It begins, I suspect, with a far too small view of the fall. There is plenty we lament about that dark day in history’s most beautiful spot. We know that sin brought division to Adam and Eve. The two were designed to be one flesh, but when God challenged Adam for his sin, Adam threw his bride under the bus: “It was the woman.” We know the fall brought death into the world and the expulsion of our parents from a garden paradise. We know, of course, that it created enmity and estrangement between man and God.
Perhaps we miss the scope of the destruction because we want to subsume it all under God’s judgment against man. That is, the pain in the child-bearing, the presence of sickness and death, the thorns and thistles that infest the ground are not mere angry thunderbolts that God throws at us out of His anger. Instead, they are the natural consequences of the decidedly unnatural choice of the stewards of God’s creation. The earth groans not just because Adam and Eve took an illicit bite of fruit, but because they failed in their calling—to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue, to rule over the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the ground. The first Adam, in disobeying His Father, did more than earn His disfavor. He plunged the world into a vortex of death and destruction.
But God. Grace began in the garden. There, our Father graciously made animal skins as coverings for Adam and Eve. Better still, in the midst of pronouncing judgment, He called them to continue in their calling of exercising dominion. He promised to call out a people from among the mass of fallen humanity, and He promised that the seed of the woman would one day crush the head of the serpent. This is the proto-gospel, the gospel in its basic form. There is no clear exposition of substitutionary atonement. There is no clear prediction of an incarnation. There is no specific reference to a resurrection. But there is the promise that Jesus wins. That is the gospel—Jesus wins.
From Genesis 3 to the end of the Old Testament, God is about the business of preparing the way for the coming hero. He graciously provides restraints against the downward spiral our sin has brought upon us. First, He establishes His worship. He rescues Noah and his family while wiping out the rest of humanity. He calls Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. He promises Abraham that he will be the father of nations, and in turn that all the nations of the world will be blessed through him. God continues to reveal more about Himself, about His law, about His covering of sin. He calls His people out of Egypt, establishing Israel as His bride. He blesses her with judges, and later with King David. He sends His prophets, who bear His Word.
Even as God continues to reveal more and more, even as He beats back some of the destruction of sin, every hero He provides turns out to have feet of clay. Sin, time and again, intrudes into the narrative, reminding us that the Seed of the woman is still somewhere in the future. God’s people sink deeper and deeper into their unbelief. The nations of the world grow more powerful, more brazen. And then, four hundred years of silence.
But God. The incarnation is the very picture of wonder, as we consider God dwelling among us, born of a woman, lying in a manger. His perfect life, His atoning death, the resurrection that vindicated Him, and our union with Him are not just good news but great news. But the incarnation is part of a bigger picture—Jesus wins. Jesus, the final Adam, has come not only to undo what the first Adam did, but to do what the first Adam failed to do. He is bringing all things under subjection. He, the firstborn of the new creation, is overseeing the birth of the new heavens and the new earth, even as the old groans in the travail of labor. He has received all authority in heaven and on earth, and He is using that authority to see to it that every principality and power will kiss Him, that every knee will bow and every tongue confess Him as Lord.
The gospel is that Jesus wins. He wins our hearts. He wins our souls. He wins our bodies. He wins His bride. He wins victory. He wins newness of life. He wins over sin, over the devil, over everything that exalts itself against Him. He wins over entropy. He wins over disease. He wins over strife. He wins over discord. He wins over death.
In the end, what He wins is the beginning, only better. Because of Him, we will walk with our Father in the cool of the evening, through streets of gold in a garden-city, the New Jerusalem, Eden glorified. In the end, the best man does indeed win. For He is the groom, and we His bride. And we will dance.