Jesus Christ the Fiery Serpent

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

Adultery Calls for the Death Penalty

  In Deuteronomy 22:22 God declares that: If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. This judgment on those who committed adultery was the literal, earthly application of the commandment in Exodus 20:14, “ Thou shalt not commit adultery.” In the New Testament it is found that the heavenly meaning of this commandment, the Gospel application, points to an awesome spiritual marriage.

  Fifty years ago, divorce was almost unheard of except in some avant garde elements of our culture. Among Christians, divorce was virtually not found. When we compare Christians of today with Christians of 50 years ago, we are astounded at the appearance of the dreadful phenomenon of divorce. Today, divorce is as common as grass. In almost every nation where Christians are found, you find Christians are divorcing. The institution of marriage has become a shambles. How did this come about? Did Christians of 50 years ago have an incorrect understanding of the Bible’s rules concerning marriage and divorce? The situation is terrible and all-pervasive. We see the problems of those who have been divorced and those who are contemplating divorce, and the trauma of the children of these unhappy marriages in indescribable. With the wreckage of families has come an overwhelming lusting after sexual pleasures and perversions. Indeed, it appears that Sodom must be moved down to second place as the capital of perversion and lust. The magnitude and awfulness of the problem cannot be overemphasized. Marriage has everything to do with the family, and the family is the foundation of society. The family is the cornerstone of every nation. When the families are destroyed, the destruction of the nation is not far behind. Therefore, it is imperative that we find a solution to this terrible plague that is sweeping over the land. In this study, we will start and stand with the principle that the Bible is absolute truth. Only our understanding of the Bible can be erroneous. We Christians have an obligation to search the Scriptures to discover truth. God has much to say about the marriage relationship, and we will examine all that the Bible has to say on the subject.

We are embarking on a search for answers to a serious and perplexing problem: To discover the truth about the binding character of the institution of marriage. In our day, virtually every church and denomination has decided that under certain conditions a marriage can be broken and the divorced are permitted to remarry.

Such permissive rules are taught and preached as the Word of God. Solemnly, pastors claim that they have the full authority of God to encourage divorce under certain conditions and to call God to witness the joining together in marriage of those who have been divorced from their first spouse. What does the Bible say about this?

To understand the Biblical teachings concerning marriage and divorce, we must start with an understanding of the ceremonial laws of the Bible, where God first spoke concerning marriage and divorce, and their relationship to the world and church of today.

Many theologians of our day believe they have in the ceremonial laws a Biblical basis to permit divorce and remarriage. In their misunderstanding of these laws, they have made a caricature of the ceremonial laws and used them to justify divorces.


  When Christ was on earth, He spoke in parables and “without a parable spake He not unto them” (Mark 4:34). Sometimes Jesus told the people He was telling a parable. At other times He simply told a story and from the setting in the Bible we know it was a parable. For example, frequently He would begin a story or a declaration with the words “the kingdom of heaven is like.” When He used these introductory words He was teaching with a parable.

A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. That is, a parable is a story or illustration taken from the secular world, but the application relates to some aspect of salvation. It might teach some aspect of Christ’s death or resurrection; it might relate to faith in the life of the believer; it might emphasize the sending forth of the Gospel; it might point to Judgment Day. Because the nation of Israel was an intimate part of the Gospel story, some parables teach about God’s plan for them. For example, in Matthew 21:33- 45, the parable of the wicked husbandmen points to the fact that the kingdom of God would be taken away from national Israel and given to others.

In the Old Testament, this teaching method was used extensively; for example, in the types and shadows God employed in the ceremonial laws which outline worship activities and in the civil laws which governed much of the Israelites’ civil pursuits.

These laws are called “ceremonial laws” by theologians because on the earthly, physical level they were to be rigorously obeyed by the nation of Israel. After Christ had hung on the cross, the physical aspect of these laws was no longer to be obeyed. Now only the heavenly meaning inherent within these laws is to continue. When Christ hung on the cross the great curtain that separated the holy of holies from the holy place was torn apart from top to bottom by the finger of God. This signaled the end of the literal, physical keeping of the ceremonial laws. From that time forward the eyes of believers are to be focused only on the spiritual teachings set forth in the ceremonial laws as opposed to the literal, physical keeping of the ceremonial laws.

In fact, when the New Testament church met together to decide which of the ceremonial laws were to be obeyed by saved Gentiles, they concluded in Acts 15:28-29:

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well. Thus, the observance of ceremonial laws ended. The ceremonial laws ran the gamut from blood sacrifices and burnt offerings to the dimensions and characteristics of the temple building and laws concerning planting fields and weaving cloth. These lawsweretobeobeyedbyIsraelliterally,asearthly experiences, but they were to realize that the earthly event was only a shadow or type of some aspect of God’s salvation. In Colossians 2:16-17, God emphasizes this principle: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.” Included within the ceremonial laws were laws concerning marriage. Three of these were especially noteworthy.


  The first of these three laws was given to national Israel when they were coming into the land of Canaan. Deuteronomy 7:2-4: And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly. 2 What God hath joined together...

The first part of this commandment points to the spiritual judgment of the unsaved at Judgment Day, when believers will be destroyed for payment for their sins. The earthly application is that Israel was to destroy the nations of the land of Canaan.

The second part of the commandment points to the spiritual principle that believers are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. The nation of Israel typifies the body of believers in Christ. The heathen nations surrounding Israel typify the world with its enticements and temptations. Men of the nation of Israel were not to marry heathen wives, and believers are not to become attached or “married” to the world. God declares in Isaiah 52:11: “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”

In this exhortation the Israelites were effectively told that they were to divorce themselves from that which was unclean. The literal, earthly application meant that if (in violation of Deuteronomy 7:2-4), they had married heathen wives, they were to divorce them. The truth of this can be seen dramatically in the Book of Ezra.

The last two chapters of Ezra reveal a sad and traumatic experience faced by Israel. Under the leadership of men like Nehemiah and Ezra, a number of Israelites had returned to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem they discovered that a number of the men had married heathen wives who had borne children. Ezra 9:2-4:

For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and l sat astonied until the evening sacrifice.

In answer to the serious charge of violation of the commandment of Deuteronomy 7:2-4, the leaders of Israel made an important and difficult decision. They decided that these men must be divorced from their heathen wives. Ezra 10:2-3:

And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, answered and said unto Ezra, We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God, and let it be done according to the law.

The decision was to let it be done according to the law. In Isaiah 52:11 God’s law decreed that those who had become involved with the unclean thing were to depart from that which was unclean. In the practical sense, if an Israelite married a heathen wife, he was to divorce that wife, which was the way Ezra and the other leaders understood that law. Ezra 10:10-12:

And Ezra the priest stood up, and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said, so must we do.


  A second ceremonial law that relates to marriage is found in Deuteronomy 22:22: “If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.”

This law demanded the death penalty for a man and woman who were discovered in an adulterous relationship. Dramatic judgment on those who commit adultery was the literal, earthly application of this command.

The heavenly meaning or the Gospel application of this command is found in the New Testament, where this command points to an awesome spiritual marriage. This marriage is revealed in Romans 7:1-4:

Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

In a spiritual sense every one in the human race is automatically married to the law of God. This marriage is not the result of man’s desire. Rather, it is a marriage in which God has joined two parties together into an indissolvable union. These two parties are the human being on the one hand and the law of God on the other hand. Because God has joined these two together, no man can break the union. No matter how we might wish we were free from our spiritual marriage to the law of God, we cannot be freed from it.

It is a marriage between a perfect husband and a very imperfect wife. The husband, the law of God, is absolutely blameless. The wife, however, is the human being, and she is altogether adulterous. We know that the law of God is the husband because Romans 7:1 declares that the law has dominion over the man. In any marriage, the husband is the head of the wife and the wife is to be submissive to the husband.

Therefore, within this spiritual marriage, we humans are to submit obediently to the law of God, which is our spiritual husband. Every time we commit a sin we are engaging in spiritual adultery. We are being unfaithful to our spiritual husband, the law of God. 6 What God hath joined together...

The law of God, as the husband, cannot divorce the adulterous wife because what God has joined together cannot be put asunder by man. God takes this principle so seriously that even a perfect husband, the law of God, cannot become separated from the adulterous wife (each human) to which it is married.

Spiritual adultery is in view in James 4:4: “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” In this verse, God is clearly speaking of the adulterous nature of mankind. Men are adulterers and women are adulteresses because they live in spiritual fornication in relationship to the law of God to which they are spiritually married. Jesus makes reference to the adulterous condition of the human race in Mark 8:38:

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. The adulterous and sinful generation of which He speaks includes the human race throughout time.

The kingdom of Satan, to which all of the unsaved of the world belong, is described as the great whore in Revelation 17. Because of man’s sinfulness, he is living adulterously as a harlot. Each sinful act is an act of spiritual adultery.

However, even though the law of God, as the husband, cannot divorce the fornicating wife, the human race, there is a way that this terrible marriage can be ended. Because of fornication, the wife deserves to die. Only if she dies can this marriage be brought to an end.

Because the husband is absolutely just and holy, it (the law of God) will bring accusation against the adulterous wife, demanding her death. It is this death that was anticipated in the ceremonial law of Deuteronomy 22:22.


  The earthly story required that the adulterous wife and the individual with whom she had committed adultery be stoned to death. The heavenly meaning of this terrible punishment is far more serious because the death that is required by mankinds husband, the law of God, is not only spiritual death but also the loss of eternal life with Christ. God gives us this warning in the ceremonial law of Deuteronomy 22:22.

Since Christ went to the cross, the earthly aspect of this ceremonial law is not to be observed. This is shown by Jesus’ reaction to the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11). According to Deuteronomy 22:22, she should have been stoned, but Jesus, who is eternal God, nullified that command by telling the woman to sin no more.

The word “bound” in Romans 7:2 is important; it is the Greek word “deo.” It connotes being “shackled together.” For example, in Mark 5:3 it is translated “bind” and in verse 4 as “bound.” Mark 5:3-4: Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. In Acts 12:6 we read of Peter in prison, “bound with two chains.” The word “deo” is found many times in the Bible and is always used in the sense of someone who is tied or shackled. God uses this word to describe the wife’s relationship to her husband. This is seen in Romans 7:2, and also in I Corinthians 7:39: “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” In I Corinthians 7:27 we read, “Art thou bound unto a wife?” The binding or shackling of the wife to the husband can be broken only by the death of the husband as Romans 7:2-3 plainly teaches. She is bound to him as long as he lives.


  The Bible has a glorious teaching that shows how we can end the spiritual application of this ceremonial law. In Romans 7:4 God gives the way of escape:

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

What does we have “become dead to the law by the body of Christ” mean? The death required by our spiritual husband, the law of God is precisely the death Jesus endured when He took our sins upon Himself. In the atonement He was found guilty with our sins and God poured out His wrath upon Him as punishment for those sins. That punishment equaled the punishment we should have endured.

Romans 7:4 indicates that Christ rose from the dead which is proof that the penalty demanded by the law of God had been entirely paid.

Because What God hath joined together... Christ, our substitute, endured the penalty for each believere,ach believer has become dead to the former husband, the law of God. Thus, the law of God has no dominion over him. He is dead to the law.

He is a new creature; he is born again; and he is free to become spiritually married to someone else. That someone else is Christ. The believer becomes the eternal bride of Christ. God has joined the believer to Christ in an eternal, indissolvable marriage relationship that no man can break asunder.

Death can never again occur to either Christ, the husband, or to the believer, the bride; thus, there is no possible way that this beautiful marriage can end. Even though the believer might engage in spiritual fornication (sin), Christ cannot divorce His bride. The law of God, the husband, cannot divorce the fornicating wife (the unsaved person), so, too, Jesus cannot divorce His bride, the person who has become saved. In the human marriage relationship, there cannot be divorce for fornication. What God has joined together cannot be put asunder. Only death can break the marriage.

Because the believer was given eternal life at the time of salvation, and because Christ rose from the dead to live forever, Christ can never end the blessed marriage union between Himself and the believer. How marvelous! How wonderful! How magnificent is the grace of God!

The law of God is no longer the husband of the believer, and it no longer has dominion over the believer. The law can never again threaten the believer with death, but this does not mean he is no longer related to the law of God. The law of God has now become his friend. The law shows him how to enjoy to the highest possible degree his new relationship with his new husband, Christ Jesus Himself.

The believer is no longer shackled to the law of God the way a wife is shackled to a husband. God uses the marriage relationship between the law of God and mankind to help us understand human marriage, and God also uses the marriage relationship between Christ and His bride to help us understand human marriage.

Believers are found in every political nation, and national Israel no longer has preferred spiritual status (since the cross); therefore, this law no longer applies to marriages between individuals of different nationalities.


  We want to look carefully at the one verse that has been abused most consistently in man’s efforts to find a Biblical basis for divorce. Matthew 19:9, which immediately relates to Deuteronomy 24:1-4, has the appearance of allowing divorce for fornication. Matthew 19:9:

And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whose marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

Many theologians read this verse and quickly conclude that it teaches there can be no divorce except in the case of fornication. We have already seen in our study that there is no Biblical cause for divorce. Therefore, we can be sure that this one verse, Matthew 19:9, cannot allow divorce for fornication or for any other reason. If we concluded otherwise, we would have before us a major contradiction. The Bible is one harmonious whole. While it may have statements that appear contradictory, we know that they are not actual contradictions. They only appear to be contradictions because our understanding of the questionable passages remains incomplete. Let usassumeforamomentthatwemustbaseourwhole understanding of divorce and remarriage on this one verse, Matthew 19:9. What would we learn?

Matthew 19:9 apparently teaches that a man may divorce his wife for fornication. But notice: there is no suggestion that the wife may divorce the husband for fornication. There is not even the slightest implication or indication that the wife can divorce the husband. In fact, nowhere in the Bible is there any statement that teaches that the wife can divorce the husband. Also the verse does not justify the husband for divorcing his wife for any reason except fornication. Additionally, Matthew 19:8 tells us that Moses allowed the husband to divorce his wife for the cause of fornication only because of the hardness of the husband’s heart: He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

The term “hardness of heart” refers to someone who is unsaved, someone who is in rebellion against God. Thus, if anyone insisted on understanding Matthew 19:9 without regard to any other teachings of the Bible, the most that he could see in this verse would be that a husband could divorce his wife only in the case of 20 What God hath joined together... fornication, and such a divorce would be an indication of the husband’s unsaved, rebellious spiritual condition. Therefore, even on the basis of Matthew 19:9, no true child of God would ever countenance the thought of divorce. Rather, he would realize that he is called upon to repeatedly forgive his wife for the sin of fornication just as he is to forgive any other sin.

When we consider what modern day theologians have done with this verse, we should be skeptical of their conclusions, for when they decide there can be divorce for the cause of fornication, they immediately conclude that not only can the husband divorce the fornicating wife, but the wife also can divorce the fornicating husband. Yet neither this verse nor any other verse in the Bible allows a wife to divorce her husband. Thus, when we hear such teachings, we should suspect gross violation of the true understanding of this verse.

“Does the Bible teach that fornication is grounds for divorce?” The answer is emphatically “No!” In Matthew 19:8, Jesus emphasizes two important truths. First, this command was inserted into the law book primarily to give God a way to divorce national Israel because of their spiritual rebellion, their hardness of heart. Second, He is indicating that this was not God’s eternal plan for human marriage for “from the beginning it was not so.” Jesus emphasizes in Matthew 19:8 that a man was no longer to put away his wife for fornication, so it does not make any sense at all that our Lord would reintroduce in the next verse the command He has just rescinded.


Matthew {19:9} And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except [it be] for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

A correct understanding of Matthew 19:9 is forthcoming if we go to the opening sentence of the paragraph in which Matthew 19:9 is found. In Matthew 19:3 we read: “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” Jesus answered them in verse 6: “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” In verse 7 the Pharisees asked about Deuteronomy 24:1, which permitted divorce for fornication. Jesus answers their question in verse 8 and indicates that Deuteronomy 24:1 was rescinded.

In verse 9 Jesus returns to the Pharisees’ original question: Can a man put away his wife for every cause? In verse 8 He indicates that fornication was no longer to be a cause for divorce. In verse 9 He covers every possible reason other than fornication and indicates that any other reason was also an invalid cause for divorce. Effectively, He is saying in verse 9, “whosoever puts away his wife for any reason [in addition to or other than or except] for fornication [which we have just seen in verse 8 to be an invalid cause for divorce] and marries another commits adultery.

The word “except” (the Greek “ei me”) takes on the sense or meaning of “in addition to” or “other than” in this context. This meaning of “ei me” is fairly common in the Bible. For example, in Matthew 19:17 Jesus says: “there isnone good but [ei me] one, that is, God.” This verse could be read: “there is none good [in addition to or other than] one, that is, God.” Likewise, in Mark 8:14 we read: “Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.” The phrase “more than” is also “ei me.” Here, too, we could translate: “neither had they in the ship with them [in addition to or other than] one loaf.”

Many other examples could be given, but these two should suffice to show that in Matthew 19:9, Jesus is simply covering all other possible causes for divorce “except,” “other than,” or “in addition to” fornication. He has already eliminated the cause of fornication in verse 8.

Jesus has twice answered the question posed by the Pharisees in verse 3 concerning divorce for every cause. He has first answered it in verses 4-6 by saying there is not to be divorce for any reason. Then in verses 7 and 8, He specifically teaches that fornication cannot be a cause for divorce. In verse 9 He applies this teaching to all other causes for divorce, except the cause of fornication, which He had just covered in verse 8.

The removal of fornication as a cause for divorce so shocked the disciples that they said to Jesus in verse 10: “His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.” They apparently could not envision a marriage wherein a husband had lost all right to divorce his wife. The disciples were astounded and dismayed that there could no longer be divorce. Their reaction to the statements Jesus made in Matthew 19:4-9 underscoresthefactthatJesushadrescindedthecommand of Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

The earthly application of the other ceremonial laws came to an end when Jesus came, and the application of the ceremonial law of a man divorcing his fornicating wife also ended with His coming. In fact, not only did the physical application of this law end, but the spiritual application ended as well. The last half of Matthew 19:9, “and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery,” is almost an exact duplication of Luke 16:18. We saw in Luke 16:18, Matthew 5:32, and Mark 10:11-12, that God indicated that a man was not to marry another wife after divorce, and anyone who married the divorced wife committed adultery. Clearly the law stands today that as long as the divorced spouse lives, there is not to be remarriage after divorce.

The Bible records that when Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, thought Mary had committed fornication because she was with child, he, being a just man, sought how to put her away (Matthew 1:19). The fact that the Bible says he was a “just” man underscores the fact that God was absolutely holy and righteous when He divorced national Israel as a corporate body. God divorced them as a corporate body, not as individuals. God could not divorce them as individuals within the nation because He was not married to them on that level. The law of God as the husband was married to them as individuals and in that relationship there could be no divorce. No matter how adulterous any man became, he remained under the law of God, even as the wife remains under the dominion of her husband.


God used national Israel to display various types and figures which were shadows of the spiritual reality that was to be fulfilled in Christ. Their corporate marriage to God was a picture of the marriage of Christ to the eternal church. God married Israel when it was a nothing, and the believer becomes the bride of Christ when he is spiritually dead in his sins. God lavished his love on his wife, national Israel, by showering them with physical and spiritual blessings, and He showers spiritual blessings on His eternal bride, the true believers in Christ.

Go to top of page