I was recently in a Bible study where the question below came up and I found that there is some confusion on the subject. So I decided to do a little research and found myself immersed in good stuff that I thought I would share.
“What is regeneration?”
With regeneration being a common theme in the Scripture and an essential element to the Christian faith, I thought I may be able to shed a little light on the subject for you.
The Greek word for Regeneration is paliggenesia (paliggenesia) and the meaning is to be renewed. It is important to note that it is a passive verb, meaning that we do not perform the action but the action is performed on us.
(Passive verbs describe an action that the subject of the sentence receives. For example, in the sentence “I was regenerated by God”, regenerated would be a passive verb because was done by God to me.)
Typically we see the Bible use the term in two different ways: In the life of a believer and in the Heavens and Earth.
In the life of the believer:
In the life of a believer, regeneration is played out at salvation. For example, picture Saul in Acts (chapter 7-8). We are introduced to him as he is persecuting the early Christian church and murdering Christians. Then Jesus confronts Saul on the Road to Damascus and Saul is changed (chapter 9). Saul changes his name to Paul and he starts preaching and teaching the Christian faith. Saul was regenerated to Paul. He was transformed through the Holy Spirit.
The Holman Bible Dictionary states Regeneration like this:
REGENERATION Special act of God in which the recipient is passive. God alone awakens the person spiritually through the power of His Holy Spirit. Both the OT and NT also speak of the renewing of the individual. In a technical sense the act of regeneration takes place at the moment of conversion as the individual is spiritually awakened.
So we can align regeneration with the renewing of our souls through salvation in Christ. This renewal is not something that we are able to accomplish for ourselves but something God does within us.
We see this in passages like Titus 3:5 (he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,) where Paul outlines for Titus the renewal that we receive through salvation, not because of works but through the saving power of the Holy Spirit.
In the Heavens and Earth:
The Bible also speaks of a renewal or regeneration of the Heavens and Earth at the end of times in passages like.
Matt 19:28-29 “28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Revelation 21:1-3 “21 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
So in conclusion, Regeneration is the renewal of God’s presence in our lives now through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit for the believer and the renewal of the heavens and the earth upon His return.
I hope this sheds a little light on the subject. If you have other questions, please let me know.