So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” [Genesis 3: 14-15].
At this point, evil had entered the world.
Readers of the Bible know that the snake in the Garden of Eden was evil, Satan in snake form. He convinced Eve and Adam that eating the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was perfectly ok when God told them they must not do it. They disregarded God’s command. Their rebellion told God that their prideful needs were more important than His commands.
When we turn to Genesis 3:14-15, we read that he will crush the head of the serpent but the snake will strike “his” heel. The big question is who is “he”?
We know the story of Jesus, God in the form of God’s Son who came to Earth to redeem man from sin. Most of us think Jesus’ primary mission is man’s redemption. John Stott in Chapter 9 of his book The Cross of Christ devotes a whole chapter to “The Conquest of Evil” and the idea that evil is alive and well in the world today. Maybe Jesus also came to conquer evil. He begins with the idea of this “wounded healer,” Christ crushed evil (even though He was wounded by the world as He suffered on the cross).*
It is impossible today to imagine how Christians felt after the death of Jesus. One would imagine depression and despair. But Stott writes “there was no defeatism…they spoke rather of victory.” He cites phrases like “thanks be to God! He gives us the victory.” “In all things [that is adversities and dangers] we are more than conquerors.” “God…always leads us in triumphal procession.” “Victory, conquest, triumph, overcoming—this was the vocabulary of those first followers of the risen Lord. For if they spoke of victory, they knew they owed it to the victorious Jesus.” Paul wrote “He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” and “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” and “God leads us in triumphal procession in Christ.” They knew Jesus suffered a horrible death but in His death, He won.
What looked like the defeat of goodness was really the defeat of evil.
He was wounded, but He crushed the head of the serpent.
And maybe they knew it.
As we begin discussing Chapter 9, I would like to comment on an experience I have had these past few months. I always spend a lot of time picking books for my adult Sunday school class to study and several months ago I settled on Dr. David Jeremiah’s book Angels: Who They Are and How They Help—What the Bible Reveals. I consider my class as I pick books and I thought they would appreciate a good look at angels, a popular subject among many Christians. Little did I know that so much of the book would be devoted to the evil in this world and I had no idea that so many Christians would struggle with the existence of the darker side of life. I soon found that Christians can be divided into several groups: Christians who really do not want to acknowledge evil at all, Christians who do believe that Satan is alive and well and working in the world and Christians who cling to a stylized version of angels with beautiful white wings and chubby baby faces and they are only here to do good [they are our guardians].
Ok, a close study of what many call the “unseen realm” or the supernatural yields a lot of material about “good” angels but the evil in this world is not neglected. Satan is a fallen angel and he has power to confound the work of the Lord among believers on the earth. How does he do this? Some of the things he does are he instills doubt, he encourages pride, he tempts with pleasure in sin, he causes us to fear and feel guilt. Satan never tells his whole agenda; he wants us to be “in the dark” about what he is trying to do. Human ignorance helps him do his work.
To further confound humans and to help him carry out his mission, Satan employs demons. These are fallen angels who engage in spiritual warfare with humans, corrupting morals, prompting doubt and unbelief. They possess people in order to do the devil’s work; they don’t exist on their own. Matthew 8: 28-34 is an excellent example as Jesus encountered two men who were demon-possessed. He drove the demons out of the men and sent them into a herd of pigs [who rushed down a bank into a lake and died].
Stott writes that the New Testament “affirms, in its own uninhibited way, that the cross of Jesus disarmed and triumphed over the devil and ‘all principalities and powers’ at His command’” . Stott cites H. E. W. Turner who comments on First Century hearers of the Gospel who had no problems accepting evil in their world: “it is perhaps hard for modern man to realize how hag-ridden was the world into which Christ came.” Of course some people today have what Stott calls an “alarming fascination with the occult” but many “ridicule a belief in the devil” and label such thoughts as “superstitious anachronisms.”
Many refuse to believe that the devil is behind the evil of this world. As we begin our discussion of Chapter 9 (“The Conquest of Evil”), we will consider that Jesus was that “offspring” that Moses was referring to in Genesis. We won’t turn our backs on the evil of this world.
I told my Sunday school class that believers make a mistake when they become preoccupied with evil, but total denial of Satan’s work is not good either. We need a balance.
I reminded them of an old cliché that I found appropriate: “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”
Too much concern is folly.
We have a Savior with a powerful heel.
*Genesis 3:15 “Know by many as protoevangelium, ‘the first good news.’ God tells the serpent that he is going to be on the losing side of the battle between good and evil. His head will be crushed by the seed of the woman, in this case the reference may be Jesus?” from The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, ed. Gary Burge and Andrew Hill.