Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
It was the devil, who had used the mouth of the serpent to tempt Adam and Eve, whom God addressed in what is called the mother promise of Genesis 3:15. Although by implication it is a rich covenant promise of salvation for the elect children of God, it was not addressed to man, although it was spoken in his hearing. Undeniably it was a gracious promise of complete salvation; and for Satan it was no promise but an announcement of coming punishment for him and his followers. Being called the mother promise it did cast a shadow of the complete and wonderful victory over Satan, over all the fallen angels, and over all the unbelievers who would be conceived and born on this earth.
Why was it not addressed to Adam and Eve? Because it presented that which still had to take place as far as the elect are concerned; and the punishment that falls on the ungodly must not be pushed into the background. God’s sovereignty and holiness must be revealed and announced. What is more, Adam and Eve had died spiritually, even as God said that they would, the day that they ate of the forbidden fruit. That being the case, they could not yet believe and rejoice in this wonderful truth of salvation. They must first be born again, before they could receive and enjoy that mother promise. To Satan God announces His intention to save them from his evil influence and power, make them spiritually alive, and implant in them love for Himself. We may believe, however, that even as He spoke this announcement of punishment upon Satan and his followers, and of putting all his work to naught, He did cause Adam and Eve to be born again and to believe this announcement as a promise to them. To them His word was a lamp unto their feet and a light upon their pathway, exactly because it was the revelation of God’s sovereign grace and intent to realize a most wonderful salvation through the cross of His own Son. To Adam and Eve it was the gospel, because it assured them of the crushing of Satan’s head through the crushing of the heel of God’s Son.
Here also we have a shadow of what will take place in the human race. God will put enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. Bear in mind that Satan caused the whole human race to become enemies of God, as far as their hearts were concerned. Not only is every descendant of Adam and Eve—except Christ, Who is the Son of God and was born of a virgin—born with a nature that hates God; but, as every man comes into this world spiritually dead, it is absolutely impossible for one to change himself and cause himself to begin to love God. In fact, every heart hates the very idea of being changed from hatred toward God unto love for Him. And God here promises to these spiritually dead enemies that He will make a complete change, by giving them a new spiritual life. In fact, what God promises here is a spiritual life that will not die, like Adam’s and Eve’s first spiritual life did die. Here is the shadow; but the reality we read of is in the New Testament in I John 3:9 where we read, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” That which does not exist cannot cast a shadow. Only real objects cast shadows. Here in the mother promise we have presented to us the shadow of what will be seen in the new Jerusalem, when we shall have bodies and souls that love God completely and unceasingly.
The question does arise, however, as to why the woman is mentioned and not the man. One might expect the promise to say that God would put enmity between the devil and the man. He is the head not only of the human race but also of the family. Some even question whether Adam was changed into a believer. They claim that only Eve was born again and hated the devil and sin, since Adam is not mentioned in this mother promise. Two things, therefore, must be stated. The woman was the first to sin, and she caused the man to sin by her desire to be like God, when Satan came to her with the lie. Assuring her of a spiritual change implies that he whom she deceived will also be changed and be made to hate the devil and sin. Since the promise is to the sinner who first fell, and who was used to get her husband to fall, it certainly includes him whom she induced into sin.
What is more, the word woman is not limited to Eve. It refers to the whole church—even as the words “thy seed,” which refers to all under Satan’s power, include not only the unbelieving world but also all the fallen angels who in a spiritual sense are also Satan’s seed. And do not overlook the fact that the church is the bride of Christ. All belonging to that woman are that true church, that bride of Christ, and are given this promise; whether they be male or female. However, it is given only to the elect in what man calls church. In fact, the very first child born to Adam and Eve, Cain the murderer, did not belong to that seed of the woman. He had enmity against the woman and her seed. In fact, an amazing shadow fell very early in the development of the human race, as we hope to consider next time, a shadow that revealed many descendants of the woman who hate the “seed of the woman.”
Now, having given Adam and Eve this promise, God drove them out of the garden of Eden. This brought a very painful and different life to the flesh of man. In the sweat of his brow man would now have to work for his bread. But consider the fact that this also was a work of God’s grace, and that “all things work together” in that grace “for good to those that love God.” Take a good hold also on what Paul wrote after those words in. Romans 8:28. In Romans 8:38, 39 he wrote, “For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul could have said that before Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden. Then too he could have said that neither anything present, nor anything to come, could separate us from the love of God. Every act that God performs for and upon the seed of the woman, the church that is Christ’s bride, is one in love, mercy, and grace.
Yes, driving Adam and Eve out of the garden and into a realm of thorns and thistles was a shadow of what the church would have until Christ returns. We must not for a moment deny that God did this in His grace. Remember, first of all, that even though they were born again, they still had their old evil natures; and the temptation was there to go to that tree of life in an attempt to escape the death that God said would come upon them the day that they ate of that other special tree in the garden. From this sin they must be kept; and in the way of physical death they will go to that more wonderful life in the new Jerusalem, through Christ, The Seed of the Woman. You may be sure that the new temptation of Satan to get them to be like God, by the act of eating of that tree of life, and of putting to naught God’s word that they would die, was there with tremendous power.
No, Adam and Eve must be driven out of that garden and away from that tree of life for their spiritual well-being. God’s grace keeps us from sin as well as from the punishment of sin. We are so often more—and often only—concerned with the punishment our sins demand, rather than with the sin itself. Satan tempted Adam and Eve and succeeded in getting them to sin. But God drives them away from the temptation of seeking to escape the punishment of that sin by eating of the tree of life. This he did in His love, mercy, and grace. And we do have a shadow of His protecting care upon the seed of the woman.
There are sins we must commit because they are in His sovereign, eternal, unchangeable counsel. This sin of Adam and Eve was in that counsel and was therefore necessary, so that we could through the bruising of the heal of The Seed of The Woman reach a higher glory than man had before he fell. And the driving of man out of the garden is a shadow of man being led to the richer covenant fellowship we will have in Christ. There are sins the seed of the serpent plans and wants to perform which are kept from them, not in a common grace, but in God’s providence. Esau wanted to and planned to kill Jacob. In His grace to His church, and in fulfilling that mother-promise to the seed of the serpent, the sovereign, almighty God kept him from that sin. This was not an act of common grace however. The mother promise clearly and undeniably teaches that God has no grace for the seed of the serpent. Their heads are going to be crushed! Ahab was not successful in his intention to kill Elijah; but his failure was not in any degree of grace toward him on God’s part. God’s grace is only upon the seed of the woman. Yea, in that grace to His people God did decree that terrible sin of crucifying His Son for our salvation. That was in grace to the seed of the woman, for God’s grace rests only upon them. We ought not confuse His providence with His grace.
God gives many earthly possessions to the seed of the serpent. In fact, He gave Satan life, and has not yet cast him into the lake of fire. He gave and kept in him a crafty, brilliant mind; but all this is not in His grace. God’s grace is inseparable from His love and mercy. Call His deeds works of grace and you call them works of love and mercy. But listen to Him then, when in I John 2:15 He tells us not to love the world, and that if any man “love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” No, if there is a common grace of God, He would keep from the seed of the serpent earthly things, and give them a very short life. For then their sins would be less, and their punishment would not be as great as it is going to be. One has to be inseparably united to Christ in order to be dealt with in God’s grace. One must be of the seed of the woman in order to be a recipient of God’s love and mercy, and thus also of His grace.
It was an act of God’s grace to the seed of the woman that drove them away from that glorious life in the garden of Eden. In the first place, we need to feel the curse which we deserve, in order to be caused to look to God and that Seed of the woman, who will blot out our guilt and realize for us a kingdom far more wonderful, a kingdom of heaven where our covenant fellowship with God will be much richer than it could have been, had Adam not sinned; and much richer than Adam could have enjoyed apart from Christ and His cross.
Our flesh does not like our afflictions, and Adam and Eve suffered a tremendous loss as far as their flesh is concerned. But listen to God as He spoke through Paul in II Corinthians 4:17: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” And let us go back again to what was quoted from Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to those that love God.” In that light we can see that man, being driven out of that beautiful garden and away from that tree of life, was in God’s grace led by Him in the right way.
And although it may not look that way to our natural eye, being driven out of the garden of Him in the right way. Eden, Adam and Eve were caused to take a step toward the new Jerusalem, where there will be no sin, and where covenant fellowship with God shall, through His Son and His cross (but also in His love, mercy, and grace) be indescribably greater and more wonderful. That step out of the garden was a shadow of our stepping forward to the new creation and to a life with God that Adam and Eve did not know before they fell.
Adam and Eve were leaving what we call paradise. But, as painful as it was, they were walking to that new Jerusalem. They seemed to be walking downhill; but actually, when we understand God’s wisdom and grace in Christ, it was walking uphill to a far more wonderful life. And the death of a saint today is a step upward and not downward. David said that in Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”