Examples of How Ridiculously Easy God Made it to Receive the Gift Of Eternal Life (1)

Examples of How Ridiculously Easy God Made it to Receive the Gift Of Eternal Life (1)

Serpent on a Pole

The Gospel of John records a conversation between a respected Jewish religious teacher and Jesus regarding the nature of the Kingdom of God.  Today I’m considering one of the wonderful statements that Jesus made in that conversation:


Joh 3:14  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:   That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. “

Jesus was referring to a story in Jewish History that the teacher would have been very familiar with. However we might not unless we went back in our Bible and looked it up.

Briefly summarizing: Moses was sent to Egypt to deliver God’s people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (the nation of Israel) out of the slavery under Egypt.  He brought them out through a series of exploits and displays of power that were so dramatic that all of the nations were quite aware of what had happened, and were aware that the God of Israel was real and was acting on behalf of His people.

After their deliverance, God had Moses lead a group of approximately 3 million Israelites to the base of Mount Sinai.  God Himself appeared on top of that mount, and it was a terrifying experience for those gathered at the foot of the mountain.  God wanted to speak directly to them, but as He did, they became so terrified that they demanded that Moses mediate between them and God because they could not bear to hear His voice!


Hebrews 12 describes the event – the mountain couldn’t be touched – it burned with fire, and at the top was “blackness, darkness and tempest”, and the voice of words that they begged would stop, and so terrible was the sight that even Moses said “I exceedingly fear and quake!”

This event forever memorialized the birth of the nation of Israel.  It is where God gave Moses the law to give to His people. There He impressed into their minds the greatness of His power, but also the problem of His inapproachability.   God used this very public scene to teach not only Israel but all the nations, through a very clear demonstration, why the problem between God and man has to be solved.

Moses spent the next 40 years in the wilderness with the children of Israel.  Their experiences became object lessons that were to be imprinted in their memory as a nation, and also as demonstration to all the nations around them who were watching the strange events in the wilderness.

In actuality, the wilderness journey should have only lasted 10 days, but because of an event that happened which proved that the Israelites were not psychologically ready to take the land that had been promised to them as an inheritance, they were kept in the wilderness for 40 years. This afforded God an opportunity to structure and teach the nation. The lessons that God taught them were real and applicable to them, but they also stood as “models” and foreshadows that relate to how God deals with mankind as a whole.

The Serpents:

One of the teaching events that occurred in the wilderness was the one that Jesus referred to when He spoke of the serpent on a pole.

There was a time where the people began to complain against the Lord and against Moses because they missed the food in Egypt and were tired of the bread that God was supernaturally supplying them.

In response to their complaints, God sent “fiery serpents” among them, and as people were bit by them, they were dying:

Numbers 21:5  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, why have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul hates this light bread. 
Num 21:6  And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 

This elicited the desired response from Israel – they repented and begged for deliverance:
Num 21:7  Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. 

God provided a strange solution for the problem –  God had Moses construct a serpent and put it on a pole, and said that everyone who was bitten just needed to look at it, and they would live!

Num 21:8  And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived

This story is recorded in the Jewish scripture and they were all familiar with it. Think about how easy it was for a person to be healed in that situation – all they had to do was look away from themselves – look up, and see the serpent on the pole, and they would live!  At first some looked up, and they were healed.  And then they began to tell the others around them “Look up! look up!” And gradually more and more people looked up.  I imagine the whole valley full of the sounds of screaming but gradually becoming quieter as more and more people looked up and lived.   It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone would have NOT looked up!


 This story recorded an event that really happened, and yet it was a picture of a larger spiritual reality that would eventually be explained and fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and it relates directly to our situation today.

Joh 3:14  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:   That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. “

God’s view of the Human Situation:  

(a huddled mass of desperate people at the foot of a smoking mountain, being bitten by serpents. )

 This whole incident and it’s background shows us how God looks at the human condition.  When we think of human history, we tend to think of the empires and our great accomplishments.  We consider Rome and the Colosseum, great explorations and exploits, rockets to the moon, and giant Skyscrapers and modern cities, and works of music and art.   But I’ll tell you – God is not concerned or impressed with any of it. 

In  God’s view,  we are a huddled mass at the foot of a mountain in a world that has become a howling spiritual wilderness because of sin, and we have become weak, corrupted and mortal.  God created us for a relationship with Himself but we can no longer approach Him.  God has to hide Himself from us because His manifest presence would destroy us in our sinful state. We look up to God we see only fire and we cannot bear Him or His presence or His voice.

In God’s view and in reality, we are all being bitten by fiery serpents and dying,  This is the sum total of human existence no matter how much we try to dress it up and make it mean something.  God did not create this universe to have to hide Himself from His creation lest He destroy it, and for man to live as orphans, trying to fend for himself and solve his own problems while being bitten by serpents and dying!

That is not God’s intention, and it is not going to be that way forever!  But for God to be able to bring about the situation that He originally intended, He has to provide a solution, and He  has to give us, the creatures He created out of love, to whom He gave free will, the ability to choose His solution!


God’s ridiculously simple solution: 

Only God can solve the problem of restoring us to Himself, and He did this in the strangest way.  Just as Moses  put a serpent of bronze on a pole so that anyone who was bitten who looked up at it would live,  Jesus was saying that He, as the Son of Man, was going to be lifted up, and that whoever believes on Him would not perish but have everlasting life.

He was referring to His death on our behalf.  Throughout the Bible, the serpent is identified with Satan, the enemy of God and man, who is the original cause for the great gulf that now separates us.  So God is pointing to Satan as the real cause of these issues in this picture.  The poison of the serpent that is in us is called the “sin nature”, from which all of the evils that come out of our heart proceed, including pride, avarice, greed, unclean thoughts, adultery and fornication, hatred, murder and lying.  The serpent on the pole represents both the source (Satan) and the poison itself (sin).  This serpent that Moses made was of bronze. Bronze in the Old Testament signified judgement because it was the metal that could sustain heat.

A bronze serpent signified that the thing that was biting and killing them had to be judged.  This is Satan, who is really the source of sin’s entrance into the human race.

In another place in the New Testament, Paul says: “2Co 5:21  For he (God) hath made him (Jesus) to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. “

What happened at the cross is a great mystery, but it is God’s solution.  God created the human race and love us, but gave us free will, and we used that free will to reject Him.  Our first parents rejected Him, and this brought a great change into humanity’s relationship to Him.  Before the fall, Man walked upright before God.  After the fall, man hid himself from God in fear.  Furthermore, we opened the door for fiery serpents to come in and “bite us”, and if we don’t get help, we will die both physically and spiritually.

While the Bible goes to great length to explain the details, what really matters is this:  We’ve been bitten and are dying, and the only way to be healed is through God’s remedy, and because He has given us free will, He had to do it in a way as to give us a choice to receive His solution or not.

God became a man, and went to the cross, where He became sin for us and bore the judgment of that sin.  Justice and righteousness demands that sin be judged.  The serpent, who is also called the “accuser” – who accuses God of being unrighteous, and accuses man of being too sinful to save, demands it.  God says “I will eventually restore fallen man, and bring in my Kingdom, and I will dwell with man openly, and be His Father”. But Satan says “no, you cannot do that. He is sinful.  He is sinning! Look at Him!”  And God says, “yes, the sin must be judged.  I’ll take it on myself”.  That’s exactly what He did 2000 years ago on the cross.  Justice demands that the sin be paid for, but love demands that the man be healed, and the relationship be restored between man and God.  This was all taken care of at the cross.


Man’s Requirement:

Now here is the good news: there is NO REQUIREMENT other than to BELIEVE and look up!

Joh 3:14  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:   That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life

When you are dying of a snake bite, that is not the time for the Physician to give you a lecture about how to identify different types of snakes, how you shouldn’t have been in the woods in the first place, what kind of garments to wear, etc.   The only important thing is for him to get the venom out so that you won’t die!  And that’s what God is concerned with!  He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but have eternal life.  He created us to live forever, and death should not be our portion.  Because of the “bites” we are dying physically and spiritually.  But he has provided the solution in Christ.  All we need to do is look away to Him and BELIEVE that His death on the cross is the remedy, and we  can be reconciled to God..


Here are some reasons why this ridiculously simple solution is difficult to believe and receive.

  1. Because it is so foolish!  The Bible says that through wisdom, the world chose not to know God, so He was pleased to reveal Himself through foolishness: “1Co 1:21  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. ..1Co 1:27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; ”   The poison of the serpent that is in us, which is called the sin nature, manifests itself most strongly in our pride in thinking we are wise.  This is our “strongest trait” but its also our weakness, and its where we are most like Satan. Through the foolishness of the cross, God undercuts this and appeals to what remains of that childlike innocence he originally created in us. As Jesus said in mark 10:15 “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein”.
  2. We don’t believe there’s a problem! We have dressed ourselves up in civilized garments so that we do not see the desperation of our situation!   In Egypt, the Israelites were slaves, but they had food and some entertainment and they got used to a life without God and without any eternal meaning.  Most of them didn’t really realize the desperate nature of their situation. This can be seen in the fact and they fought and resisted many times when Moses went to deliver them.  But once God got them into the wilderness and they didn’t have the veneer of civilization to cover their situation, they were able to see that they were just a huddled mass of desperate people at the foot of a smoking mountain.  That’s a picture of us!
  3. Other competing remedies have been offered.  There are many in the course of human history who do realize that there is a God, and that there is a gulf between man and God, and have offered remedies in the form of various religions.  All of these remedies, and I mean every single one of them, have one thing in common – they are a prescribed method of religious works to attain salvation, in contrast to receiving it as a free gift.  Putting it into the context of the way God sees us, (all huddled at the foot of the mountain being bitten by serpents), the competing remedies basically involve somehow healing yourself and then climbing up the mountain yourself!  They have at their root a denial of the true nature of the problem (that man has been terminally bitten and cannot heal himself, and his sin has separated him from the God that loves him), and present the misguided idea that man can somehow solve his own problem.  Whatever the method that is presented, none of it will work. The only solution God has offered is represented by the serpent on the pole. If you do not look at your sins being judged on the cross of Christ, you cannot be healed.  And how can you expect to be reconciled to God if you reject the great price he paid to accomplish that reconciliation?

After Moses lifted up that serpent on a pole, if an Israelite died, it wasn’t because he was bit by a serpent, but because he refused to look up at the serpent on the pole. Our situation is the same.  We need a rescue.  The “serpent bite” has given us a double problem of physical and spiritual death. When we die physically, we will stand before God as the Israelites did, and it will be too late.

According to the Bible, there is actually only one sin that will send us to eternal destruction – rejecting the Son of God.  All of the sins of mankind, from adultery to murder to stealing and blasphemy and lying – these have all been paid for and forgiven on the cross.  If you come to the cross by believing in the sacrifice that Jesus made for you, those sins will be lifted off of you.  If you reject His sacrifice and refuse to believe, then you must go to judgment with your sins upon you.

You might convince yourself that you are a good, upright person and that you could stand at the judgment and be “acquitted” or “vindicated”, but the standard of righteousness required to stand before a holy God and live is to be absolutely sinless.  Only Jesus Christ had that qualification, and this is why He was able to enter God’s presence on our behalf as our representative and offer His own blood as the answer to the claims of justice.  It is why we must come to God through Him.

Although it cost Him everything, God has made it ridiculously easy for us.  There’s so much more than can be said, but in the interest of keeping it succinct, I’ll give this one a rest!


Click Here for clear, simple information about how to receive the free gift of eternal life and KNOW that your problems with God are solved once and for all!









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