day! And then look what happened!! After the Babylonian wilderness we got Cyrus the New Imperial Messiah, a believer with Daniel at his right hand. We got the wonderful 49-fold lampstand of Zechariah 4, the bronze pillars became bronze mountains in Zechariah 6, and we rode out bringing peace to the nations, spread out as the four winds of heaven. And now look where we are!!
“What you are saying, Jesus, gives me no hope. One more new birth? One more new kingdom of God? Jesus, the human race is old, and the way I see it, the only way to get out from the death-nature we have from Adam would be to go back into our mother’s womb and be born again.”
Is that what Nicodemus said? Believe me, something like it surely is. This is the summary in verse 4: “How can mankind be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” There are two Greek words for “man.” The one is aner/andros, which refers to an individual person or a husband. The other is anthropos, which is more general and can refer to man generically, or mankind. It is anthropos that Nicodemus uses here. Now, I cannot press this too far. Often anthropos is used for an individual. It does not matter which way we take it. If Nicodemus were being sarcastic or stupid, he would have said, “Can an individual man (aner) climb up his mother’s birth canal and come back out again?” That not what he said. He was asking a serious and profound question.
We can note that in verse 7, Jesus says, “Do not marvel that I said to you (singular), you (plural) must be born again.” I’m saying to you, Nicodemus, that humanity needs a new birth.
I believe Nicodemus was fully aware that he was talking about Adam’s original birth as the generation of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 2:4). Adam was born out of mother earth (adamah, feminine) and the breath of the Spirit of God (2:7). The dust of which he was made was pre-baptized (1:9), a baptism with the waters below. Nicodemus was saying that a new humanity would have to be born again in such a way as to negate the consequences of Adam’s sin. Nicodemus was not a dummy. He knew what the issues were.
Now, again we have to fill in the conversation. Jesus replied to Nicodemus, “Now you’re cooking with gas, Nicodemus. Yes indeed. Only a new start out of mother earth is going to do the trick. You’ll be there, won’t you?” Well, maybe Jesus did not say exactly that, but somehow Nicodemus got the point, because when Jesus died and was about to be buried into mother earth, into a virgin tomb for a new virgin birth, Nicodemus was there to spice up His body. The disciples had fled. Nicodemus had not fled. Nicodemus had a good idea of what was going to happen next.