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Eden's Promise

Tom Pennington Genesis 3:15


Lord willing, next Sunday, I'll begin a brief summer series and I'll fill you in on what that is going to be next week. I have decided by the way. I'm just not going to tell you. There has to be a little suspense, right? But, today because it's the day we celebrate the Lord's Table, I want us to come to the issue of Christ. And specifically, I want us to look at Him in a place most Christians don't ordinarily look, and that is the Old Testament.

In fact, most Christians don't fully appreciate the Old Testament. I think for many if you remove the Old Testament from their Bibles, the only thing they would ever miss would be Psalms and Proverbs. Ask the average Christian if Christ is found in the Old Testament and their answer will be "occasionally". That's because most Christians assume that our Lord only appears in a few Old Testament prophecies. The truth is, listen carefully, the eternal Son of God – the One who came in the flesh, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, He fills the Old Testament. He's not only the primary focus of Old Testament prophecy, He is the primary character of Old Testament history. In fact, He appears in the very first verse of the Old Testament – Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

Now, we understand, of course, as the Scripture teaches us, that all three members of the Trinity were involved in creation. But our Lord, the eternal Son, was the primary agent in creation. John 1:3 says, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being". Colossians 1:15-16, "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth". The earth and the entire universe were spoken into existence out of nothing by the eternal Son of God.

The Old Testament and the world itself began through the sovereign creative act of the Son of God. Throughout the rest of the Old Testament's history Christ often appears and interacts with the people of God. To understand just how often, just think about what John the Apostle says in John 1:18 when he says, "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him", He has exegeted Him. The practical application of John 1:18 and frankly, Paul's words to Timothy that there's one mediator between God and man, the practical implication of those passages is that every visible manifestation of God in the Old Testament was the second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal Son. Every visible manifestation.

Now, lest you think I'm overstating or perhaps going out on a limb alone, let me just make a point to you that this has been the consensus of the church for 2,000 years. Let me give you a couple of sample quotes from early church history. Starting with Justin Martyr in the early 2nd century, he writes, "This same One who is both Angel,", by that he means the Angel of the Lord – that unique character in the Old Testament, "and God, and Lord, and man, and who appeared in human form to Abraham and Isaac, appeared in a flame of fire from the bush and conversed with Moses". Irenaeus, writing about Moses, says this, "The Son of God is implanted everywhere throughout Moses' writings: : at one time, indeed, speaking with Abraham, when about to eat with him; at another time with Noah, giving to him the dimensions [of the ark]; at another; inquiring after Adam; at another, bringing down judgment upon the Sodomites; and again, when He becomes visible and directs Jacob on his journey, and speaks with Moses from the bush". All of those; the eternal Son of God, the second member of the Trinity.

Tertullian around the same time, shortly thereafter, writes this, "It is the Son, therefore, who has been from the beginning administering judgment, throwing down the haughty tower, and dividing the tongues," in other words, the Tower of Babel in Genesis, "punishing the whole world by the violence of waters, raining upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone, as the Lord from the Lord. For He it was who at all times came down to hold converse with men, from Adam on to the patriarchs and the prophets… Thus was He ever learning even as God to converse with men upon earth, being no other than the Word which was to be made flesh".

The Old Testament then, is filled with the Son of God. Our Lord preincarnate is everywhere in its history. But there's one specific passage about Him in Genesis that I want us to meditate on as we prepare this morning for the Lord's Table. It's a moving, compelling passage. It's in the Book of Genesis. You can turn there with me. You'll remember of course that Genesis begins with creation. And Moses interacting with the second Person of the Trinity at Sinai even learned from Him what God was thinking at the end of creation. It's recorded in Genesis 1:31, "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good".

But of course, that didn't last for long. Suddenly, really, things changed dramatically. And in Genesis 4:8, we learn of the first murder. In Genesis 4:19, the first sexual sin, the sin of bigamy. In Genesis 4:23, there's another murder. And things just decline dramatically. Look at Genesis 6:5.

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.

Folks, that's only a few short chapters from Genesis 1:31, but it is lightyears away. What happened? Of course, as you know, Genesis 3 records the most tragic event in human history – the fall of man into sin. But listen closely. If you had been there to see the first sin, it wouldn't have looked that bad to you. In fact, it didn't look as bad as most of our sins look. As most of your sins look. The actual act itself didn't look like sin at all. It was just eating a piece of fruit. But it was fruit that God had forbidden them to eat. That simple act of disobedience that took only a few moments in time produced massive, incalculable results that echo through time and eternity.

There's one other really important thing for you to realize when you think about what happens in Genesis 3 at the fall, man's fall into sin. Understand this, when you read Genesis 3, you were there. Let me say that again. When you read Genesis 3, you were there. You say, "How was I there?". You were there because God appointed Adam and Eve to be your representative, to stand in your place. They represented you in the garden. They made choices on your behalf. And we get the consequences of it. Now before you start thinking that's unfair, let me hasten to say that if God had chosen you instead of Adam and Eve, you would've made the same choice and so would I. Apart from the death of Jesus Christ, Genesis 3 is, without question, mankind's darkest hour.

But God's grace always shines in the darkness. And it does in Genesis 3. As part of His plan, God the Father had decided in eternity past to allow the fall and then He decreed that out of fallen mankind, He would redeem some for His Son, whom He would give to His Son as a gift of His love. And that plan of redemption begins to work itself out right here in this chapter, specifically in Genesis 3:15.

Now you'll notice that verse 14 is God's curse on the serpent, the animal itself. But in verse 15, God pronounces a curse on the supernatural being that has used the serpent as the vehicle for its temptation. That's what the New Testament teaches in 2 Corinthians 11:3 and 14, Paul writes, "but I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve…your minds will be led astray". And later in that same chapter, he identifies that serpent. He says, "it is Satan". In Revelation 12:9, John speaks of "the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world".

So, after pronouncing a cure on the serpent itself, God pronounces a curse on Satan. But in the midst of that curse, God makes an amazing promise. And it's found in verse 15. Read it with me. Genesis 3:15, "and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel". If you've been a Christian any time at all, you know that this verse has been called traditionally the "Proto-Evangelium". A Latin word meaning "the first declaration" of the Gospel in the Scripture and in human history. Martin Luther, writing of this verse, says, "this text embraces and comprehends within itself everything noble and glorious that is to be found anywhere in the scriptures".

Think of Genesis 3:15 like an acorn. If I had an acorn up here with me this morning and I held it up, you can't look at that acorn and see all that it will eventually become. At the same time, contained within that acorn is all of the information in condensed form that is necessary to make, eventually, that massive oak tree. In the same way, all the elements of the Christian gospel are here, condensed within this simple statement to Satan. It's actually a prophecy. A prophecy made by God Himself. A prophecy that contains two distinct promises. And I want you to look at those promises with me this morning.

The first promise in this remarkable prophecy is this: the promise of a continual conflict. A few look at verse 15 and see nothing but humanity's hatred of snakes. And for most of us that's true. We do. I grew up in South Alabama. We had a lot of snakes. Water moccasins and other kinds. I hate to say this because some of you who have gotten a little weird and actually enjoy playing with snakes; for me, the only good snake is a dead snake. I'm sorry, but that's the way I was raised and that's how I see it. We do hate snakes. But, verse 15 is saying far more than that.

How do we know that we're not reading into verse 15? Well, let me give you a couple of reasons. First of all, for hundreds of years before Jesus, Jewish scholars taught that this verse is a reference to the conflict between Satan and the Messiah who would come. Secondly, the Hebrew word for "enmity" or "hostility" here is never used of animals but always of morally responsible agents, or persons. And thirdly, the New Testament alludes to this passage as speaking of Satan. For example, Romans 16:20, The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet".

So, in verse 14 here then, God is talking to the snake. He's cursing this animal that was used. But in verse 15, God is no longer talking to the snake but to Satan who animated and used the serpent as his instrument. Look again at the first half of verse 15, "and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed". This is a prophecy that there will be a perpetual war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. It's a declaration of continual conflict between the wicked and the godly. Look at it. It begins, "I". That obviously refers to God who is speaking specifically to the second member of the Trinity, the eternal Son of God. "I will put". In other words, what follows is not an accident. It's not something that happens as a mere consequence. It is a deliberate act of the eternal Son. It is a result of the sovereign action of the Son of God. "I will put enmity". That is a Hebrew word that means "a state of mutual hostility". What our Lord is saying here is there will be, by His decision, a constant state of and a constant awareness of being enemies at war with each other.

Now, between whom will this enmity or hostility exist? "Between you", Satan, "and the woman", meaning Eve. Now he further explains what he means by this in the next phrase, "and between you seed", that is Satan's seed, "and her seed", that is the woman's descendants. Now, immediately there's a problem we have to make sure we understand. First of all, obviously He doesn't mean the physical offspring of Satan. Satan has no physical offspring. In addition to that, He's not talking about every physical descendant of Eve. Because as we'll see in just a moment, the scriptures line humanity up in a different way. So, let's take this apart.

First of all, when He talks about Satan's seed, He's talking about his spiritual offspring. Those human beings who follow him in his rebellion against God. The last couple of weeks I mentioned to you John 8:44 where Jesus says to those unbelieving Jewish people around Him; and He would say this to an unbelieving Gentile crowd, He would say this to every human being apart from Christ, "you are of your father the devil". John the Apostle makes this even clearer in his epistle. We're studying it. We took a break for the summer. In fact, we find ourselves in this passage.

Turn with me to 1 John 3:7, "Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He", that is, the Lord, "is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin", that is, habitually, without repentance; they don't live in sin, "because the seed of God abides in him", he's been born of God, "and he cannot sin like that, because he is born of God". And then, notice verse 10, "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious". Stop there a moment. Now, what John is doing in the first part of verse 10 is saying that every single human being, every person here this morning, you and I, we are either a child of the devil or we're a child of God. There's no middle ground. You don't get a third option. There's no other checkbox. You are either a child of the devil, and that by the way is how every person is conceived and born. You came into this world, I came into this world, as a child of the devil. That's what Jesus said to those who hadn't believed in Him. "You are of your father the devil". That's how we were by nature. And left alone, that's how we would die and that's how we would spend eternity, separated form God in Hell.

But God intervened, in some of our cases we heard the gospel, we responded, we repented and believed in the gospel, and we were born of God. That actual regeneration, as we studied recently, comes first. God gives life and then he gives repentance and faith, and we responded to that gospel message. You can go back and listen to it from a few weeks ago. And we became, through that, God's children. We were Satan's children and by the new birth, as Jesus calls it, we became God's children. Those are the only two groups. So, either you have never repented and believed; in which case, you are still Satan's child. Or, you've repented and believed because God gave you new life, He gave you new birth, and you are now His child. Those are the only two possibilities.

Now, how do we know? How do you know? Well, 1 John is all about that. We're learning it. But just look at verse 10, "By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God", in other words, you're not a child of God's, "nor the one who does not love his brother". So, just look at how you live. That's how you can know whether you're a child of the devil or whether you're a child of God. So, Satan's seed than refers to his spiritual children. We are all born as children of the devil. Then some, by faith, are adopted by God, reborn as His children, and become the children of God. The children of the devil, by the way, in scripture can be all unbelievers generally. That's John 8:44, all unbelievers are the children of the devil. But unbelievers engaged in false religion are also called the children of the devil. That's what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees in Matthew 3:7. He said, "you are a brood of snakes like your father the devil". They were engaged in false religion. Works-based salvation. It also is true of those who profess the true Jesus and the true gospel, but have never really repented and believed. That's why Jesus in Matthew 13:38 says that the tares – remember the tares? That is the artificial wheat that the devil sows in the church or in the kingdom of God. They're not true believers. They kind of look like the real thing for a while but they're not. Jesus says this of them, listen carefully, this is Matthew 13:38, "the tares are the sons of the evil one". So, children of God or children of the devil.

Now, keep your finger in 1 John but go back to Genesis 3. Satan's seed here then refers to those who follow him, continue to follow him in his rebellion without repentance, without faith in Jesus Christ. Her seed in verse 15 refers to Eve's greatest descendant, Jesus Christ and all who are in Him. So, in other words let me summarize it this way. The hostility that God promises here is between that portion of humanity that continues to follow Satan and that portion of humanity that has repented and believed in Christ, that has been changed and now lives in righteousness. It's the conflict between the wicked and the righteous. This prophecy of conflict between these two groups begins to be fulfilled almost immediately. In Genesis 4:1 and following you have Cain and Abel. The next two people on the planet. And Cain kills Abel. Why? If you're still in 1 John look at 1 John 3:12, "Cain, who was of the evil one", in other words, he was a son of Satan, "he slew his brother", he killed his brother. "And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous". You can see the hostility begins immediately between those still following Satan and those who have repented of their rebellion and believed in the gospel. And that hostility continues even today. Again, look at 1 John 3:13, "Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you". Why? The same reason Cain hated Abel. Because our righteous lives confront their sinful lives. They hate it. Just like they hated Jesus. In fact, not only do they hate us, they don't understand us. Go back to 1 John 3:1, "For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him". We're going to talk about that in the fall, but in the end the world doesn't get you. The unbelievers in your office, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, your family, they don't understand you. They don't get you. Why do you believe that? Why are you doing that? What is going on with you? And they don't understand you. They are confronted by your careful life. Their sin is confronted by that, and that boils into hatred. That's the reality. And just so you know, don't be surprised by it. This is what the Son of God said to Adam and Eve and to Satan in the garden. Don't be surprised that the children of the devil don't understand you, that they hate you just like they hated our Lord. Our Lord promised to put this hostility in place in Eden right after the fall. That's the promise of continual conflict.

But there's a second promise in this prophecy. And it's really where there's great encouragement for us. It's the promise of a coming redeemer. Notice the second half of verse 15, "He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel". Notice the change in the middle of verse 15. In the first half, you have a collective group, the woman's seed plural, describes her offspring in a collective sense, and particularly, the righteous. Starting with Seth in Genesis 4. But the second half of verse 15 focuses on one of her offspring, a single human individual. Notice the second half of verse 15 begins "he" and later uses the pronoun "him". God was making the point to Adam and Eve that a human male would come and ultimately deal with sin and its effects. What did Adam and Eve understand? They understood that God was going to send a person who would fix the sinful mess that they had made.

Scripture later reveals this was a promise that the eternal Son of God would become a man in the incarnation. That starts being clear even in Genesis 12 when God promises Abraham that in his descendants, in his seed, one of his seed all of the nations of the earth would be blessed. Then it's David, one of his descendants. And so forth until it funnels down and you come to the New Testament. And it begins "This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the Son of God". Paul put it this way in Galatians 4:4, "when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman".

Notice the conflict between this future person and Satan in verse 15, "He", that is the coming Redeemer, "will bruise you", Satan, "on the head". The Hebrew word for "bruise" can also mean "crush" which is probably the better idea here. With his heel, the Redeemer will absolutely crush the serpent Satan's head with a devastating death blow. He says He will destroy you Satan and your works. A unique male human would eventually come and deliver a crushing blow to Satan. God's Son would become a man and finally deal with the sin that Satan brought into the human race. Hebrews 2:14, "since the children share in flesh and blood", that's us, "He Himself", that's Christ, "likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil". 1 John 3:8, "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil". He came to crush Satan's head. That began even at the temptation, you remember? When Satan came to Him in the wilderness and brought those great temptations against Him, and unlike our first representative, Adam, who was in a perfect environment and who chose in our place to sin, Christ was in the worst of environments and He chose to obey God and be faithful. Through His miracles and His casting out of demons, Jesus continued His work of destruction and in His own words, He "bound the strong man and carried off his property".

But Jesus' ultimate defeat of Satan happened where? At the cross. Colossians 2:15, "He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them" through His work on the cross. It's the reality of the cross that the last line of Genesis 3:15 refers to. But notice the Redeemer's crushing blow to sin and Satan would come at a great personal cost. Notice verse 15 goes on to say, "and you Satan will bruise, same Hebrew word "crush", "you Satan will crush Him on the heel". In the very act of crushing the head of Satan, the Redeemer's heel would be crushed. He would suffer greatly. This was a prophecy that for the coming Redeemer to deal with sin it would cost Him suffering, and as we later learn, even death. The reason that He had to suffer is clear 700 years before He came. In the prophet Isaiah, we read in Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him", the chastening for our "shalom" literally, our peace fell on Him, "and by His scourging we are healed". But just so you know, it wasn't ultimately Satan who crushed Christ. It wasn't the Roman governor and the Roman legions. It wasn't the Jewish leaders. It wasn't even you and me ultimately. It was God – God the Father. Isaiah 53:10 goes on to say this, "Yahweh was pleased to crush Him". Why? The verse goes on to say, "as a guilt offering". In other words, God crushed Him as our guilt offering. As the satisfaction of God's justice against our sins. So, He would be characterized by suffering and death.

But the wound that the Redeemer would receive would be nothing compared to the fatal blow that He would give Satan. And all of that happened at the cross. Listen carefully. Satan was delivered by Christ a death blow at the cross but Satan hasn't yet finished dying. If I could put it that way. He's finally destroyed in the book of Revelation chapter 20 when he is cast forever into the lake of fire. He's already been dealt a death blow but his ultimate demise comes when he's thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 20.

God told Adam and Eve in the garden that someday a man would come and would be a Redeemer. That means, listen carefully, that the hope of a Redeemer came on the very same day as the first human sin. That's the grace of God. And it came in a promise from God Himself. One author puts it this way, "To Adam it was made very plain that his hope lay in this future child of the woman that through this child salvation would come from God". That means that from the creation and the fall until Moses wrote the first five books of the Pentateuch in about 1445 BC, for more than 3500 years, this was the gospel mankind had. He's coming. The Redeemer's coming. He's going to deal with sin. The New Testament, of course, makes it clear that this is Christ. 1 Timothy 2:5, "there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus". Luther writes of this passage, "Adam was a Christian long before Christ's birth for he had the same faith in Christ that we have. The only difference is that then, redemption was to be accomplished, and now, it is accomplished. The faith is precisely the same. Thus, all the fathers", that is, all the Old Testament believers, "were justified precisely as we are through the Word and faith." And I would add, through the Word incarnate, the eternal Son.

Here's the remarkable thing: these words in Genesis 3:15 were spoken by our Lord Himself. And after He spoke them, after He delivered the first gospel message to Adam and Eve, they believed these words by faith. Turn back to Genesis 3:20, "Now the man called his wife's name Eve", which means "living" or "life", "because she was the mother of all the living". They responded in faith to this first presentation of the gospel from Christ Himself. One commentator puts it this way, "When Adam and Eve heard His proclamation of this first Gospel promising salvation in spite of their sin and the resulting curse, this time they believed God's Word. Adam called his wife's name Eve meaning life because she was the mother of all living. He thus indicated his faith in God's promises, not only that they would have children, but also that through this means God would send the seed of the woman to bring salvation. Since true faith in God's Word always is preceded and accompanied by repentance, it is evident that Adam's attitude had changed towards Satan and toward himself. No doubt, Eve experienced this same change of heart. They believed God's Word, the Word of the coming Redeemer, and they were saved".

Folks, that's how you and I have to come to God. Right? We have to understand what our sins have done. That our sins have destroyed the relationship between us and God. That we have no hope of bridging that divide. That the only hope that we have is the Redeemer who now has come. And we have to repent and put our faith in Him.

What our Lord did next there in the garden is astonishing. Look at verse 21, "Yahweh God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them". They had made, you remember, a garment of fig leaves to cover them. Don't try that at home. And Christ took the life of an animal. Now, they should have died because of their sin. But instead, an innocent animal died. That pictured the spiritual reality that God would allow someone completely innocent of the crime to die in the place of the guilty, as a substitute, satisfying God's justice. Someone had to die. And it was the animal. And because the animal died, they could live. They were covered by the death of that animal. All those Old Testament sacrifices were teaching that basic principle and they were pointing back to the great promise of Genesis 3:15, and they pointed forward to the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world. John Walvoord writes, "In offering the sacrifice, the Old Testament worshipper was assured that he was performing an act of recognition of God as his Savior, and in particular, a recognition of the promise of the coming seed of the woman, the Son of God Himself". In other words, he understood that that animal in and of itself could not atone for sin, or they wouldn't have to keep being offered. But he knew that God had promised in Genesis 3:15 the Redeemer would come.

In Genesis 3:15, it was the Son of God who made this prophecy about Himself. But the great irony, think about this, is He Himself performed the first sacrifice – an innocent animal. And He Himself performed the last sacrifice – Himself. He dealt finally with sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 10 says. And it's the beauty of this that the Lord's Table pictures. The promised Redeemer has come. He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sins. And in His suffering and death, He delivered a deadly blow to Satan and He made an end of the guilt and sin of every person who would ever believe in Him.

If you're here this morning and you've never repented and believed, you need to understand: you are, as you sit here this morning, a child of Satan. That's what Jesus said. And if that doesn't change, you will get what Satan deserves and what you deserve, what I deserve – you will get eternal hell. The only way that changes is for you to put your faith the same place Adam and Eve did – and that is the Redeemer. The One who was to come, and who has now come, who lived the life you should have lived, and who died in your place so that God could forgive your sin – if you will put your faith in Him. I plea with you, even this morning, to do that. That is what we celebrate in the Lord's Table. The innocent One dying in the place of the guilty. The One who was promised.