Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Last Adam

1 Corinthians 15:45
Biblegems #11
In 1 Corinthians 15:45, Paul refers to Jesus as the "Last Adam" where he says, "So it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being': The Last Adam a life-giving Spirit." The question is, why would Paul call Jesus the "Last Adam?"

Our reference verse tells us that the “First Adam” became a living “soul”: that is, God formed from earthly components the shape and biological functions of the person we know as Adam and gave him the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). In this respect, the “First Adam” became a proto-type of all other humanity to follow. All humanity would be living souls created in the image of God (see Biblegems #10) in the same fashion that Adam was a living soul.

The “Last Adam,” Jesus, is a new proto-type, the first in a series of a new kind of human being. Jesus is referred to here as “Adam” because the new proto-type still deals with beings formed of earthly components. In fact, the same human beings who descended from the “First Adam” are now about to undergo a dramatic change and become like the “Last Adam.” As human beings, we are born in Adam, so to speak, and have received from him our biological nature and our imageo-dei. However, those who surrender their lives to Jesus inherit from Jesus a new nature—a human life indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.

Likewise, in Adam we inherit the sin nature, and death as its consequence. Both are passed on genetically and by example:
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother
conceived me (Ps. 51:5).

But, in the “Last Adam,” we inherit eternal life through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor. 15:20).

The “First Adam” passed on to the human race a mortal body, while the “Last Adam” passes on to those who are in Him a glorious, indestructible, resurrection body fit for eternal life.

Finally (although there is much more that could be said about the subject), just as the “First Adam” was not followed by a series of other proto-types, but became the model for all subsequent humanity, Jesus is called the “Last Adam” because there will be no other transformations that humanity will undergo. All humanity will forever after fall into on of two categories: in Adam or in Jesus Christ; in the “First Adam” or in the “Last Adam.” As Paul says in our reference verse, Jesus, the “Last Adam” has become a life-giving spirit; and we who are in Jesus are recipients of that new life that only He can give!

Thanks for the question! Please post your comments and other questions below for future Biblegems posts.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Made In God's Image

Biblegems #10
Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Gen. 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

What did God intend for us to understand “image” to mean, both here and throughout Scripture?

It is not insignificant that these first three uses of the word “image” in the Bible are followed by a nearly parallel passage in 5:3: Adam “had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.” In other words: like father, like son. They are identical in kind (human) and similar in likeness (sharing similarities in appearance, personality, etc).

In its simplest context, without adding later NT theology, Genesis is telling us that Adam (lit., “of the earth”) is a physical, limited facsimile of God. Human beings are physical and limited in nature, whereas God is unlimited and spirit in nature (Jn. 4:24). Human beings are created, whereas God is uncreated. Man is like God but not God. Adam’s son was born like Adam, but not Adam.

This is precisely what the Hebrew words for “image” (selem) and “likeness” (demuth) indicate. Selem is the word used of carved images, such as statues and idols (1 Sam. 6:5; 2 Ki. 11:18), and demuth indicates an exact model, pattern or representation of something (2 Ki. 16:10). So, like God, we have a spirit, but we are not solely Spirit, as He is. Possessing a spirit enables us to relate to God on a spiritual level (1 Cor. 6:11), but being one with Him does not make us identical to Him.

The New Testament brings a greater depth of revelation: When Jesus took on human nature (Phil.2:7), the Scripture is clear that He was “made” (not created) in human likeness. For example, all marine life was created at once, brought into existence where none had previously existed (Gen. 1:21), but He “made” the atmosphere by separating the watery substance of the primal earth into two bodies (Gen. 1:7).

Likewise, the pre-existing Jesus (Jn. 1:1ff) was “made” in human likeness. He was formed and patterned after Adam, the first perfect “image” of God. “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” (1Cor. 15:45). As a human being, Jesus was made in the image of Adam, who was made in the image of God.

As God in human form, Jesus stands apart from the rest of God’s image bearers as the only One who can give life. We can only receive that life and so become children of God (1 John 3:1). But even that high privilege does not make us divine, for we are always heirs—recipients—of the promise that is granted to us by His grace. Jesus alone is the “author and perfector of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). We will always be in His debt and subject to Him. Even as we reign with Him in eternity, it will not be on His throne, but at His right and left hand (Mk. 10:40). What an honor to be among those in God’s masterful creation who bear His image! But it is an honor granted, not earned, and therefore one that should keep us in a state of perpetual humility and gratitude.

References: 1. (Vernon O. Elmore. Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'IMAGE OF GOD'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
 . 1991.) 2. Henry M. Morris. The Genesis Record, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michgan. Copyright, 1976. 3. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, Ill. Copyright 1980.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

When Does “David” mean “Jesus"

Biblegems #9
Question: When does “David” mean “Jesus” in Scripture
— and how do we know?

Old Testament prophecy often refers to the Messiah, Jesus, as sitting on David’s throne. Perhaps the most well known is rehearsed in churches every Christmas:
       Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Probably the most singular example of biblical prophecy where David may not refer to the Messiah is Ezekiel 34:23-24:
I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.

The setting is the Millennial Kingdom when Christ will reign for a thousand years on the earth (Rev. 20:6). He will restore Israel as a people to Himself and to the Promised Land (Jer. 23:5-6), and from Jerusalem in Zion He will restore and govern the entire earth (Micah 4:2). Here, taken at face value, Ezekiel prophesies that during the Messiah’s Millennial reign: I will place over them one shepherd, my servant Davidand my servant David will be prince among them — ruling over the descendants of Jacob. Hosea, speaking of the same time period says, Afterward the Israelites will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king.

Throughout prophetic Scripture, when the Messiah is linked to king David’s throne, He is David’s Seed (Is. 6:13), David’s descendant (Ps. 132:11-12), the righteous Branch (Jer. 33:15), etc. A distinction is always carefully made between David Himself and the Messiah to come. But in Ezekiel 34, David himself is said to sit on the throne with the very limited task of ruling over restored Israel. And to emphasize the point that David is not to be metaphorically confused with God, Ezekiel 34:24 says, “I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince…”

The passages in Ezekiel and Hosea do not stand alone. Jeremiah also prophesies of that Millennial Kingdom: Instead, they will serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them (Jer. 30:9).

A straightforward reading of Scripture is always the best guide to it’s own meaning. Unless the Bible itself clues us in that terms are to be taken symbolically (Seed, Branch, etc.), let the Bible say what it means and mean what it says. It should not be surprising that David will serve such a role in the Millennium: Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years (Rev. 20:6)!