Adam and Christ as an example of biblical typology

One way the New Testament writers understood the person and work of Christ were through the person and work of the first man, Adam. Christ was pictured as the second Adam who succeeded where Adam failed. Paul uses the Adam-Christ typology in the following passages in 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans chapter 5.

In 1Co 15:22 the Bible states “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” This verse is the heart of:

  1Co 15:20-23 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. [21] For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. [22] For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. [23]But every man in his order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

Paul again employed the typological relationship in 1Cor 15:44-49 where he used it to argue for a bodily resurrection from the dead.

1Co 15:44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. [45] And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. [46]Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. [47] The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. [48] As is earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. [49]And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

Adam received physical life and Jesus gives Spiritual life. At the highest level, the Bible uses the physical as a type and the spiritual being the anti-type. “The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

The Adam-Christ typology in Romans 5:12-21 is unique because of the degree to which the disjunction between the type and antitype is emphasized. Romans 5:14 indicates typology. The Adam-Christ typology is used to assure all Christians of the infinite superiority of God’s grace in Christ compared with his earlier wrath. Adam was “a type of Him who was to come”.

(Rom. 5:14). Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (nkjv)

As indicated above Types are both like and unlike (opposite) their anti-type. Below is a list comparing and contrasting Adam and Christ. Romans chapter five emphasizes some of these differences.

Rom 5:16-18  And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the gift is of many offenses unto justification. [17] For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ. [18] Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the gift came upon all men unto justification of life

There are two points of correspondence between Adam and Christ. Both were single individuals.  Each did one act that affected the rest of humanity: ‘Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men (Rom 5:18).

Adam and Christ are not two successive competitors in a task where one fails while the second succeeds. Rather, Christ has to undo the failure of Adam, reverse his disobedience, and bring life where Adam brought death. Christ is thus greater than Adam. Adam was created in the “image of God” and Christ was the image of God “God in the flesh” and brought life.

  • John 1:1, In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
  • John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Christ is the true ‘image of God,’ and because of His obedience Christians are now being re-created, while Adam is the distorted copy, whose disobedience resulted in humanity’s becoming enslaved to sin and death.

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