The Death of the Snake – Part 1

Intro: As I mentioned last week in our first consideration of the many promises of God, Jesus Christ is the goal and fulfillment of those promises. I am hopeful that we can see that all along our journey through the promises of scripture.

  • Paul began the letter to the Roman church this way… Rom 1:1-4Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God 2 which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Paul said that the gospel concerning Jesus was promised before through the prophets in the Holy Scriptures…
  • Where did this promise begin? Where is the first promise of concerning Jesus? Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” It is easy to see that this is a promise. But how does it connect to Jesus and the rest of the promises of the scripture?

I. The Protoevangelium: Here is your vocabulary word for the day. Genesis 3:15 is commonly called the “Protoevangelium” his is a term that a term that essentially means the first proclamation of the gospel. It may not be obvious to us that this statement is Messianic or prophetic of gospel message, but a closer look will reveal the connection. It may seem odd to refer to the words of a curse (which this is in its context) as a promise, or as good news (gospel), but we will see how this reference fits.

A. The context: The promise, or prophecy is contained in dialogue between Adam and God in the garden following the introduction of sin. Adam and Eve violated God’s law by eating of the forbidden fruit. The serpent was the ultimate source of this sin, in his beguiling of Eve. Read Gen. 3:9-19. When confronted with his transgression, Adam blamed Eve, and implicitly blamed God Himself, “the woman you gave me…” Eve similarly rationalized, charging, “the serpent beguiled me.” God pronounces curses (consequences) on the serpent (v. 14-15), Eve, (v. 16) Adam (v. 17-19) and even the earth (v. 17)

        • Notice that the promise of victory over the serpent, and his deceptive ways, is announced even before God announced the curses to Adam and Eve because of their sin. Sin is defeated even before its consequences are fully evident.

1. Do you like snakes? Most people have an opinion. But snakes have a negative connotation from the beginning. Gen 3:1Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. This is an introduction. The word for cunning (subtle) can mean prudent, but most often is refers to craftiness in a bad sense. The serpent had an evil intent. What we come to know about this snake is vital to our understanding of the rest of the Bible. (We will look more closely at him tonight)

a. This “serpent” was a vehicle of Satan himself. I believe that the snake was real, but he was more than just a snake.

                • Paul says that the “serpent beguiled Eve,” and, in the same context, he argues that “Satan fashions himself into a messenger of light” (2 Cor. 11:3, 14)
                • Satan is identified by John at the end of God’s revelation as “the old serpent” (Rev. 12:9; 20:2). This obviously alludes to the events of Genesis 3.
                • Thus, the words of Gen. 3:15 anticipate the enormous struggle between righteousness and sin; They point to the resolution of the fierce struggle between God and Satan that was so evident that black day.

2. Moses identifies the Speaker as “Jehovah [LORD—KJV] God” (v. 14). Jehovah is a Hebrew term designating the self-existing Creator. The name God gives Moses to identify Himself. The second title is “God” — Elohim – from a root form meaning “strong.” The name appears to be used mainly of God’s right to govern his world and mankind. Thus, the One who is speaking has the prerogative and the power to fulfill this promise.

B. The Words of the Promise: Gen 3:15And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

1. Enmity – The term “enmity” denotes hostility or hatred. Who is this enmity between? While some see it as an abiding antipathy between humans and snakes, clearly the scope moves far beyond that. It is possible to view both an immediate and remote application. There is an initial spirit of antagonism between Eve and her adversary (the word Satan means “adversary”), but there is also a suggestion of an ongoing hostility between the “seed” of the woman and the “seed” of the serpent.

a. notice that Jehovah is the One who puts the enmity between the two parties. How is God the One who creates the hostility? Two thoughts:

1) truth, inherent in God Himself, creates a separation, or enmity. Matt 12:30 – He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.

2) God created enmity through the creation of free moral individuals who can choose. When rebellion arises to the laws of God, enmity results. God’s created enmity is fully and finally expressed in His judgment of sin – His wrath is poured out.

2. your seed“- The Seed of the serpent – the term seed points to those who come from another – both physically or spiritually (of the same kind). Remember earlier in 1:12 God pronounced that every tree and herb would bring form of it s own kind because it would yield seed. So seed is used to refer to that which comes after of the same kind. The seed of the serpent refers to those who come after who are like him, who follow him.

a. The Lord anticipates others who will become like the serpent (satan). The allusion to the serpent’s seed ominously predicts that many of the human family would choose to be aligned with Satan, rather than with God. Certainly the following chapters of Genesis depict a continual decline in the morality of humanity – (Chapter 6 is a universal judgment).

b. It is not unusual to refer to the followers of Satan as his offspring. Matthew 23:33, “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.” And in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

3. “Her Seed” – The Seed of woman – who is the seed of woman? simply Eve’s descendants? That does not seem to fit. The “seed” promises that follow in Genesis 12 to Abram and his descendants point ultimately to Christ. We will notice how the apostle confirms this view in a moment.

a. But could it also in a broader sense point to those who later choose to follow God, and who were constantly opposed by Satan and his followers. God’s people have always been at war with the followers of Satan. The enmity would never cease to exist. Consider Paul’s statement to the Roman Christians in Romans 16:20And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The apostle certainly is referencing this prophecy, and connects the Christians with Christ, as the “seed” who crushes the head of Satan. Certainly we share in the spiritual victory of Christ, as we access His power. The context of these words in Romans 16 is Paul’s warning against false teachers who serve their own bellies and not Christ. They are to be avoided and marked. I am convinced that Paul’s words are designed to connect the influence and activity of the divisive false teacher to Satan because the false teacher so reflects the intention and actions of Satan Himself. They are warring against Satan himself.

4. “Bruise” – The NKJV uses the word bruise twice. Although most conclude that it is the same word in the Hebrew, the NIV makes a distinction: And 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.(NIV) The Hebrew word means literally “to snap at, or figuratively to overwhelm” (Vine’s); It seems that the distinction made in the NIV may be due to the different results of the verb: a person crushes the head of a serpent, but the serpent strikes at the heel of the man.

a. Some contend that what is pictured is the twofold result of the same action; the Seed of the woman crushes the head of the serpent so hard, that his heel is bruised in the process. What seems clear is the death of the snake, and the survival of the seed of woman. The finality of the picture points the sinners ahead with hope. It has the full force of a promise. Did Adam and Eve see it this way?

b. It would appear as though they did. At least there is the anticipation of a “seed” whom God would provide. Genesis 4:1Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” Burton Coffman says this… “The italic words are not in the text, making possible an alternate rendition: “I have gotten a man, even the Lord,” or, “I have gotten a man from the Lord.” …Eve’s mention here of her tragically mistaken view that Cain would be that Deliverer not only confirms the fact of the Deliverer’s having been promised, but also the fact of Eve’s having believed it. Another commentator calls Eve’s words e “a believing response,” to Gen 3:15. Of course, Cain was not the one. But that does not diminish the weight or importance of the promise.

II. Jesus, the Seed of woman: The best understanding of the term:”her seed” is that it refers to Jesus, the Messiah. How can this be established? Several things point us in this direction:

A. Jesus was uniquely the seed of a woman. Although the term seed is used elsewhere to refer to those who were born naturally of both a man and a woman (seed of Hagar; seed of Rebekah), the term does seem to find its fullest expression in Jesus’ virgin birth. Paul describes Jesus as being born of woman in Gal. 4:4. This may be an allusion to the Genesis prophecy. H. L. Ellison goes so far as to say that: “Not until the Virgin Birth could the full implication of the promise be understood …” (138).

1. But more clearly, Jesus is the seed of woman in his complete humanity. Just as it was the woman who allowed sin in; it would be One who shared in her humanity who would overcome it. Heb 2:14-15Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. The apostle John, of course, notes that the eternal Word “became flesh” and dwelt among the human family (Jn. 1:14). It was necessary for the Redeemer to be human and to die a physical death to pay the imposed penalty for sin. 1 Tim 2:5-6For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time,

B. Secondly, notice the movement in the promise itself from the “seed” (possibly referring to more than one person) to the singular personal pronouns (He, your, you, His). Thus this cannot only be speaking of a group or nation of people. The words point to individual combatants and to a single result: the death of the snake. This corresponds to the first part of the curse against the serpent in v. 14He will crawl on his belly and eat dust all his life. This does not imply that the snake was once upright with legs. This terminology is used to depict complete subjugation or submission. Snakes do not literally eat dust, they eat bugs and other animals. But this snake would be completely defeated. But who killed the snake? Who reversed the curse of sin?

        • 1 John 3:8He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
        • In Col. 2:15 Paul declares that Jesus disarmed spiritual principalities and powers and triumphed over them in the cross.
        • 1 Cor 15:20-26But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. 24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death…v. 53-57For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

C. The apostle connects Jesus with the subsequent and corollary seed promise in Genesis. Gal 3:16Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. The promise under consideration here is the promise God made to Abram in Gen. 12. The scriptures do not directly connect Gen. 3:15 to this subsequent promise. But the language itself would demand our attention, and point to a continuity of purpose between the two promises. What we do know for sure is that Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross was the fulfillment of that promise. That same event was the complete defeat of Satan. When Jesus’ foot stepped out of the grave it landed squarely on the head of the Serpent.

Conclusion: My grandmother used to say “the only good snake is a dead snake.” The hope of all humanity rested in the defeat of the serpent of Genesis 3. What a wonderful victory is encapsulated in the promise of Genesis 3:15. Jesus invites you to share in that victory. Be baptized into His death; raised in a new life.