Study 3: The Promises of God
Introduction | The Promise In Eden | The Promise To Noah | The Promise To Abraham | The Promise To David | Digressions (Destruction of Heavens And Earth, The Claims Of "British Israelism") | Questions
3.2 The Promise in Eden
The pathetic story of man'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:-
This verse is highly concentrated; we need to carefully define the various things involved. A "seed" means a descendant or child, but it can also refer to the people associated with the particular "seed". We will see later that Abraham's "seed" was Jesus (Gal. 3:16), but that if we are "in" Jesus by baptism, then we also are the seed (Gal. 3:27-29). This word "seed" also refers to the idea of sperm (1 Pet. 1:23); so a true seed will have the characteristics of its father.
The seed of the serpent must therefore refer to that which has the family likeness of the serpent:-
We will see in Study 6 that there is not a literal person doing this, but that within us there is
This "man" of sin within us is the Biblical "devil", the seed of the serpent.
The seed of the woman was to be a specific individual - "thou (the serpent's seed) shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). This person was to permanently crush the serpent's seed, i.e. sin - "it shall bruise thy head". Hitting a snake on the head is a death blow - seeing its brain is in its head. The only person who is a likely candidate for the seed of the woman must be the Lord Jesus:-
Jesus was literally "made of a woman" (Gal. 4:4) as the son of Mary, although God was his Father. Thus in this sense, too, he was the seed of the woman, although provided by God in a way no other man has been. This seed of the woman was to be temporarily wounded by sin, the seed of the serpent - "thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. 3:15). A snake bite 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's seed, was primarily 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 death-blow 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 is plainly alluding to the prophecy of Gen.3:15 that Christ would be bruised by the seed of the serpent. 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 has destroyed sin and death (the serpent's seed), 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 seed of the woman by being baptized 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 people will actually stop dying - when death will never again be witnessed upon earth: "For he must reign (in the first part of God's Kingdom) till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:25,26).
If we are "baptized 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 are made directly to us! As the seed of the woman, we, too, will experience the victory of sin over us in the short term. Unless the Lord returns in our lifetime, we, too, will be bruised in the heel as Jesus was, in that we, too, will die. But if we are truly the seed of the woman, then that "wound" will only be temporary. Those who are properly baptized into Christ by dipping under water, associate themselves with His death and resurrection - symbolized by the rising up from the water (see Rom. 6:3-5).
If we are the true seed of the woman, 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).
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. Note how the believers are described as a woman in Eph. 5:23-32, as if by being the seed of the woman we are also the woman.
In the same way as the seed of the woman represents both Jesus and those who try to have His characteristics, so the seed of the serpent speaks of both sin (the Biblical "devil") and those who freely show the characteristics of sin and the serpent. Such people will disregard or misrepresent God's Word, which will eventually lead them into the shame of sin and alienation from God, which happened to Adam and Eve. Seeing that the Jews were the people who actually put Jesus to death - i.e. bruised the seed of the woman in the heel - it is to be expected that they were prime examples of the serpent's seed. This is confirmed by John the baptist and Jesus:-
The world - even the religious world - has these same serpent characteristics. Only those baptized into Christ are associated with the seed of the woman; all others are, to varying degrees, the seed of the serpent. How Jesus treated the people who were the serpent's seed must be our example:-
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:-
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:-
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:-
- i.e. because we are baptized into the name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16).
Faced with verses like these, it is tempting to reason, "If that's what being associated with Jesus, the woman's seed, is all about, I'd rather not". But of course we will never be expected to undergo anything which we cannot reasonably 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, heavily underlined in many Christadelphian Bibles:-