First Adam—Last Adam
Both are vital to the Gospel … but exactly how?
The Bible presents Adam as the first man, and gives the Lord Jesus Christ the curious title of ‘the last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45). What does this term mean, and why is it given? What are the similarities between Adam and Jesus that warrant Jesus having this title? What are the differences?
Adam and Jesus compared
1. A miraculous beginning
The Bible tells us that the first man, Adam, was created by God, in His image and likeness, directly from the dust of the ground. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul (Genesis 1:26–27; 2:7). Thus, Adam was not the product of some form of theistic evolution.1 God did not make him in the image or likeness of an ape, nor from a ‘lower hominid’ by any lengthy or even abrupt mutational processes.2 Rather God created Adam as an immediate act, by His word (i.e. by commanding or willing this to happen), at some time on the sixth day of Creation week.3
While Adam was made in the image of God, Christ is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1:15).
The Bible tells us that the last Adam, Jesus Christ, was the One through whom God created all things (John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:15–20; Hebrews 1:2). Thus Jesus was pre-existent with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit before Adam lived (John 8:58; Micah 5:2).4 Nevertheless, in His humanity, He too had a miraculous beginning when He was incarnated as a human being—conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:20–23; Luke 1:26–35).
2. Perfect, innocent, holy
Adam was created a perfect man, in full possession of all human faculties, and with a God-consciousness which enabled him to have spiritual communion with God. Initially innocent, sinless, and holy, he was in a right relationship to God, to woman, to himself, and to the natural world around him.
The last Adam, Jesus, was also perfectly man, one with God (John 10:30; 17:21–22), innocent, sinless, and holy (Hebrews 7:26). Many people mistakenly refer to Jesus Christ as the ‘second Adam’, a term not found in the Bible. However, Scripture refers to Christ as the ‘second man’ (1 Corinthians 15:47). There have been many men since Adam, but Jesus Christ was only the second man to ever be completely without sin.
Unlike the first Adam, the Lord Jesus was, in addition, divine, having the attributes, offices, prerogatives, and names of deity. Being fully God, He is worthy of worship (e.g. Revelation 5:11–14).
3. Humanity’s head
Adam was the head of the human race. Jesus Christ is the head of redeemed humanity (see, for example, Ephesians 5:23). Since Christ died once for all time (Hebrews 7:27; 9:28; 10:10–14), there will never be the need for any further ‘Adam.’ Hence He is the last Adam.
4. Both givers of life
The first Adam gave life to all his descendants. The last Adam, Jesus Christ, communicates ‘life’ and ‘light’ to all men, and gives eternal life to those who receive Him and believe on His name, giving them ‘power to become the sons of God’ (John 1:1–14).
5. Two rulers
Adam, representing mankind, was given dominion over the created world (Genesis 1:26). After being raised from the dead, Jesus Christ was elevated to God’s right hand, and given dominion over all things, which were ‘put under his feet.’ (1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:20–22). The first Adam was lord over a limited domain, the last Adam is Lord of all (Acts 10:36).
6. A deep sleep produces a beautiful bride
Genesis 2:21–23 tells us that God put Adam into a deep sleep, during which time God made Adam’s bride, Eve, from Adam’s side—a wound in Adam’s side produced a bride! Note that once again theistic evolution is excluded. The text says that God made them male and female at the beginning (Genesis 1:27; 2:7; Matthew 19:4). If Adam and Eve had been sub-human before God breathed life into them, they would already have been male and female, without the need for God to have made them so at this stage.
After the last Adam, Jesus, died upon the cross—suffering the sleep of death for everyone—His side was pierced by a spear thrust (John 19:34). In His death he paid the penalty for mankind’s sins (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). Those who repent and put their faith in Him are united with Christ in a relationship which the Bible likens to that of a bride towards her husband (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:27; Revelation 19:6–8). Thus a wound in the last Adam’s side also produced a bride—the true Church!—‘a glorious bride, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing … holy and without blemish’ (Ephesians 5:27).
7. A momentous testing
At the beginning of Adam’s life he underwent a period of testing as to whether or not he would obey God.5 ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ (Genesis 2:16–17).
At the beginning of the last Adam’s ministry, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (or tested—Greek: peirazō) by the devil (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1–3).6
8. A great failure and a great victory
The first Adam failed the test, and in doing so involved all humanity in his defeat, dragging the human race down with him.7 As a result, in Adam we all stand condemned, spiritually bankrupt, enslaved to sin, and expelled from Paradise (Romans 5:12 ff.).
The last Adam, Jesus, was victorious over sin, the flesh, and the devil. As a result, in Christ, believers stand justified and redeemed, spiritually wealthy, liberated from sin, and included in the Paradise of God (Romans 5:18 ff.; 1 Corinthians 15:21 ff.; Revelation 2:7).
9. Disobedience vs obedience
The first Adam disobeyed God. The last Adam was ‘obedient unto death, even the death of the cross’ (Philippians 2:8).
10. Judgment and death
The first Adam experienced the judgment of God—he ultimately died and his body turned to dust. Because of his sin, death came upon all men, ‘For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23).
The last Adam, Jesus Christ, also died—on the cross—to atone for sin (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 2:9). But He did not stay dead, nor did His body ‘see corruption’ (Acts 2:27; 13:35–37). On the third day He rose again, thereby overcoming the devil and the power of death for all those who believe in Him (Hebrews 2:14), and bringing resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:22–23).
11. Curse and restoration
Creation was originally ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31), so the ‘last enemy’, death (1 Corinthians 15:26) was absent. Even the animals were originally all given plants to eat (Genesis 1:30). The actions of the first Adam brought a reign of death and bloodshed upon a once-perfect world, which ever since has been groaning in pain (Romans 8:22).8 Precisely because of the blood shed in death by the last Adam, this curse of death and bloodshed will be removed, and creation restored to a sinless, deathless state (Revelation 21:1; 21:4; 22:3).
We are all connected with the first Adam (the natural and legal head of the human race) as depraved and guilty sinners, and so are included in the sentence of death which God pronounced on him. However, all who are connected with the last Adam, Jesus, through repentance and faith in His redeeming work, are forgiven, have ‘received the free gift of righteousness’, and so ‘have passed from death to life’ (Colossians 1:14; Romans 5:17; 1 John 3:14).
References and notes
- In Genesis chapters 1–5, the term ‘Adam’ is used specifically for a single person, not generically for the human race (although this occurs in chapter 6 ff). The Apostle Paul’s arguments in Romans 5:12–19 and 1 Corinthians 15:45—that death came into the world through one man’s disobedience, and the gift of righteousness through one man’s obedience—would fall to the ground if ‘Adam’ does not refer to one specific person in the accounts of Creation and the Fall. Paul also taught that Adam and Eve were real individuals in 1 Timothy 2:13–14. Return to text.
- In Genesis 2:7 (‘and man became a living soul’), the word ‘became’ shows that Adam was not already a living creature that evolved into another/different living creature when he was made. He became alive (a living soul) only when he was made. Note also that some theistic evolutionists claim that the dust of Genesis 2:7 from which Adam was made refers to man’s evolving from a beast, but if this was so, then the returning to dust after death of Genesis 3:19 would mean turning back into a beast. This is, of course, absurd. Return to text.
- See Russell Grigg, Creation: How did God do it?, Creation 13(2):36–38, March 1991. Return to text.
- Comparing the origins of the two Adams, the Apostle Paul writes: ‘The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven’ (1 Corinthians 15:47). Return to text.
- Since God created Adam with the power of moral choice, his obedience to God could be confirmed only in a situation where he had the choice either to obey or disobey God. Thus, at the beginning of Adam’s life, a period of probation was necessary, even though God foreknew it would result in the Fall. Return to text.
- We should not imagine that this was the only time in Jesus’ life that he was tempted by Satan, cf. Luke 4:13; 22:28; Hebrews 4:15; 5:8. Return to text.
- Note that Adam was in a pleasant garden, with plenty to eat, and was not hungry. Yet despite living in the best possible living conditions, he still sinned. Jesus was in the wilderness, with nothing to eat, and was very hungry. Return to text.
- This is a potent reason why long–age ‘interpretations’ of the Bible do so much damage to the logic of the Gospel message. The fossils show evidence of death, suffering and disease. If they existed millions of years before man, it means that these things were present before sin. There could not then have been any Curse on creation because of sin, and never any sinless, deathless condition to which all things will be restored (Acts 3:21). Return to text.