God had foreseen Satan’s intervention; and already had a rescue plan in place – one requiring such an astonishing degree of love and forbearance on his part that, to Satan, it was utterly unthinkable. God would come to earth as a man and suffer all the punishment that should have been our penalty. Then he would offer us the chance to be joined to Himself, placing his Spirit within each person who accepts, and cancelling Satan’s claim on our lives.
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According to Genesis 3:15, even as God was passing judgement on Adam, Eve and the serpent, he said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.”1 Notice that this is in the singular; it is pointing to one particular man. As time passed, further revelations by God added more detail to this picture. He would be a king in the lineage of king David and a priest forever in the order of Melchisedek (a mysterious figure whose priestly authority predates and exceeds that of Abraham or any Jewish priest – Ps 110:4 (c.f. Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:1-28)). He would be known as ‘Messiah’ (the Anointed One – Dan 9:25). But other titles would include, ‘Mighty God’, ‘Everlasting Father’2 and ‘Prince of Peace.’ We are also told that he would rule forever (Is 9:6-7).
God’s master plan involved doing what, to Satan, was unthinkable. The eternal Word of God (by whom the entire universe had been created) would be joined into a natural human baby. He would live a faultless life, demonstrating what God is like, and how we ourselves are meant to be. But then, even though innocent, he would take upon himself the full agony of pain and separation that should have been our penalty for the suffering our sins have caused. Finally, he would offer us the chance to be joined to Himself, living within each person who accepts his offer. By this Satan’s claim against us is cancelled; for we are now part of Him and He has already paid our penalty.
All of this was also foretold by the prophets, though expressed in such a way that its true meaning was only evident with hindsight; for it was God’s plan to make Satan the instrument of his own downfall (Is 52:13-53:12; Ps 22:1-31; Lk 24:25-27. Also 1Cor 2:7-8).
But that is not all. Those who have accepted God’s offer now have his Holy Spirit living within them (Eze 11:19; Eze 36:25-27). God’s law is written in their hearts (Jer 31:31-34). Whereas before they lacked motivation and power to do good, now they are inspired and empowered so that, once more, they can freely choose to do God’s will (Jer 31:31-34; Eze 11:19; Eze 36:25-27).
- Why a serpent?
Some see this as no more than a primitive attempt to explain why snakes crawl on the ground and people don’t like them. But if that were the case, it leaves several unanswered questions:
- Why single out only this particular oddity for comment from amongst the huge number of unusual and equally dangerous creatures that man was familiar with?
- Snakes are noteworthy for their lack of vocal ability. So why is this serpent portrayed as possessing the power of speech: yet not as losing that power on account of its bad behaviour?
- It’s also curious that evolutionary science agrees that snakes are descended from monitor-like lizards that lost the use of their limbs. This is unusually perceptive for a ‘primitive’ explanation – especially if, as claimed, this happened millions of years before man ever walked the earth.
However it all makes perfectly good sense if, as the majority of Jews and Christians have always believed, God was not addressing any ordinary snake; but rather a spiritual enemy of man whose character and ultimate fate God is simply comparing with that of a despised and poisonous serpent.
- Why ‘Everlasting Father?’
Jesus said ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (Jn. 14:9) and, ‘I and the Father are one’ (Jn. 10:30). For a fuller explanation see ‘The Triune God (Pt. 2) – How the Trinity operate‘.