Then the LORD God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed
more than all animals, domestic and wild.
You will crawl on your belly,
groveling in the dust as long as you live.
And I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:14–15 NLT)
Though the phrase itself is Latin, the concept of deus ex machina is of Greek origin, first showing up in tragedy plays by Aeschylus and Euripides. Translating literally as “god from the machine,” deus ex machina refers to an overly convenient resolution to the plot. In the Greek tragedies of old, this would be through the arrival of one of the gods through some sort of machine – such as a crane lowering the actor from above or a riser bringing them up from beneath a trapdoor in the stage.
This practice made popular in Greek tragedies is even found in modern stories, though the “god” is often replaced by some previously unmentioned character or piece of information that shows up for the first time in the last act to resolve any outstanding issues. Some well-known examples include H. G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, which ends with the Martian invaders all dying out due to the common cold, and the 1978 film Superman, where Superman saves Lois by using a previously unmentioned power to turn back time. Critics of deus ex machina say it shows a lack of creativity in how difficulties of the plot are resolved. They also say it can leave the audience feeling cheated.
In contrast, there is nothing about God’s plan of salvation for the world that feels like cheating. This was not a half-baked plan that was pulled together in the last page of the play; this was a plan set in motion from the beginning. In the third chapter of Genesis, just after Adam and Eve break their covenant with God by eating of the one tree in the Garden that was off limits, God curses them. He also curses the serpent, telling it there will be hostility “between your offspring and her offspring” and “he will strike your head.” Jesus, offspring of Adam and Eve through Mary, fulfilled God’s promise by striking the head of the serpent and breaking the Adamic curse of death.
God’s plan of salvation is visibly woven throughout the Scriptures, pointing toward Jesus – the savior of the world – as the central figure in all of human history. From Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah, to the tenth plague of Egypt, to the handful of prophetic Psalms, to countless other instances of the salvific work of God throughout history, the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus – and ultimately his role as savior – were foreshadowed from the beginning. The best news of all is that this work is not yet complete. Jesus as savior was not a one-time event; it is an ongoing role that he plays in our world and in our lives that we will ultimately see fulfilled in the new creation that John was witness to in Revelation.
Genesis 2–3 and Revelation 21–22 both tell stories of gardens built by God for mankind. Read each passage in turn, taking note of how there might be similarities between the two but it is only the New Jerusalem where we will know God’s true shalom. Follow this up by spending time in praise to Jesus for his continued role as savior.