Conflict Of The Ages Between The Woman's Seed And Serpent
“The dragon stood before the woman,…to devour her child.”—Revelation 12:4
This attitude on the part of Satan indicates persistent, relentless and aggressive opposition to the purposes of God in human redemption, to be accomplished through the seed of the woman.
May we go back to the third chapter of Genesis, where the great conflict of the ages begins, and read a few verses.
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman. Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
“But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.”
Here is an illustration of the great peril of adding anything to God’s Word. God had said nothing about touching it. The woman put that in. Tell me which is the worse, to take something out of the Bible that is there, or to put something into the Bible that is not there? One is just as bad as the other. “Add thou not unto the Word lest he reprove thee and thou be found a liar.”
“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” He did not dare to say that in the first place. Mother Eve would have repudiated the contradiction. But he threw a doubt upon God’s veracity, and when that doubt had distilled to deadly poison in the mind, he followed it up with a denial. “Hath God said?”
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat; and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”
Beginning of Sin
Here is the beginning of sin. Will you please note four transitive verbs. She saw, took, ate, she gave, and the deed was done.
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.
“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God, amongst the trees of the garden.
“And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?”
That proves that Adam was lost and that God was seeking for him. God and man have been at this game of hide and seek ever since. Man has done nothing but hide and God has done nothing but seek. “The son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Adam said: “I heard thy voice in the garden and I was afraid.” Prior to this time when Adam heard the voice of God he ran to meet Him. Now he hears that voice and he runs away to hide. Conscience doeth make cowards of us all. God said, “Hast thou eaten of the tree?” And the man said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”
He laid the blame on the circumstances, and since God created those circumstances, indirectly he laid the blame on God, and from that time every sinner has sought to exculpate himself and inculpate God.
Modern philosophy defines sin as heredity plus environment. Where is human responsibility? It makes God the author of sin, and no man can ever be saved until he stops going about to establish his own righteousness and repudiates his own merit, and gets down in the dust before Almighty God and cries out, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” There salvation begins.
“And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”
Adam passed it on to his wife, and his wife passed it on to the serpent, and then the Lord talked to the serpent. “Because thou hast done this, thou are cursed.”
Thanks be to God, He did not curse the man and he did not curse the woman, but he cursed the serpent.
Let us note the fifteenth verse. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruiser his heel.”
This is called the pro-evangelism, the first preaching of the Gospel. The first three chapters of Genesis are the seedplot of the Bible. Every doctrine of the Gospel developed in the New Testament can be traced back to the first three chapters of the Bible.
Here is the Gospel in this prophecy, and here is the first bit of prophecy in the Bible. Prophecy is always associated with failure. In the Old Testament under the law there are rules and regulations for the priests and for the Levites and for all those who are connected in any way with the work and worship of God, even down to the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, but no word for the prophet. Why? Did not God intend that there should be prophets? We do not find the prophet or the prophecy until failure comes in.
Prophecy came in on the ruins of the priesthood and the first great prophecy of the Bible comes in upon the fall of man, the advent of sin. Here begins the conflict of the ages between holiness and sin, between good and evil, between heaven and hell.
Let us look at this age-long conflict. The dragon stood before the woman to devour her child, but here is hope in Genesis 3:15. The hope for lost humanity is in the seed of the woman, and the prediction declares that the serpent should bruise his heel, affecting him in the least vital part, the most remote from the head. But the seed of the woman shall crush the serpent’s head, affecting him on the most vital part, and accomplishing his utter destruction.
We find the first stage of the conflict in the sixth chapter of Genesis, verses 11 and 12.
“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.
“And God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted His way upon the earth.”
Satan sought to invalidate the Word of God by ruining all mankind. But there was one family that had kept its purity and probity, and that family God intervened to save. Noah was just a man and he feared God, and by faith he prepared an ark to the saving of his house, and God saved those eight souls from the water by the water, and the purpose of Satan was brought to naught.
Then we have come down to the history of Abraham. In the twelfth chapter of Genesis there are two denials of Sarah recorded in the Word of God. Why are those two events picked out of the patriarch’s biography? The reason is this. Those are the two things that threatened the promised seed. If the legal wife of Abraham became a member of Pharaoh’s harem, what would have become of the promised seed? Sarah had no sooner come to Gerar than Abimelech took her, but God intervened and did not allow so much as a finger to be laid upon her. He gave Sarah back to her lawful husband.
But the years went on and Abraham said, Alas! God’s promise is unavailing. One born in my house is my heir, Eliezer of Damascus. God said, No! Then, again, as the years went on, through the counsel of Sarah, his wife, Ishmael came into existence. And Abraham said, Oh, that Ishmael might live before Thee. But God again said, No! And in due time Isaac, the child of promise, came.
Coming down to the 41st chapter of Genesis, Jacob and his family come into view. A great famine was in the land. It seemed as if the whole family was threatened with destruction. The rumor came that there was corn in Egypt. How did it happen? He sent a man before them, even Joseph, and the granaries of Egypt were placed at his disposal. When, afterwards, Joseph became reconciled to his brethren, he said, Ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. God sees the end from the beginning, and God saved the family of Jacob from starvation by His foreseeing grace.
In Egypt Satan sought the destruction of the promised seed through the death of the first-born. Pharaoh was only the agent of the serpent. Pharaoh’s purpose was political, but Satan’s purpose was theological. Every male child must be put to death. But when the father and mother of Moses saw that he was a proper child, they spared his life. See that little cradle of reeds rocking on the bosom of the Nile. The Egyptian princess sees the helpless babe. A tear glistens on her cheek. What a trifle! Yet the destiny of the people of God and the promised seed of the woman hangs upon that falling tear. The life of Moses was saved and Israel delivered from the house of bondage. When they came out of Egypt it seemed as if the nation would be destroyed. They came down to the Red Sea, mountains shut down on either side, the Egyptian army behind them. What could save them? A Divine intervention. God made bare His holy arm and brought them through the sea and out on dry land. By faith the Israelites passed over, while the Egyptians essaying to do so were drowned.
A Royal Line
God told David, in 2 Samuel 7, that a royal line would come through him. In that chapter where God validates His promise, 2 Chronicles 21, we have another apparently successful attempt of the serpent to destroy the seed of the woman.
“But when Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah.” She thought every living representative of that royal line was put to death in that awful massacre. Now it seems as if at last the serpent is triumphant and the purpose of God had been thwarted. What would the faithful in Israel think, to hear the message given forth that all the seed royal had been slain? God again intervened. Jehoshabeath, the daughter of the king, took Joash, the son of Ahaziah and stole him and put him in a bedchamber and nobody knew anything about it, save this good woman, the wife of the priest, and the baby’s nurse.
Now a little tender babe is the only thing on which hangs the promise of Almighty God in human redemption. And when I think of what a baby has to go through to run the gauntlet, I declare it is a marvel that a baby ever grows up to be a man or a woman. What a wonder it is that a baby can ever survive the accidents and the sicknesses and the misfortunes that are thrown around infancy and youth and childhood.
All the promises of God’s covenant of salvation hangs upon that slender thread. There came a day when an apostate was on the throne. When the priest of God went out and told the faithful in Israel that the king was alive and was coming to the throne. Six years had passed. When the seventh year came they organized a conspiracy in Israel, and they brought this heir apparent to the throne and when they saw that indeed it was he, they raised their voices and said: “God save the king.” And the usurper and apostate was dethroned and destroyed.
In the book of Esther we find another attack. The decree went forth that all the Jews on Earth should be murdered. Again God intervened. Ahasuerus had a fit of insomnia one night. A very natural thing. Why, you may wake up any night for a little while and go to sleep again and forget all about it. But here was a wakeful king. He said, What shall I do to fall asleep? He called for the court records. Perhaps the driest thing he could think of. And the reader had not finished the page before the king was wide awake. What has ever been done for that man, Mordecai? Nothing. Bring this to my attention on the morrow. When Haman came in to ask that Mordecai might swing from the gallows, he himself was chosen instead, and in due time Haman was swinging from the gibbet that was built for Mordecai.
When Columbus was sailing westward over the sea, a flock of birds flew athwart the bow of his flagship. He changed his course and followed the flock of birds. He landed on what is now Spanish America,…The destiny of this mighty nation was determined by the flight of a flock of birds.
The Advent of the Saviour
Coming down briefly to the New Testament, we have the advent of the Saviour, the promised seed of the woman. In the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, made under the law, born of a woman. It is possible that the dragon might have been taken by surprise. Satan is not omniscient. It is possible, I say, that he does not understand prophecy, for character rather than culture is the condition by which the prophecies are made plain.
The serpent woke up one morning and found the Seed of the woman was here, and through the bloody decree of Herod he tried to atone for that oversight by slaying every male child under two years. What was it that saved the child? Nothing but the intervention of God. “Arise, take the young child and his mother and flee into the land of Egypt.”
When the Saviour grew to manhood and preached His ordination sermon, the dragon organized a mob to rush Him up to the precipice and cast him down. But in some way, natural or supernatural, He passed through the midst of that mob in safety and peace.
Again, after preaching one of His wonderful sermons, claiming to be the Son of God and asserting His identity with the Father, the mob gathered and said, “This is blasphemy.” And they intended to stone Him to death. Again His life was saved. How, we do not know.
At two different times when the Seed of the woman was sailing the lake of Galilee, the dragon sent a mighty storm and it looked as if it would drown Him in the lake. Those fishermen aroused Him from His slumber and said, “Master, we are going down!” Then He rose up and said, “Peace!” And the mountainous waves were silent and the roaring winds subsided.
Again and again the dragon sought to take the life of the Seed of the woman. It seemed almost that he succeeded in Gethsemane, before He could ever reach the Cross. For when a man’s life-blood begins to ooze through the pores of his skin, he is very near his end. God sent a mighty angel down from heaven to strengthen Him and to keep the breath of life in Him until He could reach the Cross. When he died at the last upon the Cross it might seem as if the dragon had at last accomplished his desire. But it was not so much the work of the dragon as a voluntary oblation of himself.
“I lay down my life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
Although Satan has the power of death, he could not exercise that power without permission. But when at last the blessed Son bowed his head upon the Cross and said, “It is finished,” and died, it might seem as if the dragon had fulfilled his purpose and brought to naught the promises of God.
There was the King, and the Word of God declared that he King should sit upon the throne and wield the scepter of the world empire. Now He was cold in death. His spirit was in hades, and His body was a corpse. Alas for the prophecies of the Bible. The age-long conflict of the ages has ended and the dragon is the victor. He has brought the Seed of the woman under the power of death, and now He holds Him a hopeless prisoner in the dark domain of the underworld.
The King’s Son
Then what happens? Almighty God raised Him from the dead. God has been intervening ever since the promise was given in Paradise. He comes down once more to thwart the dragon, and then the worst thing that could come to the woman’s seed comes upon Him, and He is dead and buried. And to make the victory sure, the seal of Rome is placed on that sepulcher and a Roman guard is around the spot. God intervened once more and he raised Him from the grave.
Now the proclamation is sounded forth. The King’s son is not dead. He is alive. The world knows it not. The world saw the last of Him when they buried Him. The world will never see Him again until He comes in the clouds to judge the world. But the saved can see Him. We have had an introduction to the heir-apparent.
The King’s son is not dead. He is alive, seated at the right hand, and He is coming to claim the Throne of His father, David. So we are waiting the great finale—of the conflict of the ages, and when the curtain falls at the last there will be seated the Son of man, the Son of God upon the Throne, with the scepter of universal empire in His pierced hands, and the dragon consigned to the lake of fire, for the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, and the Word of the living God stands sure forever.
So we take our stand upon this eternal Word. It is impossible for God to lie and His Almighty power is behind the Word. God is never taken by surprise. God never changes His mind. Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Let us take sides with God today against the dragon and believe God, and believe His Word, and enroll ourselves under that Divine standard, and join that faithful company to put Jesus on the Throne and make Jesus King.
—Sermon delivered at The Moody Church by Frederic W. Farr, D.D. of Los Angeles, California.