“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND CHURCH OF THE FIRST-BORN WHO ARE ENROLLED IN HEAVEN, AND TO GOD, THE JUDGE OF ALL, AND TO THE SPIRITS OF RIGHTEOUS MEN MADE PERFECT, AND TO JESUS, THE MEDIATOR OF A NEW COVENANT, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Heb.12:22-24).
This scripture makes it clear that only the first-born enter the heavenly Jerusalem. Does only the first child of a family of eight go to heaven? This is one more mystery in the New Testament. The Holy Spirit reveals the depths of God (1 Cor.2:9-10). The explanation of this mystery lies in the life of Jesus Christ. The birth of a person in the flesh does not have value for the kingdom of God, but the spiritual birth has, which is a work of the Holy Spirit.
The apostle John says, “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, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). John speaks very clearly that nobody is a child of God in the flesh, and in order to become, they should believe in Christ, receive him as Lord, and be begotten by the Holy Spirit. “Jesus answered and said to [Nicodemus], ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus, perplexed, questioned him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?’ Jesus answered, ‘[…] unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE FLESH IS FLESH; AND THAT WHICH IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT IS SPIRIT’” (John 3:4-6). What Jesus is revealing, in reality, is that his own carnal birth in the womb of Mary did not make of him the Son of God. “…concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom.1:3-4). Paul is revealing that Jesus was not born Son of God in the flesh, but he was declared Son of God in sanctification of the Spirit by the resurrection.
Now, in the book of Hebrews we read that Christ resurrected twice. “Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord” (Heb.13:20). By what it is written here, Jesus resurrected twice, and was twice declared Son of God. The first resurrection of Christ was in his baptism, as Paul said, “…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col.2:12). Now, if in baptism there is burying, there is also resurrection, for God is not God of the dead, but of the living (Luke 20:38). Examining the baptism of Jesus registered in the Gospels, the voice of God the Father says, “Thou art My beloved Son; in Thee I am well-pleased” (Matt.3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22). Examining the Greek originals, we find out that Luke spoke differently from Matthew and Mark. In Luke, we read, “YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE”. The reader will ask: Why is it different in our Bibles? The answer is simple. The doctors want the three Gospels to be alike; so they changed the text of Luke, altering the word of God. The Bible of Jerusalem, of the Catholic Church, renders the true translation, and an explanation of the Greek. The commentaries of the New Testament also make this difference clear.
If God has said in the baptism of Jesus, “YOU ARE MY SON; TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN THEE”, it is obvious that Jesus, when he was born in the flesh, was not God’s Child; and also, the Jesus of flesh was killed and buried in baptism, so that there would be resurrection. At that time, the ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD was begotten, that is, God has begotten only one child in his likeness. If Jesus remained one only child, God would not have other children.
Jesus knew that, in order to have other children, the only begotten should die; for this reason, John says that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). If Jesus had not died on the cross, he would be condemning all humanity to hell, for God would have one only Child (1 Cor.15:16-20).
Let us study the second time that God said, “You are My Son; today I have begotten Thee”. Jesus had been crucified and killed, and on the third day he had resurrected. For the second time the Father said, (Acts 13:27-33). In baptism, Jesus buried whatever was liable to sin, and resurrected the impeccable Saint. In the cross, the man of flesh was killed. The fist one was the spiritual resurrection, and the second one was the physical resurrection. In the first, the only begotten was begotten, and in the second, the first-born was begotten. Paul says: “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead” (Col.1:18). “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom.8:29). It is explained, then, the text of Heb.13:20, where we read that God brought Jesus from the dead two times.
Now it remains for us to understand why the ones that Christ saved are all first-born children (Heb.12:22-23). Every Christian who is concerned with his own salvation alone and not with the salvation of other people, makes himself an only begotten. This is why Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt.16:25; Luke 17:33; John 12:25). Also the apostle John strongly affirms, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives fro the brethren” (1 John 3:16). John, Peter, James, Paul, and the martyrs gave their lives so that we could be saved, for this reason they are first-borns and members of the heavenly Church with Christ. The natural death does not bring about first-borns, for all wicked men die of natural death. The death which produces first-borns is the death for the love of the fellowmen and of the lost. Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Now every first-born is the head of a lineage and the first of the lineage of brothers, as it happened with Jesus (Rom.8:29). In order to become a first-born and member of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Christian, with the sacrifice of his own time, his goods, his talents and his own life, becomes the first of a lineage of authentic Christians, and reaches, in this way, the stature of Christ, as Paul says in Ephesians 4:13-14.
This study also clarifies that the children of Jehovah, in the Old Testament, are not children of the Father God of Jesus, for God had only one Son, Jesus, and, therefore, only begotten. The children of Jehovah, in the Old Testament, did not know Jesus, with the exception of Abraham, Moses and David. The scriptures about the children of Jehovah, carnal and wicked, are: Deut.14:1; 32:19-20; Gen.6:2; Job 1:6; 2:1; Is.1:2; 30:9; 63:8,16: Mal.1:6, etc.
By Pastor Olavo Silveira Pereira