This is a speech I gave on Tuesday 27 November in University College Cork (UCC) for the Christian Union (CU):
We start with a question—what is prophecy? Prophecy is not merely the prediction of the future. A prophet brings the Word of God. Many prophets do write about the future, but the future is not the essence of prophecy.
Prophecy is the revelation of God’s promised plan.
I could speak about any number of prophecies of Christ, but I have chosen to speak to you about the first prophecy of Christ.
Do you know what it is? Do you know where God first promises Christ in the Bible?
“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
That is the first prophecy of Christ in the Bible. It is “the mother promise.” It is the promise from which all other prophecies of Christ flow. It is no exaggeration to say that the Old Testament is the unfolding or development of this mother promise.
The Mother Promise
Let me call your attention to some important features of the “mother promise.”
First, the context. The “mother promise” comes immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. Adam and Eve were created as God’s friends in the Garden of Eden. God gave them freedom to serve him in Eden. But he placed one restriction on their freedom—they may not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If they did, they would surely die.
Nevertheless, they disobeyed God.
God did not abandon them, but in mercy he called them to account. And in the midst of God’s indictment of his guilty children, God promised salvation. God promised Jesus Christ.
We see here the grace of God.
Adam and Eve had forfeited fellowship with God. They had no reason to expect salvation. Instead, they feared death. But God, without waiting for them to come to him, and without waiting for their repentance, promised them salvation.
Second, we notice the various parties in Genesis 3:15. It is important to understand who is speaking, what he is speaking about, and to whom he is speaking.
The speaker is God. “I will put enmity…” The “I” is God.
The one addressed is Satan. God is not speaking directly to Adam or Eve, but to the devil. “I will put enmity between thee and the woman.” The word “thee” refers to the serpent, which was the instrument through which the devil tempted Eve. In cursing the serpent, God punished Satan. God will put enmity between the devil and the woman.
The promise is about Christ. God is talking here to the devil about Christ in the hearing of Adam and Eve.
Third, we notice what the promise is. God promised two seeds. The word seed is offspring, but the best translation is “seed” because the word is singular. One of these seeds is “thy seed” (that is, the seed of the serpent, or Satan’s seed) and the other is “her seed” (that is, the woman’s seed, or the Seed of the woman).
Fourth, we learn about the nature of these two seeds. The two seeds are enemies. Enmity exists between them. In history, therefore, there are two kinds of people. Some people belong to Christ and are the seed of the woman with Christ at their head. Other people belong to Satan and are the seed of the serpent with Satan at their head.
There is no peace between these seeds, but there is war. The text speaks of enmity.
Fifth, we learn why there is enmity between these seeds. God puts the enmity there: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” This enmity did not exist earlier, but God put it there. God sees to it that the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent are always at war. This war is necessary for God’s purpose of salvation in Christ.
Sixth, we learn what the result of this enmity is. God promised a twofold bruising or a twofold crushing. “It (the Seed of the woman) shalt bruise (crush) thy (the serpent’s or Satan’s) head; and thou (the serpent or Satan) shalt bruise his heel (the heel of the Seed of the woman).”
Throughout history these two seeds will be bruising and crushing one another until finally Satan’s head shall be crushed.
These two injuries are different, however.
A crushed head is fatal. A crushed heel is painful, but not fatal. Consider a man walking in the woods. He encounters a snake. The snake bites him on the heel, injuring him. But the man tramples the snake on the head, killing it. These two injuries occur at the same time—one injury is fatal; the other is not.
In other words, there is final victory for the Seed of the woman and final defeat and destruction of the serpent. That is God’s promise and purpose in history. In order to accomplish that purpose, God sends Jesus Christ into the world.
The Meaning of the Promise
But what is the point of “enmity”? Is enmity a good thing?
Enmity is the opposite of friendship. If God puts enmity between Satan and the woman, it implies that earlier there was friendship between them. When Satan tempted our first parents, they betrayed God and made an alliance (a friendship) with Satan, God’s enemy.
God determined to end that friendship, thus restoring his friendship with the woman and her seed. God promises salvation to everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ. He promises salvation to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ. He promises salvation by promising to destroy Satan and everyone who belongs to him. In the certain doom of Satan the believer finds his salvation. In the certain doom of Satan the unbeliever sees his own doom.
God saves his people by destroying his enemies. God saved Noah by destroying the world. God saved Israel by destroying the Egyptians and the Canaanites. And at the end, God saves the church by destroying the Antichrist and Satan. God saves by putting enmity between two seeds, therefore.
Therefore, you cannot be a friend of God and of the world at the same time. You cannot be on Satan’s side and on God’s side. You cannot persist in unbelief and expect to be saved. Salvation is in essence friendship with God, which is enmity against Satan.
The Unfolding of the Promise
If you understand that basic promise, you will see that the Old Testament is not a collection of unrelated stories. Instead, the Old Testament records the enmity or warfare between these two seeds.
The war began with Adam’s children. Cain was the seed of the serpent, while Abel was the seed of the woman. Cain did not seek salvation in the promised Seed of the woman. Cain hated Abel, who, unlike Cain, did seek salvation in the promised Seed. Abel offered a lamb, which was a picture of Christ. Cain offered the work of his own hands, which displeased God.
Cain’s hatred and murder of Abel was Satan’s enmity against Christ. Later God gave another son to Adam and Eve—Seth—through whom Christ would come.
And so we see the promise of the Seed unfolding in the Old Testament.
The seed comes from the line of Seth, not Cain.
The seed comes from the line of Noah, not from the wicked people who perished in the flood.
The seed comes from Noah’s son, Shem, not from Ham or Japheth.
As history progresses, the identity of the Seed becomes clearer—the Seed comes from Abraham; the Seed comes from Isaac, not Ishmael; the Seed comes from Jacob, not Esau; of Jacob’s sons the Seed comes from Judah. There are specific prophecies showing this.
During this time, Satan has his eye on the people of God, for his desire is to prevent the coming of the promised Seed. Thus, Satan persecutes Abel; he persecutes the line of Seth before the flood; and he persecutes Abraham’s line and the people of Israel.
Moreover, throughout Old Testament history, Satan suffers crushing defeats. The flood, the scattering of nations at the Tower of Babel, the Exodus of Israel from Egypt, and the Conquest of Canaan are examples of crushing defeats of Satan and victories of the Seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent.
Finally, God reveals that the Seed of the woman shall come from the family of David. Now the line from which Christ comes is very narrow. God preserves David’s line, while Satan tries to destroy David’s line.
Time and time again, God gives miraculous deliverance to his people. Time and time again, the seed of the woman bruises the serpent’s head, while the seed of the serpent bruises the heel of the seed of the woman.
This brings us to the New Testament and the coming of Christ.
At the beginning of the New Testament, just prior to the coming of Jesus, the people of God are in great misery. Israel is a vassal state of the Roman Empire. Israel no longer has a king in the line of David. In fact, the line of David is almost finished. How shall the Seed of the woman come? A small remnant of godly believers in Israel longs for the coming of Christ or the Messiah.
Suddenly, Gabriel comes to Mary, who belongs to David’s line.
But Mary is poor. The angel announces to Mary that she shall have a son: “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the highest, and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33).
Mary cannot understand the angel—“How shall this be, seeing I know not a man” (Luke 1:34). First, Mary is a virgin; but more importantly, Mary does not know a man who could be the father of the promised Seed.
Joseph is not such a man.
The angel explains: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
Of course, that must be how he is born. For the promise is not of the Seed of the man, but of the Seed of the woman. This son shall be born without man; he shall be virgin born.
The great confrontation between the devil and Christ took place on the cross. On the cross Christ bruised or crushed Satan’s head. On the cross Satan bruised Christ’s heel. By his death and resurrection Jesus crushed the devil.
Jesus destroyed the devil by taking away the only power that the devil has, which is sin. Without sin the devil has no power. Only through sin did the devil bring men into war against God. If sin is removed, the devil is destroyed.
Here, then, is the resolution of the war.
First, Jesus Christ suffers the penalty of death that his people deserved.
Second, Jesus Christ obeys the law of God perfectly in the place of his people.
Third, God gives the righteousness that Jesus worked (by his lifelong obedience, sufferings, and death) to the sinner who believes in Jesus.
On the basis of what Jesus has done, therefore, the sinner enjoys peace with God. “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
That’s the importance of the mother promise, which God fulfilled in Jesus.