4 Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged 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 our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. 7 Therefore 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 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived. Numbers 21:4-9 (NKJV)
Many times the stories written in the Old Testament seem to be so far away from us today, they hold no relevance whatsoever to us. The truth is however that those very stories are written for the benefit of those who will believe today, for they all point forward to the spiritual reality that is fulfilled in Christ and His Kingdom.
In the account above, the Israelites were guilty of sinning against God, and were being judged according to their sins. God had released poisonous snakes in the wilderness where they were at the time, and those snakes were biting many thousands of Israelites, so that many were dying as a result. After a while, the people of Israel repented of their sins, and called upon Moses to intercede on their behalf that God would cause their suffering to cease. This God did, not by immediately stopping the snakes from biting them, but by instructing Moses to raise up a bronze snake on a pole, and all who looked upon that bronze snake while trusting God, were no longer affected by poisonous snakes that were amongst them. Although this is an ancient account, we know for certain this is relevant for us today, because Jesus Himself taught so:
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:14-15 (NKJV)
Fast forwarding to today, we understand from the Bible that it has been the eternal plan of God to save one people for Himself out of this earth, and that people shall be made up of men and women from every tongue, tribe and nation upon earth. It is through the message of Christ crucified for our sins, and risen from the dead for our justification (otherwise known as the Gospel), that God brings in all those He has chosen.
The truth is that we have all sinned against God, and as a result we all deserve the wages of our sin, which is death. And that death spoken of is not merely what the Bible calls the “first death”, which is the death of our mortal body. But rather it is what is known as the “second death”, which is that place we know as hell, which is reserved for the devil and all those who are his, and it is where “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” [Rev 14:11]. By default it is the eternal destiny of every man who ever lived, yet in His mercy God has prepared a way out from under this judgement for those who will believe and trust upon the One who was sent to save us, Jesus Christ. In effect, He is the One who is raised up, and whoever looks to Him for their salvation, the second death will have no power over, just as the fiery serpents in the opening passage of Scripture.
You may well ask the question; why would Jesus be likened to a serpent, if it is the fiery serpents that the Israelites needed rescuing from? The reason is that the serpent in the story, just as most other places in Scripture, represents the devil and the power he has over mankind, which is sin leading to death. Whereas in the Bible we are told that Jesus alone has power over sin and death itself, and so when we look to Him and put our trust in Him, we are saved from the ultimate destiny that awaits us. Another way of looking at it is that, when we look to Christ crucified upon the cross, He is experiencing the very judgement of God on behalf of those who would believe upon Him. The Bible says; “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” [2 Cor 5:21].
I make no apologies for believing the Gospel, nor for preaching that same Gospel to all who will listen, for that is what the Lord has commanded in His Word. Neither am I interested in those who mockingly desire to deny the message by ridiculing me, for believe me I have been in that place myself, and have mocked and ridiculed with every ounce of venom I could muster. But for those who will hear me out, I am saying that as certainly as all who live must die, all will be raised back to stand before the King of kings and face everlasting judgement, and it is a judgement that none shall pass, for all fall short. There is only One who shall be righteous in the sight of God, and that is Christ alone, who was willing to lay down His own life to make righteous all who will believe in Him. Will you?
I leave you with the following words of Christ Himself:
12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:12-18 (NKJV)