Jesus: Back to the Future

By Christopher Talbot

George MacDonald’s delightful children’s book The Princess and the Goblin tells the story of Princess Irene and a silvery thread her grandmother made for her. This thread is made to lead the young princess back to her grandmother—especially in the midst of danger. The problem is, the thread only works if you’re following it forward. The moment you turn back, the thread disappears.

Through one narrow passage after another, over lumps of rock and sand and clay, the thread guided her, until she came to a small hole through which she had to creep. Finding no change on the other side, ‘Shall I ever get back?’ she thought, over and over again, wondering at herself that she was not ten times more frightened, and often feeling as if she were only walking in the story of a dream . . . By and by she heard the sounds of blows, which came nearer and nearer; but again they grew duller, and almost died away. In a hundred directions she turned, obedient to the guiding thread.[1]

Sometimes, as we look at Scripture, we find beautiful, silvery threads, woven from the beginning of Scripture throughout. Not unlike Irene, we’ve been given biblical threads to lead us to safety, and we see one such thread beginning in the first chapters of Genesis and pointing toward the Gospels, specifically John’s. As we follow this thread forward, and not backward, we realize God’s redemptive plan started long before us. More so, as we read through Scripture, we can place our hand on the thread and follow it to Christ.

The Past

In just the first three chapters of Scripture we see a grand conflict unfold. Everything began wonderfully. God, our glorious and perfect Creator, spoke the world into creation a day at a time. It was so good that Scripture makes a note to tell us so. On the sixth day, God created man. This time His creation was not only good—it was very good.

Fast-forward to Genesis 3 and trouble strikes. With the (mistaken) chance to “be like God” Adam and Eve jumped at the opportunity. In doing so, they brought the curse of sin not only upon all of their descendants (you and I), but also all of the created order. Not only would every human being now be born sinful, but work became difficult, childbirth painful, and life was ever-challenging. Simply put, they messed things up big time!

However, God didn’t stop there. When explaining the consequences of their decision to Adam and Eve, He first gave a rather cryptic message to Satan:

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14b-15).

But what does that mean? Who is this woman and her offspring? And what’s with the bruising of the head and the heel? What we don’t immediately see in these early chapters of Genesis is God’s amazing redemptive plan that was only beginning to unfold. In a sense, Genesis only gives us a teaser trailer of what God had in store for humanity. While Adam and Eve didn’t fully realize what they were hearing, God gave them a glimpse of the destruction that would come upon their tempter.

The Present

Jumping through time to the New Testament, we see a passage that mirrors what we’ve read in Genesis. John 1:1-5 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (emphasis mine).

This passage echoes the words that we find in the creation account. It also gives us some clarification. This passage states that the Word (Jesus), who is eternally existent, was not only there when the world was created, but entered history for a specific purpose. He became the light in the darkness—the life and light for all men. After all, He is the way, the truth and the life.

While many may think John was writing to point us back to what happened in Genesis, I would argue that what was written by Moses in Genesis points us forward to what John wrote here. John 1 is not so much a sign pointing backward, as much as Genesis 3 is a signal pointing forward to Christ. It is wonderful to see the biblical picture of redemption unfold. Sitting in Genesis, the Bible student may be concerned about how things will end. However, when we hold the whole account of God’s redemptive plan in our hands, we see how from Genesis to Revelation, God had our reconciliation planned.

First John 3:8, another book written by the apostle John, states, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” We get just a taste of this in Genesis 3:15: “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Theologians call this the protoevangelium, or “the first gospel.” This is the very first time in Scripture in which we get a hint of the good news of Christ. Of course, we don’t know the whole story from Genesis. But as we move through Scripture, following that thread of redemption, we are led to our rescue in Christ. Christ took on flesh to win victory over all that had happened due to the conflict in the garden of Eden. And His victory has good news for you today and for your eternity.

The Future

All the way back in Genesis God had a plan for your salvation and redemption—and Jesus was that plan. The promise was made to Eve and was revealed to Mary. Through covenant after covenant, and generation after generation, the promise arrived in Christ, the offspring of the woman. In the protoevangelium we learn that Jesus was not God’s plan B, but was God’s plan from eternity past.

Christ, the Word, was not only there at the beginning, but “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). It wasn’t enough that Christ existed eternally with the Father and Spirit. Christ became God incarnate to make a ransom for our sins. He became the perfect, spotless man to be the perfect, spotless sacrifice. As the theologian Augustine wrote, “For you he who was Son of God became son of man, so that you who were sons of men might be made sons of God.”

There is a profound truth in Christ’s incarnation. The Spirit, by inspiring the full Word of God, points out a deep contrast for us. When we look at Genesis and John’s gospel, we see two different Adams. The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:45, “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” We are all descendants of the first Adam, born into sin, but we have the opportunity to be brothers of the second Adam: Christ.

With Adam we find ourselves in deep trouble. We feel and see the effects of sin not only in our own life, but all around the world. Whereas the first Adam was made from dust, the second Adam came from Heaven. Whereas the first Adam took from a tree and cursed humanity, the second Adam climbed a tree to take the curse of humanity. Whereas the first Adam brought sin into the world, the second Adam bears the sins of the world. Thus, while Genesis and John are deeply connected, the first certainly points to the latter.

God has given us a thread. Unlike Princess Irene’s thread, ours is more the color of crimson, leading us to Christ’s bloody sacrifice on the cross. It is there we find rescue. Yet, less we be mistaken, our thread leads us forward, to an eternal future with our Savior. There we will find everything perfect once again, and we might say with God that it is “very good.”

[1] George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin, p. 166. (emphasis added)

 

Chris

Chris Talbot is the Program Coordinator of Youth and Family Ministry at Welch College, where he teaches classes in ministry and biblical studies. Originally from Tecumseh, Michigan, He and his wife currently live in Nashville, Tennessee, where they enjoy reading, coffee, and British television. They have a dog named Cooper and just recently had their first child.

Author: David Jones

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