Biblical Story Lesson Plans - The Protoevangelion

In this lesson, I will cover the topic of the Protoevangelion, the first Gospel. This topic is crucial to understanding the storyline of the entire Bible because it sets the pace and direction of the remainder of the Old Testament. It raises questions that the Bible answers like “How will God bring the Messiah into the world?” and “Will God be faithful to his promises?”. Not only does the Protoevangelion help us to understand the rest of the Bible, but it also gives us confidence that we can trust God’s Word. No other religion grounds itself on fulfilled prophecy that we can investigate and prove. We can be confident that Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” because he perfectly fulfills the Old Testament prophecies.


After God creates Adam and Eve in his image, he places them in a garden and gives them the task of cultivating it. They enjoyed friendship with God through daily interactions. Everything was there for their enjoyment. The only caveat was that there was one tree from which they were not to eat: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

After they had been in the garden for some time, Adam and Eve strayed from God’s command. They listened to the voice of a serpent, who is later identified as Satan, and begin to entertain his suggestions. In their conversation, Satan attacked their trust in God, causing them to doubt his goodness. Though God promised that they would die if they ate from the tree, Satan countered “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5).

And so, though God had given Adam and Eve every thing they needed, despite having every reason to trust him, they chose to disobey. Instead of depending on God, they wanted to be their own gods. And so, they committed treason again God’s rule and reign.

As Gordon J Wenham points out, at this moment “the order of creation is totally inverted."\autocite[p.51]{Wenham2014Genesis} Adam was to obey God and lead his wife, and together they were to exercise dominion over creation. But instead, the serpent has dominion over Eve, who leads her passive husband, who ignores God’s command.

What happens next is surprising. Adam and Eve aren’t immediately struck down; the world doesn’t end. Instead, Genesis 3:8 says that God walked into the garden looking for Adam, as he usually did at this time of the day. But Adam and Eve were not found. While God tried to draw near to them, they hid themselves from him, overwhelmed by their guilt and shame. Their sin separated them from God, fracturing the perfect friendship they had with him.

Once God finds Adam and Eve, he gently confronts their sin, first confronting Adam who blames Eve, then confronting Eve who blames the serpent. Finally, God turns and curses the serpent, Satan. Let’s read Genesis 3:14-15.

The Lord God said to the serpent, “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” (Gen. 3:14-15).

In this passage, God promises that someday he would send a man, a descendant of Eve, who would crush the serpents head. This promised man would destroy Satan and undo the effects of Adam and Eve’s sin.

After this curse, God explains to Adam and Eve that, because of their sin, their marriage would be broken, work would be cursed, pregnancy would be painful, and someday they would physically die. Then God kills an animal and makes clothing for them, covering their shame. At the end of their confrontation, God banishes Adam and Eve from the garden. Their sin separated them from God’s presence.

Theological Significance

In this passage is a verse known as the Protoevangelion because it is the first reference in Scripture to the Gospel. This passage shows us that the Gospel was not God’s plan B. From eternity past, God has planned to send his Son, Jesus, who would rescue us from our sin.

Jesus is the promised descendant of Eve who crushed Satan and destroyed sin and death. But, as Genesis promises, as Jesus crushes the serpent, the serpent would bite his heel. Though he never sinned, he bore the penalty for our sin, dying a horrible death on a Roman cross.

Jesus is the animal that was sacrificed to provide a covering for our sin. Adam and Eve tried to hide the shame of their nakedness with leaves, but their covering was insufficient. In mercy, God made them real clothes to cover themselves. In the same way, our guilt is covered and our sin is paid for by Jesus' perfect sacrifice. He is the sacrificial lamb of God!

Like Adam and Eve, we too have committed treason against God, choosing to build our own kingdom instead of serving his. Our sin has separated us from God. Though we are physically alive, we are spiritually dead, living outside the garden. Tremper Longman III says “The effects of the Fall go well beyond physical death. The first place the consequences of the Fall can be seen is in relationship, which is so important to human beings."\autocite[p.112]{Longman2009Read} On our own, all we can expect is a life of hardship, followed by death, and an eternity separated from God’s goodness. What a horrible thought!

But God has not abandoned us. Like God pursued Adam and Eve when they hid from him, he pursues each one of us in the brokenness of our sin. Though we deserve only God’s just punishment for our sin, he sent his Son, Jesus, to live the perfect life that we should have lived and to die the death that we deserve.

We can know that Jesus is the Son of God because he perfectly fulfills the predictions of the Protoevangelion and hundreds of other prophecies throughout the Old Testament.

And so we see that God’s grace and mercy shine bright in this dark moment of human history. Instead of walking away from humanity, God gives a promise future salvation through his Son. What a Gospel!

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