In John 3.3 Yeshua says that unless a person is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Let’s explore this statement and see what Yeshua meant and how does water play a role in the concept of being born again by looking at some deeper concepts associated with tevilah. In Col 2.16 we find out that food and drink, festivals, new moons and Sabbaths teach Messiah and are pictures of the spiritual things connected to these concepts.
The New Moon festival taught the concept of “born again” that Yeshua was referring to in John 3. It was not an unknown concept in the first century (see “New Moon” article this site for more detail). It was called “The Feast of the Born Again” and the rabbis equated this concept with conception in the womb (Hertz Siddur, Page 778). The main idea with an immersion is a change of status or identity. There is a relationship between water and the heavens.
The Hebrew word for heaven is “shamayim” which means “there is water” (Gen 1.6-8). The new birth has its origin in heaven (there is water). Now, there is a concept associated with the new birth that is called the “nefesh mi shmag” which means the “soul of hearing” which also means “the soul that obeys” because to hear also means to obey in Hebrew thought. James 1.22 says the same thing in that we should not be hearers of the word only, but doers. There is another term in Hebrew that is called the “nefesh mi shamayim” or “soul out of heaven” and again it shows the association between water and the heavens.
Now, in Genesis 1 and 2 we see the “womb” of creation and the earth emerges from the water and then man from the earth. He is placed in Eden’s garden and there were rivers that flowed out of Eden (Gen 2.10). Adam sins and is expelled, but the rivers continued to flow out of the Garden. When we perform the ceremony of Tevilah (immersion) in living water, we are re-establishing our link back to the innocence of Eden because all water has a link back to these rivers in Eden because of the water cycle. In other words, it is very possible that elements from Eden can exist in the water today.
When a person submerges in a mikvah, he momentarily enters a realm that is hostile to man. He cannot live in that water long. So, when he emerges out of that environment he is likened to one “born again” and he has re-establishes his link to Eden. A mikvah can also be in the ground, like a womb. The Hebrew word for grave is “kever” and it is the same word for womb. So, to come out of the mikvah was seen as coming out of the grave, hence being born again. Lazarus was a perfect example of this.
Now, we have seen in other teachings on this site that when you entered the Temple you immersed in a mikvah. The Temple was seen as a miniature Garden of Eden, with the entry from the east and the Lord’s presence was there. Adam served as a priest and the tree of life was there, just as the commandments were in the Ark in the Temple (Prov 15.4). Solomon carved garden scenes into the wood in the first Temple and we know a river will flow out of Ezekiels temple.
There are some who believe that the original Garden of Eden was where the Temple stood. Adam and Chava (Eve) were expelled from the garden and sin expels us from the Temple. We need a change of status to enter in again, and that is where the tevilah in a mikvah comes in. We go into the hostile environment of the water (like the hostile environment of being buried in the earth) and we come up alive, a change of status.
There is a picture of this in the monthly menstrual cycle. An egg that is unfertilized dies in the “womb of creation” and it is expelled. The Torah states that a woman is to immerse in a mikvah and then she can be restored sexually back to her husband because she has gone through a change of status. God commanded this ceremony to teach us about what we have been talking about here.
So, in conclusion, let’s review what we have here. A tevilah (immersion) is an ancient ceremony that predates Yeshua. You go through an immersion in a mikvah (ritual bath), river, lake, ocean or stream that has living water. This water connects us back to the water that flowed from the Garden of Eden and “comes out of the heavens.” Reasons why you immerse vary, but it involves any change of status. You can immerse before a wedding, Sabbath, festival, repentance of sin or daily if you want. You would immerse as a believer especially because it opens the door to receiving the benefits of the Kingdom of God brought about by the agent of God, the Messiah Yeshua.
Israel went through an immersion in the Red Sea ( 1 Cor 10.2) and there was new life on the other side. Pharaoh’s (Satan) power and authority was broken forever. Later they crossed the Jordan River (symbol of death). God “parted the waters” in both instances. In Josh 3, the Ark (Yeshua) goes ahead 2000 cubits (2000 years) and the people follow. You see, Yeshua has gone ahead of us as the agent of God to bring us into the Kingdom of God and its benefits. Moses (the Law) could show us the promised land, but only Joshua (Yeshua/Ark) can takes us across. When they crossed over to the promised land, they had new power and there was more yet to come. They tasted, but not the fullness.
So, when we immerse, we enter into all that Yeshua went before us to provide. It “opens the door” to the benefits of the Kingdom. We receive them in part, but the fullness will come later. If you are a believer and have not been immersed, you should not only do so out of obedience, but also because it is for your benefit. Now, be on guard against those who believe that an immersion is linked to salvation, either direct of indirect. It is not, but it is a door to receiving the benefits of the Kingdom of God in your life.
Immersion tape series, Hatikva Ministries
Aryeh Kaplan Anthology, “Rivers of Eden”