Introduction to Victory
The Bible is festered with God’s promises. By one count, there are 7,487 promises by God to man in his Word. Every section of the Bible contains God’s promises. Every book features God’s promises, directly or indirectly. If we got rid of God’s promises, we’d lose the Bible. We’d also lose the Christian Faith, which rests squarely on the promises of God. No promises, no salvation.
Here I’ll follow just a single line of promises, the most prominent line. I’ll begin where God begins — in the book of Genesis. This is where we always should begin. We must learn to read our Bibles in the sequence that God wrote it — from beginning to end, and not simply jump into the middle.
Let’s begin specifically in Genesis 3:15, the first redemptive promise in the Bible:
“ … I will put enmity [hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise [crush] your head, and you shall bruise [crush] his heel.”
Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, and God pronounced his curse on sin. But his curse was accompanied by a promise. God’s purposes in the world would not be frustrated by Satan. The entire course of the rest of the Bible is a description and a fulfillment of this promise.
God focused his blessing and judgment not chiefly on Eve and the serpent, who was possessed by Satan, but on each of their respective offspring. Early in its history, the church understood the (single) offspring of the woman to be none other than the Messiah, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This verse is called the protevangelium: the first Gospel promise. The (plural) offspring of the serpent is humans enslaved in his diabolical kingdom. “Offspring” is both individual and collective. The offspring of the woman is Jesus Christ, and that includes all united him by faith (Gal. 3:26–29). The offspring of the serpent is perhaps an idealized antilord, and that includes all united to him in unbelief (Jn. 8:44–45).
This traditional interpretation is verified in the New Testament itself. Paul promises the Roman church, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (16:20). For Paul, Jesus Christ is God’s agent for accomplishing the Satan-crushing work (see vv. 18, 25–26). It’s impossible to believe that this language of crushing Satan under foot is taken from anywhere but Genesis 3:15. If this is true, then Genesis 3:15 must be talking about Jesus Christ.
This inference is verified in Revelation chapter 12. We read symbolically of the great Dragon (“the ancient serpent,” v. 9) who is poised to consume the offspring, the man-child, of the woman. The male offspring was the “one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron” (v. 5). Clearly, this is Jesus Christ. The woman as an individual is likely Mary, the new Eve, the mother of Jesus; but collectively the woman is the Jewish nation, which birthed our Lord. Immediately after his birth, the child is snatched up to heaven, while God’s great army of angels wages relentless war against Satan and his hosts. We read, “And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated” (v. 7; see also v. 10). This is a symbolic fulfillment of Genesis 3:15, and Jesus Christ is the offspring of the woman who fulfills it.
God says he creates hostility between these two offspring. The course of history is the great cosmic conflict between the children of God and the children of the devil. It is a holy war, the greatest and most momentous war in history. The woman’s offspring will win, but not without a great conflict, and at great cost. The serpent will crush the heel of the woman’s offspring. No doubt this refers chiefly to the agonizing death of Jesus Christ, but also to the suffering of the church at the hands of Satan and an ungodly world (1 Pet. 2:21). Like our Lord, we will be victorious, but the victory won’t be easy.
We don’t often understand the magnitude of this victory because we don’t understand the magnitude of the sin that it is calculated to overcome. Sin wreaks havoc everywhere it touches, and it touches everything in the created order.
Sin wreaks havoc between man and his fellow man. Right after our first parents were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their oldest son Cain murdered their youngest son Abel.
Sin wreaks havoc between man and his environment. God cursed the created order, not because it’s evil itself, but because of man’s sin. Man’s task of stewarding creation is now a burden to him. The animals aren’t in full harmony with man. The weather, the environment, can be destructive to man’s purposes.
Sin wreaks havoc within man himself. When Adam and Eve sinned, they experienced a strange new sensation: guilt. This is why they sewed fig leaves to cover their nakedness and hid themselves from God. Sin disrupted their internal peace and order, what God calls the “heart.”
Finally, and most importantly, sin wreaks havoc between man and God. Man hides from God. Man is at war with God, and man born into the world is God’s enemy (Rom. 5:10; Eph. 2:3).
Sin poisons everything it touches, and it touches everything. All humanity participates in Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:12f.), including humanity today. Our world is a sinful world. The poison is everywhere, inside us and outside us, everywhere we turn. It poisons our education. It poisons our politics. It poisons our technology. It poisons our science. It poisons our art. It poisons our music. Evil is pervasive.
But God sent Jesus Christ to crush the evil. That’s the Gospel promise of Genesis 3:15.
There’s the related promissory metaphor in Psalm 110:1 —
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
This is the same general idea we find in Genesis 3:15. “Both phrases,” writes Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “were oriental pictures from the ancient Near East of vanquished mortals: they laid face down prostrate before the conquering monarchs often forming nothing more than a footstool for his throne.” What’s especially riveting about this passage is that it’s the most frequently quoted Old Testament verse by New Testament speakers and writers — a whopping 22 times. Apparently, they thought it was profoundly significant. It also just happens to be a promise.
The right hand of the ruler is the place of the vicegerent, the joint ruler. He sits next to the king and shares in his kingship and authority. In Psalm 110:1, Jehovah says to his chosen One that he has bruised his enemies under the feet of the one sharing his rule, and he simply uses them as his footstool.
The New Testament makes clear that the ruler sitting next to the universal king is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, in Peter’s Pentecostal sermon a few weeks after our Lord’s ascension, he directly ties that ascension to our Lord’s assuming the heavenly throne from which he rules next to the Father (Ac. 2:22–36). Jesus rose from the dead in great triumph, ascended to his heavenly throne, and from that throne he rules the world. It’s from that throne that Jesus showers his gifts on his citizens. At Pentecost, of course, those gifts included the mighty, onrushing power of the Holy Spirit to begin spreading this kingly gospel to the world. That’s how Peter interpreted Psalm 110:1.
Second, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul adds to that interpretation. He lays out the sequence of redemptive history: Adam sinned and brought death to the world, but Jesus Christ brought life — resurrection life. Our Lord rose from the dead, and as a result, he reigns over the earth, subjugating all enemies under his feet. After he has subdued all his enemies, he’ll deliver the kingdom back to God the Father, at which time death itself will be destroyed (vv. 21–28). He’s reigning until all his enemies are crushed under his feet (see also Phil. 2:5–11). His reign is progressive. It’s a progress to victory.
Third, in Hebrews 10:12–13 we read this —
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
The writer of Hebrews adds a twist to the interpretation of Psalm 110:1. He’s intent to argue that our Lord’s atoning death is far superior to the old covenant sacrifices, and that one of its goals was precisely to install Jesus Christ as victor over his enemies. In other words, Jesus’ death on the cross is designed to crush the head of his enemies. This is just what we expect after reading Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 110:1. It’s at the cross that he crushes his enemies.
Synthesizing these texts, here’s the picture we get: God created a good world, but Satan used the serpent to lead Adam to sin. That sin poisoned all humanity. But God promised that he would use his Son to crush Satan and sin. Jesus came to earth to crush his sinful enemies under his feet, which is what he did at the cross and resurrection. He ascended to his Father’s throne and assumed his royal position as ruler of the cosmos. He will reign until all of his enemies are placed under his feet. God sent his Son to defeat evil, and he tells us how he will defeat that evil.
In many ways, Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 110:1 lay out the basic Biblical worldview: Creation-Fall-Redemption. God created a good world, and employed man created in his image as his deputy to steward that world, but Satan led man to sin. God’s solution is to send his Son to redeem man in order to restore him to his exalted, pre-Fall position. Satan thought he was destroying God’s good world, but through Jesus Christ, God gets the last laugh. God’s destroying evil by means of his Son, Jesus Christ.