The Death (& Triumph) of the King

The earth first groaned as Adam’s curse fell upon it.

Formed, shaped, and teeming with life by the Maker’s Word, this otherwise insignificant planet gleamed with the radiance of emerald and sapphire in the midst of a vast and awesome cosmos. God, the Maker Himself, was King, the eternal King with no beginning and no end, but to Adam and his wife, Eve, God granted dominion over the earth, to rule as lesser kings and queens on God’s behalf. Animals, plants, and even the dirt itself were meant to flourish under the governance of those who imaged God. The LORD Himself gave them the blueprint, a garden of paradise called Eden. And God blessed them with their marvelous work, to fill the earth with more of God’s image-bearers and to cultivate the rest of the earth after the pattern of Eden. No good thing was withheld from them, for even the LORD came and often walked with them in the garden. All fruit, all plants, all animals were theirs to rule and to care for. They were kings of the King.

Yet the fruit of one tree in the midst of the garden was forbidden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One day, a serpent spoke to the man and woman. He questioned them about this one, forbidden tree: did God really mark that tree off-limits? Was it not right for him to ask the image-bearers these questions that perplexed him? Adam made no answer, but Eve affirmed that eating the fruit and even touching it would bring death. “You will not surely die,” hissed the serpent. “For God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” How did this crawling creature under their dominion possess more understanding than they did? Was he correct? Was God truly withholding knowledge from them, fearing that they would become like Him? And wasn’t the fruit beautiful to behold? How could such delight to the eyes be wrong?

So she ate, and handing it to Adam, he did the same. The fruit worked. It opened their eyes and granted them knowledge that was previously vaulted to them. They saw their nakedness for the first time, so they quickly made coverings of fig leaves. And when God came walking through the garden, they hid from His sight. God spoke to the silent one, summoning Adam to explain what happened. Although given the position of being his wife’s leader, the man shifted the blame onto her instead. When questioned by God, the woman followed her husband’s lead and placed fault upon the serpent over which they were given dominion. Although instigating the whole affair, the serpent remained quite silent through this part.

The King then declared His judgments. The serpent was cursed for his deceit, and although his venom of sin would continue to infect humanity, the offspring of woman would one day fight a decisive battle against him. The serpent would strike the offspring’s heel, but He would break the serpent’s head. In mercy, God did not curse the woman directly; instead, He cursed with pain her blessed task of fulling the earth with image-bearers. Neither did He curse man directly. Instead, the earth itself received the curse. No longer would it yield its fruits in gleeful submission; now it would give thorns and thistles. The blessed work was now survival.

And, of course, death did come. Adam lived 930 years, but it was not enough. He died. From dust he was made, to dust he returned. The earth, now cursed, under his rule swallowed his body.

The earth again groaned as the serpent’s venom spread to Adam’s son, Cain. Enraged at God’s acceptance of his brother’s offering and the rejection of his own, Cain murdered his brother. The LORD soon came to Cain as He had done to Adam, saying, “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10). And as the earth had drunk the blood of Abel, so did Cain’s curse come from the ground, no longer yielding its strength for him.

Soon the problem of sin had spread so ferociously that God wiped the earth clean with a global flood, preserving only Noah and his family as a new kind of Adam. Yet Noah too sinned via fruit by getting drunk with wine. And, likely while Noah was still alive, humanity collectively attempted to transcend the earth by raising a tower to heaven. God, however, confused their languages and dispersed them throughout the earth, creating separate peoples and kingdoms.

As the decades, centuries, and millennia passed, nearly all of these kingdoms and peoples rejected the Creator, instead serving numerous variations of the serpent and his minions. Yet the LORD set apart one people for Himself, Abraham and his offspring, the Hebrews. They were a people that God redeemed with mighty signs and wonders from their slavery in the land of Egypt and brought them into the land of Canaan to be a kingdom of priests, a beacon of truth for the other nations. Yet their history is one of failure to be a holy people; rather, they constantly embraced the serpent’s ever-venomous lies of false gods. God’s covenant people were incapable of overcoming the curse of sin, and even their greatest leaders committed grievous acts of disobedience to their divine King.

Yet by God’s unending faithfulness, the offspring of woman did come. The Savior’s coming, that long-awaited day when the eternal Word become flesh to dwell among us, was met with a mixed reception. The celestial hosts, simple shepherds, and foreign kings all gave worship to the infant who was King, but the Hebrews’ current king committed mass infanticide in attempt to destroy any rival to the throne. This division of love or hatred, joy or wrath, worship or disgust would mark the reception of the Savior’s life and ministry; indeed, it brought His death.

Both religious and political leaders (who usually hated each other) found common ground in their mutual hatred for this Jesus. Claiming to be the Messiah, the offspring of woman, the descendant of King David and of Abraham, the idea of yet another Jewish revolt seemed frighteningly possible. And His assertion of being equal to God by being God’s Son was thought to be nothing less than blatant blaspheme. So they killed Him. They crucified Him, as though He were the most debased of criminals. But with every word of mockery and scorn, with each blow by hand, foot, or whip, with each nail driven through His hands and feet, and with every labored breathe while suspended above the earth upon the tree of death, He who upholds the universe by the word of His power remained silent. The grace-infused clay figures surrounding Him, which He, His Father, and the Spirit made, were incapable of taking His life; rather, He willingly and purposely gave it. So died the Author of life, and how few that day knew it? But the earth knew. Again, it groaned at the cosmic upheaval, and the heavens too felt it, shrouding themselves with darkness.

Yet what appeared to be the serpent’s ultimate triumph was actually his decisive defeat. The damning corruption unleashed by the sinful eating of the alluring fruit was undone by the gruesome sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. You see, the venom of sin is eternal because all sin is against the Eternal One. Thus, if a redemption for humanity was to be paid, the payment must be of eternal worth in order to atone for the eternal debt. This is why Jesus alone could give His life as that ransom for many. Being fully God, His life is of eternal worth, but also being fully human, He was able to truly stand in our place, to be our representative before God, to be the once-for-all sacrifice for sin.

To make matters even more glorious, He did not stay dead. After three days in the grave, He rose back to life, the triumphant and radiant King. His death was a bruise to the heel, but it was crushing blow to the serpent’s head. Unlike Adam, Jesus rejected every opportunity for sin not just in one moment but over the course of more than three decades. Also unlike Adam, Jesus loved His bride to the point of yielding His own life in order to cleanse her from all her iniquities. While Adam’s disobedience resulted in a fracturing within creation, Jesus’ sacrifice for His people is the restoration of all things in Himself.

In Jesus, God has established a people set apart for Himself, kingdom of priests that dwells within all the kingdoms of the earth, beacons of light dispersed throughout and sojourning through this present darkness. As Jesus’ followers, the redeemed people of God, we are called to take the good news that forgiveness of sin is found in Jesus Christ to every person. And we will continue expanding His kingdom until the King comes again to make, in the words of Samwise Gamgee, “all sad things come untrue.” On that day, earth and heavens will groan for the last time as they pass away and are remade. Our recreation will also be complete as our bodies are resurrected and no longer corroded with sin’s poison.

The cross was the decisive battle, but the war lingers on a little longer. Therefore, we give allegiance, pledging fealty, to the King of kings today, receiving the pardon of mercy that He has obtained for us by His own blood. We cast our faith and hope solely at the feet of our great Savior, who has taken our sin upon Himself. We look to the cross as the very power of God, the central event of all history, and the banner of coming kingdom.

Christian, stand in renewed amazement before the Father that the cross was always His plan. Meditate again upon the infinite price of our redemption.

Non-Christian, while the King waits a little longer and while breath remains in your lungs, come to Christ and be saved. Look to Him alone for the forgiveness of sin and submit to Him alone as King of kings and Lord of lords.

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