EARLY PROMISES OF A REDEEMER OF MANKIND
WHEN man sinned, he fell from his high estate. God then drove him out of the Garden of Eden lest he should put forth his hand and partake of the tree of life and live forever in his fallen condition. When, however, that tragic event took place, God immediately made an announcement that He would send the Redeemer into the world who would deliver a crushing blow to Satan, the instigator of all trouble and evil.
This pronouncement is found in the language spoken by the Lord to the serpent: "And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life; and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." These verses constitute the text of the Bible. Everything that is recorded within the sacred volume is but the unfolding of this announced plan to salvage everything that is possible from the wreckage caused by Satan and sin.
In this germinal statement, one sees that there is to be a conflict between him who is called the seed of the serpent on the one hand and Him who is designated as the seed of the woman on the other. What the former will do to the latter is compared to a flesh wound upon the heel, whereas what the latter will inflict upon the former is compared to a crushing blow upon the head. While this statement has within it the embryonic thought of a struggle between the forces of good on the one hand and the powers of evil on the other, which had a partial fulfillment at Calvary, it is a definite prediction of a specific conflict that will take place between these two personalities or individuals.
In the expression "the seed of the woman" lies inherent the idea of the virgin birth of the Redeemer of mankind. If one had only this single statement and no additional information, it would be difficult for him to conceive of a definite idea regarding the virgin birth of the Savior. Nevertheless, since the genealogy of men was always reckoned through the male and never through the female, this expression immediately assumes something very extraordinary and strange about this individual. When it is read, however, in the light of later revelations, it becomes immediately apparent that what is enigmatic in the prediction is elucidated by the doctrine of the virgin birth of King Messiah. This mystery in the light of these later predictions becomes a revelation.
But who is the seed of the serpent? The proper approach to this question is a close examination of the expression "the seed of the woman." This phrase evidently is a reference to some person, a man, who, as one gathers from the context, is more than a man. Since "the seed of the serpent" has this mortal combat with "the seed of the woman," it becomes evident that he likewise, in all probability, is a man. But there is something supernatural about this individual. There are hints here and there in the Scriptures that offer clues as to his identity and activities. Since this seed of the woman, who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, is to deal a terrific blow to the "seed of the serpent," and since, according to the Book of Revelation chapter 19, Christ at His second advent will come in mortal combat with the beast, who is none other than the Antichrist described in John's first epistle, and slays him, one immediately arrives at the conclusion that probably this world dictator is the one who is referred to as the seed of the serpent. But why should such a character as he be thus designated? An examination of Revelation 13 and 17 possibly will unlock the mystery. This individual receives the death stroke in the middle of the Tribulation. But from it he is healed or restored. Prior to this incident he enjoys the period that is referred to in Revelation 17 as "the beast that thou sawest was." He is slain and thus is ushered in the time that is designated as the period when he "is not." During this time he will be in Hades; that is, his spirit will be there. But he is not to remain there always. Shortly he is restored to life; Satan bringing him back by his supernatural power and energizing him. This event seems to be the thing referred to by Paul in II Thessalonians 2:8 in the statement, "whose coming is according to the working of Satan." When he is thus brought back to life, he enters that period of his career referred to in these words, "and is about to come up out of the abyss and to go into perdition."
When he is thus brought back from the dead and Satan has full possession of him, all men who have heard but have not accepted the truth will be deceived by his supernatural powers and activity, and the whole world will wonder after this beast. The resurrection of this lately-slain potentate by the power of Satan may have been in the sacred penman's mind when he referred to him as "the seed of the serpent." The combat of Genesis 3:15, studied, therefore, in the light of the many passages that point to the final clash between the Christ and the Antichrist, seems to be the thing referred to in this primeval announcement.
This promise of a redeemer who would put down all opposition to God made an indelible impression upon both Adam and Eve. When their first son, Cain, was born, Eve immediately said, "I have gotten a man with the help of Jehovah" (Gen. 4:1). The words, "the help of," are in italics in the American Revised Version. This fact shows that the translators supplied them, thinking that they would convey to the English reader the correct idea of the Hebrew text. Sometimes this device in the translation, designed to aid those not knowing the original, is indeed helpful; in other instances, it is misleading. This case happens to be one of the latter in my judgment.
Let us translate literally what is in the Hebrew without supplying any words. The sentence reads thus: "I have gotten a man, even Jehovah." The early Jewish Targum, the Aramaic translation, renders it this way: "I have gotten a man, even the angel of Jehovah." These Hebrew scholars supplied the word "angel." In doing this they were nearer the meaning of the original than our translators, who inserted the words as indicated above. In the early books of the Scriptures at various times the "angel of Jehovah" is said to have appeared to certain ones of the ancient worthies. Hence the Jewish translators, realizing that there is a supernatural element in Eve's statement and knowing that the angel of Jehovah did make appearances to man at different times, inserted the word "angel." When one simply makes a literal translation of the Hebrew, as given above, he sees an echo of the primitive promise in her statement. In other words, she thought that her firstborn was the fulfillment of the promise regarding the seed of the woman. But, as the sequel to the story shows, she was sadly mistaken.
Lamech, when his son Noah was born, had clearly in mind the original promise, for he said, when he named his son Noah, "This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed" (Gen. 5:29).
The word "Noah" means literally "rest." Lamech knew that the world was suffering under the curse which fell upon the earth when Adam and Eve sinned. In his prophetic vision, however, he was granted a view of the work which his son would accomplish in the unfolding of God's plan of the ages. He therefore spoke of his future accomplishments by saying that God would comfort their hearts in their work and toil because of the curse which was resting upon the ground. When this prophetic utterance is read in the light of the historical facts concerning the flood and its spiritual significance, one can see that Lamech was not given all the truth, but only a partial vision of the future. The Lord's sending a flood to destroy the wicked from the face of the earth was indeed a mercy and was also a comfort to Lamech, Noah, and their families. They realized that the world was becoming so very wicked that life for the godly would become more miserable day by day. Thus to purge the world of the wicked was indeed a comfort and consolation to the righteous. It is altogether quite probable that as Lamech viewed the future and saw the work of his son, there also appeared the dim outline of Him whom Noah typified; namely, the redeemer of man who will in deed and in truth deliver man from the toil of his hands which has been brought about by the falling of the curse upon the earth at the time of man's disobedience.
Lamech, like his grandfather Enoch, had his gaze fixed upon the future, expectantly looking for the day when the "seed of the woman" would bring the longed-for deliverance. Doubtless this hope had been kindled in the heart of this venerable patriarch by Enoch, his grandfather, who in prophetic vision looked forward and saw the time when the Redeemer of mankind will come with ten thousands of his saints and will execute judgment upon the wicked and the ungodly (Jude 14, 15).
Abraham, the friend of God, who walked with his Maker by faith, looked forward with eager anticipation to the time when this Deliverer would make His appearance upon earth and would free man from the effects of the fall and the curse. He, his son Isaac, and his grandson Jacob were prophets to whom God gave visions of the future (Ps. 105:13-16). By faith Abraham was granted a vision of the day of Christ and was glad (John 8:56).
Upon his deathbed, Jacob, in vision, looked out into the future and gave the outline of the condition of his descendants in the latter days. In this unfolding of the future he saw the time when Messiah, who is called Shiloh, would make His appearance; for he declared, "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the obedience of the peoples be" (Gen. 49:10). Without a doubt Jacob saw the time when Messiah would come and stated that the ruling power and authority would not depart from the tribe of Judah until He should make His appearance. For the first time in the sacred record is there given any idea as to the time when He would appear. We must admit, however, that this prediction is rather vague and indefinite, but the time element does begin to appear dimly in this prediction.
Balaam, the false prophet, invited by Balak, king of Moab, to curse the Children of Israel who were at that time passing along his borders, was granted a prophetic vision of Israel and of her future. Thus, the Spirit of God came upon him four times and gave him information concerning Israel and her future king. For instance, in the first oracle (Num. 23:7-10) he revealed the fact, regarding the promise made to Abraham, that his seed should become as numerous as the stars of heaven and emphasized this thought in the following rhetorical question: "Who can count the dust of Jacob, Or number the fourth part of Israel?" The vision of Israel thus increased was so very entrancing to the false prophet that he exclaimed spontaneously, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!" In his next oracle (Num. 23:18-24), he saw that Israel would be free from all perverseness and iniquity and that Jehovah God would be in her midst while the shout of a king would be heard among them. Thus, in this oracle there is clearly revealed the fact that Israel's future King in her midst is to be Jehovah. In the third oracle (Num. 24:3-9), a vision of the land of Israel when the curse is lifted and its fertility restored is given in the most glowing words. Reference again is made to the might of her king.
In the last oracle granted him, Balaam caught a clear vision of this future sovereign of Israel and shouted:
"I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not nigh.
There shall come forth a star out of Jacob,
And a sceptre shall rise out of Israel,
And shall smite through the corners of Moab
And break down all the sons of tumult" (Num. 24:17).
Balaam beheld this future king, but it was clearly revealed to him that His appearance upon earth was not to be expected immediately. The implication, however, is that His coming would be in the rather distant future. Thus the time element again appears dimly to be seen here on the horizon of prophetic vision.
The history of Israel has indeed been one of pain, tragedy, and catastrophe. Never has a people been more persecuted than the Hebrews. Throughout their long career their history has been written largely in tears and blood. It is true that during short intervals she has enjoyed a little peace and prosperity. But these periods in comparison with the times of sorrow have been indeed very short.
Continual suffering and disaster has at times heightened and intensified the longing for the appearance of the deliverer. Naturally the question was repeatedly asked by both the prophets and the psalmists: "How long, O Lord, how long?" From the contexts in which this question appears, it is clear that information with reference to the time when deliverance would be wrought by the appearance of King Messiah was sought. It was as the apostle Peter declared: These messengers of God were constantly seeking the answer to the question concerning the time and the manner of time when the Messiah of whom they spoke would make his appearance. "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them" (I Pet. 1:10,11). The prophets and the psalmists were indeed very much concerned about the salvation which we have in Christ now. They therefore thought about and searched diligently concerning what time and the manner of the time the Holy Spirit had in mind when He foretold the sufferings of Christ and the glories that should follow.
After centuries of silence on this point, the Lord finally through the prophet Daniel gave the answer to the question. This revelation is recorded in Daniel 9 and was given in the year 538 B.C., which, in Biblical chronology, is the year 3587 Anno Homonis.
With the data which we have collected in this chapter, we are now ready to approach an intensive study of the one prophecy of the Old Testament which gives the exact time when Messiah would be cut off. Of course, as we shall see later, He had to appear on earth before He could be cut off and have nothing.