Imagine having been given everything to make you eternally, gloriously happy and then throwing it all away in order to become a miserable slave without a happy future. You’d need to be absolutely mad, wouldn’t you? Yet that’s what our first parents, Adam and Eve, did (and we through them). We, mankind, were made kings and queens of this earth. Through an act of treason, we turned against God who had so wonderfully blessed us and became slaves of sin and the devil.
Genesis 3:15 – the gospel in a nutshell
Now God could, of course, have left us in the misery of our own wilful disobedience. That’s what mankind deserved by that traitorous behaviour. But in mercy God reached out to us and brought us back to Himself and then, in His grace, He established enmity between the woman and the serpent.
The profound significance of this is worked out further in Scripture. We come to see that the woman and the serpent symbolise two groups. The serpent, which the devil used to tempt Eve to sin, represents Satan and all those who reject God and His church. The woman, on the other hand, represents God and His church through the ages.
By establishing enmity between them the Lord demonstrated His great love for the people He created. For He could have left them in the grip of Satan with the result that eventually they would be “tormented day and night forever and ever” with Satan (Rev. 20:10). Instead God shows Satan that He has all authority over the people He created and that Satan’s head will be crushed.
Through the antithesis Adam and Eve were now no longer part of that anti-God alliance with Satan. Instead, there would be hostility—as we saw in the previous article.[i] Although the woman’s heel would be bruised by Satan through that ongoing hostility, in the end Satan’s head would be crushed. The hostility would culminate in the victory of the seed of the woman.
Therefore what we have in this text, says Rev C Vermeulen (on whose sermon this article is based),[ii] is the gospel message in a very compact form. It is through the rest of the Scriptures that we get to see more of the details, for God continued to reveal Himself to his people. And although all the seed of the woman would be involved in this struggle there would be one particular Seed through whom the victory would come. As time went on God would give more and more revelation about that particular Seed, that Child who would be born to deliver God’s people.
How this unfolded in history
We see all this unfolding in Biblical history and reaching a climax in the New Testament, says Rev Vermeulen, when the serpent, using the Jews and Herod and Pontius Pilate, struck the Seed of the woman and crucified Him. The serpent and his henchmen thought they’d struck a fatal blow. And indeed, He did die – this Seed of the woman – but it wasn’t the end. It was really only crushing his heel because He came back from the grave: He rose in victory and ascended into heaven. Dying and rising He conquered the devil; He bruised, yes crushed Satan’s head. Thereby Christ, the Seed of the woman, obtained for his people forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
And that’s not all: although Adam and Eve brought death into the world, thereby making themselves and all their physical descendants sinners, Christ granted His Spirit who renews them so that the seed of the woman can again begin to live as the people of God for the glory of God. That happened at Pentecost.
But wasn’t the Spirit already at work in the Old Testament? He was indeed! Although the Spirit was poured out in richer measure in the New Testament, He was already at work in the Old Testament, forming and shaping the seed of the woman, that community of believers.
Living by the promise
For what did it mean to live as seed of the woman? Says Rev Vermeulen: Already in that Old Testament time, already there with Adam and Eve after the fall into sin, the church members lived by faith in that promise that God would give them the victory of the seed of the woman.” The believers could cling to that promise despite the mess they had made through the fall.
And they certainly experienced that mess as they left the Garden of Eden—all the effects of the curse, the brokenness, the hardships and problems of life that culminate in death—continued to bubble forth into more and more sin every day.
But in the midst of that they could cling to the promise that God had restored them to Himself, separated them from that anti-God, sin-serving alliance. He had promised them the victory! And now, trusting in God’s promise, they could begin to live as His people, for His glory in all parts of life.
You can even see that in the name Adam gave to his wife after the fall into sin. “And Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living.” He understood that the hope for the future would come through her, through the woman from whom the Seed would come. Life would come through her seed. Salvation from the curse and death, through the seed of the woman. And that’s why he called his wife’s name Eve: mother of all living. He trusted the promise, the promise that defined those who trusted in God and His promises.
Two spiritual communities
So there we have the history of mankind, says Rev Vermeulen: two spiritual communities (with no neutrality possible) and both being centred around the leadership of individuals.
On the one side the seed of the woman focussing in on the great Seed of the woman who was promised and who would bring salvation. They are the children who live by faith in the promise, serving God, living for Him in all of life. In the Old Testament they looked ahead in faith to the promised one. They were taught in the law how to serve God in all parts of life and also to keep their focus on the promised Redeemer, that great Sacrifice that all the other sacrifices pointed ahead to: the great Son of David, the King who would deliver them. And in the New Testament these children of the woman lived by faith in the One who had come and conquered the devil, and who restored His people through His Spirit to be a people devoted to God in every part of their life.
But on the other side, the group under the dominion of the serpent, the devil: those who do his will, who take his side in opposing God’s work in this world, who don’t repent and turn to God but continue in ways of sin, who set their minds on the things of this earth and live for the fulfilment of earthly and human desires rather than for the glory of God in everything.
We, members of the congregation of Christ, are seed of the woman, included in that believing community. It’s an act of God’s grace in our life that he has set us apart, that He has made us part of His special people who live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are that seed of the woman that Revelation 12 speaks about.
You’ll remember that Revelation 12 pictures a woman expecting a male child and how the serpent (the devil) sought to destroy the woman, trying to prevent the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ through the virgin Mary. However, says Rev Vermeulen, when that was unsuccessful and the male child was taken up into heaven (think of the Lord Jesus ascending victorious up into heaven, the devil couldn’t crush him) we read that the serpent (dragon) was enraged with the woman and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, the woman’s seed who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.
Now, we are unimaginably privileged to belong to the seed of the woman, to be members of Christ’s church, God’s covenant people. It’s God’s gracious act in our life, making us part of that people, setting us apart, working faith in us.
A serious warning
However, there’s an extraordinarily serious element to being born into the people of God, part of that seed of the woman. For just consider, says Rev Vermeulen: Where did the seed of the devil come from? Cain, Adam and Eve’s firstborn, was born as seed of the woman. Yet he rose against Abel in hatred. And what does 1 John 3 say about that? Why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.
So this wasn’t just a character clash between Cain and Abel. No, it was Cain’s resentment of Abel because his deeds were righteous. Abel was righteous by faith in God and that’s what Cain hated and resented. And that’s how you get the seed of the woman becoming the seed of the serpent – when those born as seed of the woman turn against the Lord’s work, reject the promises and live in enmity against His people.
Satan continues to look for more seed today. And, adds Rev Vermeulen, the unbelievers work and live together with him, let’s understand that. They live in this world not to God’s glory by repenting and serving Him but they live in the service of man, and man’s desires, and man’s lust, and for the glory of man.
And the world wants you to join them, to be like them. They don’t want their consciences pricked by you being different and exposing their disobedience but they want you to join with them. They want you to love the world and the things in the world. Yet that’s enmity against God.
The trouble is that in ourselves we are so weak, so inclined to be like them; to set our minds on the things of this earth and to forget about loving God and serving and submitting to Him in every part of life. And that’s why we, seed of the woman, need to cling in faith to the promise God made and to rejoice in the Promised One.
The promised Seed
He came to earth to destroy the works of the devil. Shortly before He died, he said the following to his disciples: “Now is the judgement of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12). And He’s talking there about the victory that he was going to have over the serpent, the ancient serpent that he was going to conquer by his death. “Now the ruler of this world will be cast out.”
And so he went to the cross and conquered the devil and earnt salvation for his undeserving sheep. He paid for their sins so that the devil would have no more claim of accusation against them. And he obtained for them the Spirit, the life-giving Spirit, so that they might be restored to God’s service. There’s the basis for us being seed of the woman; it rests entirely on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, that great Seed of the woman, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15. He is the only and perfect ground whereby we can be forgiven of our sins and restored into the service of our God.
The great news for the world is that this salvation is for all who repent and believe in Him, the Seed of the woman. Because understand this well: that’s how the devil is cast out more and more, and those who still live in sin come to see that they’re on the wrong side and repent and believe in the Son of God, believe in the Seed of the woman and find their life in Him. Salvation is for all who repent and believe in Him.
That’s why mission is important. Thereby the Word goes forth, that many who still live in darkness may come to the glorious kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s also why it’s so important that, in our interactions with the world around us, we openly confess Christ. Making ourselves distinct from the world does not mean we don’t interact with the world. We’re commanded to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to do good not just to the household of faith but to all men. Doing good includes seeking their eternal good, so that they, too, are included amongst that seed of the woman.
[ii] This is the second in a series of three articles, each based on one of the three points of the sermon of Rev C Vermeulen which can be viewed on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izrW_ge_T0o&feature=youtu.be