One of the easiest things to overlook in the Bible is how individual characters are types of Christ. Reading stories, especially in the Old Testament, as moral lessons or as plot devices to get us to Jesus may sometimes seem the easiest way to navigate them, but those approaches miss so much.
When God created Adam, He gave him a perfect home, a purpose, and freedom. He also gave him one limiting command: Do not eat from one tree, lest you die; everything else is yours (Genesis 2:17). Adam and Eve thrived in the garden. They fulfilled their purpose by cultivating and caring for creation. They enjoyed a beautiful relationship with God. Everything was right, until it wasn’t.
In Genesis 3, it all fell apart. And by “all” I mean all—literally every single created thing broke. Satan, in serpent form, tempted Eve, while Adam complicity and idly stood by. Then he actively participated in the rebellion against God, and death entered the world. For the first time, God’s image-bearers sinned, wanting to be gods themselves rather than people who trust in God. And every person since has followed suit.
At first, it may not be clear how Adam, the primal sinner, is a type of Christ. But let’s roll the story forward to a different garden. There we find Jesus, the first sinless man since Adam before the fall in the garden of Gethsemane, on His knees crying out to God (Matthew 26:36–46). He is sorely tried, facing the most difficult and heinous of tasks—to bear the weight of God’s wrath and save the world. He is sinless. Life and death for all humanity rest upon Him. And though He is the Son of God, He does “not consider equality with God as something to be exploited” (Philippians 2:6). But He does what Adam did not: He submits to God’s will, and by obeying, He brings life where death once ruled.
In one garden, the first Adam sinned, and through him death entered the world. In another garden, the second Adam, the one perfect man, refused to sin, obediently following the will of the Father to bear the sins of the world. Romans 5 explains it plainly: “For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous… just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv.19,21).
The Old Testament contains many of these “types” of Christ—people who failed to obey, to redeem, to save, and ultimately to live. But Christ is the perfect fulfillment of all they represent, of all the dashed hopes placed on them, of all they strived for but couldn’t reach. Jesus is the perfect Adam, the abolisher of death and bringer of eternal life.
Written by Barnabas Piper