- Prelapsarian: before the fall (lapse) into sin
- Postlapsarian: after the fall (lapse) into sin
- Prediluvian: before the flood (deluge)
- Postdiluvian: after the flood (deluge)
I. The End of the Prelapsarian Period and its Way of Knowing God
The revelation of the Fall discloses the entrance of sin into the world through the disobedience of one man. Satan’s sin is elsewhere alluded to (Isa. 13; Eze. 28), but in the progression of revelation, we are concerned about human beings. Scripture presents the entrance of sin as a sinister horizon apart from which nothing can be viewed any longer.
Owen: “The health-giving light of the first theology was extinguished through sin, and that creation-theology suffered annihilation” (27).
II. The Nature of Sin
The revelation of the fall sets forth how sin is the most ferocious attack on the glorious sovereignty of God and the rich goodness of God; how one’s man’s disobedience has drawn the crudest line through the totality of the original design of creation; how man has plunged himself utterly into corruption and radically into perdition; and how man can bring no charge against God, since God is infinitely and wholly removed from sin. All of this means that sin is not our fate or situation. But sin is first and foremost our guilt in relationship to God.
III. The Commission of Sin
Scripture does not simply deal with the entrance of “evil” – bad things. Neither do we simply skip from Genesis 2 to Genesis 4 in which the effects of sin become evident, and are left to wonder how this entered in. Neither is the fall the very first thing we read in Scripture. It is of great biblical-theological importance that the entrance of sin is narrated against the backdrop of a beautiful and good creation and a perfectly arranged covenant, as a great transgression, and with untold horrendous results. The literary unfolding of the fall is instructive in terms of the “how” of the entrance of sin:
i. Temptation and the Tempter (Gen. 3:1-5)
ii. Sin and the Sinner (Gen. 3:6)
iii. Guilt and the Guilty (Gen. 3:7-8)
Discussion point: What is the practical value of this revelation?
IV. The Discovery of Sin (Gen. 3:8-13)
The first discovery of sin is not before the judgment seat of God (Gen. 3:8). Rather it is in the conscience (Gen. 3:7). The entrance of shame as the fruit of sin was the first messenger of judgment (cf. Ex. 32:25). Shame is ignominy, disgrace, the opposite of “glory and honor.” Next, we see Adam and Eve before the bar of God’ Judgment:
i. The Place: “Where”: Estrangement by sin (Gen. 3:9-10)
ii. The Person: “Who”: Responsibility for sin (Gen. 3:11-12)
iii. The Practice: “What”: Nature of sin (Gen. 3:13)
Notice how each successive answer sheds more light of the inroads of sin into the human intellect, will, and conscience. It will occupy the rest of biblical revelation to answer each of these questions accurately as well as provide a remedy for each point in the person of the second Adam.
V. The Seeking Voice (Gen. 3:8)
One of the haunting images in Genesis 3 is not even so much Adam and Eve in their shame, but that of the Creator himself in the cool of the day, calling out into the eerie silence: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:8). This prefaces all else that He will say, and therefore, we need to see His heart before we we see anything else.
It registers that man is now in an alliance with the devil. There is an estrangement between God and His image-bearer. The knowledge from the image-bearer’s side to God has been broken, and his desires have been captured by the devil. However, God does not stop longing for his image-bearer.
Secondly, the fact that the threatened curse (“…in the day you eat thereof, you will surely die.” Gen. 2:17) does not wholly transact, is a sign of something in the heart of God.
Thirdly, the curses that then come from God’s mouth are not that of a vengeful deity, but ones calculated at not allowing sin to swallow up His image-bearers. The curse is indeed the opposite of blessing and stands in stark contrast with the end of creation; however, God is going to work against Satan. He comes with a plan, and this plan is in the form of a curse upon Satan, a declaration of war.
VI. The Declaration of War: Gen. 3:15
The first promise comes as a plan. It is cast in negative form, that is, as a curse to the serpent. It is also broad in the sense that the promise speaks of the woman and her seed (Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:1-7). It is a declaration of war against sin and Satan, but underneath it is a promise of redemption to man, captured by and allied with Satan. The promise is that that alliance would be reversed. It would be reversed first at the level of the mind and will (enmity), where sin had entered.
a. The Climax
The reversal of allegiances would climax in an all-out combat between the serpent and the seed of the woman, in which the latter would suffer wounds; the former mortal wounds. (Heb 2:14-15)
b. The Drama
The drama will be that the serpent’s head will be crushed, though the victor’s heel will be shredded. This beckons for explanation, but now already we have the assurance that the victory will be a Calvary victory. In Owen’s words, we have here “in embryo the whole doctrine of salvation for sinners” (p. 183). Connected with it we see in embryo form also the institutions of:
- sacrifice (Gen. 3:21) clear from the coats of skin (and Abel’s sacrifice); notice also the flaming sword barring entrance into the fellowship with God (Gen. 3:24); more
- worship (see Gen. 4:26), and prophecy (Gen. 3:20), evident in the naming of Eve, “Mother of all living”.
Thus, in Genesis 3, we see against the dark horizon of our sin and misery, the entrance of a new economy of light and life[footnote]WCF, chp7; §3. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.[/footnote], through God’s victory over Satan. His plan and purpose is announced, and its fulfilment will be unpacked in each successive ages. God mobilizes an army against Satan and calls into that army. Those fighting behind God will have their heels shredded, but the joy of Satan’s head crushed under their feet.