254. THE COVENANT MADE IN EDEN
"It shall bruise thy head"
The most significant of all the Bible covenants is the first one, for it has to do with the means God has appointed for the removal of sin, the root cause of all mankind's problems. The other covenants made with Abraham and David concern the land of promise and the throne of God over Israel, but without the conquest of sin and its effects, they would go unrealized. Our aim in this lesson is to examine the promise of a redeemer who would conquer sin and re-open the gateway to life.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF ADAM'S SIN.
The destiny God intended for man is set out in Gen. 1:26 — that he should attain 'dominion' over the earth. But whether he should realize his Divinely appointed destiny, depended upon his obedience to God's law (2:17). So long as Adam and Eve followed what God taught, all went well.
In our last lesson we considered how Eve was tempted by the serpent and how Adam likewise partook of the forbidden fruit which was offered to him by Eve. God put into effect His Law; death was the punishment for sin and this involved Adam, Eve and all their descendants. In Romans 5:12, Paul sums up how Adam's sin affected mankind at large: "Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all have sinned" (R.V.).
Note that Paul says that "through one man" four things happened. They were:—
- Sin entered into the world: When Adam sinned, sin as a principle of human action came into existence. From then on, Sin reigned like a king over mankind (Rom. 6:12).
- And death through sin: Death was the penalty imposed by God once sin had become a fact (Gen. 3:17-19; cf. 1 Cor. 15:21-22; "by man came death").
- And so death passed upon all men: Adam's descendants inherited from him a body which is mortal. Thus all are subject to death and corruption. What was a penalty to Adam, became to all others a law of their nature.
- For all have sinned: Adam's descendants inherited not only mortality from him, but also a nature prone to sin (Jer. 17:9; Mk. 7:21-23). This proneness to sin is so strong that men, left to themselves, will inevitably sin. For this reason Paul can say that through Adam's sin, all men have sinned (cf. Rom. 3:23). Also, because men will inevitably sin, it is quite just for God to make them all subject to death. Because of Adam's trespass, mankind at large has been locked into a cycle of sin and death. Only through the work of Christ is it possible to break out of that cycle. It was that work which was foreshadowed in God's punishment of the serpent in Eden.
THE PROMISE OF REDEMPTION (Gen. 3:15).
When God punished the serpent, He cursed him above every other animal. The serpent was to spend his days "upon his belly", grovelling in the dust of the earth (v.14). But something further was added, and it was this that constituted God's first great covenant with mankind — the Edenic covenant:— "I (God) will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman (Eve) and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel" (v.15). The important points of this promise are:—
• Two parties will be involved —the serpent and his seed, and —the woman and her seed.
• There will be enmity between them. The two parties will be continually in conflict with each other.
• The conflict will finally be resolved. The seed of the woman will inflict the serpent with a fatal and permanent wound (i.e. a wound in the head). But while this is taking place the serpent will inflict a temporary wound (i.e. a wound in the heel) on the seed of the woman. The picture presented in these words is that of a man's foot about to descend upon a serpent's head, in order to crush it to death. But before the man's foot crushes the snake's head, it bites his heel, causing him to suffer pain, but only for a limited time.
The words of Genesis 3:15 have a literal sense. Throughout history, snakes have been deadly enemies of human beings. Most people are revolted at the sight or even the thought of snakes. However, the real importance of Genesis 3:15 lies in its figurative meaning:
• The serpent uttered the false teaching, in which he expressed the thinking of the flesh, as opposed to God (3:4-5). Thus the serpent represents the source of sin (human nature).
• The seed of the serpent then are those who display the characteristics of the serpent — those who speak and act after the flesh (cf. Matt. 3:7; 23:33; Rom. 8:7-8).
• The woman represents the truth of God's word, which she initially spoke (Gen. 3:2-3).
• The seed of the woman is, in the first instance, Jesus Christ. God was his Father, and he always displayed the mind, ways and character of his Father. The term "seed of the woman" implies that he was not to be the
seed of the man. In fact God caused a virgin to conceive through His Spirit power (Lk. 1:35; Isa. 7:14). In this way it was foreshadowed that God would have to be involved in human salvation.
The most important conflict of all time was the struggle between Christ and Sin. Although he had human nature, or in the words of Paul, was "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3), he never once yielded to sin. He gained the victory over sin by subduing his natural human desires and instead obeyed God. He did this not only in his life, but also in his death. So it can be said that through death, Christ destroyed that which has the power of death, i.e. SIN. Heb. 2:14 expresses this concept using the word "devil" as a personification of Sin.
Gen. 3:15 expresses the same concept as Heb. 2:14, only using the term "serpent" rather than "devil". Christ had to suffer death himself (be bruised in the heel by the serpent) because he had human nature, but this was not a fatal blow since Christ was raised from the dead after 3 days and given immortality. The victory came because he gave a fatal blow to sin — the serpent thinking (he bruised the head of the serpent). His conflict was not just with the seed of the serpent (the Jews and Gentiles of his day who conspired against him), but with the serpent itself — the origin of evil works — in order that, in due course, others would be released from the bondage of sin and death.
GOD'S PLAN OF REDEMPTION (1 Peter 2:21-24).
While the term "the seed of the woman" primarily refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, it also includes those who have accepted God's word and are baptised into Christ. They too are involved in the conquest over sin. Jesus is the great example "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth" (1 Pet. 2:21-22). In his death, sin was overcome (Heb. 9:26), and God was shown to be just in condemning human nature to death (Rom. 3:23-26). This having been done, God could then justly open up the way of resurrection unto eternal life.
For sin to be overcome, we must follow a path which is similar, though not the same. Christ died as a sacrifice for sins, but we are baptised into Christ's death (Rom. 6:3-9).
In our baptism, we acknowledge that God is right in condemning human nature. God then forgives us our past sins and from then on we must "walk in newness of life", not serving self but serving God. We must follow in the steps of Jesus and give obedience to God. But God has provided a means so that when we stray from the path of obedience, we can seek forgiveness for our sins through Jesus Christ who intercedes with God on our behalf (1 John 2:1).
We must avoid sin at all times, but sin will not be completely eradicated from our lives until Christ returns and gives us, if we are worthy, eternal life. Then we will, under Christ, work to eliminate sin from the earth (Rom. 16:20). At the end of the millenium, sin will be completely destroyed and there will be no more death (Rev. 20:14 to 21:4). Then the victory over "the seed of the serpent" will be complete.
THE ATONEMENT IN EDEN (Gen. 3:21).
When Adam and Eve sinned, they realised they were naked and in their shame, they sought to cover their sin by clothing themselves with fig leaves (v.7). But God rejected this humanly devised covering and provided them instead with "coats of skins" (v.21). This required the slaying of animals.
In this, God was teaching a lesson. Nakedness in Scripture symbolizes the state of sin (Rev. 16:15). For sin to be covered and fellowship with God restored, a sacrifice provided by God is required. "Without the shedding of blood is no remission" of sin (Heb. 9:22). Adam and Eve were taught that the pathway back to friendship with God required a life of sacrifice to God in which the serving of self is put aside.
From the fact that Jesus Christ is styled "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), it is clear that the animal slain was a lamb and that it was intended to point forward to him as "the Lamb of God" (John 1:29, 36). What happened in Eden, therefore, foretold the work of God in Christ. We have natures prone to sin and are in as great a need of covering for sin as Adam and Eve. Baptism provides that covering. When we are baptised into Christ, we "put on" or "become clothed with" Christ (Gal. 3:27). Then, renouncing sinful ways, our "sins are covered" by God's grace (Rom. 4:7).
ADAM AND EVE EXCLUDED FROM THE GARDEN (Gen. 3:22-24).
Adam and Eve were finally driven from the Garden of Eden. God said, "Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil." There was the danger that Adam might "put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." He was therefore sent forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. At the east of the Garden of Eden were placed "cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life".
But even in that there was hope. Adam and Eve were barred at that time from the tree of life, but the way to it was preserved so that, through the later work of Christ, believers could have the hope of eternal life (Rev. 2:7).
LESSONS FOR US:
- Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin and death entered the world, thus marring God's creation.
- In Eden, God promised that the power of sin would eventually be destroyed by "the seed of the woman" (i.e. Christ).
• But in destroying sin, "the seed of the woman" would be bruised in "the heel" by "the seed of the serpent" (i.e. Christ would suffer death himself, but only for a time).
• By believing God and being baptised, we are forgiven our past sins. We must then put down sin in our lives, though forgiveness of sins is available to us through Christ.
• Christ is returning to eradicate sin from the world. Then the victory over the serpent's seed will be complete.
- “Elpis Israel" (J. Thomas)—Part First, Chapter 3
- “Key to the Understanding of the Scriptures" (H. P. Mansfield)—Pp 36-54
- "First Principles Bible Marking Course" (C.S.S.S.)—Pp. 55-56
- "The Devil — the Great Deceiver" (P. Watkins)—Pp. 46-50
- What was the effect of Adam and Eve's sin upon their descendants?
- Explain the terms "the seed of the woman "and "the seed of the serpent."
- How did Jesus "bruise the serpent's head"?
- Explain the words of the Covenant in Eden: "it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel. "
- How does the Covenant made in Eden foreshadow God's plan of redemption for mankind?
- What clothing did God provide for Adam and Eve and what lesson do we learn from this?