There is an overwhelming beauty to the saving work of Jesus. Nowhere is the loveliness of the Savior’s grace more evident than when we compare all that we lost in the first Adam to all that is restored in the last Adam. At the heart of Paul’s treatise on
justification, the apostle tells us that Adam was a type of Christ (Rom. 5:14–19). At the climax of Paul’s discourse on the resurrection, the apostle juxtaposes the consequence of Adam’s disobedience with result of the obedience of Christ (1 Cor. 15:21–22). The relationship of the first Adam to the last Adam is thus at the very core of Christian doctrine.
In the ancient east, the garden represented life in all of its vitality and abundance. The rich ground of the first garden brought forth freely, apart from the labor of man. The fruit-laden trees were a delight to the eyes and a feast to the taste. The fragrance of the flowering blossoms and the great variety of animal life filled the garden with exotic delight. The oriental garden is the setting of romantic love; it is also the place where man is invited to walk in intimacy with God. Genesis opens with Adam and his bride in a pleasant garden. Revelation closes with a vision of Jesus as the new Adam and His bride, the church, in a paradisal garden. And at the most decisive moment in the history of redemption, the Savior restores us to paradise upon Golgotha’s “tree.” John the evangelist poetically places this tree “in the midst” of the garden of Gethsemane (John 18:1) and the garden that enclosed Jesus’ tomb (John 19:41).
All the gospel writers appear to understand Jesus as the new Adam, and that is nowhere more evident than in their descriptions of His suffering and death. Luke recalls the judgment on Adam that he should earn his bread by the sweat of his brow when he tells us that Jesus sweat profusely in the garden (Luke 22:44) in order to provide us with the bread of life. Matthew tells us that like Adam, Jesus suffered the shame of nakedness (Matt. 27:28) in order to give us a covering for our sin. Mark tells us that Jesus wore a crown of thorns, the token of the judgment Adam brought upon the ground (Mark 15:17), so that He might deliver the earth from the curse. Luke tells us that Jesus was hung upon a “tree” (Acts 5:30) and thus was made a curse, but this was so that His cross could become for us a tree of blessing. John reminds us that Jesus’ side, like Adam’s, was pierced (19:34) in order that we might be made holy as the bride of Christ.
While the correspondences between the first Adam and the last Adam are remarkable, the contrasts are even more instructive. When we compare the disobedience of Adam and the obedience of Jesus, we come to a deeper appreciation of the wisdom and love of God expressed in our redemption. How then should we contrast them?
If in Adam all die, as Paul teaches us, so all in Christ will be made alive (Rom. 5:15, 18–19). By what wisdom, then, does Jesus reverse the sin and the curse brought in by Adam? Adam’s covenant of works brought death. But Jesus’ gracious covenant brings life. Adam was told concerning the tree of knowledge, “you shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden… lest you die” (Gen. 3:3). And after his disobedience he was banished from the pleasant garden, “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat and live forever” (Gen. 3:22). In contrast, Jesus gives bread “so that one may eat of it and not die” (John 6:50), for He tells us, “if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51).
Consider the wisdom by which Jesus restores His people. The first sin occurs when the woman took the fruit of disobedience and ate and then gave to her husband with her, and he ate. So simple this first sacrament of sin and yet so terrible its consequence! How could we ever be restored after such a revolt? The Savior restores us emblematically at the Last Supper by reversing our fall. Jesus gives the bread of life to His disciples, and tells them to take and eat (Matt. 26:26; Mark 14:22). His wisdom makes the means of our fall the very means of our restoration.
How well did the Shulamite anticipate the Savior when she sang of the beauty of her beloved: “As an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste. He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (Song of Songs 2:3–4)!
God pronounced judgment upon Adam in the garden, and cast him out, placing at the east of Eden a “cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24). Jesus, on the other hand, promises “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). In justice for his sin Adam was made to return to the earth, but Jesus came forth from the earth in order to justify His people. Adam made a garden into a grave, but Jesus made a grave into a garden.
And to the saint who perseveres, the Savior promises, “I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). ν