Typology: Adam and Christ

Christ is greater than Adam. Christ is both like and unlike Adam

Christ purchased glory for all he came to save. He did so as the anti-typical, last Adam. He suffered to take care of the justice of God and his obedience-unto-death got him exalted, entering into glory, and all those who are his will enter into glory as well. The last Adam takes his seed where the first Adam failed to take his. The anti-type is better than or greater than the type.

 

 1.     A few introductory thoughts on typology

First, a type is a historical person, place, institution, or event that was designed by God to point to a future historical person, place, institution, or event. An example would be the sacrificial system revealed to us in the Old Testament. That institution was designed by God to point to Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice.

Second, that to which types point is always greater than the type itself. In other words, there is some sort of escalation in the anti-type (i.e., fulfillment). For example, “the blood of bulls and goats” could point to Christ but they could not and did not do what Christ’s sacrifice did – take away sins.

Third, types are both like and unlike their anti-types. There is both correspondence and escalation. The blood of animals was shed; the blood of Christ was shed. The blood of animals did not take away sins; the blood of Christ takes away sins.

Fourth, anti-types tell us more about how their types function as types. The blood of Christ takes away sins; the blood of animals pointed to that.

2.     Adam and Christ as an example of biblical typology

Adam was “a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:14). Adam was a type of Christ in his prelapsarian state. Adam was a type of Christ as a public person (1 Cor. 15:22), he represented others. Adam’s failure is seen in the fact that he disobeyed or he failed to obey (Rom. 5:12ff.). But what if he had obeyed? Would he have stayed in the state in which he was created – able to sin and able not to sin? I don’t think so and, I think, for good reason. This is no mere speculative or abstract question. The Bible does give us answers to this question and understanding the typological relationship between Adam and Christ is one key (the key?) that unlocks the answer for us. Let’s think through this together.

In Romans 5:21, God says, “even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ.” Note the prepositional phrases: “through righteousness toeternal life through Jesus Christ.” The righteousness that is “to eternal life” comes as a gift to sinners and is based on Christ’s obedience or “through [His] righteousness.” The life-unto-death obedience of Christ constitutes a righteousness “to eternal life.” In other words, in his sinless human nature as the anti-type of prelapsarian Adam, Christ earned eternal life for us. Listen to Guy Waters on this passage:

The fact that Christ purchased eternal “life” for his own, and that he did so for those who were eternally “dead” in Adam means that Christ’s work was intended to remedy what Adam had wrought (death), and to accomplish what Adam had failed to do (life). Paul emphasizes disparity in his argument precisely in order to underscore the breathtaking achievement of what Christ has accomplished in relation to what Adam has wrought. This means that if Adam by his disobedience brought eternal death, then his obedience would have brought eternal life. In other words, Christ’s “obedience” and its consequence (“eternal life”) parallel what Adam ought to have done but did not do. The life that Adam ought to have attained would have been consequent upon Adam’s continuing, during the period of his testing, in obedience to all the commands set before him, whether moral or positive. This life, it stands to reason, could be aptly described “eternal.””[1]

Eternal life was earned by Christ for us and given by Christ to us. The quality of life Christ attains for us and gives to us is not what Adam had and lost but what Adam failed to attain. Adam did not possess “eternal life.” Listen to Robert Shaw, commenting on the Covenant of Works:

There is a condition expressly stated, in the positive precept respecting the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which God was pleased to make the test of man’s obedience. There was a penalty subjoined: ‘In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.’ There is also a promise, not distinctly expressed, but implied in the threatening; for if death was to be the consequence of disobedience, it clearly follows that life was to the reward of obedience. That a promise of life was annexed to man’s obedience, may also be inferred from…our Lord’s answer to the young man who inquired what he should do to inherit eternal life: ‘If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments’ (Matthew 19:17); and from the declaration of the apostle, that ‘the commandment was ordained to life’ (Romans 7:10).[2]

Just as Adam’s disobedience brought upon him a status not his by virtue of creation, so Adam’s obedience would have brought upon him a status not his by virtue of creation. Christ as anti-typical Adam, the last Adam, takes his seed where Adam failed to take his.

Consider the fact that Adam sinned and fell short of something he did not possess via creation, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). We know that, in Paul’s writings, Adam was the first man who sinned. The first man sinned and fell short of the glory of God; he fell short of something he did not experience via his created status. He was not created in a state that could be called “glory” and he fell short of that state by sinning. He failed to attain to that state because he sinned. In other words, Adam was created in a state that could have been improved. Listen to John Owen:

Man, especially, was utterly lost, and came short of the glory of God, for which he was created, Rom. iii. 23. Here, now, doth the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God open itself. A design in Christ shines out from his bosom, that was lodged there from eternity, to recover things to such an estate as shall be exceedingly to the advantage of his glory, infinitely above what at first appeared, and for the putting of sinners into inconceivably a better condition than they were in before the entrance of sin.[3]

For Owen, “the glory of God” here does not refer exclusively to what God possesses, but what God confers.

Listen to Paul in Romans 5:1-2, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God…and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” Charles Hodge says:

It is a[n]…exultation, in view of the exaltation and blessedness which Christ has secured for us. …The glory of God may mean that glory which God gives, or that which he possesses. In either case, it refers to the exaltation and blessedness secured to the believer, who is to share the glory of his divine Redeemer.[4]

We get glory because it is conferred upon us and that because of what Christ has done for us. This is that to which Adam fell short.

The Old Testament spoke about the Messiah who would come, suffer (due to Adam’s sin and us in him), and enter into glory (Luke 24:46; Acts 26:19-23; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). The Son of God incarnate both suffered and entered into glory, which I think means a glorified state in his human nature after his sufferings via his resurrection and due to his obedience. In other words, his human nature became what it was not at the resurrection. Sufferings and glory is another way of saying humiliation and exaltation. Paul speaks of the Son’s humiliation and exaltation in Romans 1:1-4 and Philippians 2:6-9. His representation in the state of humiliation started at his conception and ended at his death-burial. Upon his death-burial, because of his obedience to the point of death, “God highly exalted Him…” The incarnate Son of God obeyed and suffered due to sin; he entered into glory as a result or reward for his obedience and he did both as the last Adam representing those given to him by the Father before the world began.

Adam failed to comply with the condition of the covenant God imposed upon him and brought with that the ruin of the human race. He fell short of the glory of God, a state ofpermanent existence in God’s special presence he did not possess via creation. But here is the good news – another came, the last Adam, the anti-type of the first Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered, then entered into glory at his resurrection, who will bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10), who will also “gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:14). Listen to Owen on 2 Thessalonians 2:14, ““The glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,” or the obtaining a portion in that glory which Christ purchased and procured for them…”[5]Christ purchased glory for all he came to save. He did so as the anti-typical, last Adam. He suffered to take care of the justice of God and his obedience-unto-death got him exalted, entering into glory, and all those who are his will enter into glory as well. The last Adam takes his seed where the first Adam failed to take his. The anti-type is better than or greater than the type.

In this brief discussion, we can see that both Adam and Christ were historical figures, Christ is greater than Adam, Christ is both like and unlike Adam, and Christ as anti-type (and the explanation of his work by the biblical writers) helps us understand Adam’s function as type better.


[1] Guy P. Waters, “Romans 10:5 and the Covenant of Works” in Bryan D. Estelle, J. V. Fesko, and David VanDrunen, Editors, The Law is not of Faith: Essays on Works and Grace in the Mosaic Covenant (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2009), 230.

[2] Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Geanies House Fern, Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 1998), 124-25.

[3] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume II (Edinburgh, Scotland and Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 1990), 89.

[4] Charles Hodge, Romans (Edinburgh/Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983), 133.

[5] Owen, Works, XI:203.

Richard Barcellos is pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Palmdale, CA. This article appeared at the Reformed Baptist Fellowship website and is used with permission.

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