The anticipation of Christ’s coming begins not in the Gospels, but in the Old Testament. In fact, it begins all the way back in Genesis 3:15, which reads, “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
In this verse, God is promising that he will reclaim that which was lost to sin in the Garden of Eden. God promises that all the trouble and strife in the world—and ultimately death—would be corrected and redeemed through Eve’s offspring. God promises that from the woman will come a child who will crush the head of the serpent, the deceitful one, the liar, the murderer, thereby setting God’s image-bearers free from the power of sin and death.
Every verse of the Bible from Genesis 3:15 onward unfolds under the anticipation and hope for this child to be born and to crush the head of the serpent. This means that this Genesis 3:15 promise inspires hope for a world and life that is free from the tyranny of sin and corruption in the world.
Furthermore, this promise and inspiration of hope is why there is such excitement around birth stories in the Bible. With every birth story there is the question, “Is this the One we’ve been waiting for? Is this one to be born the serpent-crusher?
After the rebellion of Cain and the death of Abel, Seth is born. Is Seth is one that God had promised? Will Seth crush the head of the serpent? The answer to that question is “No.” God has someone else in mind.
Later we read about the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac. While a gift from God, we quickly learn that Isaac is not the Great Deliverer on whom the world awaits. Further still, in the opening chapters of Exodus we read of the birth of another baby—Moses—a deliverer who would be a foreshadowing of the One to come and ultimately vanquish sin and death.
It is not by coincidence that the enemies of God resort to the mass murder of infants as a solution to the problem of God’s people in the world. The fact that the demise of the serpent would come through a child born of the woman is why Pharaoh and Herod programmatically kill Israelite babies. What was true in the story of Moses’ birth happens again at the time of Jesus’s birth. The powers of darkness know that their end will come when God’s promised child is born. How do they prevent that from happening? Kill all the babies.
When we finally arrive at the New Testament and the birth narrative of Jesus, there is a palpable excitement in the air. God’s people have been waiting since Genesis 3:15 for the birth of One who would crush the head of the serpent. They hoped for one who would liberate them from the power of sin and death.
The birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of that first gospel proclamation in Genesis 3:15. Through this child the serpent will be no more. Jesus and his resurrection as the fulfillment of that hope are expressed repeatedly in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 1:18 Jesus says, “I was dead, but look—I am alive forever and ever, and I hold the keys of death and Hades.” Yes! Jesus has crushed the head of the ancient serpent. He has released humanity from the grip of the serpent. In doing so, he fulfills that ancient hope of all people. It is the hope of the Risen One.