The Brass Serpent

From the Book of Numbers by Moses

"...The king of Arad, the Canaanite, who dwelt in the South, heard that Israel was coming on the road to Atharim. Then he fought against Israel and took some of them prisoners.  So Israel made a vow to the LORD, and said, “If You will indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” And the LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites, and they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of that place was called Hormah.

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.  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.”

So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.  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.

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.” 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.

From Mount Hor to Moab  

Now the children of Israel moved on and camped in Oboth. And they journeyed from Oboth and camped at Ije Abarim, in the wilderness which is east of Moab, toward the sunrise.  From there they moved and camped in the Valley of Zered. From there they moved and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the wilderness that extends from the border of the Amorites; for the Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. Therefore it is said in the Book of the Wars of the LORD:

“Waheb in Suphah,
The brooks of the Arnon,  And the slope of the brooks
That reaches to the dwelling of Ar,
And lies on the border of Moab.”

From there they went to Beer, which is the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together, and I will give them water.”  Then Israel sang this song:

“Spring up, O well!
All of you sing to it—  The well the leaders sank,
Dug by the nation’s nobles,
By the lawgiver, with their staves.”

And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah,  from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth, and from Bamoth, in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah which looks down on the wasteland. (Numbers 21)

Later History Note: The Reign of King Hezekiah (716-687 BC):

Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi, the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.

He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.  He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him.  For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses.  The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went. (2 Kings 18:2-7)

Ray Stedman on Numbers:

The Book of Numbers falls into three divisions. The first is included in chapters one through ten, and is a picture of God's provision for guidance and warfare. These are the two critical needs of Israel in their march from Mt. Sinai, where the law was given, until they came north across the wilderness of Paran to the edge of the promised land, the land of Canaan. On the way they would need guidance, because this was a trackless wilderness; moreover, they would need protection, for the wilderness was occupied by fierce, hostile tribes that opposed them every time they turned around.

All of this, you will recognize, is an exact picture of our need, isn't it? We need guidance because of the clever subtleties of the world in which we live and the ease with which we can be misled and derailed; and we need protection because of the enemies among whom we dwell, those within us and round about us, who would defeat us if they could. In this section that begins with the arrangement of the camp, note two things -- the position of the tabernacle with the tribes on every side, and a numbering of the armed men of Israel. These are pictures for us of the need for defense against the enemies of God. God provides all the strategy and resources necessary to meet every enemy that comes our way. There is not only the order of the camp (the tabernacle surrounded by the tribes), but also there is the cloud over the camp by day and the pillar of fire by night -- all of which (tabernacle, cloud, and pillar) picture for us the great truth of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We have God in our midst. That is a great truth. He is able to direct and to lead us through the wilderness of the world by the guidance of the Word. We are led by the cloud and the fire, just as Israel was led, and we are to be obedient to that leading. This is all the potential we need to get us from the place of the law (the knowledge of the holiness of God) to the rest in the Spirit which the land of Canaan represents. We have everything we need, just as Israel had all that they needed.

But what happened? Well, the major part of this book, from chapter eleven through twenty-one, is a description of the murmuring and rebelling of the people. It is a most remarkable fact, but one every pastor and parent is fully aware of, that rebellion and willful disobedience to God always begin with murmuring and critical complaining. Whenever you find yourself beginning to complain and murmur and whisper and carrying on a carping campaign against the circumstances in which you find yourself, you know that you are on the threshold of rebellion, because it always begins there. Notice that there are three kinds of murmuring -- three levels of complaint -- that occur throughout the wilderness journey.

There was, first of all, the complaint of the people against the circumstances. They complained about the manna and about the lack of water; they complained about the meat and about the wilderness itself. They were always murmuring. This was their favorite outdoor sport, it seems, and they worked at it day and night. Nothing was right, not even the manna, the miraculous supply of God every day. I wonder if you know what manna typifies in your life? Well, it typifies the Holy Spirit. For the manna, it says, tasted like oil and honey mixed together into a thin w wafer. Oil and honey are both symbols of the Holy Spirit. On this they were to feed. But it was just a thin wafer. It wasn't enough to satisfy them -- although it was enough to sustain them -- because God never intended them to live so long in the wilderness. He intended them to get on over into the land of Canaan and begin to feed upon the abundant food there. But the! got sick of manna. Who wouldn't after forty years, when it was only intended for a few days? Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for supper. Nothing but manna, manna, manna -- until finally they began to complain and rebel.

Yet it wasn't God's fault. Manna was never intended to satisfy. It was merely a temporary provision until they could get into the fullness of the land, just as God never intended you to live on the experience of the meager contact with the Holy Spirit you get in a defeated Christian experience. Go on into the land of abundant living. That is where you will find satisfaction.

They also complained about the lack of meat, so God gave them meat for a month until they were sick, and then they complained about the abundance of meat. So on it went. In murmuring they always thought about Egypt and this is a picture for us of a degenerating Christian experience. All they could think of was the meat, the melons, the cucumbers, leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt. Imagine dreaming of that kind of food! But that is what Egypt meant to them. They had no thought of Canaan because they had no knowledge of it. All they had heard were sermons about Canaan. They had no experience of it. All they could remember was the world out of which they had come...

Now this murmuring against the circumstances in which they found themselves was met by the judgment of God in three forms -- fire, plague, and poisoned serpents. I wonder if you can see in each of these a picture of the inevitable result of whining, complaining, and murmuring as a Christian. When we begin to complain about where God has put us and the kind of people he has put us among and the kind of food we have to eat and all the other circumstances of our life, we discover that the fire of gossip, scandal and slander; the plague of anxiety and nervous tension that takes its daily toll of our life; and the poison of envy and jealousy are released in our own life to sap our strength. These things are inevitable.

Not only did the Israelites murmur against their circumstances, but there were several times when they murmured against the blessing of God. Imagine that. They came at last to the edge of the land of Canaan, standing on the very border line at Kadesh-barnea, and there God said to them, "Now move forward. Possess the land." They had sent out the spies and had learned that it was a land flowing with milk and honey. The spies had brought back grapes so large that they had to carry them on a stick between the shoulders of two men, the bunch was so heavy. But they also knew that it was a land full of giants, and because of the giants they were afraid to go forward. They thought the giants were greater than God, so they refused to go on into blessing. They resisted God's efforts to bless them. They were glad to get out of Egypt but they were unwilling to go on into Canaan. This is why they wandered for forty years in the wilderness. The inevitable judgment to them was that if they would not go into blessing, they must experience the full results of a failure before moving on in God's program.

Many, many Christians are living right here today, square in the middle of a howling wilderness, living on a minimum supply of the Holy Spirit -- enough to keep them going, and that's all. They spend their lives in complaining, unending murmuring against their circumstances, yet still are unwilling to move on into the land that God has fully provided for them. This is the problem of so many. While you can be sustained in the wilderness, you will never be satisfied, never. And that is why the wilderness experience is always marked by a complaining heart and an unending criticism of something or someone. In this book it never ended until a new generation was ready to enter the land. God said, "Not one of you older than twenty years who went back at Kadesh-barnea will ever enter this land, except two men." (Numbers 14:29, 30) Those two men -- Caleb and Joshua -- were men of faith who went on.

Thus it isn't until we make a new beginning in our lives, when we come to the end of ourselves and it seems almost as if we begin again in the Christian life, that we can go on after we have resisted the work of the Spirit in taking us into the land. This is why so many Christians never seem to come to victory until they have a crisis experience, a new beginning, and then they enter into the land.

The Israelites had one other occupation in the wilderness besides murmuring, and that was burying. The mark of the wilderness is that it is a land of death. Did you ever think how many Israelites died in those forty years in the wilderness? This book begins with a census of Israel, and it totals 603,000 men alone, men able to go out to warfare, who are at least twenty years old. Six hundred and three thousand. Most of those men were married. That meant an equal number of women, as well as all the children that were in that camp. Many have estimated the total population at that time to have been well over two million people. Yet in the wilderness, in the space of forty years, one million two hundred thousand of them died, an average of 82 per day, so there was nothing but a great big funeral going on all the time. The wilderness was one huge graveyard. No wonder they had to move so often. You can imagine why, as literally scores of people would die every day through that forty years' time. What a picture of what Romans says, "to set the mind on the flesh is death." (Romans 8:6)

Finally, there is one other form of murmuring here; murmuring against authority. They murmured against circumstances; they murmured against God's effort to bless them, and they murmured against the authority of God expressed through Moses! They said, "All the people are holy. Moses and Aaron, why do you put on airs as though you were better than we are? All of the people of God are holy, in their own eyes." They judged themselves by their own standards and thus rebelled against the properly constituted authority in their midst. They resisted with all their strength the suggestion that these two should be anything more than they.

Have you noticed that this is another characteristic of the defeated Christian? He always thinks he is holy enough, that he is as holy as he needs to be, and he resents anyone else who seems to be ahead of him or to exercise any authority. He resists any attempt to suggest to him that he ought to be more than he is. That is what these people did.

God met this attitude with the severest judgment of all. There is that dramatic account of the rebellion of Korah and Abiram when they openly challenged the authority of Moses and Aaron. God divided the camp in half and said, "Moses and Aaron you stand over here. Korah and your group, stand over here, and the people stand there." And then he said, "Stand back. I am going to show you who is in authority here." He led Moses to say, "If these people live out their lives as normal ordinary men. then it is a sign that God is not with me, but if God does something absolutely new and the ground opens up beneath them and swallows them alive, it is an indication that God is with me." And as he said the words, the ground opened up beneath Korah and Abiram and all their families, and they went down alive into the pit. Thus God established his authority through Moses by this remarkable judgment. When we rebel against authority, God judges with the utmost severity.

Through all this. interestingly enough, the murmuring went on, in spite of the severity of this judgment, until two things took place. One was associated with the rebellion of Korah and Abiram and the other was in connection with the serpents that came and bit them at the time they complained about the food. Do you remember what Moses did to stop the rebellion at the death of Korah and Abiram? All the leaders of the twelve tribes took rods and put them before the Lord. Aaron's rod was included among them, and when they came back in the morning, they found that Aaron's rod had grown branches, the branches had blossomed and the blossoms had grown fruit and there were almonds hanging on the branches, all taking place overnight. Of the twelve rods, only Aaron's blossomed. This is a picture of the resurrection life. In this, God is saying that the only ones who have the right to bear authority are those who walk in the fullness and power of resurrection life.

Then when they murmured about the food, he sent poison serpents among them. In the third chapter of John our Lord makes reference to this story. Moses cured the effects of the poison by lifting up a brazen serpent on a pole, and all who looked at it were healed. By that God was saying the only cure of sin of any kind, even sin in the Christian, is a look again at the cross and the way it utterly repudiates all human endeavor and human worthiness by putting Christian living solely on the basis of the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." (John 3: 14)

The latter part of the book, chapters twenty-one through twenty-six, is a remarkable record of protection in spite of failure. Here you find victory over the enemies around, the outward forces of King Arad, Sihon, Og, King of Bashan, and the attempts of Balaam, the false prophet to try to undermine the people of God, which resulted only in greater blessing. All of it is simply saying to us, in the most vivid language God can find, that though we are disobedient, though we are rebellious, though we turn and refuse to go into blessing, though we wander in a wilderness of defeat and despair and barrenness year after year after year -- nevertheless, the Holy Spirit will never leave us. Even in the midst of our weakness, he grants us protection from our enemies and deliverance from complete defeat. What a remarkable book. But what a picture of what Paul sums up in the poignant phrase, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24) That is why we need to move on into Deuteronomy, where we get the second law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. --Ray Stedman, The Incomplete Christian Life.

The Brass Serpent: Type and Antitype

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”  Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”  Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?  “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness.

 “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.  

“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.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  “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.  

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John Chapter 3)

The Throne of Satan

"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

"These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. I know where you live -- where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city -- where Satan lives.

"Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." (Revelation 2:12-16 NIV)

From Ray Stedman

This church is in sharp contrast to the church at Smyrna. Smyrna was enduring persecution; this church was faced with enticement and corruption. The devil has only two ways of approach. If he cannot make you knuckle under with hostility and persecution he will begin to entice you and lure you into something dangerous. It is either intimidation or enticement. It is either the violence of a roaring lion or the corruption of an angel of light. Pergamum is the church that is being undermined by corrupt practices and corrupt teaching.

Our Lord identifies himself to it as the one having "the sharp, doubled-edged sword." As we have already seen, that is the symbol of the Word of God coming from his lips. It is double-edged; it cuts two ways. I believe that refers to the fact that the Word can cleave the skull to get to the mind, and it can pierce the heart to touch the emotions. It can awaken us to reality. By the Word of God our minds begin to learn truth that we never saw before. We see things the way they are, and it motivates us to action. It can also pierce the heart. Remember that on the Day of Pentecost, when Peter had finished his message, the people were cut to the heart, according to the book of Acts. They cried, "Men and brethren, what must we do?" (Acts 2:37 KJV). That is the power of the Word. It touches both the reason and the conscience.

Pergamum was the Roman capital of the province of Asia. Located about 50 miles north of Smyrna. It was a center of pagan worship and there was a temple to Caesar there as well. It is called here, "where Satan has his throne," i.e. the place where Satan rules. And it is also referred to as the city "where Satan lives," i.e., where he has his headquarters.

Many scholars think that refers to the great altar of Zeus which was on the hillside overlooking the city. It was a great chair, or throne, forty feet high, and any citizen could look up there at any time and see what Jesus calls "Satan's throne." This was such a center of pagan worship it seemed to be the very center of evil. There is a fascinating footnote of history in connection with this. In the 1880's, about 100 years ago, a German archaeologist working in the city of Pergamum removed that throne, that Satanic seat, from the hillside and took it to Europe. Today it is visible yet in the Pergamum Museum in the city -- get this -- of East Berlin! For 100 years Satan's throne has been in East Berlin. If that has any connection with the rise of Hitler, and the Nazis, I leave to you to judge. But East Berlin is also where Hitler's headquarters were located.

In his appraisal, our Lord assesses the strengths of this church: He says, first, "You remain true to my name." They had refused to budge on their view of his person. They held to the truth about Jesus. They saw him as the God-man, combining in one person two natures, both of God and man. That is orthodox doctrine. That is the teaching of the church from its very beginning, and clearly evident in the Scripture. Against all the corrupting influences around them, these people had held to that truth. Almost all heresies today flow out of a denial of the deity of Jesus. But we must not also deny the humanity of Jesus. He was God as though he had never been man, and man as though he was never God. Both are true. The church at Pergamum had held fast to that teaching. Second, they did this at the risk of their own lives. Jesus says, "You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city -- where Satan lives." Antipas means "against all." We do not know much about this man, although he is said to be the first martyr under the Roman persecution in Asia. Tradition says he was roasted to death in a brazen bull that was heated to a white heat. That is the price that he had to pay for being true to the doctrine about Jesus. He had to stand "against all!"

But two terrible errors were undermining this church: One is called here "the teaching of Balaam." You can read about it in Numbers 25. Balaam was a false prophet who had been hired by Balak, the King of Moab, to curse Israel, but when he tried to do so he found he could not. Every time he tried to curse them, words of blessing came out of his mouth. God would not let him curse his people. So, in order to achieve the end for which he had been hired, he paid beautiful maidens from Moab and Midian to parade before the young men of Israel, tempting them into sexual immorality. Since these women were worshipers of idols, by that means he introduced idol worship into the tribes of Israel. Thus he corrupted and enticed them into sin. The counterpart we face in our day is the practice of pornography and fornication among Christians and the acceptance of unmarriages, of living together without marriage, that is often widespread in the churches today. That is the error of Balaam.

They were also being seduced by the error of the Nicolaitans. Though it is difficult to know exactly who these people were, the name means "conquerors of the people." It appears they claimed to have a special relationship to God. They professed to be the beneficiaries of intimate revelations that were not given to others, and that they therefore had an inside track with God. They presumed to take the place of the priesthood in Judaism, and carried that error into the Christian church. Probably both of these false teachings worked together. One appealed to physical lust, and the other to the ambition for power exercised in a religious way. It is seen yet today in the supremacy of pastors who are lifted up above the laity. They are men who claim to have more intimate relationships with God, and thus are regarded as better than the rest of the people. The way you handle either error, of course, is with the sharp, two-edged sword! Jesus said, "Repent. Otherwise, I will come to you and fight against them with the sword of my mouth." The Word of God exposes both the error of immorality and the error of priestly superiority. That is one reason why the exposition of Scripture is resisted in many churches.

Prophetically, this is the period from the accession of Constantine in 320 A. D. to the rise of the papacy in the 6th century. During that period of time were held the great councils of the church. The council of Nicea, the council of Chalcedon and others, determined the true doctrine of the person of Christ -- who he was, and how he combined in himself the two natures. But it was also the time of the wedding of the church and the world under Constantine. (Incidentally, Pergamum means "marriage." It comes from the same root from which we get monogamy and bigamy). Constantine was not really a true Christian. He adopted many pagan practices and brought them into the church where they were accepted. Christianity was popular in those days, and many pagan practices were incorporated into it. This began when the church was viewed as a worldly kingdom, like any other kingdom. Our Lord's appeal is found in Verse 17:

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." (Revelation 2:17 NIV)

This is addressed to those who will take heed to the warnings of this letter, and watch in the areas of sexual immorality and of spiritual superiority. If you stand fast against immorality and the love of religious power you will be given the "hidden manna." Notice both the manna and the new name are secret things. It is a picture of close intimacy. Manna, of course, was the food that Moses fed the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus said in Chapter 6 of John, "I am the bread sent down from heaven," (John 6:41). He is that hidden manna. He is food for the inner spirit, food that others do not know about. In John 4, our Lord sent his disciples into the city of Sychar to get food. When they came back and found he had been ministering to the woman at the well, he said, "I have had food that you know not of," (John 4:32). He was feeding upon the inner strength that God the Father was giving him. That is what is given to those who will resist the lure of immorality and spiritual privilege.

Then, with it, is the white stone with a secret name upon it. White stones were used among the Romans as a mark of special favor. A secret name, of course, is a sign of intimacy...A secret name is a special mark of intimacy. If you know the Lord Jesus, and your heart is kept from the corrupting influences of the world around, you will enjoy an intimacy with him in which the new nature he has given you (depicted by the new name here), becomes stronger and more developed, and you enter into beautiful fellowship and intimacy with him. --Ray Stedman.

Detailed Notes From a Visit to Pergamum by Bryce Self

A City Where Satan Lives

Pergamum and The Medieval Church

This church had her "day in the sun" from about 320 to 600 AD (~280 years, or 7 generations). Total Christians from this church in history past, perhaps 245 million. See Citizens of New Jerusalem.. The total world population at this time was about 350 million. Since 100 AD the total number of people who have lived on earth has numbered has numbered about 7 billion persons. The present population of the planet is very nearly 8 billion.

The City of Pergamum

Pergamum, at one time the capital city of the Roman province of Asia Minor, was known for its spectacular architecture and many beautiful temples dedicated to a variety of gods. The apostle John wrote a letter to the Christians who lived in Pergamum. Recorded in Revelation 2:12-17, this letter is identified as being "the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword" (verse 12). This introduction held special significance for people of Pergamum. The provincial governor in that city had what was known as "the right of the sword" Rome's authority to decide which prisoners or accused persons would live or die (including Christians who refused to honor the "divine" Caesar). So John's letter is a clear statement saying that Jesus "not the governor" has power over life and death.

John also gives the city of Pergamum an unusual designation: "I know where you live;where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness who was put to death in your city;where Satan lives" (verse 13).

Why did John refer to Pergamum as the place where Satan lived? What would it have been like for one of those early believers to live in a city described as Satan's throne?

Dionysus, Son of Zeus

A beautiful temple dedicated to the god, Dionysus, stood prominently on the Acropolis. Believed to be the son of Zeus and a human mother, Dionysus supposedly offered his followers life after death and meaningful life on earth through indulgence in raw meat and wine. According to the teaching of the Dionysus cult, followers who drank wine to excess literally became one with Dionysus. So, worshipers would gather around the altar, gorge on raw meat that had been offered to Dionysus, and drink until they became intoxicated. During the festivals, women would drink wine and run through the hills screaming, dancing, and committing sexual immorality. Dionysus worship was so wild that it was outlawed in Rome because it was considered to be too immoral!

Jesus had prepared his disciples well for the cults they would encounter as they took the gospel throughout the world. Concerning the claims of Dionysus, for example, John could say, "Dionysus is a fake. Jesus was born of God through a woman. I watched him turn water into wine (the same miracle that Dionysus supposedly performed in secret in his temples at night). Only Jesus can provide meaning and true intimacy with God. I've seen it firsthand."

Asclepius, Snake God of Healing

When the people of Pergamum needed healing, they went to the temple shrine of Asclepius the snake god of healing. Everyone who entered the hospital complex passed a snake symbol and thereby credited any healing they would receive to the snake god. Priests interviewed potential patients to determine whether they were acceptable for healing. Interestingly, they turned away people who were dying and women who were ready to deliver babies. They didn't want a particular patient's death to "taint" their god. (This is an interesting parallel to modern-day cultures that seek to terminate the lives of the senior citizens and the unborn.)

Once accepted, patients were led through an underground tunnel to a huge treatment room where they went to sleep, probably after being drugged. The patients waited to receive a vision of treatment from Asclepius, which they would reveal to the priests, who in turn would prescribe treatment(s). The main treatments related to water, so patients would take mud baths or drink sacred spring water. Exercise, dietary changes, rest, and attending the theater were also prescribed. Once healed, patients bowed down on their knees before a statue of Asclepius, thanked him for their healing, and gave him gifts. Finally, they would inscribe their name and the ailment from which they had been cured on a large, white stone as a testimony to the god.

During his ministry on earth, Jesus had provided John and the other disciples with evidence that refuted the claims of this god. Jews and Christians already knew that the snake, the symbol of Asclepius, symbolized evil in the Garden of Eden and represented everything sinful and satanic. Furthermore, the second and third miracles recorded in John's gospel have to do with Jesus power to heal. Jesus raised a dead child and healed a man who had been waiting for thirty-eight years to be healed at the Pool of Bethesda (near what scholars believe was an Asclepius temple). John actually had seen Jesus heal people, something no snake god could do.

Demeter, Goddess of Grain

The shrine of Demeter, the goddess of grain who supposedly provided food, was popular among the common people of Pergamum. She also was said to forgive the sins of her followers who immersed themselves in bulls' blood. Many of the early Christians must have thought this was counterfeit too because we claim to be washed in the blood of the Messiah.

John was prepared to counter these counterfeit blessings as well. Having seen Jesus the Messiah feed five thousand people using a few loaves and a couple of fish, John knew that Jesus was the only one who could take people's sins through the blood he shed on the cross.

Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus

Pergamum was the first city to establish an emperor cult. The people worshiped the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, at the Athena temple. They not only declared him as divine, but they claimed him as their god and king as well.

As one of the disciples who stood on the Mount of Olives and watched Jesus ascend to heaven, John knew beyond a doubt that Jesus, not Caesar, was seated at the right hand of God.

The True Source of Meaning

In Pergamum, as in our culture today, Satan wanted people to lose sight of God and his power. All the false gods who took the credit God deserves for providing life and giving it meaning and significance made Pergamum the city "where Satan lived." Satan wanted people to think that everything they needed for life, even eternal life, could be found through their own efforts or through the world around them.

With the background of Pergamum, the place where Satan lived, in mind, we can better understand John's closing words to the church of Pergamum: "I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." God strategically placed the early believers in an evil world to stand as testimonies to his power and work in their lives. As standing stones for God, they were clearly different from the white stones on which people healed by Asclepius had written their names. The world needed to see the believers as white stones on which new names had been written, and the believers needed to speak the truth of God to a spiritually hungry world. Likewise, believers today need to praise God for all that he has done and tell people about it.

Then the other outstanding temple was of the god Asklepios. Down from that great promontory was the greatest hospital of the ancient world. It was the Mayo Clinic of that day. It was, first of all, a temple to Asklepios. If you are looking at the Greek god Asklepios, it is a man, but when you see the Anatolian or Oriental Asklepios, it is a serpent. There in Pergamum it was a serpent. I have pictures which I took of that great marble pillar which stands like an obelisk now but apparently was a pillar in the temple of Asklepios. The construction of the temple was unusual in that it was round. There they used every means of healing imaginable, They used both medicine and psychology--and about everything else. Put yourself in this situation: you go down long tunnels, and above are holes that look like air holes for ventilation but are not. As you walk along these tunnels, sexy voices come down through the holes, saying to you, "you are going to get well. feel better. be healed." (does that have a modern ring?) go down the hot baths where given massage. There is little theater they give plays of healing. If haven't healed by now, as last resort put in temple at night and turn loose nonpoisonous snakes which crawl over you. (that is known as shock treatment in our day!) don heal you, will drive crazy's for sure, back door take out dead. mention ones heal; speak only those who recover. Caesar Augustus loved there. he wasn exactly sick; was an alcoholic. just dried him every year when would come over. this great place, seven hundred years it hospital people came from all world. May I say healing satanic days. no question about fact were good men used medicine, but basically, Satanic. Satan's throne was. important see. --J. Vernon McGee .

The Caduceus vs. Staff of Aesculapius - One Snake or Two?

by George Bohigian, MD

Aesculapius was the god of medicine and was the son of Apollo, the god of healing. The Staff of Aesculapius is a rough-hewn branch representing plants and growth entwined by a single snake. Aesculapius was known as the god of medicine. He was killed by his grandfather, Zeus, with a thunderbolt because not enough people were passing onto the underworld due to his healing skills. Aesculapius, god of Medicine, was the son of Apollo, the God of Healing. Hermes (Mercury) was the messenger of the gods and known for carrying a staff known as the Caduceus. The caduceus included two snakes topped off with a set of wings. The Caduceus is from the Greek root meaning “herald’s wand” and was a badge of diplomatic ambassadors associated with commerce, eloquence, alchemy, thievery, and lying. The popularity of the caduceus with two snakes is probably attributed to being more aesthetically appealing than the single snake on the Staff of Aesculapius. The symmetry is more balanced than the single snake. The caduceus if often used in medically related industries such as pharmaceuticals and hospital supplies.

Two wings and two snakes are the difference in the Caduceus (left) and the Staff of Aesculapius (right).

The snake is a powerful symbol. The ancients looked on the snake as a symbol of health and healing because it could shed and regenerate its’s skin. The snake also produced venoms which killed many parasites in the body. Many patients suffering from sickness such as depression were put into a temple healing rooms containing snakes to shock them out of their stupor. Hippocrates of Kos was a physician the father of Western Medicine, ca. 450-380 BCE. It was believed that Hippocrates was a direct descendant of Aesculapius. Hopefully, most of you know the Hippocratic Oath begins with the words “I swear by Apollo, the physician, and by Aesculapius...”

The question to ask is how did the caduceus become popular so quickly in the United States? The role of the United States Army Medical Corps (USAMC) is crucial. In 1902, at the suggestion of an assistant surgeon, Captain Frederick Reynolds, a new uniform code was established, and the caduceus became a collar insignia for all personnel in the USAMC. From Captain Reynold’s correspondence with the Surgeon General’s office, it is apparent that he was unaware of the distinction between the caduceus and Aesculapius. He recommended the combined use of the “cock of Aesculapius” and the caduceus. His statement to the Surgeon General that the Medical Corps of “several foreign powers, notably the English” all displayed the caduceus was also erroneous. In fact, no other western medical military ser vice of that time displayed the caduceus; they all used the Aesculapius symbol. Medical Associations in Asia, India, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Africa, and Scandinavia all share the Staff of Aesculapius.

Thus, the adoption of the caduceus by the USAMC seems to have been simply a misunderstanding of classical mythologic iconography.Ironically, this mistake was nearly avoided. In March 1902, when Captain Reynolds initially suggested the switch to the caduceus symbol, the Surgeon General, G.W. Sternberg, dismissed his request outright. However, Captain Reynolds was persistent and, later that year, he sent a second letter to the new Surgeon General, W.H. Forwood; this time, his proposal was approved. Thus, on 17 July 1902, the “caduceus of gold” was adopted as the branch insignia of the USAMC. This mistake did not go entirely unnoticed. In 1917, Lieutenant Colonel McCulloch, the librarian to the Surgeon General, discovered original documents showing that the coat of arms adopted by the USAMEDD a century earlier had displayed the Aesculapius and not the caduceus. McCulloch lamented the error, but did nothing to correct the error. The U.S. Army Medical Corps and the U.S. Navy Medical Corps still use the caduceus with the two snakes. The U.S Air Force Medical Service uses the Staff of Aesculapius with one snake.

In conclusion:

The Staff of Aesculapius has represented medicine since 800 BCE, and most knowledgeable medical authorities support its use as the symbol of medicine.

The New England Journal of Medicine, The American College of Physicians, and the World Health Organization use the Staff of Aesculapius.

The Staff of Aesculapius has represented medicine since 800 BCE and most authorities support its use as the symbol of medicine.

The Staff of Aesculapius is the only true symbol of medicine.

The Roots of Medicine are in Antiquity

The healing center at Pergamon established by Aesculapius was rooted in Greek mythology. Wikipedia describes these roots and how the medical protocols of Pergamon were the foundation of Western medicine when Greece and Rome were of central importance in world history, at least in the West. See East is East and West is West. The healing arts and schools differ in East and West to his day!

A key figure in the ancient world was Nimrod (c. 2600 BC). Nimrod’s wife and consort Semiramis invented a new one-world religion which would divide into three streams. One branch led to the Egyptian Mystery Religion. A second branch streamed East giving  rise to Hinduism, Buddhism, etc. The Third branch was imported into Europe as the Etruscan Mystery Religion.  Here are the earliest roots of medicine and the healing arts well before the First Century A.D. healing center at Pergamum described above. Here are some references.

Please see:

False Religion 

The Tower of Babel Affair 

The Two Nimrods

The Future of Babylon

At the close of the age we are now living in now, the spiritual currents of these false religions will be taken back to Babylon. At last the entire world will know the One true God. Before that a false messiah will unite the world under one political and religious banner. Finally Israel will be the central nation, the head of all the nations and Jesus will rule the nations from Jerusalem.  This is a separate discussion!

But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need to look for a second one.

God finds fault with them when he says:

‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord,
   when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
   and with the house of Judah; 
not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors,
   on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt;
for they did not continue in my covenant,
   and so I had no concern for them, says the Lord. 
This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
   after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
   and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
   and they shall be my people. 
And they shall not teach one another
   or say to each other, “Know the Lord”,
for they shall all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest. 
For I will be merciful towards their iniquities,
   and I will remember their sins no more.’ 
In speaking of ‘a new covenant’, he has made the first one obsolete.
And what is obsolete and growing old will soon disappear.

(Hebrews 8:6-13)


Healing in the Bible

The Lord Who Heals

Yahweh-Rophe: "The Lord Who Heals" Exodus 15:22-26. From rophe ("to heal"); 
implies spiritual, emotional as well as physical healing. (Jeremiah 30:17, 3:22; Isaiah 61:1) 

God heals body, soul and spirit--all levels of man's being.

When the people of Israel left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, they first crossed the Red Sea where they were "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea" --1 Corinthians 10. For the first time in their history, the twelve tribes of Israel were united into one nation, " shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.") After three days they came to springs of bitter water at Marah. This site is about 40 miles south of the modern town of Suez--bitter springs are there to this day. The people complained to Moses. Moses cried out to the Lord, and Yahweh showed Moses a tree, which when cast into the springs, made the waters sweet. It was at the time that God said to His people,  

"If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you." (Exodus 15:26) 

This promise from God was to prove key to the wandering of the Jews in the wilderness for forty years and God's amazing care for them--and for His special hand of healing love upon them--down through their subsequent history. Anyone who has read the five books of Moses will know that for 40 years God provided an amazing totally nourishing, all-purpose, fully-nutritious daily food called "manna" (Exodus 16). After the forty years in the Sinai had ended Moses reminded them "Yahweh has led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet." (Deuteronomy 29:5)

In Leviticus we encounter the strange dietary standards God gave Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant. Many of these food requirements (to be observed after they entered the land, were teaching aids to illustrate spiritual truths. These dietary laws were set aside under the New Covenant, (Matthew 26:17-30, Colossians 2, Mark 7:19, Acts 10). The Levitical priests were also instructed to take special care about skin lesions and contagious diseases, and to watch for evidences of internal illnesses, especially those that were contagious. Many Bible translations call a host of skin conditions using the word "leprosy" though it is clear from the context that scrapes, burns, bruises, allergic reactions, superficial skin infections, cancers, and a host of other skin conditions were in view in Leviticus 13-14. {See Background of Leprosy in the Bible, by R. K. Harrison, ISBE, 

Leprosy as it is known today refers to Hansen's disease, a bacterial infection, serious in its effects, but only mildly contagious, and treatable since 1960 with modern drugs. One can not be certain that the lepers who commonly lived in the ancient Middle East were afflicted with Hansen's' disease or something worse, but if leprosy was diagnosed by the Levitical priests, the disease was contagious and the victims suffered greatly by being totally excluded from society. 

"...he is a leprous man. He is unclean. The priest shall surely pronounce him unclean; his sore is on his head. Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare; and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean' He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Leviticus 13:44-46) 

The Levitical priests were also taught to be alert for internal illnesses affecting normal and abnormal discharges from the body (chapter 15). But the priests were not healers, nor were they physicians! Reading between the lines of Leviticus, Yahweh was the one who healed every disease! The priests diagnosed, isolated, and carefully studied a variety of symptoms and, when appropriate, isolated the affected person so as to prevent the spread of infectious agents. 

Today we take for granted our marvelous modern medical services. Our doctors start a physical exam with an interview and an examination of the externals of skin, ears, eyes, nose, throat. Then, at the doctor's disposal are a battery of lab tests: blood analysis, urinalysis, x-rays, CAT scans, MRI scans, endoscopes (and various insertable television probes), angiograms, EKGs, EEGs, and surgical intervention when indicated. A thousand new drugs control blood pressure, anxiety and depression, cholesterol levels, and make up for the dysfunction of almost any internal organ--and on and on.

The Levitical priests had no medical training, and apparently they stocked no herbs, ointments, or chicken soup when people came to them for help. Neither was there homeopathic medicine among the Jews or a separate class of doctors or healers, as far as we know. Naturally the priests prayed and interceded for the people at each step of their involvement in their lives.

We are blessed today to have good living conditions, fine foods and outstanding medical care. As a result many of us will live 70 or 80 years. But only the spirit and soul is redeemed by God in this life. Only the inner man that survives this present brief life--our new body waits for us at the resurrection. (2 Cor. 5:1-5) The bodies we live in now are mortal and not yet redeemed. 

In America we know all about healthy bodies but we do next to nothing to help assure that the inner man is cleansed and holy -- functioning according to the designer's expectations. Our priorities in living, as usual, are out of kilter. We put our physical well-being and pleasure first, and God last.  

When Jesus had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"  When He had entered a house away from the crowd, His disciples asked Him concerning the parable.  So He said to them, "Are you thus without understanding also? Do you not perceive that whatever enters a man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not enter his heart but his stomach, and is eliminated, thus purifying all foods?" And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Luke 7:14-23) 

The Levitical priests of the Old Covenant knew the Torah well. They were required to live exceptionally holy and godly lives so as to be sensitive to the voice of the Lord and discerning regarding the needs of the people.

"Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations, that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD has spoken to them by the hand of Moses." (10:9-11) 

The work of a priest in any age is to listen to the needs of their people and intercede for them before the Lord. Priests are charged with conveying the truth and wisdom of God to the people. If a person was sick--whether minor or serious--whether in the body or in the soul--Yahweh was the Healer. 

The priest had a full daily schedule presenting the numerous daily offerings of the people in the Tabernacle. These sacrifices assisted the people in claiming the forgiveness of God and restoration of fellowship with God as appropriate. When God healed--and He must have done this often--the priests could restore even a grossly unclean person--such as a leper--to full standing in the community. When a leper was found to have been healed  by the Lord he could be brought back into good standing with his family and with the rest of Israel. 

According to Leviticus Chapters 1-7, the usual order of Israel's five offerings was (1) the whole burnt offering, (2) the meal offering, (3) the peace offering, (4) the sin offering, and (5) the trespass offering. However, when a leper was to be restored to good standing in the community the trespass offering came first, then the whole burnt offering, then the sin offering, and lastly the meal offering.

These days, God's concern for integrating into His family new Christians who previously may have been treated as "socially outcast" may help explain the reversed order of 1 Corinthians 6:11 (the usual NT order is spiritual rebirth [washing], justification, then sanctification). Paul says: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." The people on Paul's list in the previous verse had lived obviously sinful life styles that often caused them to be marginalized and shunned by mainstream believers. Immediately preceding the strong reassurance of verse 11 Paul had said, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals (active or passive), nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." (6:8-10) Paul's list could be considered a kind of rogue's gallery of today's moral lepers as much of the church looks at society.

Leviticus is full of types, shadows and symbols. We need to read Leviticus through New Testament eyes where it is immediately evident that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God's Son, is once-and-for all, inclusive. 

"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land; But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." (Isaiah 1:16-20) 

Regarding the symbolic meaning of the cleansing of lepers, Ray Stedman says the following:

The Cleansing of Lepers: In Leviticus 14, God continues to speak to Moses--and to us--about the issue of contamination. Once again, there is a deeper truth to be discerned here than mere physical infection.

The LORD said to Moses, "These are the regulations for the diseased person at the time of his ceremonial cleansing, when he is brought to the priest: The priest is to go outside the camp and examine him. If the person has been healed of his infectious skin disease, the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop he brought for the one to be cleansed. Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot. He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to he cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields" (Leviticus 14:1-7). 

Here, God begins by addressing the issue of people who have apparently been healed of leprosy. He lays out a beautifully symbolic ritual that is not intended to heal a person but to cleanse a person who has already been healed. Only God can heal. The act of healing is a sovereign act of God that takes place in the inner life of a human being. Cleansing is a symbolic act that enables us to understand that God's basis for healing is nothing less than a blood sacrifice. That is the picture which is drawn for us here.

We need to understand that all of us, as human beings, have hearts that are infected with spiritual leprosy. We are full of sin, envy, covetousness, lust, resentment, hatred, and malice. We have a hard time seeing the true sickness of our hearts unless God draws it out for its with symbols such as these. When we truly see the sinfulness and leprosy of our hearts, we can do nothing but fall before God and plead, "Lord, heal me!"

And God does! The moment we let down our defenses and admit our sickness and sinfulness, He reaches into our hearts with His touch of grace and heals our inner leprosy. The leprosy is arrested, and we are healed.

But after we are healed, we still need cleansing. We need to understand the basis on which our inward healing occurred so that our outward behavior can be adjusted to a new pattern. That is what is brought out here in this symbolic cleansing of the leper. The ceremony is not ritual for ritual's sake. It is a vivid and visual representation of what God does in the life of a sinner who is cleansed from sin. It is clear that God has thought through every detail in order to teach us profound truths.

The first thing we learn is that the basis for our healing is always the shedding of blood. God never heals, never blesses, never arrests the action of evil apart from the shedding of blood. The meaning of the symbols is obvious for anyone to see.

The priest takes two live birds, some cedar wood, some blood-colored scarlet yarn, and hyssop (a tiny, moss-like plant that grows in nooks and crannies of the rocks). The priest has one of the birds killed over fresh water in a clay pot. Then the other bird is dipped into the bloody water, along with the wood, yarn, and hyssop. Then the healed leper is sprinkled seven times, and the living bird is released and allowed to go free.

The blood, of course, pictures for us the blood of the Lord Jesus. Throughout Leviticus, the sacrifices continually picture for us the sacrificial death of Christ, which puts the old nature to death and brings its new life. God never puts a bandage on cancer; He strikes at the root of the cancer, destroys it, and gives us a whole new life. He doesn't just salve our symptoms; He heals our disease. The shed blood of this innocent bird is a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus and His death for us.

The clay pot is a picture of the humanity of Jesus. Paul spoke of our humanity this way: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7). Fresh water, newly drawn from a spring or stream, always pictures the Holy Spirit in His refreshing, life-giving quality. Jesus spoke of the Spirit in these words: "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." In other words, the Spirit of God flows from the hearts of those who believe in Jesus.

The cedar tree was regarded in Israel as the acme of beauty and symbolized the glory of God. The moss-like hyssop, by contrast, was regarded as a symbol of the lowliness of humanity. So here we have a picture of the two extreme opposites that were embodied in Jesus Christ--His divine glory and His lowly humanity. The scarlet yarn symbolized His kingliness. All of these items were dipped in the shed blood, baptized in death. The living bird, too, was dipped in the shed blood and released--a picture of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and of our identification with Him in His death and resurrection. By our identification with Him, we are set free from death and sin and released to the heavens, just like that bird. Through His sacrifice, Jesus sets us free to be new creatures in Him.

It is amazing how meaningful these Old Testament symbols are. They demonstrate that the Old and New Testaments tell us one consistent story, from Genesis to Revelation. As Jesus told the Pharisees, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me" (John 5:38). Clearly, the rich symbolism of Leviticus speaks volumes about Jesus.

The next step in the ritual involved the personal cleansing of the healed leper, followed by a seven-day waiting period to make sure that the leper's healing and cleansing was genuine.

The person to be cleansed must wash his clothes, shave off all his hair, and bathe with water; then he will be ceremonially clean. After this he may come into the camp, but he must stay outside his tent for seven days. On the seventh day he must shave off all his hair; he must shave his head, his beard, his eyebrows, and the rest of his hair. He must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water, and he will be clean" (Leviticus 14:8-9).

After this, the leper was to bring four offerings. The importance of the exact order of the four offerings should not be overlooked.

On the eighth day he must bring two male lambs and one ewe lamb a year old, each without defect, along with three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, and one log of oil. The priest who pronounces him clean shall present both the one to be cleansed and his offerings before the LORD at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 

Then the priest is to take one of the male lambs and offer it as a guilt [trespass] offering, along with the log of oil; he shall wave them before the LORD as a wave offering. He is to slaughter the lamb in the holy place where the sin offering and the burnt offering are slaughtered. Like the sin offering, the guilt offering belongs to the priest; it is most holy. 

The priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. The priest shall then take some of the log of oil, pour it in the palm of his own left hand, dip his right forefinger into the oil in his palm, and with his finger sprinkle some of it before the LORD seven times. The priest is to put some of the oil remaining in his palm on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. The rest of the oil in his palm the priest shall put on the head of the one to he cleansed and make atonement for him before the LORD. 

Then the priest is to sacrifice the sin offering and make atonement for the one to be cleansed from his uncleanness. After that, the priest shall slaughter the burnt offering and offer it on the altar, together with the grain offering, and make atonement for him, and he will be clean" (Leviticus 14:10-20). 

"The trespass offering was first. Leprosy in a garment symbolizes the harm and injury that our sin causes to others or that they cause to us. A trespass has occurred, a relationship has been hurt or broken, and that needs to be dealt with first. So the trespass offering (or, in the NIV, guilt offering) comes first. Jesus offered Himself as the sacrifice for our trespasses.

Next came the sin offering. This offering goes deeper, to our fallen sin nature. This offering teaches us that through the death of Christ, God has dealt with the source of evil within us--the sinfulness that is woven into our fallen flesh. Because Jesus dealt with our sin nature, we don't have to follow the urges to sin anymore. We still feel them, but we are not bound to them as we once were. We are freed from the dominion of sin.

Next was the burnt offering, which recognized the devotion of a heart that has been cleansed and is now open, accepting, and dedicated to God.

Finally came the grain offering, which represents the presentation of our humanity to God. All of this renders the leper clean from his leprous disease, and even his relationships are cleansed, and so he is free to enter normal life once again.

What do these offerings mean? They are all symbolically significant, and all of them except the grain offering involve the shedding of blood. The blood in these sacrifices is always a picture of guilt removed, of evil ended. The blood is applied to remove the offense of the ear, the hand, and the foot. Those who are infected with the leprosy within have listened to false philosophies, so the ear must be cleansed. They have manipulated and maneuvered and committed other evil deeds, so the hand must be cleansed. Their feet have gone down sinful paths, so their walk must be cleansed.

The great teaching of this passage is that the blood of the guilt offering cleanses the sinner. When there is a spot of sin in your life and you confess it and its action has been halted by the repentance of your heart, then God applies the blood of His Son to you so that your sin is cleansed away. All of the members of your flesh that have engaged in sin are cleansed--your ear, your hand, your walk. You are forgiven.

Notice, next, that in addition to the blood, oil is also applied to those same members of the body--the eye, hand, and toe. Oil is the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The blood is only the first step--the step that leads to our salvation from sin. The next step is that we must apply the oil; we must yield ourselves to the Spirit of God. The oil is placed on the ear and the thumb and the foot in order that the mind may now be devoted to hearing the things of the Spirit, that the hand may be offered to the service of God, and that the walk may follow the leading of the Spirit.

Once the blood has cleansed and the oil has been applied, symbolizing yieldedness to the Spirit, the leper is ready to return to society. These symbols are beautiful and instructive for our lives.

A young woman, a college student, once approached me for help with a personal problem. "My roommate has the most annoying habits," she said. "She does these irritating things, and I feel resentful toward her. But I know it's wrong to feel that way, so I keep confessing my feelings to God. Yet those feelings of resentment keep coming back. How can I he freed from this?"

I said, "The problem is that you are doing only part of what the Lord tells us to do in situations like this. Yes, we are to confess our sin and ask forgiveness; you are doing the first step. But God also wants us to turn around and make the members of our bodies available to God for His work. We are to offer them to Him for righteous purposes. You are confessing your sinful resentment, but you are not turning around and actively loving your roommate in the power of God. The negative is not enough; we must also do what God requires of us in a positive and proactive way."

In other words, we need not only the blood of Christ to cleanse the sin of the ear, hand, and foot, but we also need the oil of the Holy Spirit to lead the ear, hand, and foot in a new and positive direction. We need to yield ourselves to the Spirit so that He can take over and enable us to reach out to others in love.

The next section shows that God is concerned with the meaning of the sacrifice, not how expensive the sacrifice is. God wants the message and rich symbolism of the cleansing ritual to be available to all, including the poor.

If, however, he is poor and cannot afford these, he must take one male lamb as a guilt offering to be waved to make atonement for him, together with a tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering, a log of oil, and two doves or two young pigeons, which he can afford, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. 

On the eighth day he must bring them for his cleansing to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, before the LORD. The priest is to take the lamb for the guilt offering, together with the log of oil, and wave them before the LORI) as a wave offering. He shall slaughter the lamb for the guilt offering and take some of its blood and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big roe of his right foot. The priest is to pour some of the oil into the palm of his own left hand, and with his right forefinger sprinkle some of the oil from his palm seven times before the LORD. Some of the oil in his palm he is to put on the same places he put the blood of the guilt offering--on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. The rest of the oil in his palm the priest shall put on the head of the one to be cleansed, to make atonement for him before the LORD. Then he shall sacrifice the doves or the young pigeons, which the person can afford, one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, together with the grain offering. In this way the priest will make atonement before the LORD on behalf of the one to be cleansed.

These are the regulations for anyone who has an infectious skin disease and who cannot afford the regular offerings for his cleansing (Leviticus 14:21-32). 

The symbolism in this section yields the same rich Christ-centered message as the previous section--but it does so in a way that is within reach of even the poorest people of Israel. (From Leviticus: The Way to Wholeness by Ray C. Stedman 

In The New Testament:  The New Testament records two encounters Jesus had with lepers. Jesus did not hesitate to heal lepers and other social outcasts. 

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, "Lord, if you will, you can make me clean." And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, "I will; be clean." And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one; but "go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people." (Luke 5:12-15) 

In order for the cleansed leper to be restored to the community, Jesus sent this man to the priests for the ceremonial cleansing the Law of Moses required.

On a second occasion Jesus compassionately healed ten lepers with no strings attached. Only one, who happened to also have been a despised Samaritan, received Jesus into His life and came back to offer Jesus thanks and worship.  

On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then said Jesus, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And he said to him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well [i.e., in body, soul, and spirit]." (Luke 17:11-19)

There is a Balm in Gilead

Under the New Covenant God does not always heal us physically, but He is always willing to heal us emotionally and spiritually. If we have received eternal life from Him, we will arrive totally healed and whole in the resurrection, complete with a new sinless body. The NT spiritual gift of healings uses a plural word, (iama), to remind us that God heals at all levels of our lives.

In the New Testament all believers are priests under Jesus our Great High Priest, and all of us have one or more spiritual gifts of which healings is one. (See Body Life by Ray Stedman).

Jesus said, "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (Luke 5:32)

It is soon evident as one reads the gospels that Jesus was ready to heal lepers, prostitutes, a woman with a long-term issue-of-blood, tax-collectors, and sinners. For this He was severely criticized by the religious establishment

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! "But wisdom is justified by all her children." 

 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee's house, and sat down to eat. And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisees house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, "This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner." 

And Jesus answered and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." So he said, "Teacher, say it." "There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have rightly judged." 

 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little." Then He said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" Then He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. Go in peace." (Luke 7:34-50) 

When Jesus began to call out His Church in the First Century, More than a dozen and a half special spiritual gifts were given. Most of these gifts are still in place today. Fake healing and counterfeit miracles which are not from God are common today! "Test the spirits!"

Miracles: (energemata dunameon). The ability to raise men from the dead, call fire down from heaven and otherwise present signs that authenticate the power of God in certain situations,
 (charismata iamaton) (plural) are important gifts given to followers of Christ in every generation. Since there is a dearth of sound teaching on this topic, please see The Spiritual Gifts.

The ability to heal by God can be seen at the physical, emotional and spiritual levels. The word is plural in Greek, probably suggesting that the ability to heal refers to all three levels of man. Today, God sometimes heals physically, but more often emotionally and spiritually. A valuable gift for a counselor. But God does not always heal on command! There was a blind man at the Temple Entrance in Jerusalem who had been ignored by the Apostles (and by Jesus) until an appointed time! Here is what happened finally:

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth,stand up and walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, ‘You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. (Acts 3:1-11)

Great healing of the inner man happens over time to every follower of Jesus! This is because most of us are very fragmented and full of contradictions inside. We don't know ourselves well at all!

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is sure." (Titus 3:3-8)

Our Modern World

In the New Testament the widespread use of drugs can he directly connected with the breakdown of society, with the increasing number of divorces and the communication barriers between teenagers and parents, and especially with the lack of warm, fatherly love in our society. When a nation or society becomes spiritually bankrupt, the crime rate rises, sexual immorality increases, and drug use becomes more extensive (Nahum 3:4). Because many adults today are not spiritually deep or sensitive to God, young people are presented with very little else other than the mediocrity of living in the Establishment. The harlot who seduces the young with her drugs, charms, and enchantments is, in the Bible, associated with the rejection of the authority of God in the home and family unit. There is much that is appealing and exciting in the adventure of a drug experience. Yet the end result is disaster, chaos, confusion, and very often, neurosis or psychosis, and sometimes the permanent crippling or damaging of the mind. Although medicine has not yet established conclusively either the genetic or brain damage from the use of LSD, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually drug experiences are extremely dangerous and harmful. In addition to the emotional damage to the psyche, drug experiences can open the mind spiritually to seducing and deceiving spirits. A person who persistently uses psychedelic drugs, even marijuana, can become demon possessed, and tragically imprisoned by the forces of darkness and evil, often without realizing consciously what is happening. In the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, for example, there are now witches, warlocks, and sorcerers who take their astrology, spiritism, and metaphysics seriously (see Isaiah 47). Jesus spoke of the devil as "the father of liars and a murderer from the beginning." The aim of Satan is to destroy human beings whom God loves and for whom Jesus Christ died and gave Himself. He warps, distorts, confuses, and destroys the mind, emotions, and will whenever possible. He is called in the scriptures "the god of this world" and "the prince of the power of the air." 

In John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me." In the modern vernacular, we might quote Jesus as saying, "I am the trip." A "trip" with Jesus Christ is a permanent trip. It is orderly, controlled by His Holy Spirit, and yet exciting, adventuresome, and fulfilling without all the chaos, frustration, and loneliness which characterizes a drug experience. It is quite correct to describe a typical drug experience as an ego trip, as a self-centered experience. In contrast, God is self- giving love. Drug experiences lead to a distorted view of the world which is called pantheism. A pantheist believes that everyone is God, that God is everything, therefore there is in pantheism no distinction between good and evil. If I were to kill you, this would be God killing God and there is no "wrong" to this to a pantheist. According to the pantheist, all of our lives are just waves on a sea of consciousness. But this view of life is not consistent with the Bible. In the Bible, God is always shown to be holy, loving, just, and transcendent-that is, higher and greater than the world which He has created. He longs for us to be in partnership with Him and a partnership between man and God is possible only when men are truly born again (John 3) and receive Jesus Christ into their hearts by faith (John 1:12). 

While many churches today are not communicating the abundant, full, rich, and exciting life which Jesus Christ offers, this life is available directly and personally to any individual from God. Anyone seeking an alternative to drugs should check out the claims of Jesus of Nazareth and avail himself of the real exciting life which drugs counterfeit. New Testament Christianity is something which is to be shared in small groups meeting together to love, pray, and study the Bible in the presence of Jesus Christ Himself. Christians are definitely not called to take ego-trips with God, but to live responsibly in society in close relationships with one another. The use of drugs in the Bible can be studied by looking up references to the word "sorcery." In the New Testament the word translated "sorcery" is, in Greek, "pharmakeia" which means "the mystical enchantments and charms of drugs." Sorcery is one of the works of the flesh in Galatians, chapter 5. That is, the misuse of drugs is, like premarital sex or murder or drunkenness, a symptom of man's estrangement and alienation from God. The Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So then the cure to the problem of drugs is not entirely a question of passing laws and regulations against the use of drugs or persuading people to stop taking drugs, though laws are valuable in society. 

Nor does religion alone solve the problem of man's alienation from God. The many religions of the world are man's best efforts to find God. In fact, the very word "religion" comes from the Latin "re" and "legio" meaning "to bind back again." In rituals and ceremonies of the world we have man's best attempts to find the ground of his being and to seek his Creator. 

In sharp contrast, the God of the Bible has come down to find man, in the person of Jesus Christ. He fulfills a man within the context of his culture, family, and community. Jesus said, "The son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." When He died on the cross for you and me, Jesus Christ identified Himself fully with every individual member of the human race. In compassion, tenderness, sensitivity, and human concern, He gave his life in exchange for ours. The Bible says, "He who was without sin was made to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in him." The New Testament says, "There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus who gave himself a ransom for all." Jesus said, "No one knows the Father except the Son and whoever the Son chooses to reveal himself to." He goes on to say, "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly at heart and you will find rest for your souls." It is therefore important to receive Jesus Christ by a personal decision and choice of the will. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock," Jesus said, "if any man opens the door I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me" (Revelation 3:20). Receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Master begins the Christian experience. But this initial commitment to God must be characterized by continuing steps of faith on the part of every convert. Christians need one another and every child of God should seek the companionship and fellowship of other Christians and find a good, New Testament church where he can worship and be taught the scriptures. 

It is very important to learn to talk to God about all one's problems in prayer and to bring Him into every area of our lives, especially into the mind, emotions, and daily life. Christians find they must soak, steep, and saturate themselves in the spiritual food of the Word of God if they are to live above stress, anxiety and defeat in the world. Jesus said, "If you continue in my word, you will be my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free." The Psalmist records, "Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." God told Joshua "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not fail you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses, my servant, commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand nor to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it for then you shall make your way prosperous and then you shall have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage. Be not frightened, neither be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." 

God does come into our lives permanently to stay with us. But He wants us to obey Him and to follow Him, to know the scriptures thoroughly so that we understand what He is like and what He is doing in history. He encourages us not to rely upon our feelings and emotions, which are never a good barometer of spiritual life, but to understand that faith means acting and believing upon what the scriptures declare to be true in spite of circumstances and pressures from the world. A glorious and permanent future awaits all those who belong to Jesus Christ but the root of spiritual problems behind the chimerical allure of the drug scene leads to chaos, emptiness, death, and destruction (Proverbs 7:27). Jesus Christ will prove Himself strong, adequate, and satisfying to every one who entrusts their lives into His hands. He is the most qualified of all men who have ever lived to be both Your Trip and your Guide. Why accept a substitute?  (From What LSD Did for me, 1963)

Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 
3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 
4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 

5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. 
6 The LORD executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed. 
7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. 

8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 
9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever. 
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. 

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; 
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. 
13 As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. 

14 For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. 
15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. 

17 But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, 
And His righteousness to children's children, 
18 To such as keep His covenant, And to those who remember His commandments to do them. 

19 The LORD has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all. 
20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Who excel in strength, who do His word, 
Heeding the voice of His word. 

21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You ministers of His, who do His pleasure. 
22 Bless the LORD, all His works, In all places of His dominion.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Homework and Leisure Reading

The Exodus Files

The Seven Churches in New Jerusalem

The Citizens of New Jerusalem

What it means to be "In Christ"

What is There to Live For?

Genesis Again

Wife of Jehovah / Bride of Christ

On Lepers and Virgins

Resource on Healing by Jack Kelley

Remote Viewing, Channeling, ESP, and the Power of God

Lambert's Main Library 
Email is welcome: Lambert Dolphin
Archive for Newsletters
Library Annex (new articles since 2018)  

October 7, 2021