Day 24: Jesus is the Last Adam
Yesu Christo Ne Adam a Otwa tuo (Akan)
So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. – 1 Corinthians 15:45
The references to “first Adam” and “second Adam” in the Scriptures are meant to make clear that the history of Christian salvation is connected. Salvation is God’s rescue mission in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus came as a second Adam to save by reversing the curses brought by the first Adam. He did this by representing us: in His obedience to God’s will, in His mediation between us and God as a Perfect High Priest, and in His substitution of Himself as a sacrificial lamb once-for-all on the cross.
Reversing the Curse
We owe our understanding of why Jesus Christ is the second Adam to Paul. He wrote to the Romans, explaining how Christ reverses the curses inflicted upon humanity by the failures of the first Adam:
Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (Romans 5:14-15)
A process of decay was instigated by the choices of the first Adam, and the journey of return to God started with the Abrahamic covenant and was fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 3:6-9). Paul writes that “the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed,” and by “seed” he meant Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16). The story of Christian redemption is therefore best understood against the backdrop of the alienation that occurred between God and the first Adam which was reversed through the “seed of Abraham,” Jesus the Christ, the second and last Adam.
In his book Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, Christopher J. H. Wright observes how the Old Testament looks beyond itself to an expected end in Jesus Christ. Paul states within the context of the resurrection story:
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (I Corinthians 15:21-22).
Jesus Christ is therefore presented as “a pattern” or type of Adam in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In Genesis 3:15, God puts enmity between the serpent and the woman and her offspring. To the serpent, God says about the woman’s offspring “… he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Jesus is the offspring of the woman—the second Adam—who renders the mortal blow to the devil’s head. The ultimate consequence of the alienation between God as Creator and Adam and Eve as the created was the loss of intimate fellowship. In the second Adam, that fellowship is restored.
Second Adam as Perfect High Priest
How? The anticipated victory of the second Adam is evident in the encounter with the devil at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry (Matthew 3:16-17). There were three temptations that were thrown at Jesus. Each of them, in some way, reflected what the serpent had requested Eve to do, that is, to usurp God’s sovereignty. Where the first couple failed, Jesus succeeded, resisting the devil’s temptations by trusting and obeying God’s Word.
Consider these important differences between how the first Adam and the second Adam represented humanity:
- The first Adam wanted to be like God, but the Second Adam was God who became human by choice (Philippians 2:7-8).
- The first Adam brought condemnation and death through disobedience; the second Adam brings righteousness and life through obedience (Romans 8:18-19).
- The first Adam died as a result of his sin (Genesis 3:19); the second Adam died in our place for our sin (Hebrews 9:25-28).
- The first Adam was banished from Eden (Genesis 3:23-24), but the second Adam was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20), intercedes for us in God’s presence (Romans 8:34), and will bring those that belong to Him there, too (John 14:3).
Among the Akan of Ghana, one word accounts for the dynamic role of Jesus: Ntamgyinafopanyin, Supreme Mediator. This captures what the Second Adam should mean for the African Christian and “brings us closer to the picture of the self-sacrificing High Priest as powerfully painted by the author of Hebrews….” His taking on of human nature as the Second Adam enabled Jesus to share the human predicament and so qualified him to act and intercede for humanity.
Jesus, the Last Adam, overturns the curses brought upon us by the first Adam. By taking on our humanity in His first Advent, He was able to represent us with His obedient life, sacrificial death, and priestly intercession before the Father. At His second Advent, He will fully conquer death, the curse will be no more (Revelation 22:3), and the restoration of intimate fellowship with God will be complete. May you experience joy and hope this Advent season celebrating what the Last Adam has done and longing for what He will yet do.
Dr J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu is a Langham Scholar who received his PhD with support from Langham. Today, he is President of the Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana, and specialises in contemporary African Christianity and Pentecostal/Charismatic Theology.