John 3:14, 15, 16, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” Etc. Words often on the lips of preachers who hold that Faith in Christ must precede Regeneration, and that sinners obtain spiritual life by believing in Jesus. Jesus had told Nicodemus of the necessity of Regeneration. Now, “He directs him to the brazen serpent, teaching him that he must go there in order, as it were, to gather up the seeds of this needed new life.”—J.G. Bellett.
It is, however, overlooked that the design of the serpent in the wilderness was not to impart life to the dead, but restoration to the dying. Those who benefited by it, looked in the last energy of their almost expiring life. The serpent-bitten Israelite does not therefore represent an unregenerate person dead in trespasses and sins, and spiritually unconscious; but a sinner, “poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore.” In other words, the text applies to those who have received life from Christ, or been born again, but who are in their guilty and miserable apprehensions ready to perish. Such should be assured, that “Jesus ready stands to save them, full of pity joined with power.” Whosoever looketh to Him—and all that have life in Christ will look to Christ—will find relief and rest in so doing. The serpent of brass is, therefore, not a type of Jesus as a “quickening spirit,” 1 Cor 15:45, giving “eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him;” but as the great and gracious Physician, imparting health of soul to all that are led to apply to Him, however desperate and deadly their conditions may be.