by Tim Harris
The first person God preached the gospel to was his archenemy. The very first good news of redemption for fallen sinners was addressed directly to the serpent himself—a guilty Adam and Eve standing by. Often called the protoevangelium, Genesis 3:15 is the “first gospel” of the Bible.
“And I will put enmity between thee [serpent] and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.”
This is the good news: 1) a hostility would arise between the serpent, Satan, and Eve, and between their respective descendants, and 2) the serpent would be destroyed, though 3) the serpent’s conqueror would be injured in the triumph.
Remember, when Adam bit into that fateful fruit, he died. His heart kept beating, but he instantly withered into a shell of the man he had been.
In time, his heart would stop too. An irreversible corruption befell him. For the first time, Adam tasted guilt. And shame. Fear. Greed. Rebellion. Hatred. Estrangement from God. He was spiritually dead. A walking corpse. And the Bible assures us that Adam’s death and depravity didn’t end with him. Tragically, he passed it on intact to all of mankind (Romans 5:12).
Remember also, Satan viciously hates God. And because of the universal transmission of Adam’s depraved nature upon all humans, Satan is now not alone in his hostility to God and the people of God. Everyone not “born again” by God’s Spirit, as Jesus called it, is under the sway of Satan and spiritual blindness (Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Corinthians 4:4). No state could be more horrific or hopeless. But then God gives a first ever promise of redemption.
God’s three-fold declaration to the serpent began with this: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.”
God says there will be two spiritual lines of people at war with each other: one line of the serpent and the other of Eve.
This historical plot unfolds throughout scripture. Adam’s firstborn son, Cain, kills his brother Abel, being as the apostle John points out “of that wicked one,” Satan (1 John 3:12). Though Cain’s line was not physically sired by Satan, Cain emulated him as a son and acted out Satan’s desires. The stories of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Israel and Egypt, Esther and Haman, and many others illustrate the age-old hostility between Eve’s righteous seed and the collective seed of the serpent.
In vivid, apocalyptic language, the apostle John too describes his vision of a dragon standing in front of a pregnant woman, ready to devour her baby as soon as he is born. This son is none other than the promised conquering seed of Eve “who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron” (Revelation 12:1-4). The dragon is identified as “that old serpent, called the Devil” (Revelation 12:9). From beginning to end, the story of history is (through one biblical lens) the unfolding struggle of God’s people with those who seek their destruction. Jesus said, “If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). This isn’t a victim complex; a siege mentality. This is a large part of the plot of history. But the plot thickens.
What could be more inspiring to weary, embattled believers than news that the great enemy of all living will soon be vanquished? Genesis 3:15 assures us that not only will there be an epic conflict between Satan and the woman, and their linages, but a conqueror from the woman will arise and strike the serpent a deathblow. Satan’s days are numbered. The male seed of the woman, God tells Satan, “shall bruise thy head.” God has in mind a fatal wound. The serpent’s skull will be crushed. There will be no recovery. The murderous dragon, the mutinous father of lies, will be slain.
When we arrive at the New Testament, we learn that the foretold serpent-slayer is Jesus Christ.
Speaking of the occasion of his own crucifixion, Jesus exclaimed, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). Demons likewise attested, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29). So there is a time set, and an “everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). In fact, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
By far the most surprising aspect of this first gospel of Genesis 3:15 is that the serpent-slayer, the son, will triumph by suffering. To Satan, God said, “thou shalt bruise his heel.” Jesus would sustain an injury as he tramples his foe. While God can neither suffer nor die, man can. And the God-man, Jesus Christ, did. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman…to redeem” (Galatians 4:4-5). The long foretold man-child was God in the flesh. Since we sinners are human, Jesus himself became human “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).
How would Jesus overcome Satan, and our sins? Not by diplomatic talks. Not political power-moves. Not nuclear war. But by his cross.
God the Son came to earth, and though he lived perfectly, he took upon himself the sins of many fallen descendants of Adam—chosen ones of God, of the seed of the woman—people who otherwise would be counted among the seed of the serpent and perish eternally with the devil. “For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The injury of the Son in trampling upon the serpent speaks in part of his crucifixion, his physical sufferings. But more than this it speaks of the Son’s own crushing—bruising—at the hands of God the Just, as he stood condemned in the place of sinners like you and me. For us, Jesus became the condemned, the punished one, in that it was God’s good pleasure to deliver us from divine judgment and unto eternal joy in the presence of God. “It pleased the LORD to bruise him…[to] make his soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10). Judgment fell on the serpent, yes, but it also fell on the Son, as he stands in our place. To victoriously redeem us from sin, whose final end is death, Jesus both died and rose again mightily from the dead (John 10:18).
In summary, for believers in Jesus Christ, the good news of Genesis 3:15 gives, first, the clarifying understanding that life is spiritual war. This has major explanatory power as we try to make sense of many tragedies, such as the beheading of Christians by ISIS recently, and why we find it so difficult to spend fervent time in prayer.
Second, it assures us of the imminent and utter destruction of all forces of evil. In the end, God will have fully dealt with every offense ever committed. For sinners who look to Jesus Christ as their only hope for redemption, their sins were borne by Christ on the cross. But sinners who turn from their Creator and refuse Christ’s rule will remain in their sins and eternally bear sin’s consequences (John 8:24).
Finally, and most importantly, Genesis 3:15 reveals the great sufferings endured by Christ in his triumph over Satan and our sins. The dictum of the Apostle Paul is as true today as ever: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
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