On the sixth day of creation, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion ... over all the earth ...' And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 1:26; 2:7).
This first man was named Adam (2:19). He was "a type [or foreshadow] of Him who was to come" (Romans 5:14). The antitype (the one who was foreshadowed) is Jesus Christ. Therefore, the former, he who was the type, is called the "first Adam"; and the latter, He who is the antitype, is called the "last Adam" (1 Corinthians 15:45). Observe:
1. Both Adams were unique in pedigree. The first Adam was formed out of the dust of the earth, and given his spirit by the breath of God. The last Adam was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-35).
2. Both Adams were in possession of God's image. The first Adam was made in God's image. Unlike other living creatures, he was given an immortal soul, self-consciousness and reason, and moral powers. The last Adam is "the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4) and "the express image of [God's] person" (Hebrews 1:3).
3. Both Adams were free from sin. The first Adam was formed in a state of innocence. The last Adam was conceived in a state of holiness (Luke 1:35; cp. Hebrews 7:26).
4. Both Adams were capable of being tempted. He who possesses the afore- mentioned moral powers possesses also temptability. There is no virtue in doing the right thing where there is no power to do the wrong thing. The first Adam was tempted and succumbed (Genesis 3:1-6). The last Adam was tempted and triumphed (Matthew 4:1-11).
5. Both Adams were invested with sovereignty. The first Adam was given "dominion ... over all the earth" (cp. Psalm 8). But he lost his sovereignty and became a slave when he succumbed to temptation (2 Timothy 2:26; John 8:34,44). This sovereignty has been restored in the last Adam (Hebrews 2:6-9). The Son of God condescended to assume humanity and thereby to be made "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8:5a / Hebrews 2:7,9); and He was "for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor" (Psalm 8:5b / Hebrews 2:9; cp. Philippians 2:6-11). The prophecy of Psalm 8 has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of man.
6. Both Adams were representative heads of their people. The first Adam represented the whole human race in the Garden of Eden. The whole race was then "in his loins" (in a manner of speaking). His actions were consequently also theirs (cp. Hebrews 7:9f). The last Adam represented God's elect during the time of His incarnation on this earth. They were from eternity "chosen in Him" (Ephesians 1:4). What has happened to Him has consequently happened also to them (e.g. Ephesians 2:5-7; Colossians 3:1).
Paul the apostle deals at length with the representative headships of the first and the last Adams in Romans 5:12-21 (see also 1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The disobedience and consequent death of the first Adam was also the disobedience and consequent death of all who were represented by him, the whole human race: "through one man [the first Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned" (v.12; see also v.15a, v.17a, v.18a, v.19a). But the obedience and consequent resurrection of the last Adam was also the obedience and resurrection (or justification) of all who were represented by Him, His elect: "by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous" (v.19b; see also v.15b, v.17b, v.18b). The whole human race is under condemnation through the first Adam. None but the elect are justified through the last Adam. The elect will manifest themselves through faith in the last Adam (2 Thessalonians 2:13f). Are you among them?