STORY OF THE CROSS IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
"To him [Jesus Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43
First of all, let's take a look at the New Testament. Peter is preaching in Acts 10:43 and reminds us that all the Old Testament prophets preached that salvation was through Christ. Also that all the Old Testament prophets taught that FAITH ALONE was the requirement for salvation. Need we go any farther? Take a look for yourself! Acts 10:43 says "To him [Jesus Christ] give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins."
Two things are to be noted. 1. All Old Testament Prophets preached or taught about Jesus Christ being the Savior. See Galatians 3:8 where Paul tells us that Abraham heard and believed the gospel message of Jesus Christ, "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed." 2. That faith alone in Christ alone was the means of that salvation. Note that justification by faith was clearly the message of salvation in the Old Testament. If salvation is received by an act of faith and has nothing to do with human works or deeds, then it is eternal (See Romans 6:23 "the gift of God") and cannot be lost.
So often it is implied that you must turn to the pages of the New Testament if you want to read about salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells that He is clearly spoken about in the Old Testament passages! Look at John 3:14. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." Jesus tells that the story of the cross is equivalent to the story of the serpent on the pole.
Let's take a look at the passage that Jesus was referring to in Numbers 21:5-9.
"And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore 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 loatheth this light bread."
"And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died."
"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."
"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." [Sounds like John 3:16, doesn't it?]
"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."
Here God illustrates the beautiful story of the cross. Instead of taking away the serpents in answer to their prayer, God provided a remedy in the form of a serpent. Just as God did not take away the penalty of sin [death] when Adam sinned, God provided a remedy in Jesus Christ who died in our place to pay for our sins on the cross.
A Serpent was the reminder and emblem of the curse. It was through the Serpent [Satan] that Adam and Eve were seduced, and brought under the curse of God. On the cross, Jesus Christ was made a curse for us. Galatians 3:13 says, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."
A BRASS SERPENT-Why brass? In the symbolism of Scripture brass is the emblem of Divine Judgment. In Revelation 1:5 Christ is seen as a Judge in His second coming. "His feet were like fine brass." When Israel was disobedient God told them, "And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron (Deuteronomy 28:23)."
The "serpent" spoke of the curse which sin brought. The "brass" speaks of the judgment of God falling on the One [Jesus Christ] made to be sin for us.
II Corinthians 5:21
A POLE-The pole speaks of the cross. As the serpent was lifted up on the pole, so Christ was lifted up on a cross. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me This he said, signifying what death he should die (John 12:32,33)." God told Moses to make a fiery serpent of brass, fix it on a pole, and invite the bitten Israelites to look on it and they should live. It is obvious that Moses was preaching to them the GOSPEL OF HIS GRACE.
SALVATION! NOT OF WORKS! CONFIRMED!
SEVEN THINGS WHICH THE ISRAELITES WERE NOT TOLD TO DO!
Religion Vs Christianity
1. They were not told to make a serum to cure them of the snake's poison. Religion would offer the serum of good works, church membership, keeping the commandments, baptism, etc.
2. They were not told to help others who were bitten in order to get relief for themselves. Religion would tell us to engage in works of charity with the expectation that giving relief to others will counteract the deadly virus of sin which is at work in our own souls. This is the Mother Teresa philosophy. She would point people to good works as the cure and not faith alone in Jesus.
3. They were not told to fight the serpents. Many religious leaders would lead us off to exterminate the Serpents. What use would this have been to those who were already bitten and dying? All these crusades provide an outlet for the energy of the flesh, but often they do not bring those bitten to a saving knowledge of Christ.
4. They were not told to make an offering to the serpent on the pole. God did not ask for any payment from them in return for their healing. Grace ceases to be grace if any price is paid for what it brings. How often the gospel is perverted on this very point. The Christian religion [counterfeit] saying, "Give your life to Christ" is an example!
5. They were not told to pray to the serpent. Religion would have the bitten person pleading with God for mercy and forgiveness, which God has already offered to those that believe. Many have made the fatal mistake of substituting prayer for faith in Christ. Remember "faith alone in Christ alone". When they prayed for relief, God didn't take away the snakes or snake bites [the penalty for their sin], but He provided a remedy for the penalty.
6. They were not told to look at Moses. They had been looking to Moses, and urging him to cry to God on their behalf; and when God responded, He took their eyes from off Moses, and commanded them to look at the brazen serpent [Numbers 21:7]. Moses was the lawgiver and many today are looking to him for salvation. This is religion! They are trusting in their imperfect obedience to God's commandments to take them to heaven. The Bible states, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us (Titus 3:5)."
7. They were not told to look at their wounds. Some think that they need to be more occupied with the work of examining their own wicked hearts in order to promote a religiousness that they deem necessary to qualify us for heaven. Religion can't save. Only Christ can save! The Israelites were simply told to look at the brazen serpent raised up on a pole. Numbers 21:8 says, "it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live."
Religion by definition is man doing something of himself to bind himself back to God. This is why religion can never save. Only Jesus can save!
To look on the serpent on the pole is the same as trusting Christ's death on the cross. "And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that everyone that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live (Numbers 21:8)." Notice the invitation to receive salvation that the Lord gives in Isaiah. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else (Isaiah 45:22)."
Dear reader, I pray that you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior by "faith alone in Christ alone". Search the Scriptures! Only Jesus can save!