The Gospel of John tells of the kingdom of God in terms of a spiritual birth. Just as we were born and grow in the flesh, we must be "born" and grow in the Spirit. Speaking to the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus said we must be born again spiritually to enter the kingdom:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to 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, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. "Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' (NAS, John 3:3-7)
Saul was a well-educated young man, a Jew and a Roman citizen. His Jewish heritage meant everything to Saul, and he saw the rise of Christianity as a threat to all that he held dear. He was present at the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and he became a fierce persecutor of the early Christians. He was determined to destroy the young church, and went from house to house arresting Christians and sending them to prison. (Lockyer, pp. 805-6)
Sometime around the year 34 A.D., while on the road to Damascus, Saul was blinded by a bright light:
He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" "Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. (NIV, Acts 9:4-7)
Saul was born again that day and became known as the Apostle Paul. He became the first and most influential interpreter of Jesus' message and teachings, a passionate missionary, founder of many Christian communities, and author of several New Testament letters.