In the very beginning of the Bible, we see Adam and Eve living with God in the garden of Eden. But the humans are quickly led to rebellion by a snake who persuaded Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s commands.
This rebellion led to shame and separation from humanity’s Eden-ideal. But in this story, we see God make one of his first promises in the Bible. It’s a rescue plan to restore humanity back to their place in the garden. God promises that the seed of the woman would one day rise up against the snake to crush its head. But the snake would strike the heel of the snake crusher. It’s a confusing promise, left with no further explanation until later in the story, when God makes another promise to a man named Abraham.
God promises Abraham that through his descendants, all nations will experience blessing. And God promises to one of these descendants, a man named Judah, that a great king would come from his line. This king will be the one who destroys the snake and fulfills the promise God made to Abraham.
But one by one, the kings of Israel fall short of destroying the snake and restoring humanity. In fact, they end up following the same patterns of rebellion against God. When the Hebrew Bible comes to its close, the promised king has still not arrived.
So what does Messiah mean? For the Israelites, the Messiah referred to this promised king who would defeat evil and restore humanity to the Eden ideal. When Jesus arrived on the scene, a son from the line of David and Judah, he said he came to usher in God’s Kingdom. He was the king the people had been waiting for. But in his mission to destroy human evil, he himself was destroyed—killed on a cross by the very people he came to save.
Jesus’ death fulfilled the promise that God made all the way back in the garden of Eden. Evil had struck the Messiah's heel, but the Messiah still defeated evil, atoning for the sins of all humanity. When Jesus rose from death, he asserted his ultimate authority over death and evil, dealing the snake a fatal blow.