The First Gospel

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (v. 15).  

- Matthew 3:14–15

Since the early days of the church, scholars and theologians have found in Genesis the first announcement of the coming Messiah. Today’s passage gives us what is called the protevangelium — the “first gospel.”

The context of this passage is well-known to most of us. Having thumbed their noses at God by eating the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve find themselves alienated from their Creator (Gen. 3:1–13). Before He pronounces His righteous judgment upon them, however, the Lord curses the tempter. The serpent will crawl upon the ground and lick the dust. He will bruise the heel of the woman’s offspring or, in other translations, “her seed,” and her seed will bruise the serpent’s head (vv. 14–15).

This pronouncement has cosmic significance. The serpent in this passage is no ordinary reptile, he is Satan, the adversary of God and His people (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:9). The Lord pledges to put enmity between the serpent and the woman’s seed (Gen. 3:15). This conflict is God-initiated and perpetuated. It has a visible reminder in snakes who lick the dust of defeat, but the one whose head will be bruised — the one who will suffer a crushing blow — is the Devil himself.

It is the identity of the woman’s seed that tells us this passage is messianic. Grammatically, “seed” is a collective singular and can refer to a whole group of people. The woman’s seed cannot be every child of Eve because Scripture calls God’s human enemies “the children of the Devil” (John 8:39–47), thereby identifying some people as the serpent’s seed. If the Lord’s enemies are the seed of the serpent, then His friends among mankind must be the victorious woman’s seed. These will suffer bruising from the evil one before bruising his head. God’s people will suffer, but they will win in the end (for example, Ex. 1, 14).

However, even the friends of the Almighty cannot defeat Satan themselves. They need a representative to fight on their behalf. We have seen that this One is King Jesus, who as the Son of David defeated Satan on the cross for our sake. He is the seed of the woman par excellence who suffered the worst bruising of all so that He might crush the Devil (Col. 2:13–15). 

Coram Deo

Proverbs 21:31 tells us that “the victory belongs to the Lord.” Jesus defeated death, sin, and the evil one on the cross and now shares with us the benefits of His conquest. No problem of ours is too formidable for the Lord. There is no sin that we cannot overcome if we are in Him. There is no enemy of ours that can finally defeat us. Be encouraged today that our Savior has won a great victory, and, therefore, we who are in Him need not worry about tomorrow.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 20:1–4
Revelation 19:11–21

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