The Gospel Revealed in Paradise
“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.”- Genesis 3:15
Jesus Christ, Scripture tells us, is the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Tim. 2:5), the One who, in the biblically faithful words of the Heidleberg Catechism, is “true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous” (Q. 18). But how do we come to know this Lord and Savior in His fullness? The answer is clear: the “holy gospel” reveals Jesus the Mediator to us (Q. 19).
It has always been the fundamental conviction of the church that while this gospel is revealed in a clearer way under the new covenant, the people of God have known the gospel throughout history. Augustine is widely credited with the statement that “the New is in the Old concealed, and the Old is in the New revealed,” which indicates that even the Old Testament saints had access to the New Testament faith, though our old covenant brothers and sisters did not have the same gospel awareness that we have today. The Heidelberg Catechism stands in this interpretive tradition, explaining that the gospel was first revealed in Paradise (Q&A 19).
Genesis 3:15, the protoevangelion (“first gospel”), is the first recorded announcement of the gospel. Adam and Eve heard this good news right after they plunged humanity into sin and misery (vv. 1–14). Our first parents had already tasted the Lord’s grace in not suffering physical death immediately after their sin, but they were blessed further to hear the Serpent’s end announced. The text does not merely explain why snakes crawl on the ground and why human beings fear these slithering creatures. This text is about one nation versus another — God and His people versus Satan and his people (John 8:39–44). God Himself puts enmity between the woman’s offspring and the Serpent’s offspring. There is an all-out war between the two seeds, a fight in which the woman’s offspring is wounded but the Serpent and his offspring suffer a fatal blow to the head.
Of course, even God’s people suffer the effects of the fall, so we cannot defeat Satan and reconcile ourselves to the Father. We need a perfect representative who can defeat the Enemy for us and allow us to triumph in Him. Jesus is this representative, the woman’s seed par excellence who triumphed over the Devil on the cross, effecting reconciliation between us and God (Gal. 3:15–22; Col. 2:15).
The gospel is often called the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) because it is about the King who crushed Satan and his realm in order that we might enjoy the kingdom of God forever. We who trust in this King — the Lord Jesus Christ — are incorporated into the body of God’s people and are assured of final victory over the Evil One. This is the good news of the gospel, and in it we must rejoice and find our only everlasting hope.
Passages for Further Study