Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas is the Birth of the New Adam

Matthew begins his telling of the Gospel with this: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). We have already looked at the significance of Abraham and David in this lineage, but there is also another interesting feature in this verse, particularly in the way it begins: “The book of the genealogy.”

The Greek words rendered as “book of the genealogy” is biblos geneseos. It is very reminiscent of another genealogy, the one given in Genesis about Adam: “This is the book of the genealogy of Adam” (Genesis 5:1). In the Septuagint, the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, Genesis 5:1 has the same phrase Matthew used, biblos geneseos. Though there are a number of other genealogies in the Old Testament, we find this Greek phrase only here, in Genesis 5.

There is something important going on here, I think. Matthew is paralleling the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah with that of Adam. The apostles Paul, in a couple of his letters to Jesus believers, makes explicit comparison between Adam and Jesus. He states that Adam “is a type of Him who was to come,” and shows that what was lost to us through the rebellion of Adam was won back to us, in greater measure and with much more besides, through the obedience of Jesus (Romans 5:14-21).

The difference between Adam and Jesus is the difference between death and life. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul again compares Adam and Jesus: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (v. 22). “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (v. 45). Paul drills down further.
The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord 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. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49)
The life in view is not just spiritual in nature but physical as well. First Corinthians 15 is about the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead and what that means in regard to our own bodies. The contrast between the man of earth and the Lord from heaven is not that the Lord comes to carry our bodiless spirits off to heaven, far, far away. No, the point is that Jesus has come to bring heaven to earth, that we may bear His image and live in His resurrection in the world, now and forever.
Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:50-53)
The kingdom of God is heaven come to earth. It is the will of God being done on earth as it is in heaven. The gospel is about the kingdom of God, and Jesus came preaching it: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). Though it has not yet arrived in all its fullness (and will not until King Jesus returns), it has indeed already begun. However, our bodies are frail and subject to death (that is what is indicated by “flesh and blood”), and if we are to be a part of the eternal kingdom of heaven on earth, our bodies must be changed. Not put off, mind you, but changed — made incorruptible, immortal.

This is new creation. It was described prophetically in the Old Testament, and King Jesus declared it in the New, saying, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). Indeed, this has already begun in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, which is the firstfruits of the new creation and the guarantee of our own coming bodily resurrection from the dead. What is more, those who receive King Jesus the Messiah are already part of this new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Even now, the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us (Romans 8:11; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 1:19-20; Ephesians 3:20 — let the marvelous truth of these passages sink in). All creation itself is waiting for this, that it may be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:19-21)

Adam was the first man of the old creation — Jesus is the first Man of the new! His coming into the world not only fulfills the story of Israel that began in Abraham, it not only fulfills the promises God made to David, it goes back all the way to the beginning, to Adam. In Jesus, the New Adam, what was lost is now being restored and, indeed, all creation will be made new.

Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

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