Summary: This article was written and published April ’16; edited and additions made July ’17. Although this article is directed more towards the theological types among Christians, still it is very simple in its reasoning and explanations, and should be easy enough to understand by the common believer. There are two Adams – the ways of God with man began with the first man; however, the counsels of God, formed and settled on before the foundation of the world, center the glory of God on Jesus Christ, the second Adam. By the cross, the Son of Man glorified God. Therefore God has glorified Him (John 13:31-32). It is on this last Man that all God’s pleasure and delight is focused, and this for time and eternity.
The two Adams are my reason for writing. Is there a better theological understanding other than the ones we argue and fight over? I have always understood covenants and dispensations, the essence of the two main competing systems, as both being earthly in character, referring almost entirely to the means of earthly blessings. The literalness or letter of the covenants apply strictly to Israel (Rom. 9:4), a people who have an earthly calling from God. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time ever finding God making a covenant with Gentiles. If you closely examine all the covenants revealed in scripture, and here I am not speaking of ones made up from human imaginations, they provide for earthly things and the blessing of man in Adam in the first creation.
Covenants are connected to God’s first creation and man as he is born in Adam. The first covenant God made, where the rainbow was its sign, involved the preservation of the first creation, although it had its lingering defilement through Adam’s sin. Certain biblical institutions or principles existed at the time (i.e. marriage, family) or were brought in by God at this time (i.e. government, nationalities, languages, etc.) which formed all the human relationships associated with the first creation. All the covenants God makes after this point involve His special choice of Israel in that creation. Even the promises made to Abraham, who preceded the existence of Israel, were God looking ahead to this nation as Abraham’s physical descendants, and how He would privilege and exalt the Jews in the earth. All the covenants, whether we realize it or not, point to the future millennium for their full and real fulfillment. This future-looking involves Israel eventually restored to their land and exalted above every nation on the face of the millennial earth. Only through this nation will all the Gentile nations on the earth be blessed and prosper. All the Gentiles will be gathered unto them, and they all will serve Israel.
So covenants concern Israel and the first creation. But the believer is distinctly the new creation of God. He is born of God instead of born of Adam (John 1:12-13). Concerning him, all things are new and all things are of God (II Cor. 5). Being the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5), Jesus holds the first place in this new creation of God, this among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). The believer/church has a distinct heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), one that is irrevocable. Covenants deal with earthly blessings and things, and this in the first creation. But if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation with a heavenly calling, and his blessings from God are spiritual, not physical, and they are found in heavenly places instead of on the earth (Eph. 1:3).
I know I will get arguments about this, but just like I never see God making any covenants with Gentiles, so also I never see the believer/church directly involved in any covenant in scripture. We have, I do not doubt, eternal redemption from God freely given to us through the shed blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24). But does this mean that our redemption comes to us via a covenant agreement? Is our redemption in Christ actually a covenant? Can the believer’s redemption stand alone as the direct result of Christ’s work on the cross without forcing it into a presupposed covenant arrangement? Scripture tells me that as a believer God has justified me freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood. As far as I can see there is nothing here that speaks of a covenant arrangement. Redemption is freely given; it is by His grace; it does not say by covenant. Propitiation gives us the idea of a demand being met or the satisfaction made through payment of a bill due. The short version is that Christ’s blood and death satisfies and glorifies God’s own righteousness concerning man’s sin. But these are not normal covenant thoughts. Covenants are agreements; they are not satisfying payments or propitiations so the debtor can go free. Justification speaks of a former debtor now being freed and cleared of his debt.
Scripture does speak of a new covenant, but when I search for the actual terms and words of it, all I find are things involving Israel (Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:7-13). The new covenant never directly speaks of spiritual blessings and heavenly places for those who have already been redeemed and accepted (Eph. 1:6-7). Covenants simply never explain heavenly things (John 3:12), nor do they directly apply to a heavenly body like the church. There is a lot of pressure in theological circles to place the church in some way under the new covenant. I believe this comes from their own attempts to structure their own systems. Scripture tells me the covenants pertain to Israel (Rom. 9:4). I recognize the church as very distinct from Israel, and so, I do not enter into scripture manipulations to have the covenants pertain to the church.
Israel will have a new covenant because they had a previous covenant made at Mt. Sinai. We could call the Sinai covenant Israel’s old or first covenant. The new covenant replaces Israel’s old covenant which passed away (Heb. 8:13). The new replaces the old, the second replaces the first – fairly simple and logical. But you cannot make the same argument legitimately for the Gentiles or for the church. They did not have an old covenant that was defective, necessitating the need for a new one (Heb. 8:7-9).
Dispensations I have discussed in other articles. They are always associated with earthly things. They involve a specific human responsibility given to man by God in which He looks for the fruit of obedience. Every dispensation fails in man’s hands, and when the longsuffering of God comes to an end, judgment from God ends the dispensation. This pattern repeats itself until the final dispensation, where all things corrupted and made miserable by the first man will be made good by the power of God through the glorified Son of Man present on the earth. But the millennium only represents the blessing of God in His first creation, when the defilement and futility of it will be removed (Rom. 8:19-22). There aren’t any dispensations about heavenly bodies or heavenly things.
But now consider the two Adams. As a precursor allow me to quote from I Corinthians:
I Cor. 15:47
“The first man was of the earth, and made of dust; the second Man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.”
There is an earthly man, and there continue to be those associated with him. These remain earthly. But we see there is a heavenly Man, and those now associated with Him are heavenly. These are the two Adams, the first man and the second Man (I Cor. 15). And if anyone can reveal to us heavenly things, it is this heavenly Man (John 3:10-13). This is the defect of our current theological systems – the explanation of our involvement in heavenly things.
Romans 5:14 states that Adam is a type of Him who was to come. This connects Adam with Jesus in a certain theological understanding. Let’s look at the context of the passage:
Romans 5:12-14 (NKJV)
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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.”
Between Adam and Moses there was no law. Adam had one commandment. Moses gave Israel ten commandments. But between these two there was no law – none of either kind, yet they sinned and died (proving the common consequences of the first man’s disobedience had spread to all men regardless). This passage implies the need to recognize the two great heads of the whole system (doctrinally, theologically) – the first and last Adam. It is not going to David, or Moses, or Abraham, but going to the two great heads of races of men, Adam and Jesus Christ. And our redemption in the second Adam is not mending or fixing up the first Adam, but through death to substitute one for the other. Every human being who has ever lived is either “in Adam” or “in Christ” the last Adam. There are really only two races of men; there are only two heads, one for each race of men.
What is key to the validity of this system and to the truth of there being only two races which exist is understanding the abstract nature of the different acts of these two men. For the believer’s redemption, Jesus, the last Adam, died on the cross and shed His blood, giving His life. Of course the believer didn’t physically die as Christ did, yet we die with Christ (Rom. 6:8, Col. 2:20; 3:3) – this is the abstract spiritual truth of our redemption.
How does this relate to the first Adam as well? Let’s define our term: if we speak of the abstract nature of an act then we refer to the act which is causative of the whole condition that resulted, even though the consequences were entailed on those that came under it. Adam had one act of disobedience. The resulting condition or fallen state came upon all mankind, those born of him. This is the abstract nature associated with Adam’s one act. The consequences came on those who did not commit the original act (Rom. 5:18-19). Yet all are found guilty and condemned with no exception. The results came upon all men (Rom. 5:16).
Now this was the case for both Adam and Jesus, the last Adam – both had one act of disobedience or obedience. By an abstract nature associated with the acts of both, certain consequences came upon two different races. The two Adams are the heads of their own distinct races of men – one race fallen and lost, the other saved and redeemed, the sure results of the two different acts. And this makes a solid foundation for the new system. There is no causative act resulting in a new condition coming upon a whole race when we consider Abraham, Moses, or David. This is only true with the two Adams.
This is fairly straight forward doctrinally and theologically. And I find that all of scripture, at least for me, is easily explained by the two Adams, the understanding of one or the other, especially when we fully comprehend the consequences of the disobedience of the first man. The Christian’s redemption is accomplished by God’s grace, which substitutes the righteousness of God and the person of the second Adam for the sin and person of the first. The condition in which we were as a whole race (in the flesh and under the dominion of sin) was that of fallen sinful Adam. Christ, the sinless One, came and stood for us (not only bearing our sins, but being made sin on the cross, forsaken by God, bearing the wrath of God and the penalty of death for our condition in Adam, God by condemning Christ, condemned sin in the flesh – this honored and magnified the righteousness of God concerning our sinful state in Adam), and God’s glory substitutively – that is, as a sacrifice in that place. The second Adam met the entire state and condition we were in as a result of belonging to the race as a descendent of the first Adam. And I believe the implication of scripture takes this farther than our personal salvation. He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He takes away, as God’s Lamb, the sin of the world. His sacrifice is the basis of the condition of the new heavens and new earth wherein dwells righteousness.
Now the remainder of the chapter tells this system generally (Rom. 5:12-21), and that the law (Judaism) is viewed as an add-on or minor addition for a limited purpose (Rom. 5:20). This gives us what is meant to be a proper perspective concerning Jewish things. Above we said that Abraham, Moses, and David had no abstract act causative of a new state or condition entailed upon a race. And we see the law, which is the religion of Judaism, added by and by as an afterthought. God simply used the law as a special way of proving the evil sinful state of the Adam race, giving the law to the Jews only, a special people privileged by God above all other peoples on the earth. God used the law as one of the ways He proved man’s utter depravity – He used it as an instrument which would cause sin to abound more and more. God used Israel as a test-case representing man in Adam. If the Jews failed under the law, then the whole human race in Adam failed (Rom. 3:19-20). But Israel is never considered the entirety of one of the two races of men. They were only part of the Adam race. And they were proven just as fallen and lost as the remainder of the Adam race – the Gentiles. They had advantages and privileges the Gentiles didn’t (Rom. 3:1-2, 9:3-5), but in their state they were proven no different from them.
Now other passages support this as a sound theological idea, worthy of development and serious consideration (I Cor. 15:20-57, Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus became the head and root of a new creation (II Cor. 5:17), which was manifested as such at His resurrection – He is the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn among many brethren ( Col. 1:18, Rom. 8:29). He became the head of the new creation of God, as Adam was of the old. This was after He did all that was necessary to put sin away, in His humiliation suffering what was due to sin and suffering unto death (Heb. 9:26).
The passage in Philippians leads us to a great contrast in understandings of the two Adams (Phil. 2:5-11). The first man was surrounded by every blessing and comfort. He was placed in paradise and blessed with the full enjoyment of God’s countenance. However the second Adam was in the midst of poverty, suffering, and sin. He was surrounded by degradation and woe. Jesus could say, “Reproach has broken my heart, I am full of heaviness,” and “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful.” He could say, “My heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels,” or “I am poured out like water.” Jesus set aside the full privileges of His personal glory and divinity in order to come into this world as a Man – this was humiliation. He also took the form of a servant – a lower form of humiliation. He humbled Himself in obedience to God unto His own death, the most humiliating of deaths being crucified on the Roman cross. We see that Adam aspired to be like God and fell. The Lord Jesus Christ, though very God in truth, humbled Himself in becoming a Man, and then to the very dust of death, so to vindicate in His own Person the majesty and righteousness of the eternal God. The first man took leaves to hide the sin from God’s sight, to excuse that which he had done. But Jesus was lifted up on the cross, between heaven and earth, bearing the iniquity of our sins in His own body – far from denying and concealing anything. The first Adam was found in disobedience to God and humbled in the misery of sin. Jesus, the second Adam, was obedient to the will of God, and then as the glorified Man exalted above everything, except God Himself.
By the disobedience of the first Adam sin entered the world – it was the entrance of a sinful nature, or what scripture calls the flesh, into every man. Adam’s sin brought mortality and death to all mankind (Rom. 5:12) – a certain judgment and condemnation. Man in Adam was found in his fallen condition to have no strength or ability to obey the will of his Creator – in many different ways God proved beyond doubt the utter depravity of Adam’s children. Adam’s act also brought misery and ruin on God’s first creation (Rom. 8:20) – a certain futility and defilement. This last is another general result or consequence of Adam’s abstract act – he was given dominion over all the works of God’s creation (Ps. 8:6-8). By his disobedience he brought futility and decay upon it. Under responsibility to God, Adam’s children could not obey the law when given to them (the Jews), and could not obey the will of God in government when made kings (Jewish royalty) or given world dominion (the four Gentile empires, starting with Babylon). In every institution and under every principle, man in Adam has failed in his responsibility, bringing misery and ruin upon all.
Thank God for the second Adam. He will succeed in obedience to God in all things where the first Adam and his children have miserably failed. He will make good all that the first man ruined in sin. Every principle, every institution, all government of the earth, will be made good in and through the last Man. All things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, will be reconciled to God by Him (Col. 1:20). The earth will enjoy the fruits of the victory and of the faithfulness of the last Adam, and will be the magnificent testimony of it in the sight of principalities and powers. It is God’s eternal counsel for Jesus Christ, the last Adam, to be the head of all things in both heaven and earth (Eph. 1:9-10). When we come to the eternal state with the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21:1-8), I do not doubt that these also have their basis in the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Now we’ll consider two very important biblical principles – responsibility and life – and their intimate relationship with the two Adams. In the garden of Eden there were found two trees representing these two principles – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life. God gave the first Adam the command to not eat of the first – this was Adam’s responsibility, his duty. Would he obey God as a creature fully aware of his relationship with his Creator? Adam acted in his responsibility, and failed concerning it, before having life. This is why God drove him and his wife out of Eden, because God would not tolerate Adam gaining life together with sin.
These are the two great principles – responsibility of good and evil, and life. Jesus Christ alone, the second Adam, has reconciled them. When the law was introduced at Mt. Sinai, it presented responsibility, but not life (Gal. 3:21, Rom. 7:10). The law, which is Judaism, places man in responsibility as to his salvation; but instead of life, it produces condemnation and death (II Cor. 3:7-9). However Jesus Christ, the second Adam, takes the responsibility on Himself, and becomes at the same time the source of life (I John 5:11-12, I Cor. 15:45). Christ took upon Himself our responsibility placed under the judgment of God – He bore our sins in His own body on the tree (I Pet. 2:24, Heb. 1:3, Rom. 8:3).
Christians are now placed in a much higher responsibility – responsibility according to that life He has given us. Consequently, God judges Christians, never to condemn them, in their everyday conduct. But God treats the believer according to the holiness of this life, judging their walk, that grace may always be given to them, according to their need, and to maintain them in communion with the Father and the Son (John 14:21-23). Jesus intercedes at the same time for His own before God, not to obtain their justification, which He has perfectly accomplished, but to take them out of their difficulties and maintain them in the path of faith (Heb. 7:25-28).
But here, allow me to make this theological point of great importance concerning the two Adams. Without difficulty or loss of much understanding, we could pass over all the time of human history between the first Adam chased out of the garden by God, all the way to the cross and death of Christ. Where the first man was disobedient and failed in his responsibility to God, and God prevented him from the tree of life, it was on the cross of Christ, the second Adam, where responsibility and life were reconciled together as they never could have been at any other time or place. The cross and death of Jesus Christ is the central point of human history, as it also is concerning the counsels of God. All the sin and suffering and misery brought in by the first man, even death as the final enemy, is undone in title now by the suffering and death of the last Adam on the cross, and will all have its end by the power of His glorified presence on the earth during the millennial dispensation. This is a simple understanding and sound theological system, supported by the word of God, yet presented here without any significant reference to Abraham, Moses, David, or Israel. The Christian believer does not have his associations with a Jewish Messiah come in the flesh to Israel (Rom. 9:3-5), but instead with the Son of Man glorified and sitting at the right hand of God in the heavens (John 13:31-32, II Cor. 5:16-17, Eph. 1:17-23). The two critical persons in human history are the two Adams. The true Christian is in Christ as a new creation. God has ended the believer’s life and existence in Adam, the first man (Rom. 6:6, 8:3).