A Panoramic View Genesis 3:15 shows history’s sweep in embryo
A Panoramic View Genesis 3:15 shows history’s sweep in embryo
The Bible can seem like one of those modern building sites for office-locks. You know that there’s a lot of activity going on but you can’t see any of it because it’s obscured by those large street-front panels. Nevertheless, builders occasionally cut a hole for onlookers at eye-level, and everything becomes plain. The same is true for the Bible. There are peep-holes in the text which illuminate everything, and probably the most important one in Scripture is found in Genesis 3:15.
It is a significant verse for a number of reasons. Not only is it the first announcement of the gospel, but it is a window through which we see the whole of history. It is the peep-hole in the door of divine revelation. The rest of Scripture is simply the story of the unfolding of this announcement that God gave to Satan. It is a promise that focuses on Christ, the seed of the woman. In providing this window, God told the tempter, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel”. Open before us is a better Adam, a better outcome, and a better family.
The need for a new Adam was obvious. The first one had just rebelled against God. He and his wife were now under the penalty of death yet, amazingly, they were not lying dead at the foot of the tree. God had already said “the day you eat of it you shall surely die” and this was that day. Now God was about to impose the death penalty: “dust you are and to dust you will return”. But before that terrible sentence, he spoke words that were full of grace and hope for the distraught couple. God preached the gospel for the first time. “I will give you a seed, an offspring, who will bring blessings out of these ruins. He will ruin the serpent who has ruined you, crushing his head. But it will not be easy. It will cost him dearly. He will be the prime target of its venom, struck on the heel.”
There’s a strong suggestion in God’s words that this time Adam and Eve should believe God. If ever the question “Has God said?” should arise again, they should say “yes” with complete confidence. Here is a message of good news! God has shone a light in our darkness! He has taken the initiative to rescue us! And it’s found in the promise of a better Adam. Jesus Christ is called “the last Adam” and “the second man” (1 Cor. 15:45-47). Jesus stands as the head of a new godly humanity just as Adam stood as the head of the old ungodly race (Rom. 5). In what way is this new Adam better? What makes the seed of the woman better than the woman herself? The answer lies in what the new Adam accomplishes: a far better outcome.
This better outcome is the next theme that appears in the peep-hole. Paradoxically, it’s found in the word “enmity”. God promised to put hatred, strife and revulsion between the new humanity and Satan. It should have been there in the Garden. Eve was guilty of accepting friendship and guidance from one who obviously hated God. He lied about God and God’s motives. He accused God of paranoia and envy. His venomous speech amounted to this: “God is holding out on you, Eve. He has filled you with unwarranted fear. You will not die. On the contrary, you’ll be better than ever. You’ll be like God himself. That’s what he fears. So recognise your real friends, and side with me! Recognise your real enemy and oppose him! Eat!” On that day mankind chose friendship with the devil and enmity with God.
However, God has undermined man’s alliance with the devil in the seed of the woman. Jesus perfectly constitutes the new mankind who hates Satan and loves God. He puts both loyalty and enmity back in their right place. So he entered into combat with the serpent, suffering all his lying, subtle temptations. But Jesus triumphed over him at every point, crushing the head of this father of lies. This better Adam would never take Satan as a friend, or God as an enemy.
What glorious words they are: “He will crush your head”. God is telling everyone who opposes Christ, “I promise you a crushing blow. Christ shall ruin you! The seed of the woman comes to trample you into defeat. I am sending a mighty warrior who will take sides with Adam and Eve. He will fight you where they did not. He will cast you out where they let you in.”
The light streaming through that Genesis peep-hole shows how the enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent is to climax on the cross at Calvary. There Satan hurls all the forces of ungodliness at Jesus, hating him without a cause. At the cross, the devil struck Jesus on his heel. He bled, he died, he was crucified and buried. But wonder of wonders, Christ also crushed the serpent’s head in the midst of his sufferings. “Now shall the prince of this world be cast out” (John 12:31). “Through death he rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil” (Heb. 2:14). There God “disarmed the powers and authorities, and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15).
The supreme irony is that Satan’s apparent victory was his defeat. The death of Christ was the death of death. Christ went in our place as our substitute. He bore the interests of all God’s people. He championed our cause. He succeeded where we failed. What he won, he won for us. So our friendship with Satan is over, and our enmity with God. “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s why Satan especially hates us now because of our love for Christ. “Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring, those who obey God’s commands and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17). But we count it an honour to suffer with Him. And we have the added assurance: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20).
So the second Adam at Calvary achieved a better outcome than the first Adam in Eden. Eden led to dead bodies and full tombs. Calvary leads to resurrected bodies and empty tombs. The whole of history from Eden to Calvary, and beyond, is the sovereign activity of God filling out the implications of his promise to send the “seed of the woman”. How it irritates Satan that all his efforts over all those centuries have been overcome by Jesus. How that empty tomb haunts him! Every new Christian, by renouncing the world, the flesh, and the devil, haunts him. The strong man is bound, his property is plundered, his head is crushed.
The third thing that we see through the peep-hole is a better family. The family that is descended from Adam is corrupt. The whole human race is “like father, like son”. All are sinful from birth, children of wrath. By nature, we all side with the devil and oppose God. Our case is hopeless. In Adam all die.
But the last Adam is also head of a family, a better family. It is a vast multitude which no one can count. It includes people from every tribe and tongue and nation on earth. But it is a holy seed. The children of God are born again by the Spirit. God tells His beloved sons and daughters: “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son-ship. And by him we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15).
This family has a different attitude to that of the old Adam’s family. They hunger and thirst after righteousness. They call Jesus “my Lord and my God”. They want him to rule over them. They sing “take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to thee”.
And their eternal bliss is assured. In Christ all shall be made alive. Their new allegiance to Christ is stronger than steel because it is God’s doing. He began the good work and will perfect it. The finishing touches await the return of Christ. Then the “seed of the woman” (plural) will be transformed by the “seed of the woman” (singular). Then we shall be free of all corruption and imperfection. Our bodies shall be perfect like his glorious body.
God began gathering in his family right from the start. The evidence suggests that Adam and Eve both believed the gospel when God first announced it. The godly line certainly included Abel, Seth, Noah, Shem, Moses, Terah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and many others. There were women like Sarah and Ruth, Rahab and Deborah. It includes every person at every stage of history who sincerely believes that the God of all grace will deliver them through the promised “seed of the woman”.
What we see through the Genesis peephole has many implications. First, God remains sovereign in his world. The humanist idea that man can solve his own problems is foolish. Salvation is entirely from God. The divine “I will” leaves us in no doubt about that. He is man’s only hope. He will not allow evil to prosper. He conquers it and makes us share in that conquest as “more than conquerors through him that loved us”.
Second, from the moment of the fall, God has dealt with us in grace in every way. The full effects of the curse are held back until the “seed of the woman” is fully grown.
Third, there will be justice. Everywhere in history, those who ignore, reject, or oppose the gospel will eventually suffer the full consequences of the curse. They will be crushed along with Satan. The promised “seed of the woman” bore this justice in the place of the rest of the woman’s “offspring”. Those who reject him reject the way of peace. For them their end will be like it was in the days of Noah, only worse.
Fourth, Christ destroys Satan. His head was crushed. This happened, in principle, during the wilderness temptations. Then it was sealed on the cross. Finally it will be manifested with all its fruits when Christ returns. So evil is not an eternal principle affecting mankind forever. Such dualism is false.
Fifth, this material world is important. It is the arena where the seed of the woman operates. Christians are to use it in every legitimate way, bringing the claims of King Jesus to bear. We are to raise up Christ’s standards as we engage with apostate thought in every field: philosophy, history, economics, archaeology, politics, literature, music and the arts. We reject gnostic ideas and anything suggesting that “spirit” is all that matters. Every square inch of our universe, both in the material and spiritual realms, is the property of King Jesus.
All this and more is to be found in embryo in the first announcement of the gospel in the Bible. If you’re looking for a peep-hole to work out what’s happening in the world, then this is the best vantage-point of all. You can see the whole sweep of God’s redeeming purpose, all the way from Eden to eternity.
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