Key To The Understanding Of The Scriptures


(6) The Promise of Redemption

God's Three Covenants of Promise.

Our previous study showed that due to the state into which mankind fell as a result of sin, redemption is a dire need. We now draw attention to the hope of Redemption. This is set forth in three great covenants of promise which form the basis of all Bible teaching.

References to them are found throughout the Scriptures, and particularly in such statements as the following:

"Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; and that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy" (Rom. 15:8-9).

"There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter 1:4).

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13).

The first of these three covenants of promise was given in Eden, after Adam and Eve had sinned; and it promised life in contrast to the state of mortality to which they had become subject in consequence of sin.

The second was made to Abraham, as he wandered a stranger and homeless in the land to which he had been directed, and it promised him an eternal inheritance.

The third was made to King David, and set forth the hope of a settled, enduring throne of glory, free from the enmity that he had experienced during his lifetime.

There is progression in those three great covenants of promise.

The Edenic Covenant (Genesis 3:15) promised mankind what had been lost through sin: even LIFE.

The Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12, 13, 22), promised that which Abraham lacked: an earthly possession where that life could be lived, even an ETERNAL INHERITANCE.

The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7), promised Divine RULE on earth, by which the inheritance will be efficiently governed.

The first offered LIFE; the second promised INHERITANCE; the third proclaimed eternal AUTHORITY.

In each case, that which was promised, and which is to be obtained only in Christ, is greater than that which was lost, or given up.

The LIFE promised in Eden is ETERNAL and therefore greater than that which was lost through sin.

The INHERITANCE promised Abraham will be FOREVER, and therefore more than compensates for that which he gave up when he left Ur to serve God.

The KINGDOM promised David will be both SECURE and EVERLASTING, and therefore far more glorious than that over which he reigned and which was subsequently overthrown.

Moreover, these three covenants of promise which shall be outlined in detail in subsequent studies, form the basis of every doctrine, teaching and prophecy contained in the Bible.

Redemption Promised In Eden.

To gain the background to the first, or Edenic, Covenant of promise, please read Genesis 2:15-17 where God's law to man is stated, and Genesis 3 where the circumstances of the fall are outlined.

The promise of redemption is stated in Genesis 3:15:

"I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed. It shall bruise thy head; and thou shalt bruise his heel."

In seeking the true meaning of The Bible, it is always valuable to consider the background.

We recommend that you read again Genesis 3, observing the following sections:

  1. The Temptation .... vs. 1-5.
  2. The Fall .... vs. 6-7.
  3. The Inquest .... vs. 8-13
  4. The Judgment .... vs. 14-19.
  5. The Token of Redemption .... vs. 20-21.
  6. The Expulsion .... vs. 22-24.

It is not our intention to expound upon every detail of this chapter, though we shall be very happy to consider any questions you might ask in regard to it. Our main intention is to concentrate attention upon the covenant of promise contained in verse 15.

The passage should be interpreted figuratively and not literally. It proclaims the decree of God to establish "enmity" between the "serpent" and the "woman", and between the seed of both, and announces His intention of providing a "seed" from the woman who would completely destroy the "serpent".

Many make the mistake of teaching that the serpent related to satan as a fallen angel, but the punishment imposed upon it (v. 14), and God's description of it as being "cursed above all the beasts of the field" shows that this is wrong.

The serpent was an animal that temporarily had the power of speech. As a "beast of the field" it symbolised the flesh, and when it spake, it did so as one motivated only by the flesh, and not by reverence towards God or His word.

The serpent was the "father of lies" (John 8:44), for it had falsely declared: "Thou shalt not surely die" (Gen. 3:4), and by its insidious suggestion, it had led Eve into sin.

In the figurative language of Genesis 3:15, therefore, it stands as a symbol for the "thinking of the flesh" which leads to error, sin and death, and which is at "enmity with God" (Romans 8:3).

On the other hand, though Eve had sinned, she had proclaimed the Truth that God had taught her (vs. 2-3), so that in this declaration of the Divine purpose, she is used as representing the Mind of God, which proclaims truth, and sets forth principles of righteousness and life.

Between these two ways of thought: between Truth and Error, or the Mind of God and the mind of the flesh, there exists enmity; and God has so designed it because His ways are so much higher than those of flesh. This enmity has resulted in religious controversy throughout the age, so fierce and unrelenting, that the blood of thousands has been shed, whose only crime has been their refusal to bow before the forces of error which have often masqueraded under the name of Christ.

This enmity, or conflict, is also manifested within the mind of every individual who would seek to do God's will, for he will inevitably find that it is at variance with his natural desires. Paul's experience is that of all. He wrote:

"I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do" (Romans 7:18-19).

He wrote of two modes of thinking which a person can manifest, and he showed the ultimate result of both:

"To be carnally minded (the minding, or thinking of the flesh see margin) is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:6-7).

With a mind enlivened by the Truth, Paul desired to serve God, but be found that he constantly fell short of the standard set him in Christ because of the strong impulses of the flesh. How could he obtain the victory over the flesh? That was the problem that daily faced him. The answer is, only by the forgiveness of sin that God grants in Christ Jesus (Romans 7:18-23).

A conflict raged in the mind of the Apostle as he considered the requirements of righteousness, and the demands of the flesh. All who would live in accordance with the precepts of Christ experience the same conflict, but through the strength available through him (Phil. 4:13), they can gain the victory.

It is a matter of encouragement to those who may be depressed with a sense of failure to attain unto the standard set by Christ, that even the great apostle Paul had to lament the same inability, and seek the forgiveness of God in Christ.

Thus we conclude that a state of antagonism exists between Truth and Error, and Righteousness and Sin, in which the latter are temporarily in the ascendancy, and that condition illustrates the first part of the declaration of Genesis 3:15: "1 will put enmity between thee and the woman . . ."

The Woman's Seed And The Serpent's Seed.

The declaration of Genesis 3:15 states that enmity would also exist between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. These terms also should be interpreted figuratively.

The serpent's lie brought mankind under the influence of the "law of sin and death" (Romans 7:23, 25; 8:3). The effect was that man became subject to an intensification of fleshly desire, and to a state of mortality that ends in death. In a figurative sense, therefore, the serpent is used as a symbol of fallen human nature.

The term "seed of the serpent" represents those who are governed by the lusts of the flesh to the exclusion of God's way. The Lord Jesus used the figure in describing the religious-minded but self-righteous Scribes and Pharisees: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, bow can ye escape the condemnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33).

On the other hand, the "Seed of the woman" are those who are governed by the teaching of God. The foremost of these is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is pre- eminently the seed of the woman who was provided to destroy the serpent power, and others become of that "seed" in a multitudinous sense by being inducted "into him" (see Gal. 3:26-29). Concerning him, Paul wrote that he was "made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption (or status) of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5).

This first covenant, therefore, states the inevitability of conflict between two principles and two classes of persons, and its result. Those exclusively governed by the flesh, are in opposition to those ruled by the law of God. The conflict is unto death, although, through the mercy of God, the ultimate victory of the righteous is sure.

In the warfare between the two seeds, God declared that the serpent would "bruise the heel" of the seed of the woman. A bruise on the heel may cause inconvenience, and incapacitate one, but it is not fatal; a person will recover from it.

This was the case with the Lord Jesus Christ. He was figuratively "bruised by the serpent" inasmuch as he suffered the penalty due to sin. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). As Saviour of mankind, be inherited the nature common to all, a nature that had been brought under the power of death, from which he, also, had to be redeemed that he might redeem others. In his ministry, he experienced all the hostility, the enmity, that righteousness has ever experienced from the sinful and wicked, and, finally, was crucified by the serpent power of sin manifested through Jewish and Gentile rulers.

But the triumph of sin was only temporary, even as a "bruise on the heel" is not fatal. Thus the Lord Jesus rose from the dead unto life eternal, having gained the victory over sin and death.

On the other hand, the serpent was warned that the seed of the woman would "bruise thy head" (Genesis 3:15).

A fractured skull can be a fatal wound, so that in this declaration, God was predicting that the seed of the woman would destroy what the serpent had brought into being: sin and death. Though Jesus, as the seed of the woman, inherited the consequences of Adam's sin, in that he possessed a nature common to all, he triumphed over it, and opened the way to victory for all who will come unto God through him. Thus Paul taught:

"As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14).

The devil is described as that "which had the power of death." What has the power of death? As far as the Bible is concerned it is sin. Thus:

"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:55-57).

"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

But from whence come the promptings of sin? The answer is, from within, from the flesh, Jesus being witness. He declared -

"From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, wickedness . . . " (Mark 7:20-23).

Paul taught:

"I know that in me (that is, in my flesh), dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not" (Romans 7:18).

He spoke of "sin that dwelleth in me" (Romans 7:17), thus using the term as a synonym for human nature, the promptings of sin which reside in the flesh.

Christ conquered sin by triumphing over the flesh in his lifetime, and by submitting to the death upon the cross. He rose from the grave to life eternal. With this change of nature, the serpent power of sin had no longer any hold on him. It had bruised him on the heel, in that he had been put to death, but in rising from the grave, he had recovered from the blow, and in attaining unto life eternal he had administered a fatal blow to the "serpent" power as far as he was concerned.

No longer did death, which, originally had come through sin, have any claim upon him. He had been saved out of it, and made it possible for others to do so also (see Romans 5:17-19; Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15; 5:7-9).

He rose to life eternal because of his perfect obedience to the will of his Father (Acts 2:24); and he opened the way to victory and life eternal for all who would come unto God through him. Not that they will render perfect obedience, but in him they can obtain the forgiveness of sins, and the incentive to a change of life, which is impossible apart from Christ.

"He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Romans 4:25).

"Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:8-9).


The Serpent As A Symbol.

In the declaration of Genesis 3:15, the serpent is used to represent that which he manifested and produced. He gave expression to the thinking of the flesh, which led to error and sin, and finally resulted in death. As a symbol, therefore, he represented the flesh under the law of sin and death which now resides in every mortal. The following are some Bible references to the serpent in such symbology:

"I will put enmity between thee (the serpent) and the woman" (Genesis 3:15).

"Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived" (Numbers 21:9).

"The sting of death is sin" (1 Cor. 15:56).

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

The Woman As A Symbol.

She represented that which she proclaimed. She spake truth (see Genesis 3:2-3) which had been revealed to her from God, and in this she proclaimed the mind of God. Adam called her name Eve (or LIFE) because the hope of life had been promised through the seed that would come through her. She therefore represented a community that is associated with the Truth of God, and who are related to the life that it set forth. References to the woman as a symbol, representing the community of believers, are found throughout Scripture:

"I have espoused you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2).

"Therefore as the church (Gr. Ecclesia) is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands . . . Husbands love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church [Ecclesia], and gave himself for it . . . For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great secret: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Ecclesia -- or company of believers -- Eph. 5:23-32).

"The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready" (Rev. 19:7).

The Seed of the Serpent As A Symbol.

They represent those who allow the flesh in all its weakness to govern their lives, e.g.,

"Their (the wicked) poison is like the poison of a serpent" (Psalm 58:4).

"They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent: adders' poison is under their lips" (Psalm 140:3).

"Ye serpents, ye GENERATION of vipers, how can ye escape the condemnation of hell" (Matthew 23:33).

The Seed of the Woman As A Symbol.

The seed of the woman points directly to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God who administered the death blow to sin and death through his personal sacrifice, but the term is extended to all those "in him", and in whom the Word of God resides, producing His glory. As Christ was begotten by the Spirit of God, so they, in a spiritual sense, are begotten to a new life by the spirit-word. Thus:

"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1 Peter 1:23).

"Ye must be born from above" (John 3:7 -- mg).

"A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation" (Psalm 22:30).

"When thou (God) shall make his (Christ's) soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:10).

Genesis 3:15 -- Paraphrased.

"And I (God) will put enmity between thee (the serpent representing sin and death) and the woman (representing the community embracing the truth of God and seeking to obey His will), and between thy seed (the serpent's seed, representing those who allow the flesh to govern their thinking and actions) and her seed (those moved by the principles of God's Word and will, chief of whom was the Lord Jesus Christ). It (should be rendered, 'he' -- the Lord Jesus) shall bruise thy head (shall bruise the serpent on the head by destroying both the power of sin through providing the atonement for it, and the inevitability of death through a resurrection to eternal life), and thou (the serpent, representing sin and death) shalt bruise his heel (or incapacitate him by bringing him temporarily under its influence)."

The Symbology Demonstrated To Adam.

Read Genesis 3:17-23, and notice how that the symbology and teaching of Genesis 3:15 was impressed on Adam. He was told that he would be brought under the influence of death because of his sin (vs. 17-19), but immediately he responded by calling his wife's name Eve, or Life. This was because she is symbolically "the mother of all living," or those related to life. By naming his wife as he did Adam revealed his faith in the promise made.

God then revealed what this entailed: a sacrifice for sins. He made "coats of skins and clothed them" (Gen. 3:21). This pointed forward to the offering of the Lord Jesus who is described as the "Lamb of God (typically) slain from the foundation of the world". (Rev. 13:8).

The chapter thus shows the origin of sin, the punishment of death in consequence of it, the hope of life in the mercy of God, and what is required in the sacrifice of atonement.


  1. How is Genesis 3:15 to be understood? Literally or figuratively?
  2. Name the parties between which there would be manifested enmity according to God's decree.
  3. Who is the principal "Seed of the woman"?
  4. How did Christ "bruise the serpent's head"?
  5. Why did Adam call the woman "Eve" after God had revealed His plan of redemption to them?
  6. Why did He cover them with the skin of an animal?

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