Jesus Christ: The Last Adam

January 04, 2020

by Brandon Crowe


The Bible teaches that Adam was the first human being, who was created by a special act of God from the dust of the ground. Through Adam’s disobedience death entered the world, affecting all humanity. In contrast, life comes through the obedience of the second and last Adam, Jesus Christ.


This essay focuses on the biblical portrait of Adam and his relation to Christ. First, I will consider what the OT says about Adam, including the covenant made with Adam. In the beginning God entered into a covenant with Adam promising him eternal life on the condition of perfect obedience. Adam is therefore best understood as a covenant head whose actions affect all those who are “in him.” Second, I will look at the NT witness of Adam, which is closely tied to the person and work of Christ. This is evident especially in the Gospels, Acts, and Paul’s epistles. Like Adam, Jesus is also a covenant head. Unlike Adam, Jesus loved and obeyed God fully. Jesus’s representative obedience overcomes the disobedience of Adam and benefits all those who are united to Christ by faith. Third, I will consider some practical implications of the Bible’s teaching on Adam.


The Bible teaches that Adam was the first person in world history. Yet the historicity of Adam is widely debated and often denied, especially in light of the rise of evolutionary theories that teach the creation of humanity is the result of a long process of development. It is important to consider carefully what the Old and New Testaments say about Adam, and why it matters. Far from being simply an interesting piece of biblical trivia, the role of Adam in biblical history and in the accomplishment of redemption is epochally consequential.

Adam in the Old Testament


Genesis teaches that on the sixth day of creation, God created man and woman (Gen 1:26–27). This account is expanded in Genesis 2, where we are told that the Lord God created man from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). This is a special act of creation; Adam is not described as coming from any kind of lower life form. Further, Adam is created as a male first, and the female Eve is created from his side later (Gen 2:21–23). This male-female order has been God’s design from the beginning (cf. Matt 19:4–6; 1Tim 2:13).

Adamic Covenant and Fall

Genesis also teaches that God entered into a covenant with Adam, which is often called the Covenant of Works (also known as the Covenant of Creation, the Covenant of Life, or the Covenant of Nature). This covenant has been debated, and many have objected to the term “Covenant of Works,” but understood rightly, it best reflects the biblical text. The Covenant of Works does not mean that Adam could work his way to God for he was a creature who owed God obedience by his existence. Instead, the Covenant of Works teaches that God freely entered into a covenant relationship with Adam, promising life on the condition of perfect obedience. Though the term covenant is not used in Genesis 1–3, the elements of a covenant are present (e.g., covenant members, stipulations, possibility of rewards or curses), and Hosea 6:7 most likely refers to this covenant with Adam.

In Genesis 2:16–17 Adam is given a probationary test: he is commanded not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest he die. This was no arbitrary command but was a summary command that tested Adam’s entire love for God. Adam was required to be fully obedient to God in every way. In the context of the covenant, love and obedience go hand in hand. Though it is not stated explicitly, the implication is that if Adam passed the probationary test, then he would inherit eternal life. Adam was created upright (Eccl 7:29), but he also had a goal in front of him: fullness of life. Adam tragically failed this test, and death resulted (Gen 2:17; 3:19). Even so, the Lord promised redemption by the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15).

Continue reading at The Gospel Coalition


Brandon Crowe

Dr. Crowe (PhD, Edinburgh) is associate professor of New Testament at WTS.

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