1-7 The Promise In Eden

The story of humanity’s fall is related in Genesis chapter 3. The serpent was cursed for misquoting God’s word and tempting Eve to disobey it. The man and woman were punished for their disobedience. But a ray of hope comes into this dark picture when God says to the serpent.

“I will put enmity (hatred, opposition) between you and the woman, and between your descendant and her (special, notable) descendant; it (the woman’s descendant) shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

This verse is highly concentrated; we need to carefully define the various things involved. We will see later that Abraham’s special descendant was Jesus (Gal. 3:16), but that if we are in Jesus by baptism, then we also are the “descendant” (Gal. 3:27-29). This word “descendant” is translated “seed” in some versions, as it also refers to the idea of sperm (1 Pet. 1:23); so a true ‘seed’ will have the characteristics of its father.

The seed or descendant of the serpent must therefore refer to that which has the family likeness of the serpent.

-         distorting God’s Word

-         lying

-         leading others into sin.

We will see in Study 6 that there is not a literal person doing this, but that within us there is.

-         “our old man” of the flesh (Rom. 6:6)

-         “the natural man” (1 Cor. 2:14)

-         “the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22)

-         “the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9).

This “man” of sin within us is the Biblical “devil”, the serpent.

The descendant of the woman was to be a specific individual - “you (the serpent) shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). This person was to crush permanently the serpent, i.e. sin - “it shall bruise your head”. Hitting a snake on the head is a deathblow - its brain is in its head. The only person who is a candidate for the descendant of the woman must be the Lord Jesus.

-         “Jesus Christ, who has (by the cross) abolished death (and therefore the power of sin - Rom. 6:23), and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10).

-         “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin, in the flesh”, i.e. the Biblical devil, the serpent (Rom. 8:3).

-         Jesus “was manifested to take away our sins” (1 Jn. 3:5).

-         On the cross, it was by His being ‘bruised’ [an allusion to Gen. 3:15] that we find forgiveness (Is. 53:5 AVmg.).

-         “You shalt call his name Jesus (meaning “Saviour”): for he shall save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21).

Jesus was literally “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). He was the son of Mary, although God was his Father. Thus in this sense he was the descendant of the woman but not the descendant of a man as he had no human father. This descendant of the woman was to be temporarily wounded by sin, the serpent - “you shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). A snakebite on the heel is normally a temporary wound, compared to the permanence of hitting the snake on the head. Many figures of speech have Biblical roots: “knock it on the head” (i.e. completely stop or end something) is probably based on this prophecy of Jesus hitting the snake on the head.

The condemnation of sin, the serpent, was through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross - notice how the verses quoted above speak of Christ’s victory over sin in the past tense. The temporary wound to the heel suffered by Jesus is therefore a reference to his death for three days. His resurrection proved that this was only a temporary wound, compared to the deathblow that he gave sin. It is interesting that non-Biblical historical records indicate that victims of crucifixion were nailed through their heel to the stake of wood. Thus Jesus was “wounded in the heel” through his death. Is. 53:4,5 describes Christ as being ‘bruised’ by God through his death on the cross. This plainly alludes to the prophecy of Gen. 3:15 that the serpent would bruise Christ. However, ultimately God worked through the evil which Christ faced, He is described here as doing the bruising (Is. 53:10), through controlling the forces of evil which bruised His Son. And so God also works through the evil experiences of each of His children.

The Conflict Today

But the question may have arisen in your mind: “If Jesus destroyed sin and death (the serpent), why are those things still present today?” The answer is that on the cross Jesus destroyed the power of sin in himself: the prophecy of Gen. 3:15 is primarily about the conflict between Jesus and sin. Now this means that because he has invited us to share in his victory, eventually we, too, can conquer sin and death. Those who are not invited to share in his victory, or decline the offer, will, of course, still experience sin and death. Although sin and death are also experienced by true believers, through their association with the descendant of the woman by being baptised into Christ (Gal. 3:27-29), they can have forgiveness of their sins and therefore eventually be saved from death, which is the result of sin. Thus in prospect Jesus “abolished death” on the cross (2 Tim. 1:10), although it is not until God’s purpose with the earth is completed at the end of the Millennium that death will never again be witnessed upon earth. “For he must reign (in the first part of God’s Kingdom) till he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:25,26).

If we are “baptised into Christ” then promises about Jesus, like that in Gen. 3:15, become personal to ourselves; no longer are they just interesting parts of the Bible, they are prophecies and promises which involve us also! Those who are properly baptised into Christ by dipping under water, associate themselves with his death and resurrection - symbolised by the rising up from the water (see Rom. 6:3-5).

If we are truly in Christ, then our lives will reflect the words of Gen. 3:15 - there will be a constant sense of conflict (“enmity”) within us, between right and wrong. The great apostle Paul described an almost schizophrenic conflict between sin and his real self that raged within him (Rom. 7:14-25). Paul Tournier aptly described it as “the violence within”.

After baptism into Christ, this conflict with the sin that is naturally within us should increase - and continue to do so all our days. In a sense it is difficult, because the power of sin is strong. But in another sense it is not, seeing that we are in Christ, who has already fought and won the conflict.

The very first descendant of the serpent was Cain. Unlike the serpent who had no understanding of morality, Cain did understand what was truth and what was lies, and he understood what God required of him, yet he chose to follow the thinking of the serpent which led him into murder and lying.

As the Jews were the people who actually put Jesus to death - i.e. bruised the descendant of the woman in the heel - it is to be expected that they were prime examples of the serpent’s descendant. John the Baptist and Jesus confirm this.

“When he (John) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees (the group of Jews who condemned Jesus) come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of (i.e. gendered by, created by) vipers (snakes), who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Mt. 3:7).

“Jesus knew their (the Pharisees’) thoughts, and said...O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things?” (Mt. 12:25,34).

The world has these same serpent characteristics. How Jesus treated the people who were the serpent’s descendant or family must be our example.

-         He preached to them in a spirit of love and true concern, yet

-         He did not let their ways and thinking influence Him, and

-         He showed them the loving character of God by the way in which He lived.

Yet for all this they hated him. His own effort to be obedient to God made them jealous. Even his family (Jn. 7:5; Mk. 3:21) and close friends (Jn. 6:66) put up barriers and some even went away from him physically. Paul experienced the same thing when he lamented to those who had once stood with him through thick and thin.

“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:14-16).

The truth is never popular; knowing it and living it as we should will always create some form of problem for us, even resulting in persecution.

“As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit (by true knowledge of God’s Word – 1 Pet. 1:23), even so it is now” (Gal. 4:29).

“An unjust man is an abomination to the just: and he that is upright in the way is an abomination to the wicked” (Prov. 29:27). There is a mutual antagonism between the believer and the world.

If we are truly united with Christ we must experience some of his sufferings, so that we may also share in his glorious reward. Again Paul sets us a matchless example in this.

“It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him (Christ), we shall also live with Him: if we suffer (with Him), we shall also reign with him...therefore I endure all things (2 Tim. 2:10-12).

“If they have persecuted me (Jesus), they will also persecute you...all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake” (Jn. 15:20,21).

Faced with verses like these, it is tempting to reason, “If that’s what being associated with Jesus, the woman’s descendant, is all about, I’d rather not”. But of course we will never be expected to undergo anything which we cannot cope with. Whilst self-sacrifice is definitely required in order to unite ourselves fully with Christ, our association with him will result in such a glorious reward “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us”. And even now, his sacrifice enables our prayers for help through the traumas of life to be especially powerful with God. And add to this the following glorious assurance.

“God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good hope: I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).



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