Genesis 3:15

‘“I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”’
(Genesis 3:15)

We live in a culture that’s largely blind to spiritual realities. It’s earth bound and physical sense driven. Modern people think that the early chapters of Genesis are ancient ideas about geology and biology, so dismiss them as naїve myth. In fact they’re teaching from God about spiritual truths presented in partly symbolic and poetic literary forms. This verse isn’t about why there’s hostility between men and snakes! It’s teaching us crucial spiritual realities.

The book of Genesis depicts first the goodness of God’s creation. Then a dark character emerges in chapter 3 – the ‘serpent(Genesis 3:1-4)… called the devil and Satan’(Revelation 12:9). It seems from this and elsewhere in scripture that he was a leading angelic being who rebelled against God, demons being his fallen angel subordinates. At the start of chapter 3 he uses lying and distortion to manipulate our ancestors into disobeying God. It seems that Satan’s plan had been to drag man down with him. He appeared partly at least to have succeeded.

At that point God could have condemned man with Satan and the fallen angels, but the amazing thing that we find, no doubt to Satan’s shock, is that God had a quite different plan. Satan probably thought he was gaining a ‘friend’, an ally against God, albeit one he could play with in a deceiving and manipulative way. But God declared that now he has an enemy; specifically God said ‘“I will put hostility between you and the woman”’. Of course it’s not just ‘the woman’ who became Satan’s enemy, but God declared war between Satan and Eve’s offspring – i.e. mankind: ‘“I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring”’. Note the conflict is not just between mankind and the devil; his forces include his ‘offspring’ too. Obviously that refers to the demons, but also in a sense includes anyone still deceived and controlled by the devil’s lies. Elymas is one such example in the New Testament, working against the gospel in Cyprus; Paul rebuked him as ‘“You son of the devil”’(Acts 13:10).

This spiritual struggle declared in Genesis runs throughout the Bible. We cannot properly understand life until we see these spiritual realities. We must heed Peter’s advice, ‘Your adversary, the devil, walks around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Withstand him steadfast in your faith, knowing that your brothers who are in the world are undergoing the same sufferings’(1 Peter 5:8-9) and Paul’s ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil’(Ephesians 6:11). These schemes are many, including temptations, and counterfeit religions that lead people astray. Paul feared that false religious teachers might influence the Corinthians such that ‘as the serpent deceived Eve in his craftiness, so your minds might be corrupted’(2 Corinthians 11:3). Atheism is just as much the devil’s trick – essentially deceiving modern man that there is no spiritual reality.

But the crux (literally) comes at the end of verse 15. Suddenly God is talking about a single offspring of Eve, ‘“He will bruise your head, and you will bruise His heel”’. This depicts Jesus’ work on the cross. Jesus’ life would be the decisive campaign, climaxing in the cross. The gospels show how He faced attack from the beginning of His ministry, through temptation, to the very end through betrayal and crucifixion, then rose victorious. As Satan attacked God’s son ‘born to a woman’(Galatians 4:4) with deadly venom on the cross, God dealt the serpent a crushing blow, redeeming mankind ‘that we might receive… adoption as children’(Galatians 4:5); He died, taking our punishment, that we might be forgiven and become God’s children. Thus in Genesis 3:15, just nine verses after mankind’s fall, God announced the gospel. It’s as if He couldn’t wait to show the full extent of His grace and love, and after our fall He could. So, ‘since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive’(1 Corinthians 15:21-22). In Christ we can share this victory, so have confidence in our struggle, as Paul encouraged the Romans, ‘the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet’(Romans 16:20).

The story ends with a new Genesis (beginning) foretold in John’s semi-symbolic/poetic book of Revelation. The serpent is ‘thrown into’(Revelation 20:10) eternal damnation, as God’s children enter a new eternal paradise, complete with ‘tree of life’(Revelation 22:2).

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