One of the great keys to understanding the nature of Jesus’ saving work is to understand the nature of the curse pronounced by God on His rebellious image bearers. No sooner did Adam sin against God, bringing guilt and corruption to the who human race, that God came with the covenant curses commensurate with the actions of His creatures. He first pronounces the curse on the evil One, who tempted our first parents to rebel against God; then He pronounced the curse on the woman and finally He pronounced the curse on the man–the federal head of all humanity. What is most fascinating about these curses is that they are strategically given in the order in which each creature rebelled, and they are strategically placed with regard to the role that each was to play in fulfilling the creation mandate to “have dominion” by being “fruitful and multiplying,” and by filling the earth and subduing it. In short, Adam and Eve were to turn the world into the Garden by obeying God and by populating and cultivating this world that God had created to be a habitable inheritance for His image bearers. Here are five thoughts about the curses and the way in which God reverses the curse through the second Adam in His work of redemption and new creation:
1. The first curse was place on the serpent because he was the first to rebel and the first to bring disorder into God’s world. The Scriptures make clear that “the Son of God was manifest to destroy the work of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The rest of the Bible is, in the words of Sinclair Ferguson, “essentially an extended footnote to Genesis 3:15.” It is the unfolding of the enmity that God set between Satan and his seed and the woman and her seed. Of course, we need to recognize that the word ‘Seed’ in Scripture is first singular and masculine in nature, but that a plurality of persons is included in it in a secondary and related sense. It carries the idea of the One (i.e. Christ) and the man. In this first curse, there is a promise. This is the first promise of a Redeemer. God promises to crush the head of the serpent, even as the serpent attacks and bruises the heal of the Seed of the woman. In the warfare between the serpent and the Seed of the woman, the serpent would experience a fatal wound while the Redeemer would experience a wound that was meant to be fatal but which would be as if he only had his heal bruised. The difference between the two wounds is that the Redeemers would be remedied in His resurrection from the dead. Stuart Robinson, an old Southern Presbyterian theologian, in his biblical-theological masterpiece Discourses of Redemption, set out eight things that Adam and Eve could have known from this first promise. He explained that they could have known:
That the Redeemer and Restorer of the race is to be man, since he is to be the seed of the woman.
That He is, at the same time, to be a being greater than man, and greater even than Satan; since he is to be the conqueror of man’s conqueror, and, against all his efforts, to recover a sinful world which man had lost; being yet sinless, he must therefore be divine.
That this redemption shall involve a new nature, at “enmity” with the Satan nature, to which man has now become subject.
That this new nature is a regeneration by Divine power; since the enmity to Satan is not a natural emotion, but, saith Jehovah, ” I will put enmity,” &c.
This redemption shall be accomplished by vicarious suffering; since the Redeemer shall suffer the bruising of his heel in the work of recovery.
That this work of redemption shall involve the gathering out of an elect seed a ” peculiar people” at enmity with the natural offspring of a race subject to Satan.
That this redemption shall involve & perpetual conflict of the peculiar people, under its representative head, in the effort to bruise the head of Satan, that is, ‘to destroy the works of the Devil.’
This redemption shall involve the ultimate triumph, after suffering, of the woman’s seed ; and therefore involves a triumph over death and a restoration of the humanity to its original estate, as a spiritual in conjunction with a physical nature, in perfect blessedness as before its fall.