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Bible Questions

The Serpent Metaphor

In the bible, the serpent is used as a metaphor for the Devil. The serpent uses lies to tempt and persuade people to sin. After their sins have made them vulnerable, the serpent gains spiritual power over them.

In our culture, serpents have long been associated with evil. The serpent or snake is commonly used as a metaphor to describe a deceptive person. This association with evil comes from the bible, where the serpent is one of many names given to Satan himself (Revelation 12.9).

Of course reasonable people know that literal snakes are not the problem. Snakes (like many animals) can be dangerous, but they're not demonic servants of the Devil. The bible uses the serpent as a symbol to convey deeper knowledge, not to stir up hatred for snakes.

So why does the bible use this metaphor of a serpent to describe evil? What are the characteristics of a serpent that would cause the Lord to choose this animal as opposed to some other animal? There is a lot being said in the serpent metaphor.

Any general or strategist will tell you that if you want to have success in dealing with an enemy, you must have information about that enemy. You must be able to identify your enemy's habits, motivations, and behaviors. If you can't see your enemy you are at a disadvantage.

The bible informs us about the Enemy through the metaphor of the serpent. The serpent metaphor is an insight into the nature of the Devil, and how he operates in the world. The serpent metaphor reveals the Devil's tactics and modus operandi, through which he takes control of people's lives.

Serpents are ambush predators. They don't chase down their prey, but instead rely on its carelessness. When the prey happens to get too close, the serpent will quickly strike it. The serpent then backs off, and allow its venom to work. It waits in the shadows while the venom paralyzes, digests, and destroys the animal from the inside out.

Only after the prey is completely helpless will the serpent swallow it. This is the serpent's survival strategy, and how it derives strength from other creatures. It doesn't seek confrontation, but relies on stealth and the power if its venom.

Obviously, the Devil doesn't go around literally biting and poisoning people, but he does overpower and consume them on a spiritual level. He increases his power over them in a pattern that's similar to the way that natural serpents hunt and feed. The way of the natural serpent tells us how the Devil operates.

The serpent has a forked tongue.

The venom of the biblical serpent is not a literal poison, but something more insidious and dangerous. The serpent's poison is his lies. From the beginning, the Devil has been a liar and a father of lies (John 8.44). He uses the power of his lies to create dissension between man and God.

The Devil's lies are a spiritual toxin that destroys the ones listening to him. His lies create estrangement between man and God so that man becomes spiritually vulnerable. As souls become lost, the serpent gains authority over them.

The lies of the serpent create false thoughts and perceptions.

What lies do is create distorted thoughts and perceptions in people. The Devil's lies create false perceptions within people so that they think and act in ways that alienate them from God. They become estranged from God in both their minds and actions.

That's not to say that the serpent is behind every false perception in the world. Man can certainly err on his own. However, many of the most destructive lies originate from spiritual places. The serpent is a trafficker of lies, and has sown many over time.

The serpent's lies target people's individual dispositions, weaknesses, and insecurities. These false thoughts and perceptions are unique for each person, and operate within the vessel of our minds.

Sometimes the lies are false hopes, and other times they push us away from true hope, "Those [seeds] by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8.12 KJV bible).

The serpent's lies can tear people down, and make them feel worthless, as if they have no place in the world. Other times the lies can create a spirit of self-righteousness, so that they only see other people's flaws. The lies can puff up and flatter people, getting them to think they're special, or make them feel like they're victims.

The lies can target any part of our lives; from our self-perceptions, to our relationships, to our perceptions of the past. Often the lies poison our values so we pursue worthless things. Whatever form they take, lies are distortions of reality that alienate us from God.

Among groups of people, there are often lies that inflame feelings of anger, hatred, fear, and jealousy. People then react to these lies, and trust breaks down. Many false perceptions have led to chaos, war, and suffering.

Perhaps the greatest delusion is the one that we all experience. Its the belief that we'd be happy if we got our way all the time. It comes from self-righteousness and a lack of faith. Part of growing up is realizing that this isn't true, however, many souls never overcome.

Most people don't recognize the power of deception in our thoughts. Perceptions and beliefs control our thoughts, which in turn control our actions. We grow up in a world of lies, and as certain lies take root in our minds, they affect our thoughts. These thoughts create a compulsion to sin through words and actions.

Often those who think they're enlightened are the most deluded. People seek answers from them, but the answers they get are lies. Few people find the true light of God which has the power to uproot all lies and heal us.

Sin can lead us deeper into spiritual death.

When our sins increase, we become more alienated from God. This gives the serpent more power over us, making us more susceptible to him. We often respond to the grief we feel by using sin as an outlet. This can create a downward spiral, in which we try to deal with our grief and misery through sin, but in the end we create more grief and misery.

This is similar to the alcoholic who drinks to drown his sorrows, but his drinking has also created many of them. Another example is the overeater who is sad and depressed about her life, so she copes with this grief by overeating more. In both examples, they are coping with their spiritual problems in ways that make them worse.

Perhaps worse than self-destruction are those who target others. Some people inflict harm on others as a way to cope with their own chaos and trauma. They can't heal inside because they're filled with lies. So they manifest their inner demons outward onto other people as a release. They learn to feel better at someone else's expense.

Often the things people instinctively do to feel better end up driving them deeper into darkness. The resulting destruction is the serpent's gain. This is sometimes called the snare of the Devil.

The snare of the Devil binds its victims, "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (2nd Timothy 2.25-26 KJV bible).

There are many kinds of snares that people use, but a traditional snare involves a noose that the animal runs into. The snare works like a slipknot that becomes tighter as the animal struggles. With a snare, the instinctive struggling of the animal causes it to become more trapped.

Some people embrace the serpent's lies more than others.

All people sin, but there are some individuals who are drawn to the Devil's lies more than others. For these ones, the lies are a liberation. They help them realize their innermost desires. The lies provide them with a spirit of self-righteousness and justification that they embrace.

The wicked embrace the lies of their spiritual father, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not" (John 8.44-45 KJV bible).

They love the wages of unrighteousness, and have no desire for the light of God. They despise the truth because it stands against what they feel in their hearts. To the wicked, the serpent's lies are a gospel of power. He is their spiritual father, and they are comfortable with him.

Everyone is born into spiritual darkness, and affected by the lies of the world. However, the Devil doesn't control every part of an unbeliever's life. Rather, he probes for weaknesses and areas through which he can gain access. Some people have stronger boundaries than others. Sometimes people decide to do what's right when it doesn't serve their selfish interests.

Not all unbelievers are the Devil's children, "For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves" (Romans 2.14 KJV bible). (see Can Unbelievers be Saved?).

Christ gives us immunity to the serpent's lies.

Spiritual lies are sinister because they influence our thoughts and perceptions. The problem with overcoming them is that we have no inner truth to defeat them. We don't have an inner light that exposes lies. We are sinners who were born into sin, and can't enlighten ourselves.

Our natural thought process is corrupted and entangled by false perceptions. Many of these false perceptions reach down to our subconscious level. We often aren't aware of what we feel deep in our hearts. Its only by grace and healing that we can emerge out from the confusion and darkness that exists in us.

Christ is the antidote to the poison of lies that sickens us. In him, we are finally cut loose from the serpent's snare, and sobered up from the potion of deceit. When we have strong faith in him, we are spiritually immune to the serpent's venom.

"And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm" (Acts 28.3-5 KJV bible).

The authority of Christ protects us from the venom of deception, "Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you" (Luke 10.5 KJV bible).

When we understand the the serpent metaphor we have better insight into how the Devil operates. He and his servants are predators that seek power within the world. They survive by lies and deceit. The testimony of Christ guides us into spiritual freedom from these lies and bondage.

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