The significance of “And as Moses lifted up the Serpent. . .” in John 3:14 in terms of what we believe in Jesus FOR.

October 25, 2011
By dreiher2

I have been thinking about John 3:14-16 lately. A lot of people seem to  get upset when Zane and GES people say that we must believe in Jesus FOR everlasting life. They say that it is not stated in John 3:16.

I will admit, John 3:16 does not “explicitly” state, “whosover believeth in Him for everlasting life, has everlasting life.” It just states “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I would love to write a commentary on the first 13 verses, as they also bear significance here. This is only a short article to stimulate your thinking. Verses 14-16 state, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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. ”

Several points I noticed. First of all the Israelites had a problem. In Numbers 21:9, we see that the Israelites were complaining about food and water. God sent fiery serpents who bit them and many died. He told Moses to erect a stick and put a brass serpent on it. He told them that all who would “look” at it would be healed from the venomous bites of the serpents, and their lives would be spared.

The problem they had was that they were getting bitten by serpents and were dying. They needed deliverance from death to life. They need to be restored to physical life and health. This deliverance was caused by “looking” at the serpent on the pole. There is an element that is illogical here. How can a simple thing like looking at a serpent on a pole, bring about deliverance from death? It does not seem to make sense. The benefit far outweighs anything you would think would happen from this act.

Now lets look at the next 2 verses. Remember, John is drawing a direct parallel between the serpent on the pole and Christ on the cross with the word “as.” Of course the term “lifted up” can refer to his ascension into heaven, but that is not necessary to the primary point. We don’t believe in the ascension to get everlasting life. Was it possible that when the bitten Israelites looked to the serpent on the pole that they were convinced it would deliver them from death and bring life to them, just like they were seeing happening to those all around them? I suspect that it had more to do than a simple accidental glance at the serpent. I think that people were looking at the snake on the pole to save their lives. Why else would they try it unless they believed that it would work?

Now I get to my main point. Just like the Israelites looked, and believed (were persuaded) that looking at the serpent FOR deliverance from physical death to get physical life, we look to Jesus (i.e. believe, are persuaded) FOR deliverance from perishing, to get everlasting life. I know it does not directly state it like I said at the beginning, but in my opinion it is more than just a passing implication. I think it is the entire point of the section.

I think we always need to be careful not to press an analogy too far, but when I see the word “as” in scripture like this, I start looking for the main point or points of the analogy. I think the main point is that as Israelites looked at the serpent FOR deliverance from physical death, we believe in the person of Jesus for deliverance from perishing, and for eternal life. People did not look at Moses putting the snake up on the pole and get healed. They looked at the snake on the pole. People don’t have to believe in all of the many circumstances around the the birth, life and death, and resurrection of Jesus. Those things are crucial for the deliverance to occur by a simple act of believing in Him FOR everlasting life. However, it is the simple look at JESUS FOR EVERLASTING LIFE that brings life.

I am open to what people think.

- Don


3 Responses to The significance of “And as Moses lifted up the Serpent. . .” in John 3:14 in terms of what we believe in Jesus FOR.

  1. diane on October 27, 2011 at 5:03 am

    Hi Don,

    I really appreciate this article because I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and just used it the other day when talking with a friend. My point was more to show that when we look to Jesus we will find ourselves believing in Him. Look and live. But we have to look at the evidence as recorded in the Bible in order to get to the place where we “find ourselves believing.”

    The subject that I was in conversation about had to do with whether or not saving faith was a gift from God. In other words… does God give certain people faith. I don’t believe that’s Biblical. My point with my friend was that faith happens when we look to Christ. We can’t make ourselves believe something we don’t believe. But if we look into His Word and seek truth from God, we will find ourselves believing in Him. So God is the One who turns the “light” on for us WHEN WE LOOK. But we are responsible to look.

    I have come to understand that God is offering eternal life to anyone who will simply look to Jesus in faith. But they can’t have faith until they first look/seek/find. If they look into His Word with an open and honest heart to hear Him, they WILL find Him. HE will reveal Himself to that person who looks. That’s God’s part. Our part is to look.

    So could my thinking fit what you said above? The person who looks is the person who has heard the truth FIRST and looks only to the source who can save them. They had to be told the source of their healing. They needed to look to Him in faith.
    They hear what they must do….. LOOK TO THE SNAKE ON THE POLE.
    They hear the Word….. LOOK TO JESUS AND LIVE.
    Hearing comes first…. but they FIND THEMSELVES looking to Christ.
    The serpent on the pole is a picture of looking to Christ as the source of life.

    This may not fit your use of looking at the serpent on the pole, but it caught my attention because of my conversation with my friend. Am I way off base here?

    Appreciate your insights so very much.


  2. dreiher2 on October 25, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    2nd comment on my own post. The stricken Israelites had no other hope to save their lives. They did not have anti-venom treatments like we do. Just like when we believe in Jesus as the sole granter and guarantor of everlasting life, we have no other hope for everlasting life.

  3. dreiher2 on October 25, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    I hate to comment on my own post. However, if John 3:14-16 is not saying we need to believe in Jesus in order to “not perish” and in order to “have everlasting life” what else is the text saying we are believing in Jesus for? Don’t read things into it. What exactly is the text STRONGLY implying (if not directly stating) we are believing in Jesus for if not everlasting life?

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