What God has said here in Genesis 3 is that he is giving a divinely established struggle between the woman and her descendants and Satan. We are terribly depraved, but we don’t automatically assume that Satan is right. That is a blessing that results from the warfare that goes on. We have a fallen spirit within, and that is why we are in dreadful danger all the time of being drawn after Satan—because that within us inclines in his direction. But, you see, it isn’t wholehearted, and there is a struggle involved even when we sin as sinners. When we sin, we want to be happy in it, but we find that we can’t be. That is because this is still a moral universe, and God has set up the antagonism. When we rebel against God, we find it doesn’t work out very well. And so, there is both an inclination towards sin and a repulsion from it. When God established this antagonism, he gave a very great blessing to the human race.
Now there is a second struggle here in Genesis, and that is between the offspring of Satan and the offspring of the woman. What is the offspring of Satan? Offspring probably refers to those who are the children of the world—those who go in Satan’s way—as opposed to those who are God’s children and go in his way. Here in Genesis God is referring to conflict between the godly and the wicked. Certainly there is no question that there is conflict. You can’t read the Psalms without understanding the conflict, and it is there in other places in Scripture as well. The only question we might have at that point is why such a conflict can be described as gracious.
Well, let me remind you of a hymn written by the great English hymn writer Isaac Watts. It is the hymn we know by the title, “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” It has within it these lines:
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?
In the context of that hymn, what Isaac Watts is supposing is a “no” answer to the question, “Is this vile world a friend to grace to help me on to God?” He is suggesting that it is no friend of ours. The world is a foe, and we have to fight against it. But there is a sense in which this vile world is a friend to grace to lead us on to God, because when we understand that it is our enemy, as well as an enemy of God, we draw close to Jesus Christ in order that we might stand against it. If there were no struggle, we would just drift along, and fall into immorality and all sorts of things. However, if God has caused there to be warfare for those who follow after Jesus Christ, well, then, the very fact that the warfare is there makes us strong as we draw near to Jesus Christ. He alone is our strength.
And yet the third of these struggles—the struggle between Christ and the devil—is the greatest of all and the one for which the text is given. What the text says is that one day a Deliverer is going to come who is the seed of the woman. This is going to be a battle that is greater than any of the other battles, because it is going to be a battle to the death. And in this great battle between the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and Satan, Satan is going to succeed to the extent that he is going to bruise the heel of Jesus. That is always understood as a reference to the cross. But although it is a real wound, it is not a permanent wound, and Jesus rises from the dead on the third day. But in the process, Jesus the Son of God is going to crush the head of Satan, which means to destroy Satan and his works.
That is the great thing that is prophesied here, and to which the Old Testament saints looked forward. I think that when the Lord Jesus Christ was born, as we celebrate at Christmas, Satan must have literally clapped his hands with glee because for the first time in all the long history of the race, the Almighty was, as it were, within his power. As long as the Trinity was enthroned in heaven, God was unassailable. How could Satan reach God when God is sitting on the throne of heaven surrounded by the heavenly legions? Satan couldn’t do anything about God there. He hated him. He’d pull him down if he could, but he couldn’t do it.