The Longest Warfare
The history of mankind is a history of battles; some very brief, others lengthy. The shortest recorded war—the 1896 Anglo-Zanzibar War—lasted only 45 minutes! The longest was the Eighty Years’ War between Holland and Spain (1568-1648). However, what secular historians don’t report, but God’s Word does, is the continuous war that began in the first Paradise and that will not end till Christ ushers in the new and eternal Paradise.
The fuel for that warfare is the enmity God placed between the world and the church, between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). We get it sketched for us in Rev. 12 where we read of Satan trying to stop Christ from being born and, when that fails, making war against the rest of the woman’s offspring—the NT church. God’s people have willingly endured this continuing hostility, even at the cost of their lives, knowing they had a glorious salvation and that the ultimate victory would be theirs. Recently Rev C Vermeulen explained this in a sermon on Genesis 3:15.[i] This article seeks to summarise the first point of that sermon, the hostile separation of that enmity—also known as the antithesis, a word that is continually being devalued and increasingly being resisted and yet is central to the gospel.
How did that continuous conflict begin? Rev C Vermeulen reminds his hearers of how God called into existence his grandiose creation—all of it revealing his power and wisdom and majesty. He created Adam and Eve to be his image bearers, to exercise authority over the earth and to develop it to his glory: be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, tend it, keep it, look after it.
That task, says Rev Vermeulen, would be reflected “in their marriage, in family life, in communities, in discovering things the ground had, in making inventions and technology, in constructing buildings and cities, cars and planes and all the other possibilities, phone technologies, you name it. God said you develop it, in every part honour Me and serve Me – the art that you produce, the songs, the music – do it for Me, for My glory. Let the earth be filled with praise from one end of the earth to the other”. All this was to be done in thankful and joyful submission to Him and to His glory.
But there was also a prohibition: Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil!
Well, we know what happened. Despite the glorious task and their wonderful fellowship with God, Adam and Eve rebelled and heeded the advice of Satan, thereby affiliating themselves with the devil. They listened to his lies and in wilful disobedience chose to do what they wanted. And that would have led to creation being developed, with all its potentiality, in the service of Satan—which is slavery to sin. It would have led to self-centredness with all its desires and passions, its hatred and pursuit of lusts, and living for own glory rather than God’s glory. God’s beautiful work of art would have been trashed.
To prevent this, God established separation. He says to the serpent: I will put enmity between you and the woman. But, says Rev Vermeulen, “these words are not limited to the snake, the serpent. They go beyond the snake to the one that was working through the snake: the devil. Think of what we read in Revelation 12:9: ‘So the great dragon was cast out’ (and then it says) ‘that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan who deceives the whole world.’”
Hence Genesis 3:15 is about enmity, about hostility being established between the devil and his seed and the woman and her seed. Thereby God broke apart the alliance between Satan and our first parents. Says Rev Vermeulen: “God wasn’t placing something evil into His creation. No, He was breaking apart something evil. He was taking Adam and Eve back to His side, placing them against Satan, the enemy of the work of God, and hence restoring them to Him, His service, for His purposes, so that they might again live for His glory and in His service.”
You will understand that this enmity is not just between us and the devil, but also between us and his seed: the antithesis is between him and the woman and between his seed and her seed. We know the seed of the woman is the church, but who is the seed of the devil? Well, says Rev Vermeulen, “the sobering teaching of Scripture is that not all the seed of the woman remains seed of the woman. Some of them became seed of the devil. And I draw your attention to what we read in 1 John 3:12 where Cain is discussed: ‘we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother’.” Here we read that Cain “was of the wicked one”, he was the seed of the devil.
And so we see how Eve brought forth two distinct peoples: the one who was born of woman, who continued to be of the woman – the Ables and Seths and Noahs. And then the other seed that she brought forth became the seed of the serpent: Cain, Lamech and the ones like them.
This antithesis is clearly revealed, for example, in John 8 where we see Jesus being confronted by the Jews. They were the members of the church, the people of Israel, the seed of the woman, the covenant seed. But when Jesus came, the Seed of the woman (with a capital S), and demonstrated that He was the Son of God, the Jewish leaders opposed and hated Him. He exposed their hypocrisy and false teachings and they were jealous of His great following. And then Jesus says: “you are of your father the devil”. So here we have these Jews, the seed of the woman, becoming the seed of the evil one through their rebellion and unbelief. It’s all part of that continuing warfare that divides humanity.
It’s important to be aware that Satan hates and attacks this separation. He doesn’t want separation, says Rev Vermeulen, but wants everyone on his side. “He hates God, and the works of God, therefore he also hates that restored community that God separated from that alliance to devote to Himself again. He’ll do everything he can to get rid of that separated people.”
The evidence of that raging hostility, those attacks against God’s people, can be seen throughout the Old Testament. Think, for example, of how Balak, the Midianite king, hired Balaam to curse Israel so that the people of God would be destroyed. And recall how throughout the Old Testament we see the nations around Israel trying to destroy the LORD’s people, delighting in their afflictions. They want to get rid of that special community, that nation-church of God.
But there’s also another way that the devil and the unbelieving world work against God’s special people, says Rev Vermeulen. If they can’t crush them out of existence, they entice them to enjoy the world and get them to mingle. Think of what happened in the days before the flood where the men of the church were attracted by the beautiful girls of the world. They weren’t looking for God-pleasing girls but eye-pleasing girls and taking whoever pleased them. Whole generations were corrupted this way and, in the end, all that was left was Noah and his family.
Recall also how, when God prevented Balaam from cursing Israel, Balaam advised the Midianites to seduce Israel. He said to the Midianites: invite the Israelites to your party, where there’s lots of opportunities for the flesh, where you can have good fun, where there’s going to be many things that appeal to the fleshly desires of the Israelites. Come, get them involved with your parties. Let them go along with you. That’s the way you remove the special status of this nation.
You see how, throughout the Old Testament, the devil and his seed have raged against the seed of the woman, trying to destroy them either by open hostilities or by insidiously removing the separation that God put between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
And that hostility continues throughout the present New Testament age. The Lord Jesus spoke about that shortly before his death. He said: “if you were of the world, the world would love its own but because you are not of the world but I chose you out of the world therefore the world hates you” (John 15:9). And elsewhere we read, “Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:13). The enmity from the world continues against that people whom God set apart for His purposes, for His glory.
There is tremendous blessing in having been set apart from the world (including its false religions). For through Christ, the ultimate Seed of the woman, we have been set apart to receive glorious present salvation and an eternal future paradise. Meanwhile, we’re to keep in mind, that in this present life Satan is continually trying to wipe out that separation, constantly seeking to have everyone join his anti-God alliance. And we confess that our weak sinful hearts so easily cave in to his allurements. Yet, through God’s Spirit we resist these temptations of the devil and the world and fight against them (LD 52). We want to serve God alone, in everything! For we know that there is salvation only in Christ; and our future, with its magnificent perspective, is with Him.
(What the antithesis reveals about God’s gracious salvation and our wonderful future are the subject for a following article or two.)