I recently read again God’s curse upon the serpent in the Garden of Eden:
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 bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
This verse is known in theology as the “protoevangelium” – the first proclamation of the gospel. In the context, the serpent has beguiled Eve and she gave the fruit of the forbidden tree to Adam, and he ate of it contrary to God’s word. In separating himself from God, mankind made a covenant with death. He chose fellowship with the devil rather than fellowship with God.
In this first proclamation of the gospel, one thing sticks out at you. The gospel was first spoken as a curse upon the serpent. Men and women were not created originals. they were created to be image bearers of God. When they disobeyed God, they made a league with the devil and became enslaved to the kingdom of the devil and all the sin, misery and death that are operative in this kingdom. Being in bondage, man cannot free himself. In order for there to be good news for man, the power of the devil must be broken. God promises the serpent that his kingdom will not last; his head will be bruised; there will always be a remnant – a “seed” – who will be at war with the serpent’s seed.
We know, having the complete revelation of God, that this defeat of Satan came at the hands of the True Seed of the Woman, our Lord Jesus. But how was this victory achieved? Jesus defeated the devil, not with armies and weapons, but by suffering the death of the cross. The covenant with death must be broken, and it could only be broken when it was carried out. So the Son of God tasted death for man that the power of death might be broken.
14 Forasmuch then 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; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (Hebrews 2:14-15).
The crushing of the head of the devil bruises the heel of the Warrior. Notice what Hebrews says. Through suffering the death of the cross – seemingly the defeat of the Seed – the warrior destroyed the devil (him who had the power of death).
This is central to our faith. We do not pity the One on the Cross, we marvel at His love for us! We wonder at the power of the one who entered into battle with death and conquered it! Jesus was not a passive victim on the cross, carried away by circumstances out of His control. Rather He was a conquering hero, waging war against the kingdom of the devil, casting out the Strong Man, and ushering in the kingdom of Heaven. And He will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet!
This is also the same Lord who says to each one of us, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
Being united to Christ, we also do battle with the kingdom of the devil. Being united to Christ, we are assured victory. And being united to Christ, the war will also bruise our heels.
This changes how we should view suffering. We too often ask the wrong questions and miss the point. We ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “If God loves me, why are there so many difficulties in life?” “Does God have a purpose in suffering? What is that purpose?”
When we suffer – chronic, unrelenting pain; reproach and insults; doubts; illness; battles with our sinful nature; persecution – it is natural to wonder why.
Why do Christians suffer so much in this world?
Because they are doing battle with the devil. Because they belong to Jesus Christ. Because they are conquering heroes in Christ. Because the devil never lets go of his kingdom without bruising the heel. When the heel is bruised, Satan’s head is crushed.
What a wonderful thought! Our suffering is not simply meaningless. It isn’t because God is angry with us. It isn’t because God won’t interfere with man’s free will (what hogwash!). It is because we are doing battle with the devil and we are winning.
The devil was in his greatest danger when Jesus was in his greatest pain. When Jesus gave up the ghost, the devil’s power was destroyed. It is one of the greatest paradoxes of our faith. Jesus defeated the greatest created power by becoming weak, hungry, tired, despised. He crushed Satan’s head by obedience to the death of the cross as a common criminal.
He calls us, as Christians, to take up that cross and follow. As the hymn says, “We are soldiers of the cross.” As “little Christs” (Christians) we follow our Lord. The path to resurrection and victory is through suffering and death, for from the very beginning, God purposed to destroy the kingdom of Satan by bruising the heel of the Seed of the Woman, and we are all partakers with Christ in His death as well as His victory.
For this reason, God promises the church in Rome that He will bruise Satan under their feet (Romans 16:20). The church was suffering, as it always had. But God promised them that something far greater was going on. Satan was being put under their feet!
Why did their feet hurt? Because they were crushing Satan’s head.
Why do we suffer on this earth? Because in our suffering we are destroying the power of the devil.
Don’t view your hard times as signs of God’s displeasure. Instead view them as opportunities to crush Satan’s head. You are doing battle with an ancient enemy and you WILL prevail by the power of Jesus, who has already assured the victory.
But it will bruise your heel. You will walk with an uplifted head, a song in your heart, a glitter in the eye, and a limp in the feet.
And the God of Peace will bruise Satan’s head under that bruised heel. It’s a promise.