While most Christians will tell us that the priority of life is its external character many have not distinguished endless life from divine life. The evangelical focus on going to heaven at death seems like more of a rug under which one can shove the immediate receipt of life than the confidence of a happy future. That we have passed from death to life is not in doubt but many prefer to see the Christian experience as partly our perfect position in Christ and partly a defining performance as less than stellar, which only a few dare try to defend. We are not now immortal, so eternal life, as a present possession, is not immortality.
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 3:14-15
A complaining mindset complication
The details of the bronze serpent episode cannot go much further than the manner or timing. “As” ought to shape our extraction of truth from the Lord’s saying. He means “like this” in our wilderness journey.
The overarching reason for death in the wilderness was unbelief. As surely as God brought Israel to Canaan he will bring us to heavenly Zion despite snakebite and huge casualties.
And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread. And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Numbers 21:5-6
Imagine having to look at a snake for relief from its fatal venom that is coursing through your veins.
This episode from Numbers is the background for the famous passage John 3:14-16 and the experience as a paradigm for life maintenance has been poorly appreciated.
Evangelists and teachers of all stripes love to trot out John 3:16 as the salvation call. Salvation from snakebite however is not the same as life from the dead and 3:16 does not address anyone getting life.
The Bronze Serpent in the Wilderness episode does not adress anyone coming back from the dead. Israel was a saved people who were kept alive by unusual means the most arresting of which is right here in the Bronze Serpent episode.
God loved the world thus, he gave his only Son so that anyone who keeps believing in him may keep his grip on divine life.
Coming to Christ and getting salvation happens once, but relief for injuries along the way – the Saviour Raised as a Bronze Serpent – once saved, is a necessity