The Eternal Conflict
March 31st, 1957 @ 8:15 AM
THE ETERNAL CONFLICT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-31-57 8:15 a.m.
You are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the 8:15 o’clock morning message entitled The Eternal Conflict. We have just finished the series of messages on the first two chapters of Genesis which concern the creation of the world – the creation of all the forms of life – and culminated in the creation of the man.
Zondervan Publishing Company has already set up in type, and I am correcting it now, these sermons on the creation of man. And I thought, out of appreciation for and love for this wonderful teenage choir, that I would dedicate that book to them.
There has never been so fine a group of teenagers as has helped us in these days since we began these early morning hour services. And no small part of the blessing that has come to us as we gather here early in the morning, while our minds are fresh and our hearts are attuned to the will and Word of God – no small part of that blessing is come through these teenage youngsters. How we appreciate them. Even on a rainy day, they’ll always have a fine, fine choir. God bless them. And, I say, we’re going to dedicate this book to them.
Now, we continue this morning through the third, the fourth, and the fifth chapters of the Book of Genesis. If you’ll open your Bible, you can follow the message through. And if you would continue to do that, it would not be long until it would be just second nature with you. As the pastor opens his Bible and follows the message of the Word, you’d do the same thing, and soon the Book would be familiar in your hands – just the hold of it, the feel of it, the turn of it, the page of it.
The third chapter starts off, “Now the serpent” [Genesis 3:1]. Not a serpent, not “a particular animal,” but “the serpent”: ha nachash – nachash “serpent,” ha, “the.” We know who he is. In the Revelation, the twelfth chapter and the ninth verse, he’s called by three names. He’s called that “old serpent,” “the dragon,” and “Satan” [Revelation 12:9]. He is Satan incarnate – a type of that ultimate incarnation in the Antichrist.
We’re talking, this morning, of the eternal conflict. And here, in the garden of God, in beautiful Eden, there he comes [Genesis 3:1]. So the origin of evil did not find itself in this world, or in the Garden of Eden, or in the heart of man. We must trace the origin of evil back to heaven itself [Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-15] – back to an archangel who was created so beautiful, so splendid, and so powerful that even Michael, a fellow archangel, dare not rebuke him [Jude 1:9].
The serpent: what that animal looked like, I do not know, but he must have been a gorgeous and beautiful creature [Ezekiel 28:13]. It does not say he belongs to the creeping things. Look at that: “Now the serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field” [Genesis 3:1].
I do not know what he looked like. As you see him now, he’s cursed and degraded [Genesis 3:14-15]. But when God made him, he must have been beautiful and alluring and attractive [Ezekiel 28:12, 15]. For example, that word nachash “serpent”: there are many people, students, who think that word comes from nechosheth which means “brass, or bronze, or the shining one” – “beautiful.” And certainly when he talked to Eve, Eve seems to have been delighted with his company. So it begins there in the Garden of Eden with a fire and incarnation of evil – didn’t belong there, wasn’t made for there, but came into there from without. Then you have the story of the temptation and the fall of the woman and the fall of the man [Genesis 3:1-24].
Now, in the fourteenth verse [Genesis 3:14], you have the curse of God: the judgment of heaven upon these who have participated in disobedience and sin. And the order of curse is in the order of the offense – of the sin. First, God turns to the serpent, and He condemns that beast of the field in all of his beauty and in all of his alluring presentation of himself to Eve. He led himself to an incarnation of evil. He loaned himself to the devil. First, God curses the serpent and says: “Because thou hast lent thyself to evil, thou art cursed above all cattle, above every beast of the field; and upon thy belly shalt thou go. Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life” [from Genesis 3:14]. I say, what he was before, nobody knows; but what you see now is an animal who has fallen in lowest degradation – the serpent.
Then, in that fifteenth verse, God says something about him and the woman [Genesis 3:15]. And when you read it, immediately you can see that this word that God says goes far beyond any conflict between a woman and a mere animal – or the seed of the woman and the seed of a mere animal. “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]. There’s something far more and beyond in that Word of God as He speaks to the serpent than just an unceasing and unwearying conflict between a mere animal and the human race. You have here the prediction of God of an eternal warfare, an eternal conflict, between the seed of the woman and the serpent.
Who is that serpent? We’ve already said. The Bible plainly and by name identifies him. Just like the finger of God might point to one of you men and call your name and say, “This is he,” so God points His finger and calls his name, “This is he.” Our archenemy and our adversary, that old serpent, is the devil [1 Peter 5:8]. It is Satan [Revelation 12:9]. It is the dragon.
Now, this seed of the woman of what God is speaking here: “the seed of the woman” [Genesis 3:15]. Isn’t that a strange way to say it – “the seed of the woman”? Well, we haven’t time this morning except just to point it out, but it would be a marvelous thing in the Bible to take a whole message and devote it to that seed of the woman. But just for a moment – just two or three passages carrying it through.
Look over here to Genesis 22 and 18 – Genesis 22 and 18. Then we’re going to turn to Galatians 3 and 16. What is God saying here when He says there’s to be an eternal conflict between the seed of the woman and the serpent?
Well, over here in Genesis 23 and 18, God says to Abraham: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” [Genesis 22:18] – “in thy seed.” Now, turn over here to Galatians 3:16. Yeah. Yeah. 22:18 [Genesis 22:18]. Galatians – I mean Genesis 22:18, God’s Word to Abraham: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
Now this last in Galatians 3:16: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many; but as of one, ‘And to thy seed,’ which is Christ” – Galatians 3:16. The same thing in Galatians 4:4: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” Isn’t that an unusual way the Bible puts that – “made of a woman”? Sometimes these theologians who are liberal and modern say that Paul has no reference to the virgin birth. I don’t know why they don’t read the Book. “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” [Galatians 4:4].
Now, let’s go back here to this word God spake in the Garden of Eden – “the seed of the woman” [Genesis 3:15], and that seed is Christ: born of a virgin [Matthew 1:21-23], the son of David [Luke 3:31], the son of Abraham [Luke 3:34], the son of Adam [Luke 3:38], the Son of God. Isn’t that a gracious thing that God did here? Before now, we follow the curse upon the woman and the curse upon the man. Before God curses the woman and before God curses the man, He speaks this word of promise called the protevangelium – the gospel before the gospel. “There is to be,” says God, “a great deliverer who will come of the woman” [Genesis 3:15]. She was tried. She was tempted. She fell; and it will be of her that salvation comes – that deliverance is given from the bondage and corruption of Satan.
So after God speaks that word, then He turns to the woman, and this is the curse of the woman. First, in sorrow she shall bring forth children [Genesis 3:16] – the travail, the labor, the pain, the agony, the hurt. In the birth and the rearing of children is a curse upon the woman. It was not intended that way. It was not created that way. It was not made that way. God did not purpose it that way. How our children could have been born to us, in our families, without sorrow and without pain and without labor and without travail, and how they could have been brought up without disappointment and hurt. It’s hard to imagine, but that was the way God intended it. And the sorrow of conception, and the travail of birth, and the labor and toil that go with the rearing of little children is a curse brought on by the sin in the Garden of Eden.
And the second thing in the curse of the woman is she lost her place by the side of the man as an equal. In many respects, she kept some of that equality, but in many respects she lost it. And she has lost it to this present day: “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” [Genesis 3:16] which has been the story of mankind – a sorrowful story ever since. God did not intend it that way – the woman to be ground under the heel of the man. You say in this day of modern suffrage, “That isn’t true.” If you were a pastor, you’d find it to be true just the same now as it was in the days of ten thousand years ago.
Then He turned to Adam. And the curse of Adam follows four steps. First, the ground is cursed for his sake [Genesis 3:17]. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” [Genesis 3:19]. “Cursed is the ground . . . in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee” [Genesis 3:17-18]. God made the man to work, to toil. God made the man to dress and to keep the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2:15], but the labor of it, the sweat of it, the weariness of it is a curse. God made labor and toil, endeavor, work to be a part of the glory and perfection of the man, but the curse of it is all of the frustrations and disappointments that go with the effort.
The ground brings forth weeds and is scorched with drought [Genesis 3:18]. And how many ways and in how many times is a man disappointed in the fruit and the reward of his hands? That’s the first curse to the man: the toiling of the ground in the sweat of his face.
The second curse is mortality. “And thou shalt return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” [Genesis 3:19]. Mortality: the man shall die and his body go back to the earth from whence he came.
And the third is in an unusual and different way, if I could say it, “unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothe them” [Genesis 3:21].
“Well, how could that be a curse, Pastor? That’s the Atonement.”
All right, this is the way that I think of that. God said to Adam and to Eve: “In the day that you eat thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17, 3:2-3]. I do not think Adam and Eve knew what death was. They had never seen anything die. God’s creation was blooming in all its glory. Everything was perfect even as God had re-created it. I don’t think they knew what that meant, death – just like you talk to your teenage child or you talk to your little fellow and you warn him about certain things. And I do not think they realize the experience, and the judgment has not come into their lives. And when God said, “Thou shalt surely die,” I don’t think Adam and Eve knew what that word meant. It was something terrible. It was something awful. It was something God Himself warned them against, but I don’t think they knew what it meant.
Listen, the first time Adam and Eve knew what that word meant was in that verse there when, before their eyes, God took an innocent animal and slew it, and its blood was poured out on the ground in the Garden of Eden. And God took the skin of the animals and clothed the nakedness of the man and his wife [Genesis 3:21]. And when Adam and Eve stood there and watched God slay an innocent victim and God poured the blood of that innocent victim onto the ground, can you imagine the overwhelming stark tragedy of what they had done? Can you imagine how it entered their souls as they beheld what God meant by this thing “death”?
I’ve often wondered what animals did God slay there in the Garden of Eden. I do not know, of course, but I have supposed that they were lambs. God took lambs from the flock and slew them and made coats of skins and clothed the nakedness of the man and his wife.
When I was a boy, I went to Chicago; and out of curiosity, I went through one of the great packing houses in Chicago. When I went into the slaughterhouse of the beef cattle, from way back there in the pens clear up those long chutes to the place were they were slain, you could hear the lowing of cattle as they smelled the shedding of blood. It was a gruesome thing to me. When I went into the place where they slaughtered the hogs, from the time they were pushed up into the chute, until they were carried through that boiling water, you could hear the squeal of the pigs and the hogs.
When I went into the place for the slaughter of the sheep, the only sound that was made was the clanking of the machinery and the turning of the wheels in the slaughterhouse. And that man, trained, with that long knife, as those lambs and as those sheep came by, cutting that jugular vein – just about like this. One and another and another, those sheep and those lambs watched their life’s blood flow out on the floor, and they never uttered a sound.
I have felt that was the way it was when Adam and Eve stood there, and, for the first time, saw what it was to die. And, I say, it was a judgment upon their own hearts and their own souls as they saw the life’s blood of an innocent animal shed because of their sin and their unrighteousness.
I think it is a picture of what we feel today when we stand before the cross of the Son of God. “Look! Look! This is the reward of our iniquity. This is the judgment of our transgression.”
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]. How Adam and Eve must have cried, must have sorrowed, as they looked for the first time upon what God meant by that word “death.”
Then the last of the judgments is this: they are driven out from the Garden of Eden [Genesis 3:23]. They are expelled from the beautiful garden of God. The reason for that is plain. God says: “Lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden” [Genesis 3:22-23]. Lest the man take of the fruit of everlasting life and be confirmed in this body of death, God sent him forth.
What do you mean by that, “To be confirmed in this body of death”? Bless your heart, I used to think that death was an awful tragedy. But as I have lived, and as I have been a pastor, I have come to see that, finally, death is a release.
We don’t stay young. A part of that curse is the waste of the body [Romans 8:22-23]. We don’t stay strong. A part of that curse is the illness and impotence that sweeps over our bodily frame [2 Corinthians 4:16]. Some of these days, some of these days, we shall know the palsy of the hand, the shaking of the head, the stooping of the shoulders. Some of these days, we shall know the illness and the weariness of the flesh. And there are those who listen to me this morning on the radio who lie in beds and cry of pain and affliction.
God said: “Lest the man take of the fruit of the tree of life and be confirmed in this body of death for ever, therefore God drove him out, to till the ground from whence he was taken” [from Genesis 3:22-23]. It was a merciful providence of heaven: “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption” [1 Corinthians 15:50].
When my eyes are blind, and my ears are deaf, and my mind is gone, and my frame is stooped, O, Lord, don’t let me linger. Please, Lord, grant to thy servant a release when his task is done and his work is finished.
Not confirmed in this body of death, lest he take of the fruit of the tree of life and live forever [from Genesis 3:22-23]. Lord, what we pray for is a better body. And that’s the reason God transplanted the tree of life. He put it in another place, in another garden, in another house, in another home, in another world. And there, when we have our new bodies, when we are resurrected to this new life, there shall we sit down by the beautiful river and there feast our souls upon the beauty and glory of the tree of life, blooming by the rivers of water [Revelation 22:1-2]. Oh, how God hath done this thing! How God hath wrought it, and how God spake of these things back there in the beginning.
Took us thousands of years to understand what they meant. Think of the generations and generations who read this thing of God and wondered what it meant. But in our day, to whom the fullness of the revelation of the Gospel of Christ has come, we can go back to these thousands and thousands of years ago and see what God said and see what God did. And there before our eyes, unfolded, is the marvelous purpose and plan of God through the ages written here in His Book.
So the man and his wife are driven out [Genesis 3:22-24], and thereafter is this eternal duality of things [Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 20:7-10]. There is a two-fold manner of things all the way through. You see it in the creation of God in the beginning. God creates this world [Genesis 1:1]. Then, in the second verse of that first chapter, and it becomes empty and vain and ruined and void and uninhabitable [Genesis 1:2]. There those two things are in the beginning: God and the perfection of His handiwork and something else that wastes and destroys.
We met it again in the story of the Garden of Eden. In the re-creation of God [Genesis 1:3-25], the world is emerald: the flowers that bloom, the whole air perfumed and scented with the sweetness of the handiwork of God. Then, into that garden, that same thing again: this foreign, extraneous, evil person and power [Genesis 3:1-8]. Now, out of the Garden of Eden and to the end of time, that same duality of things – that two-fold manner of things – side-by-side [Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 20:7-10]. As opposite as day and night, good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, and it begins to work out according to the permissive will of God that I cannot understand. But God lets it go on. He did in heaven, and the angels had a choice. He does in earth. Wherever mankind is, wherever humanity is, wherever a family is, wherever a life is, there does God allow to work out those final issues and destiny of life and death, of heaven and hell, of good and evil [Matthew 13:24-30].
And it starts here immediately with Cain and Abel [Genesis 4:1-10]. The first son that Adam and Eve have, they name Cain, and their second son they named Abel [Genesis 4:1-2]. There is that eternal conflict again. There is that duality you find everywhere in this world. There is that two-fold manner of things. Cain – Cain is a child of the evil one. In 1 John 3:12, he’s described as that: “Cain, who was of that evil one.” He’s a child of Satan – slew his brother. Why did he slay him? “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous” [1 John 3:12].
Abel: Jesus called him “the righteous Abel” [Matthew 23:35]. Hebrews  and 4 referred to him as righteous [Hebrews 11:4]. Look how these men are described: “And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of his firstlings of the flock and of the fat. And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect” [Genesis 4:3-5]. Look at that! And the Lord had respect unto Abel and then accepted his offering, but unto Cain, He had not respect and did not receive his offering.
What are you going to do with these people – theologians? Practically all of the preachers who are forever mouthing the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man, what are you going to do with those people? They purport to preach the Word of God, and they don’t know it. They purport to say what the Bible says and contradict it.
There are two kinds of children in this world. Jesus looked into the faces of the scribes and the rulers in Jerusalem and said, “Ye are of your father the devil” [John 8:44]. Paul wrote in the Ephesian letter: “That by nature we are the children of wrath” [Ephesians 2:3]. John said that the Lord taught that a man must be born again [John 3:3]. He must be born from above. He must be born into the kingdom of God.
What are you going to do with these people who are forever mouthing those platitudinous little catch words “universal fatherhood of God”? Listen to me. The only sense in which a man everywhere is the son of God is in the same sense that an animal is: God created them all. That’s all. A man is a son of God by natural birth in the same sense that an insect is, that a bug is, that a worm is, that a chimpanzee is, that a gorilla is – all of them were made by God.
But there are two kinds of men in this world God’s Book says. There are those who are the sons of the morning. They are the sons of heaven. They are the children of God [John 1:12]. They are born again into an upper kingdom [John 3:3]. They are the brothers of Christ [Mark 3:35; Hebrews 2:11]. Then there are those who are the children of darkness [Ephesians 5:8]. They are the children of sin [1 Corinthians 6:9-10]. They are the children of depravity [Ephesians 2:1-3]. They are the brothers of Cain! “And God had respect unto Abel and accepted his offering but God had not respect unto Cain’s” [from Genesis 4:4-5].
We must close. We’ll pick it up from there next Sunday morning and carry that through – the two-fold nature of things, the duality of things: the children of God, the children of Abel, the children of Seth, the children of Christ, and the children of Cain. And when you come into that, you come into the story of this world and the story of the flood and the judgment of God upon the iniquity of men [Genesis 6:5-8:22].
Now, in this little moment, in this little brief moment while we stand and sing a stanza of a hymn, somebody give his heart to the Lord. Somebody put his life with us here in this church. While we sing this appeal, you come and stand by me – all of us while we stand and sing this song together.
THE ETERNAL CONFLICT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I. The Serpent
II. The Curse – in the order of the committed offense
III. Division of the race upon the fall
1. Seed of the woman
2. Seed of the serpent
IV. Conflict begins immediately to work itself in Cain and Abel
V. Two lines intersect with Cain and Seth
VI. Two divisions – children of God, children of Satan
VII. Final consummation
1. Present world is under condemnation
2. New creation
3. New creation is eternal