The Divine Economy, by Witness Lee

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Now we need to see who it was that died on the cross. We may realize that Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior died on the cross, but we need to go deeper to realize that He died on the cross as the God-man. His constitution is divine and human. He is a living constitution of two essences and of two elements with two natures, so He was the God-man. As such a One, He died on the cross.

In the first century while the Apostle John was still on this earth, there was a great heresy invented by Cerinthus, telling people that when Jesus died on the cross, Christ left Him. That would have meant that when Jesus died on the cross, He was purely and merely a man with no divine essence, no divine element. This heresy is addressed by John in 1 John 2:22 which says, "Who is the liar if not he who is denying that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, who is denying the Father and the Son." The divine essence was a part of Christ’s constitution. You can take a person’s belongings, but you cannot take away his human nature since this is an intrinsic part of his being. Jesus is constituted with the divine essence and the human essence, and these essences could never be taken away from Him since they are an intrinsic part of His divine and human being. We should not forget that the One who died on the cross for us was both God and man—the God-man. This God-man died on the cross as seven wonderful items.

The Lamb of God

First, He died on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). As the Lamb of God He took away the sin of the world including all sins (1 Cor. 15:3).

The Brass Serpent

John 3:14 tells us that Jesus also died on the cross as a serpent: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." The Lamb of God is a figure of speech, and the serpent is also a figure of speech. When the Lord Jesus died on the cross, He was in the form of the serpent in the eyes of God. This is because we sinners have all become serpents. We all have been poisoned by the old serpent, Satan. When the children of Israel sinned against God, they were bitten by serpents (Num. 21:4-9). God told Moses to lift up a brass serpent on their behalf for God’s judgment, that by looking upon that brass serpent all may live. As descendants of Adam, we have been poisoned by the old serpent, and the serpent’s nature is within us.

Matthew 16:23 tells us that the Lord Jesus rebuked Peter, saying to him, "Get behind Me, Satan!" Peter was not a bad man, and he was trying to show love to the Lord Jesus. After the Lord told the disciples that He had to pass through suffering, crucifixion, and resurrection, Peter "began to rebuke Him, saying, God be merciful to You, Lord; this shall by no means happen to You!" (v. 22). Even when Peter was loving the Lord Jesus, he was a serpent. The Lord rebuked him by calling him Satan. Not only when we do evil things but also when we do good things, we may be like Satan. Satan is the rebellious one against God, and this rebellious nature of Satan is in our fallen nature. When we do bad things, we are against God. When we do good things, we may also be rebellious against God. It is not a matter of bad or good, but a matter of our nature. According to our fallen nature, we all are serpents.

The serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness was a brass serpent. It had the form of the serpent without the poison of the serpent. In Romans 8:3 Paul told us that God sent His own Son "in the likeness of the flesh of sin." The flesh of sin is the serpent. We all have the flesh of sin, and we are still living in the flesh of sin. This flesh of sin in God’s eyes is a serpent because in the nature of the flesh of sin is the evil nature of Satan. The flesh of sin in nature is the same as Satan. Thus, Satan is the serpent, and our flesh of sin is also the serpent.

(The Divine Economy, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)