Hanged On A Tree

Long before Jesus was nailed to a cruel Roman cross, the Book of Deuteronomy described a person who is hung upon a tree, as “cursed” by God. These words were recorded by Moses, at the end of the forty years in the wilderness, about 1,400 years before Jesus was born. This statement in Deuteronomy was not a general declaration for any person that would be hung on a tree; it was intended as a future prophecy of the Messiah who would die for the sins of the world.

Paul later wrote in the book of Galatians that when Jesus died on that cross, He was taking away the curse that Adam had caused the human race, when He rebelled against God. Paul said that Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Moses that he wrote in Deuteronomy. This chapter explores the facts of this prophecy and how Jesus death has made a new life possible for any person who believes.

The Messiah will take our curse upon Himself.

Deuteronomy 21:23 “…his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.”

New Testament Fulfillment:

Galatians 3:10-13 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)…

The Curse:

Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.’ ”

The Bible is clear that all men, since Adam, are under a curse. From the moment that Adam disobeyed God, he was under the judgment of sin and death. Because all men are descended from Adam, all human beings have inherited this curse.

We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners.

Our propensity towards sin comes from the fact that we are inherently flawed in our basic spiritual DNA. We commit sin because that is what we do best. It is not really possible for any human being to not sin. Although we may try very hard to be a better person, at some point, we will always fail. This is true for those who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as well as those who do.

The advantage that a person has, who comes into a relationship with Jesus—over those who have not received Him, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Living God provides power for those who belong to Him—to overcome sin. Before a person comes into a relationship with Jesus, this person is described by the Bible as a slave of sin. After we come into a new relationship with the Lord, we can become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:17-18 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

The tendency towards wrongful actions and a nature that gravitates towards evil, is a natural part of our character as the fallen descendants of Adam. This is the curse that is the subject of this prophecy from Deuteronomy 21:23. Thankfully, it is not the will of God that any of us should remain under this curse and be lost eternally. The purpose of God in allowing Jesus’ to die for us was to remove the curse and restore us to our rightful place of fellowship with God.

This is why the Lord completely ignores the redemption of our body and instead, focusses all of His efforts and work of redemption on our spirit. While we remain in our earthly bodies, we will always struggle with sin for the rest of our lives.

Two Natures

Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

As believers in Jesus, we now have two natures: the old and the new. The old man is the fleshly nature who actively pursues the things of this world. The new man is directed by the spiritual nature who has been Born Again by the Spirit of God (John 3:3). This new man earnestly desires that he might please the Lord in all things. As a result of the old and new natures residing within us at the same time, they are constantly at war with each other. The nature that we feed the most will be dominant in our life. If we feed our flesh everything that it asks for, the spiritual man will starve and become weak. If we feed our spirit by continuing to read the Bible daily, attending a local church where we can have good fellowship with other believers, and maintain a life of constant prayer, these things will strengthen our Spirit.

The Book of Romans has a wonderful discourse on the reality of our struggle between the old nature of the flesh and the new nature of the Spirit.

Although we were formerly under the curse of Adam, which condemned us to eternal separation from God, by our complete trust in Jesus as our Savior; the former curse has been removed and we are no longer under any condemnation from God.

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Notice that the person who has placed his life in the hands of Jesus and has come to Him for the forgiveness of his sins, is no longer under the condemnation or curse, which this prophecy speaks of. A condition for remaining in fellowship with the Lord, is our continual walk in the Spirit (controlled by the Spirit). I have heard this first verse of Romans Chapter 8, quoted many times in the context—that God has removed all condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Unfortunately, the second part of verse 1 is usually left out: There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

We cannot claim to belong to Jesus and then choose to continue in a lifestyle of sin. This would make our profession as a follower of Jesus inconsistent with our lifestyle.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Being directed by the Holy Spirit requires that we determine that sin will no longer be a consistent part of our life. In our former way of life, before we came into a relationship with Jesus; we lived as we pleased. Sin was a normal part of everything that we did. In this new life surrendered to Jesus, having been set free from the curse of Adam; we don’t have to live as slaves to the old life any longer. We are free from the law of sin and death. We are free from the curse of Adam which compelled us to move towards sin and the eternal death, which would have resulted from that lifestyle. In our former life, we lived according to our flesh and we did as we please. Now, we live to please the Lord.

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

The term walking in the Spirit is defined by an event which occurs at the precise moment that we make the decision to come to Jesus and ask Him to forgive all of our sins and become the Lord of our life. When this takes place, Jesus describes us as: born again.

John 3:3-5 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

In our first physical birth, we were born of water as we came out from our mother’s womb—through water.

In our second spiritual birth, we are born of the Spirit when we turn our life over to Jesus Christ, trusting in the sacrifice that He has made for us on the cross. At that moment, God causes our spirit to come alive and be joined to Him in fellowship.

Every living human being has experienced birth by water. Only those who choose to be born of the Spirit will be born a second time. Spiritual rebirth sets us free from the curse of Adam because we are no longer under the power of sin and death. When we place our trust in Jesus as our Savior, God causes the rebirth of our formerly dead spirit. This is what Jesus was referring to when He told Nicodemus that he must be born again.

Those who refer to themselves as “Born again Christians” are describing this new spiritual birth, in which Jesus has removed the old curse that sin had formerly placed us under and He has given us a new life directed by the Holy Spirit. Everyone who is born again is no longer the same person, they become a new creature.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Jesus said, in the above verse from John Chapter 3, that admittance into heaven comes only by a spiritual rebirth, through Him, as our Messiah; not through any good works that we might try to perform in order to please God. Nicodemus was a leader in Israel. He believed that his righteousness came from the fact that he was a son of Abraham and because he kept the laws of Moses. Jesus informs Nicodemus that God only accepts those who come to Him through a new spiritual rebirth, not by being a son of Abraham, or by keeping the laws of Moses.

John 3:6-8 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

The spiritual birth which occurs when we sincerely turn our life over to Jesus, is not something that is always outwardly visible. New birth happens internally within our spirit where our true self resides. The real you is spirit, and this spirit is dead to God while we remain under the curse. God created your spirit to exist for eternity. However, without this new birth, our spirit will remain dead within us. If we do not experience a new spiritual birth, we will remain dead to God and separated from Him forever. Without the new birth, we will remain under the curse of Adam’s disobedience and our own sins that we have committed.

This is the reason that a person cannot understand the Bible, nor the nature of God. The Lord only reveals Himself to those who diligently seek Him. A vital relationship with God is only possible through a new spiritual relationship with Him. This happens after the curse of Adam is removed; through the sacrifice that Jesus has made for us on the cross.

1 Corinthians 2:14 But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from Gods Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they cant understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. (NLT)

If we choose to live our life apart from God by denying Jesus and His desire to remove our sins, then there remains no other way for God to save us. If we live for ourselves and to please our flesh, then we are already dead. If we choose to be born again and live our life directed by the Spirit of God, then we will live forever.

Romans 8:6-8 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. 7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey Gods laws, and it never will. 8 Thats why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. (NLT)

If we choose to be Born Again, then God’s Spirit will begin to live within us, helping us to make better decisions to not sin as often as we once had.

Romans 8:9-10 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. 10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

The body that we live in is not a part of God’s plan of salvation, only our spirit (you will receive a new body). Because our bodies are unredeemed for the present time, we will continue to struggle with sin—throughout our lifetime. We have a new nature that comes from being born again, while at the same time, we live within our old body that loves to sin. You can see how this presents us with great difficulty. Romans 8:6 above describes this conflict as a state of war between our flesh and our spirit. We want to please the Lord with our new spiritual nature that has been born again, while our body seeks only to please itself.

Thankfully, because Jesus will live within us for the rest of our life, He gives us the power to overcome sin, if this is our desire. The Lord will also give us the power to rise from the dead, never to die again, when He returns for us.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

It was by the sacrifice that Jesus has made for us on the Cross, where He took the curse of Adam and removed it, that we are no longer under the condemnation which God placed on Adam and all of his descendants.

Galatians 3:13 …Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…

All sins which you have committed in your former life, before the moment you received Jesus as your Savior, no longer exist. God has placed all of your past failures and the terrible things which people have said and done to you, on Jesus’ Cross. When He died, everything that has happened in your former life, also died. You are now a brand new creation with a clean record before God.

The Bible is specific in that all who come from Adam are under His curse, and all those who are Born Again by the Spirit of God, through Jesus’ sacrifice, are released from the curse.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 “For since by man (Adam) came death, by Man (Jesus) also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.”

Throughout the Old Testament, the sacrifices which were offered as the atonement for sins, were also bearing the punishment which had been earned because of those sins. Jesus’ sacrifice completely satisfied the penalty that was due for all our sins.

Anyone, no matter how severe his sins might be, has the opportunity to have those sins removed as if they never happened. This is the power which is behind the sacrifice that Jesus has made for us at the Cross. The very essence of the word Justification or Justified means that when we believe Jesus’ death has paid the penalty which we deserved for our sins, we are Justified: “Just-as-if-i had never sinned.”

Jesus, the Messiah, has fulfilled this prophecy of Deuteronomy 21:23 by hanging on a tree to take away our curse. No one who calls on the name of Jesus for their salvation has the curse of sin and death abiding upon their life any longer.