Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Christ Crucified And The Serpent In The Wilderness

This is a combining of a previous post on this site, and some new thoughts which I believe fall right in line with the study in Hebrews 7-8-9 and 10.

John 3:
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

John 8:
23 He said to them, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."25 So they said to him, "Who are you?" Jesus said to them, "Just what I have been telling you from the beginning.26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him."27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father.28 So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him."30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him.31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." 

John 12:
31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."33 He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.34 So the crowd answered him, "We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?"35 So Jesus said to them, "The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going.36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light." When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them.

Numbers 21:
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way.5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food."6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died.7 And the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us." So Moses prayed for the people.8 And the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live."9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

Romans7: 9 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me.11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Romans 6:

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2Kings 18:

1 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign.2 He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah.3 And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.4 He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan).5 He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.6 For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses.

2Cor 5:
14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Repentance: Looking Upon/To Him

Heb 12:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

There are several aspects to the death of Jesus that must be looked at:

He must be lifted up.

Jesus said this. John 12:33 says that He was indicating the manner of death that He would suffer, i.e. crucifixion.
Through this "lifting up" three things are accomplished:

HE will draw all people to himself.

This drawing is for the purpose of all men to see the crucified Messiah, and to accept or reject, both Him and His atoning work.

He came to His own, and by His own was not received.

The Jews to whom He was speaking to in John 8, would know that He is the one who came from the Father, and speaks the words of the Father. This also is done so that the house of Israel can accept or reject their Messiah.
However a remnant, (Romans 9-10-11) will come to belief.

Zechariah 12:
10 "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.

Acts 2:
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
His being crucified is the exact same thing as Moses lifting up the bronze serpent.
This must be done so that that whoever believes in (looks upon) Him, be they Jew or gentile, will have eternal life. This third element re: the bronze serpent, is the element of salvation.

Looking Upon = Belief

Isaiah 45:
22 "Turn to (look unto) me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

It is amazing that in regards to the bronze serpent, the requirement to be saved from the deadly bite of the attacking serpents was to look upon the image of the serpent. In other words, they had to look at the image of the very thing that was killing them, in order to be saved.
In light of this, how deep is the meaning of the Lord's words in the above referenced verses from John's gospel? Ch 8:28

The clincher is, that centuries later the bronze serpent was still in possession of the nation of Israel, and King Hezekiah had to destroy it along with the Asherah, the high places and pillars etc, as even the serpent's image had become an idol to which the people brought offerings.
What does this say about the Roman Catholic crucifix, and the daily ritual of "re-sacrificing" the Lord? I am using this as the most extreme example, but it is evident this idolatry goes on today through out the “visible church”, and in the first century church, as Paul spoke in reference to the issue.

2 Cor 5:16 tells us that we are not to regard ourselves , our brothers, and especially the Lord Himself, according to the flesh. The idolatry which was focused upon the bronze serpent, Nehushtan, is the practice of “regarding Christ according to the flesh”. His death is once for all
“It is accomplished”,
were among His final words. We do not offer the Lord anew, as He is now resurrected, ascended, and seated in heavenly places. There will be more to say about the “regarding according to the flesh”.

Assurance And The Idolatry of Nehushtan

Heb 6:
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

Heb 10:
10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
16 "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,"
17 then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more."
18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

The worship of the bronze serpent, is a denial of the finished, and atoning work of the Lord.
He is the crucified Christ to the unbelieving world.
To us who believe, He is Christ, King, High Priest, and Intercessor, and is seated at the Father’s right hand and is Head over His body, the church.
Acts 2:36; Rev 19:16; Eph 1:16-23
He was dead and now He lives forever.

Heb 7:
25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

Paul gives us the revelation of the "mystery" of His death on the cross.The simple fact is that He died for all, so all have died in Him. (This does not say that all receive salvation)
This is also a literal statement.
All mankind has been injected with the venom. Only those who come to belief are healed from the effect of the bite.
We have seen that Paul in Romans 6, tells us that the wages of sin is death.
However, those who believe, i.e. have looked upon the Nehushtan/Christ-crucified, and have received eternal life. Now the life they live, they live unto God and not to themselves. They no longer have to “look upon” the crucified Christ.

Gal 2:
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

2 Cor5:
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.

So Hebrews 6: 4-6 and Hebrews 10: 10-18 are to be understood in this context;
A truly regenerate, i.e. born again saint, cannot lose his salvation. I do not “plead the blood”, if indeed, I am cleansed by the blood.

1John 1:
5 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1John 2:
1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

The terms “pleading the blood”, and “covered by the blood” are not found in the scripture. We are cleansed by the blood. The issue is walking in the light, as the light is God.
1 John was written to expose the spirit of anti-christ,which denies God in Christ at the crucifixion. They effectively stripped His death of any of its’ power, as these anti-christ gnostics came up with bizarre stories that Jesus’ divinity left Him at the cross, Jesus did not have a literal body of flesh etc ,etc.
Virtually all the content of John’s letter is directed at proving those who are of Christ and those who are anti-christ, and how the differences between the two manifest in practice.
So when John writes of those who walk in the light versus those in darkness, he is not saying the children of the light might walk in darkness upon occasion. He is saying that those who walk in darkness cannot claim fellowship with God at all. They are liars and are anti-christ.

John 3:
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.
21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."

Those who do walk in the light, have fellowship with Him, and the blood of Christ has cleanses them from all sin. It is possible for those in the light to sin. However they are walking in the light of forgiveness.
All that needs be done, is for them to confess their sin. Only those who are born again will confess their sins. Only they walk in the light.
Walking in darkness is never something the believer does. Those who walk in darkness are unregenerate!

1John 2:
19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.

Confession is an act of obedience, and is the fruit of repentance. Repentance is a” looking unto” a “turning away” from the sin that so easily besets us, and looking upon the crucified Christ.
So for those who have already set their eyes upon Him, repentance is something that is lived out daily. When they do sin, confession is the acknowledgment that the atoning work of Christ has been viewed and received. Thus repentance is one of the works that are shown to be “carried out in God”.

Heb 12:
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

He endured, past tense.
So we look unto Jesus who is seated at God’s right hand.
I am not looking at the Nehushtan, and bringing my offerings to it.
I am looking at the exalted and enthroned high priest of God.
The entrance into the light is through the cross.
Once there, we do not go back to the “dark side” of Calvary.

This leads us back to Paul’s statement that we no longer regard Christ according to the flesh. John’s battle was against those who preached that Jesus did not come in the flesh. On the surface that would look as if Paul was teaching error. However. I believe that the previous scripture, and accompanying study, show us that Paul is speaking of flesh in terms of the body of sin that was put to death on the cross. Christ, the firstfruits from the dead, now lives in a glorified and incorruptible body, as all who believe will one day do. Regarding Christ according to the body of sin,i.e. flesh, is Nehushtan.
Adoring a crucifix, the Passion, even holiness teachings, ascetism, monasticism etc. are idolatry.
They make an idol out of that which saves;
“they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

Even the act of confession is a post - crucifixion work. I confess my sins as
I have already entered into His forgiveness.

The writer of Hebrews is telling us once you have seen and believed,
there is no going back. One cannot be restored again to repentance because
one has been restored once for all. The sacrifice has been given once for all.
The worship of Nehushtan is not allowed.
So they become like a field of weeds and thistles whose end is to be burned.
This is not the lake of fire, but it is a fiery judgment. The fire saves the field and
makes it useful for planting again.
They are those who are His branches, but have not been abiding.
Hebrews 6:8; John 15:6

As I had just stated, we cannot go back to the dark/Egyptian side of the cross.
Every attempt to do so by Israel ended up in death. Jeremiah 42:13-17

Heb 10:
14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Heb 12:
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
29 for our God is a consuming fire.

The Working Of The Cure

Now the people of Israel admitted that they had sinned against the Lord, once they had been bitten and began to die. The fiery serpents were sent by God to afflict Israel, and their bite was fatal. These serpents represent sin and its’ due recompense, i.e. death.
Romans 7 shows that the issue is not just the forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future; it is the sin nature, sin itself which is the root. Therefore 2 Cor 5:21 gives us this most astounding revelation; God made the One who knew no sin, to be sin.

So we now look upon the image of the very thing that is killing us, and we are saved. Sin itself, and its death-hold over us, is vanquished, because of His dying, and our participation in that dying.
The crucified Jesus must be lifted up, in order that the elect may enter the reconciliation of Creator to creation.
All who were bitten in the wilderness should have died, but those who looked upon the serpent of bronze were those that were dead men, and yet they lived.

Just for a moment, let’s look at the serpent in the garden

Genesis 2: 7 tells us that God made man, Adam, from the dust of the ground.
The narrative continues with God creating all living creatures and Adam naming them. We then have the Lord putting Adam to sleep and removing one of his ribs, which was then formed into woman, Eve, Adam’s wife.
Genesis 3 begins with the serpent, whom God had created, and Adam had named, deceiving Eve through the injection of this toxic venom:

“has God indeed said?”

The outcome is a well known one. Adam also falls into the deception, and sin and death have now entered the world.
God’s judgment is swift. It is also a prophetic judgment.

Gen 3:
14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."

The serpent would eat dust all his days. Man was formed from dust, and did not become a living soul until God breathed into him.
The serpents in the wilderness were functioning under the curse and judgment decreed by God. Their goal is to eat dust, i.e. through their bite bring death.
All who looked upon the bronze serpent lived, though they were bitten. Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh so that when he was “lifted up”, that is, was crucified, He like the bronze serpent would be the physical embodiment of the very thing that is killing mankind. By coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, and going to the cross, He has put to death sin in the flesh, so that all who look upon Him are born again, through the receiving of God’s breath, eternal life. Jesus’ death was the “bruising of His heel”
His resurrection was the crushing of the serpent’s head.

John 11:
25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,
26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"

We are no longer men of dust. The men of dust are food for the serpent. The men of dust are dead men. They have not been given the life-breath of God, which is His Holy Spirit.

1Cor 15:
47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.
49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

One more thought concerning this.
The venom was injected through Eve who was taken from Adam’s side. So the attack was directed at the very heart of the man.
In John’s account of the crucifixion, we have this incident:

John 19:
34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
35 He who saw it has borne witness--his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth--that you also may believe.

What is usually the first thing that one does, when someone is snake-bit?
The affected area is lanced open, and the venom is withdrawn. The water and the blood are the cleansing evidence that the venom has been purged from the body.
This is why even in Moses’ day all who looked upon the bronze serpent lived. Christ is literally present through out all the scripture.

1John 5:
5 Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 This is he who came by water and blood--Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
7 For there are three that testify:
8 the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

All who believe have eternal life.
We are immune to the “venom of the lie”. Even though we are currently residing in bodies of dust, we will one day be given the body from heaven.
We are no longer prey for the serpent. We will not die, even if bitten.

Luke 10:
19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.

How Then Do We Lift Jesus Up?

1Cor 2:
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

It is not by clever evangelistic methods, i.e. tricks or manipulation, or theologies. We simply preach Christ, and Him crucified.

1Cor 11:
24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me."25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

It is not proclaimed in images, or ceremonies. Every time we meet and partake of the Lord's table we are proclaiming His death, until He returns. Not only are we proclaiming His death, we are proclaiming our participation in that death also. We are united with Him in His death, and resurrection. Romans 6:3-7

We are His literal Body.

The bread symbolizes our participation as members of His body, and the cup symbolizes our participation in the new/renewed covenant of His blood. The bread and wine do not become the literal body and blood, as we are the literal body which is sustained by the blood/covenant.I pray that the church would come to understand that the preaching of the "once for all" sacrifice of the crucified Messiah, through the partaking of the Lord's table, is the most powerful evangelistic message ever to be presented. It is the implicit revelation of Isaiah 53.Whenever we meet, we do this remembering Him, and the last sacrifice men would ever need re: atonement and eternal life. We celebrate and proclaim His death. We do not re-create it.

1Cor 10:
9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents
10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

Do not put Christ to the test by crucifying Him again and again and holding Him up to contempt.

Christ and His atoning death and resurrection are a once for all, and once for all time work. The idolatry of Nehushtan are the new teachings infiltrating the church, which question the sufficiency of Christ and His atoning work, the sovreignty of God and the authority of His Word.
These teachings are the venom of Nehushtan;
Has God indeed said?

Lord raise up Hezekiahs who will destroy all the idols of the land that are worshipped in your house.

Soli deo Gloria!

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