Tuesday, September 10, 2019
The Mark of the Beast - Part 4
We have seen that the serpent is the fullest representation of the beast nature, being cursed above all beasts while also being more cunning. When God proclaimed the curse that would fall upon man and the serpent for their transgression, the following was declared.
And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.
There is both a physical and a spiritual fulfillment of many of the things recorded in Scripture, and this is true of this curse. Mankind in general loathes and detests snakes. There is enmity between serpents and mankind. Where I live in the state of Georgia there are a number of poisonous snakes. Among the more prevalent are the rattlesnake and the water moccasin. There is no love lost between most Georgians and these serpents.
It is very common to see these snakes dead in the road during the warm months when they are out crawling about. It is a passion of many drivers to intentionally run over these serpents, and even to slam on the brakes and skid across them to make sure they are dead. Some drivers will even back up and perform this action repeatedly to leave no doubt that the snake has been killed.
This enmity toward serpents is unique among the animal kingdom. There is much wildlife in Georgia and it often crosses roadways. There are signs warning drivers that turtles are present in certain areas, and I have witnessed drivers perform all sorts of maneuvers to avoid striking a dog, a deer, a rabbit, a beaver, a raccoon, or an armadillo. I have seen people stopped in the road to aid a hawk that had been injured, and my own daughter came to a screeching halt recently with a large hawk only a foot or two away from the front of our car. I would have been very saddened had the car struck the hawk, for they are magnificent, beautiful birds. If it had been a rattlesnake in the road, however, I would not have felt the same distress over hitting it.
It is interesting that even those who know nothing of Christ, or of God’s desire for man to bear the image of the divine, have such an enmity against serpents. They intuitively know that this beast is an enemy of man. The way in which a serpent injures man is very significant. Serpents do not tear men to pieces like a lion or a bear would do. They do not trample men like an elephant or rhinoceros might. Instead, they do their harm by injecting poison into man’s blood stream. This poison begins to effect man’s vital organs and in many cases can cause death. With their poisons, serpents kill men from the inside.
This speaks of the way that Satan kills men and women. He poisons their souls and does his destruction by filling mankind with things that result in spiritual death. All men who have been born of Adam have experienced the venom of the serpent and death is working in their members. There is but one way to be saved from this fatal injury and this salvation is found in Yahshua, the Son of God.
There is a very symbolic story that is recorded for the saints in the book of Numbers. It presents a parable lived out by actual people, and there is a message in it for the saints today.
Yahweh sent fiery serpents among the people and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. So the people came to Moses and said, "We have sinned, because we have spoken against Yahweh and you; intercede with Yahweh, that He may remove the serpents from us." And Moses interceded for the people. Then Yahweh said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived.
I can imagine that before Christ was crucified there lived many godly men who desired earnestly to understand the significance of this thing that Yahweh instructed Moses to do. Why make a bronze serpent and place it on a pole? How would looking to this serpent bring healing to mankind? What was symbolized here? Yahshua revealed to His disciples that the bronze serpent on the pole actually pointed to His own crucifixion.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
The saints eagerly embrace depictions of Christ as a pure and spotless lamb, but there is something within them that recoils at seeing the Son of God depicted as a serpent. Yet Yahshua testified that this serpent pointed to Himself. Moses himself recoiled when God first revealed to him an image of Christ as a serpent.
Yahweh said to him, "What is that in your hand?" And he said, "A staff." Then He said, "Throw it on the ground." So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it.
You may ask, “How do we know the serpent depicted here represents Christ?” Moses’ staff was a symbol of Christ. This staff was the power of God to accomplish salvation for the Israelites. In many places in Scripture we see the staff being symbolic of Christ. When David penned Psalm 23 he wrote, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me,” it was Christ who was depicted as both the rod and staff. In Isaiah we also read:
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
The staff in Moses’ hands is a picture of Christ, and that the staff turned into a serpent is a further confirmation of this divine imagery. Yet even as Moses fled from the serpent, so too do most Christians flee from the image of Christ as a serpent. It was this serpent, however, that swallowed the serpents of Pharaoh’s magicians. And it is the serpent on the pole that brought healing to all those dying among the Israelites who would look to it.
Why should the Son of God be depicted as a rod that changes into a serpent, or a serpent hung upon a pole, which is a type of rod? The rod is an image of Yahweh’s power. In many places in Scripture we read words such as the following:
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
The rod is an instrument of power. We are told in another place that Christ will rule the nations with a rod of iron. Christ is the rod of Yahweh’s mouth, for He is called the Word of God, and a Word comes forth from the mouth. Christ demonstrated great power during His ministry, raising the dead, healing the sick, making the blind to see, stilling the storm with a word, and many other amazing displays of power. Yet His greatest act, and that which crushed the head of Satan, was when He gave His body to be crucified and He bore on Himself all the sins of the world. “He made Him who knew no sin, sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (II Corinthians 5:21).
Yahshua became sin. He became as the serpent. Not only was He born in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but He became sin that He might destroy the works of the Devil and set men free from the curse. Christ stood in man’s place. He became a curse that men might be freed from the curse. As it is written:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."
The serpent on the pole and the rod that turned into a serpent, both pointed to Christ who would take upon Himself the sin of the world. In this way the power of the enemy would be shattered and men could be free from the beast nature and become the image and likeness of God. Those who were infected with the venom of the serpent, which is sin, could be healed by looking to Christ who became sin on their behalf. A great exchange occurred on the cross, for Yahshua took upon Himself all the sins of man, and in return gave to man His righteousness.
Sadly, this account in Numbers of Moses creating the bronze serpent and placing it on a pole is not the last that we hear of this matter. Many years later when Israel was settled in their land and they had turned to much sin, wickedness and idolatry, a godly man named Hezekiah became king. He cleansed the land of idols, abominable images and practices and turned the people back to a pure devotion to Yahweh. While in the midst of this cleansing work we read:
II Kings 18:4
He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.
Nehushtan means “something formed of copper.” The words “copper” and “bronze” are used interchangeably in Scripture. These metals were not highly prized as were gold and silver, but rather these were considered base metals. Today if someone would desire to purchase a crucifix, an image of Christ on the cross, they would most likely choose a precious metal in which to have it fashioned. It is common today to find crucifixes of gold or silver, but when God instructed Moses to build the first image of Christ upon the cross as depicted in the serpent upon the pole, He told Moses to use bronze, or copper, for the metal. This was to indicate the baseness of what was being depicted. This image depicted the Son of God becoming sin, and there was no reason to fashion such an image in gold, for it was to appear as something loathsome and detestable.
We are told that God cannot look on sin, for He is holy, and while His own Son hung on the cross the Father turned away from Him. For this reason Christ called out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Darkness covered the earth from the sixth hour to the ninth hour as Christ bore the sins of the world, and became as a detestable thing. The pure golden Son of God became as something base and worthless. Such depictions of the Son of God in the form of a serpent do make men recoil and flee away today, but it is a measure of the vastness of the love of God that He would go to such lengths to redeem man from his bondage to sin and slavery to corruption.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Even as there is great symbolism in Yahweh instructing Moses to fashion the bronze serpent upon the pole, so there is symbolism in what the Israelites did later in idolizing this image and offering up incense before it. What the Israelites did was an act of man-made religion. Yahweh did not instruct the Israelites to worship the serpent on the pole, nor did He tell them to offer incense before it. He told them only to look to it, and this command was with the express purpose of healing them from the venom of the serpents.
In a similar incident King Saul lost the kingdom when he made an offering he was not commanded to give. It was on this occasion that Samuel spoke the words that are often quoted today:
I Samuel 15:22
So Samuel said, “Has Yahweh as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Yahweh? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.”
A great lesson for the church today can be seen in God instructing Moses to fashion the bronze serpent on the pole for the healing of the people, and in their subsequent worship of Nehushtan which was idolatry. Yahweh sent His Son to destroy the works of Satan, to bring an end to the venomous death that was killing all mankind. Yahshua was crucified to atone for the sins of man, and He was raised again that all men might become partakers of His resurrection life and walk in victory over sin, Satan and the world. Christ came to bring healing to all men.
I Peter 2:24
He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
This is the healing that Yahshua purchased for mankind, namely that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. The apostle Paul wrote that the saints should not consider the grace of God to be an opportunity to continue in sin. In the strongest of terms he condemned such a mindset as being a gross misappropriation of the sacrifice of Yahshua.
Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "Yahweh will judge His people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
The Israelites in King Hezekiah’s day were not coming to the bronze serpent on the pole for healing. They were coming only to worship the image. In the same way a multitude of saints today are not coming to Christ to be healed from sin’s destruction and corrupting influence. They do not truly desire to be set free from bondage to the flesh and the beast nature. They only come to worship an image of Christ. They make their offering of praise while being content to remain bound to the sinful nature. They have taken that which God intended for healing and made it merely an object of idolatry.
As plainly as I can communicate let me say, “Many saints who worship the crucified Christ week after week, bringing an offering of praise before Him as incense that ascends to the heavens, are in truth practicing idolatry.” Yahweh would declare to them:
“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; and I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
What God desires today from the saints is lives marked by righteousness. He yearns to see His children being conformed to the image of His firstborn Son. He wants to see them walking as overcomers, subduing and ruling over the beast nature. He wants them healed.
There are a vast number of Christians today who are not walking as overcomers, yet they come week after week to look upon the image of a crucified Christ and offer their incense before this image. They come into their places of worship infected with the venom of sin, and they leave with this same death coursing through their veins. They reason, “I am just a sinner saved by grace and if I continue in sin God will forgive me. I like my selfish life, and I am no different from anyone else. I will bring God my offering and I will trust Him to forgive me and bring me to His heaven when I die.” And all the time God says, “I hate, I reject what you are bringing before Me. Let me see righteousness in you. I have provided healing for you, yet you continue clinging to your sins. You have settled on your dregs, your scent remains in you and your flavor has not changed” (Jeremiah 48:11).
Saints, let me show you the subtlety and cunning of the serpent today. Every week multitudes go to their houses of worship and they make offerings of praise and of money to the crucified Christ. They confess the light which they have seen, but they remain unchanged. Those who witness these devoted worshipers coming week after week before their images of Christ judge them to be well pleasing to the Father. After all, they confess Christ with their mouths, and they bring their incense before Him. Yet Christ never came to call confessors, or even worshipers. He came to make disciples after the image of God.
It is of no value to worship an image of Christ week after week if you are not being conformed to His image. It is no good to call Him “Lord, Lord” if you do not do the things He commands. The church today offers salvation without transformation, but Yahweh says that true salvation is transformation, and there is no salvation without transformation. The word salvation is synonymous with the word deliverance. To be saved from sin is to be delivered from sin.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
I Corinthians 6:9
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived.
Over and over the Scriptures declare “Do not be deceived,” but the saints are deceived. They reason that it is enough to confess Christ and maintain the same scent and flavor as the unwashed world. They live for self and are filled with covetousness and are seeking after things of this world while bringing their sacrifice of praise before God week after week.
If you are not being conformed to the image and likeness of God then you are deceiving yourself concerning God’s will for you. You are in rebellion and are living in idolatry. May God raise up many men and women with the spirit of Hezekiah in this hour who will smash the idols of Christendom. May these men and women declare “Cease worshiping your images of Christ and begin being conformed to Christ. Let His image be formed in you.” This is the will of God and nothing else will satisfy His desire.
The voice of God is crying out today through the prophet Jeremiah:
I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, “Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you will be My people; and you will walk in all the way which I command you, that it may be well with you.”
The church has repeated the error of Israel. When God called them to obedience and righteousness they preferred worship and sacrifice instead. The church says, “Let us continue to live for those things that perish. Let us devote ourselves to acquiring houses and lands and material possessions of all kinds. Let us pursue pleasure, and let us protect our flesh from the suffering of the cross. But this we will do, we will venerate Christ’s image, and we will bring our offerings of money and praise before Him. Let this be sufficient.”
Do not be deceived! Such man-made religious acts are not sufficient before God. He will only be content when He sees the image of His Son formed in the lives of those who have been called and chosen for this honor. If your church is calling people to worship before an image of the crucified Christ, but it is not bringing people to a conformity to Christ and a death to self, sin and the flesh, then flee from the midst of it. Such churches are houses of idolatry, and have constructed their own Nehushtan before which they invite the saints to present their offerings. Such churches are merely harlots riding upon the beast.
Let those who have ears to hear, hear.
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