flesh

Many articles have been written concerning the prophecies of Messiah. However, there are some hidden gems which are often overlooked or misinterpreted. It is these gems that we wish to consider.

First Promise After the First Sin

In the very first book which Moses penned under God’s inspiration – Genesis, we find the first promise of a saviour. The promise was given right after the very first sin, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, disobeying the only command God had given them. God had clearly told them, “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17) Adam and Eve ate of the tree and became sinners deserving death in the brand new world. However, once our Heavenly Father had received their confession of sin, he gave the promise of a saviour to come, even before telling them the consequences of their sin! God’s mercy comes before His judgement! 

Ironically, God’s first promise of a Messiah was directed towards the lying serpent in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring [serpent’s seed] and her offspring [woman’s seed]; he shall bruise your head [the serpent], and you [the serpent] shall bruise his [the offspring] heel.”

Why would the first promise be directed to the serpent?

Enmity = Hatred

Enmity means “hostility, by implication a reason for opposition: – enmity, hatred.” At first read this sounds like God is saying that women and snakes would hate one another. While this may generally be true, is it only true for women and snakes? And why would God put hatred between baby snakes and the children of women… not men? Surely, this has much deeper implications… hidden gems! Let’s begin our investigation by determining what the serpent symbolizes in Scripture.

The Serpent Twisted God’s Word

To understand what the snake symbolizes, it is helpful to consider the serpent’s role in the first sin. The serpent began his appeal to Eve, putting forth the idea that God had said none of the trees of the garden were to be eaten. This was not true. God had provided all the trees for food, except one. The serpent wanted to make God seem unfair. 

Then the serpent told a lie, “You will not surely die,” to insinuate that God was a liar. 

He added ‘top-secret’ information saying, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Having painted God as an unfair, lying tyrant, now the serpent caused Eve to believe that God was hiding wonderful opportunities from her, and question whether God truly wanted what was best for His creation?

Through his cunning words, the serpent deceived the first woman to doubt God’s love, sincerity and wisdom, and make a wrong choice. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,” she chose to disobey God and ate the fruit.

We are told in 1 John 2, that these same promptings that led to the first sin, are also promptings we receive from ‘the world’, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” Any one who has ever faced temptation, (all of us!) knows that these are the very promptings which lead us to sin. And generally, when we sin, the same doubts lead us to dismiss God’s commands.

Who or What Was the Serpent?

Genesis refers to the serpent as ‘a beast of the field’ (Genesis 3:1). Therefore the serpent was part of God’s creation. Yet, he was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” ‘Subtil’ means shrewd, crafty, sly, sensible, prudent’. It is translated in the Old Testament as ‘prudent’ – a good quality – more often than anything else (ie. Proverbs 13:16;14:8). ‘Subtil’ doesn’t necessarily imply the serpent was evil, just an animal with higher than average intelligence, and the ability to speak… but still an animal. It is possible that the serpent may have seen the angels eating fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and based his faulty assumptions upon what he saw.

It is indeed strange that the serpent could speak, just as Balaam should have thought it was strange when his donkey questioned why he was being flogged. However, we are told that God opened the donkey’s mouth (Numbers 22:23-30). It is possible that God opened the serpent’s mouth and allowed the serpent’s cunning but faulty reasoning, to put his new creation to the test. God has often put people to the test to see if they will obey His commands or not. (Genesis 22:1-2,12; Deuteronomy 8:1-5; Judges 3:1-7; Luke 4:1-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12)

 Paul refers to the temptation of Genesis 3, in making reference to believers who are led astray by wrong teaching, saying in 2 Corinthians 11:2, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

What Does the Serpent Represent in Scripture?

Since the first sin, mankind has been cursed with a mind that naturally ‘opposes’ God; it is referred to as ‘human nature’, ‘the flesh’, ‘the carnal mind’, ‘the world’, ‘the devil’. Notice in the following verses, what else is at ‘enmity’ with God:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8 

“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.James 4:4-5 (see also 1 John 2:15-17)

The World and the Carnal Mind are at Enmity with God!

If we were to look up the word ‘carnal’, we would get this definition from the Greek word ‘sarx’: “fleshly, the animal nature with cravings which incite to sin, the flesh, denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence, and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.

Since the fall of our first parents, we don’t require a serpent to create doubt in our minds towards God and His commands. Our human nature (carnal mind, flesh) is constantly prompting us with plenty of questions and doubts.  Is then the serpent representative of the deceitful opposition of our natural minds, and those who choose not to be restrained by Divine influence?

Who or What is the Serpent’s Offspring Today?

Four times in the New Testament, the religious leaders were specifically referred to as a generation of vipers’ – in other words, the serpent’s offspring! (Matt. 3:7, 12:34; 23:33; Luke 3:7) Their teachings were dangerous, especially since they were esteemed by the people to be trustworthy religious teachers. However, at this time, these religious leaders were teaching as ‘doctrine’ the “commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9) – not the commandments of God. Just like the serpent, their ‘half-truths’ were more deceitful than an outright lie. They put on a ‘righteous’ show, but inside they were giving full reign to the animal nature. (Matthew 23:27)

To these same rulers, Jesus said:

“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44 see also Rev. 12:9)

These religious leaders were singled out as being ‘the serpent’s offspring’, and children of the devil – based on lies that lead to death.  Throughout mankind’s history, many have followed the same course… and not always with a religious veneer.

Who is the Woman’s Seed?

The Old Testament tells us that Immanuel, or Messiah would be born of a virgin. 

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14. There is no reference here to a human father…only a mother… a virgin mother. The Messiah would be the woman’s seed in a special way that is true for no other human being.

Was Jesus Christ the Woman’s Seed?

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,”  Galatians 4:4.

Jesus Christ was conceived when God’s Holy Spirit power miraculously caused an egg in Mary’s womb to become a child without the involvement of a human father. (Luke 1:30-38) Many times in the Old Testament, barren women had miraculously given birth to ‘promised’ children, but this was the first time that God used only a woman to conceive a promised child. Jesus Christ literally fulfils this unusual detail of the prophecy.

There is however, a spiritual application, in which all those who try to follow God’s commands are ‘in Christ’ and therefore part of the ‘woman’s seed’ (Revelation 12:17).

Who was the Woman?

If Jesus is the literal woman’s seed, then the woman is literally Mary.

However, spiritually ‘a woman’ in Scripture often symbolizes the ‘bride of Christ’, or God’s betrothed, the body of believers, or when true followers go astray – an unfaithful harlot (Revelation 19:7-8; Hosea 2:16-20; 2 Corinthians 11:1-3; Revelation 17).

There will always be opposition/hatred between those who want to follow God’s commands, and those who choose to be governed only by the carnal mind (John 15:18-29; 17:14-16; Romans 8:5-8).

There will always be opposition within our own minds between the ‘mind of the spirit’ and the ‘mind of the flesh’ (Romans 7:15-25).

Bruised on the Head and Bruised on the Heel

In the Genesis 3:15 prophecy, the serpent was to bruise the woman’s seed on the heel, but the woman’s seed would bruise the serpent on the head. One is a fatal blow, the other a wound. Much has been made of the blow to the heel. Many Christians would see this promise being fulfilled when Jesus was crucified by sinners (the seed of the serpent), because it was only a temporary wound, since he was raised to eternal life three days later. But, how did Jesus deliver a fatal blow to the serpent? This is not so clearly expounded.

The Serpent in the Wilderness?

There is a seemingly strange remark made by Jesus in John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” 

When did Moses Lift up a Serpent in the Wilderness?

If you look up Numbers 21, you will read of the incident in the wilderness when the people of Israel were complaining against God and Moses and despising the daily, miraculous provision of manna. God sent poisonous snakes which bit the people and many died. Then, when the people begged for mercy and salvation, God directed Moses to build a bronze statue of a snake and put it on a pole. Those who looked at it were saved from death. Why did God direct Moses to a make an image – something against his commands in Deuteronomy 5:8? Did He want people to ponder this incident very carefully?

Why does Jesus compare his crucifixion to a bronze statue of a serpent on a pole? In what way does this incident in Number 21, symbolize the sufferings of Jesus?

Serpent on the Pole = Jesus on the Cross? 

Hebrews chapter 2, sheds some light on this dilemma:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.(Hebrews 2:14-18)

If the serpent represents human nature, then this Hebrews passage fits perfectly with Genesis 3:15. Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus partook of ‘flesh’- which is the same word ‘sarx’ referring to the carnal mind, and human nature (Romans 7:18; 8:3,6-7). Jesus crucified this human nature on the cross… he put it to death literally! Throughout his life, Jesus refused to give in to the thinking of the flesh (the voice of the serpent), and the inclination to doubt God, and to serve himself rather than his Father in heaven. On the cross he refused the strongest human inclination of all – the desire to preserve life and escape brutality. Jesus submitted to God’s law – and His will for his Son’s life, even though in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus struggled in prayer to resign himself to the torture that lay ahead (Luke 22:39-46). So in his life, Jesus was continuously victorious over the voice of the serpent. In his death, Jesus completely destroyed the devil within (the carnal mind, the serpent). The voice of temptation would never speak to his mind again. Even though Jesus died on the cross, it was only a temporary blow to the heel, as he was raised to eternal life three days later. 

Not only did Jesus completely defeat the serpent within, but as it says in the Hebrews 2 passage above, Jesus also provided the way of escape for all of mankind, from the ‘lifelong slavery’ to our sinful nature, and the ‘fear of death’. And we are so thankful!

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:20-23 (the whole chapter relates to this topic!)

We have put together a pictorial overview of this subject. Click here to see or download: genesis 3 vs 15 pic

In our next blog, we will consider the second promise of a saviour, made to Abraham in Genesis 12.

Will Antichrist be a charming deceiver who leads the world astray just before the return of Jesus Christ? Or has Antichrist been around since the time of the Apostles? Will there be only one Antichrist, or has there already been many?

The Meaning of the Word ‘Antichrist’

If we search the Bible for the word ‘antichrist’ using PowerBible (a computer Bible program) we will discover 5 occurrences, and all are in the Epistles of John. 

While antichrist is referred to by other terms in the Bible, it makes sense to begin looking at this subject starting with the actual word. The Greek word ‘antichrist’, is broken down into ‘anti’, meaning ‘opposite, instead or because of, in the room of’, and ‘christos’, meaning ‘annointed one, i.e. the Messiah, or Christ’. So, ‘antichrist’ can mean someone opposite, or instead of Messiah’, or someone ‘in the place of Messiah’.

One Antichrist, or Many?

Looking at the very first place the word ‘antichrist’ occurs in 1 John 2:18, we read,

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

This first occurrence of the word, tells us that ‘antichrist’ was ALREADY in the world, while John was writing his first Epistle. It also tells us that there is more than ONE antichrist, as in John’s day, he could already say that there were MANY antichrists.

Also, John says that they had heard that ‘antichrist shall come’, so this tells us that must be previous Bible prophecies of ‘antichrist’ using other terms.

The Origin of Antichrist

Looking at the next few verses in 1 John 2, we read in verse 19, They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.From this we learn that the ‘antichrists’ initially associated with the Christians in John’s day. Antichrist broke away from the true Christian church and is therefore related to Christianity. Antichrist has a Christian, religious origin; this is very important to keep in mind.

The Lie

A little further down in 1 John 2, we read in verse 21, I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. From this, we learn that antichrist is associated with at least one lie. This lie has something to do with the relationship between the Father and the Son. This lie in some way denies that Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ.

So from just this one chapter in 1 John, we discovered that antichrist can mean someone who is ‘opposite or instead of Christ’, or someone ‘in the place of Christ’. We found out that the believers, in John’s day, had been warned that antichrist was to come, and there were already many antichrists. We are told that antichrist left the true Christian believers and began to teach lies, denying that Jesus is Christ and rejecting something about the relationship between the Father and the Son.

Test Case for Antichrist

1 John 4:1-3 is the next passage where we find the word ‘antichrist’. Here we read, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

John has given us a way in which we can determine truth from error! John warns us in the passage above that we need to carefully examine what we are told by others, even religious leaders, as there are ‘many false prophets’. John’s test case for truth vs. error is to examine what others tell us about Jesus Christ. Do they teach that Jesus came ‘in the flesh’?

‘In the Flesh’

Any religious leaders who respect the Bible, surely know about this important test-case passage, and realize the significance of ensuring their teachings are in agreement with 1 John. However, examine what you hear carefully. The meaning of the word ‘confesseth’ is ‘assent, concede, not to deny’. To come ‘in the flesh’ refers to Jesus’ humanity. The Greek word ‘flesh’ is ‘sarx’ and it means flesh (as stripped of the skin), i.e. (strictly) the meat of an animal (as food), or (by extension) the body (as opposed to the soul (or spirit), or as the symbol of what is external, or as the means of kindred), or (by implication) human nature (with its frailties (physically or morally) and passions), or (specially), a human being (as such):–carnal(-ly, + -ly minded), flesh(-ly).”

The Greek word ‘sarx’ is used of our mortal bodies, our human nature, and our susceptibility to be tempted to sin. (For instance Matthew 26:41; Romans 1:3; 7:18; 8:3-13; Galatians 5:19-24) Jesus came ‘in the flesh’.

Was Jesus Tempted to Sin?

In the New Testament book of Hebrews, there is much discussion on the nature of Jesus and how his priesthood surpasses the priesthood under the Law of Moses. The following passages give us insight into the struggle Jesus had against his nature, before he was crucified, resurrected and made immortal.

Hebrews 4:14-15 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Hebrews 5:7 “In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,”

Hebrews 2:17-18 “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

It isn’t Sin to be Tempted

Keep in mind that temptation is not sin. We ‘sin’ when we give into temptation, as outlined in James 1:13-15:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

We are tempted by our desires. However, many of our desires are simply part of human survival. To desire to eat, to sleep, to drink, to be with friends, even to have intimate relations with our spouse, is not sinful, but needful for survival. If we choose to cheat, lie, steal, disobey God’s commands, or selfishly use talents or powers God has given us, in order to satisfy those desires – then sin occurs.

Unlike us, Jesus never sinned, not even when he hadn’t eaten for 40 days and considered using God’s Holy Spirit power to make a stone into bread for himself (Luke 4:1-4). Jesus didn’t sin in the Garden of Gethsemane even when he struggled to commit himself to God’s will that he should die in such a painful way. He struggled so hard in the Garden, that his sweat was like ‘drops of blood’, and an angel was sent to strengthen him (Luke 22:39-46). The struggle wasn’t sinful. To refuse to submit to death on the cross would have been… but Jesus overcame!

Other References to ‘Antichrist’

While the Epistles of John are the only place in the Bible where the word ‘antichrist’ appears, the concept is referred to in many other passages. The Old Testament book of Daniel has a detailed prophecy concerning antichrist, which is likely the prophecy John refers to, when he said, “ye have heard that antichrist shall come.

2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation also add to the fuller picture of who and what antichrist is. In order to study this topic further, all of these important passages are referred to in the Discovery Lesson on Antichrist. 

A Departure From the Faith

In the New Testament there are also many warnings that there will be a Departure from the Faith. If you click on this link and look at these passages, you will find that many correlate to the prophecies concerning Antichrist.

The Old Testament proves that Jesus is the Messiah

While the topic of Antichrist is a fascinating study, we will digress in our upcoming blogs to look at the prophecies given about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. When Jesus wished to prove his own Messiahship, he went to the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets. (Luke 24: 13-27). How did Jesus prove that he was the very Messiah from the Old Testament? Where are his death and resurrection mentioned? What promises were given that refer specifically to him? What promises are still waiting to be fulfilled? Are there promises that indicate he will physically return to this earth in the near future?

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