Christ is the centerpiece of the gospel, as well as the theme and focus of all the Word of God. It should not surprise us, then, that Christ is introduced to the reader in the first pages of the book of Genesis. Some four thousand years before His Son came to earth through the womb of a virgin, God promises to send Him. God is eager to introduce His Son and Savior to us. The account of creation fills the first two chapters of Genesis, followed immediately in the first half of chapter three with the record of man’s fall. And no sooner has that abject rebellion and failure been described than the God of heaven promises to send His Son to redeem sinners.
The Holy Spirit gives us the first account of the coming of Christ in the fifteenth verse of the third chapter of Genesis. In what theologians like to refer to as the protevangelium, or the “first gospel,” we read the recorded words of the Lord God: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.”
We properly say that the announcement of Christ’s birth was first given to lowly shepherds on the hills near Bethlehem. But have you ever stopped to consider that the announcement of His coming was first given to Satan? Yes, Adam and Eve heard the news, as well, but God addressed the words to Satan. The one who had lusted after the glory, power, and authority of God, the one who had lied about God, the one who had just plunged the entire human race into sin and damnation is told in no uncertain terms that what he has just accomplished and all that he will do during the next 6,000 or so years will all be for naught. His doom is sealed. He may have been able to entice the first pair to rebel against God and sin, and he may have brought a curse on the human race, but his rebellion is futile, his doom is sealed.
We learn that One will come, the seed of a woman, born in the lowliest of circumstances, not in a garden paradise like Adam and Eve inhabited, one where sin did not exist and where the absolute goodness of God’s handiwork flourished everywhere, but to poverty-stricken parents, despised by their neighbors. The One would be born into a world where nature was cursed, where all who should have embraced, loved, and helped Him only despised and rejected Him.
And yet this One would, in the midst of what would appear to be the most outrageous and ignominious defeat, not only rout Satan, but redeem those it pleased His Father to save and to bring “many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10). The very thing that Satan wanted for himself—the glory of God—and the very thing that he labored to rob man of came to men, not as a consequence of their creation in perfect innocence but as a result of Adam’s fall at the hands of Satan.
The protevangelium makes no direct reference to the birth of Christ, but His birth is inherent in the promise. And what we see in this first gospel concerning the coming of Christ is that the shadow of the cross cast a pall over the manger. Yes, the angels filled the heavens with ineffable light as they announced His birth to the shepherds. Yes, the shepherds raced into Bethlehem rejoicing with the news. Yes, a unique natal star eventually led the magi from the east to the baby’s home.
But the forecast called for suffering, blood, and death for this Seed. We might mistakenly believe that the cross was a battle between Satan and Christ. After all, Satan is said to “bruise” Christ’s heel at Calvary while Christ strikes a death blow to the head of Satan. But all of this is in accord with God’s plan. For ultimately, Isaiah reveals that “the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief” so that “He would render Himself as a guilt offering” (53:10) “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Our archenemy, Satan, is a defeated foe—all his hideous machinations only tools in God’s hands as He sent an infant to be born to die and to take away our sins.
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