There is intimacy between God and humans from the moment God forms Adam from the dust of the ground and breathes life into his body (Gen. 2:7). The Lord blesses Adam and Eve, speaks with them, commands them, and offers them dominion over the created order. All is well until the serpent enters the scene. He deceives Eve, who successfully beckons Adam to disobey God. At the point of sin, everything changes.
Even so, there is an interesting encounter between God and his fallen human creatures beginning in Genesis 3:8. Adam and his wife hear the sound of the Lord walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hide from him. This is the earliest theophany in Scripture after the Fall, and it indicates a physical manifestation of the Lord.
Could this also be the first recorded Christophany – the first appearance of the preincarnate Christ? We can’t say with certainty. He is not depicted as the angel of the Lord in this passage. But God does appear physically and speaks personally with Adam and Eve. He asks them questions in which they confess their sin, although they also make excuses for it.
The Lord curses the serpent, as well as the ground, and he announces the consequences for human rebellion against the Creator (Gen. 3:14, 16-19). But he also comes in grace, delivering a message of doom (for Satan) and hope (for mankind): “I will put hostility between you [the serpent] and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
This is the first of more than four hundred messianic references in the Old Testament. God promises that a future male descendant of Eve will “strike” – that is, crush, smite in pieces, greatly injure – the head of the serpent, while the serpent strikes his heel. As John Ankerberg writes, “God is saying the male seed of woman will be victorious over Satan – because he (the serpent) will be mortally wounded.”
Many additional Old Testament prophecies help paint a clearer picture of a virgin-born redeemer who is God in human flesh. Jesus of Nazareth is the fulfillment of these prophecies. In fact, he makes it clear he has come to destroy the works of the devil (John 12:31; 16:11; 1 John 3:8). Because of Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, he delivers the fatal blow to Satan’s dominion over mankind (Acts 10:38; 26:15-18; Col. 2:15; Jas. 4:7). At his future return, Jesus will permanently defeat Satan, casting him into hell, a place prepared for him and his angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 20:10).
If the manifestation of God, walking in the garden, is in fact the angel of the Lord, then the preincarnate Christ delivers the very first prophecy about his own future mission to earth to rescue fallen people from the ravages of sin.
Next: How the Angel of the Lord Is Revealed