One Story: Types and Shadows from the Beginning

If the Old Testament tells One Story, then it follows that all the people, events, and themes we read about in the OT are but “types and shadows” of the good things that would come (Romans 5:14; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10;1). Jesus himself says that these good things concern Him alone (Luke 24:27; John 5:39).

What we are going to do this week is talk about these “shadows and types” as a set up for Genesis 3 and onwards.

Eden, the Temple Garden—God’s Footstool

Genesis 3:8 introduces us to the notion of God walking through the garden. This time He does it in the evening. The feet of the Creator of all things making contact with the soils of this earth as they stamp under His feet the dry leaves that litter the garden is a sign of God’s sovereignty.

If heaven is God’s throne, then the earth is his footstool (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 99:5; 132:7; Isaiah 66:1; Lamentations 2:1). He is Lord here and above. It is here that God’s glory and presence are, where other than in the temple would have the presence and glory of God reside?

Adam is created by grace

After lavishing grace on the monsters and all the plants, God bestows an even bigger grace on Adam. Out of His own pleasure, He makes man after his own likeness (Gen. 1:26). Adam has nothing to do with his own creation, he has no say, no referendum was held, just God lavishing His love of man.

Here, transactionalism doesn’t enter into the case; Adam is just a recipient of what God gives. Just like we receive God’s gifts, the hard work that is required of Adam is to open his hands (or nostrils, which he can’t do by himself!) and receive the breath of life that God gives. This is reminiscent of the Lord’s Supper in the upper room and the words we hear on Sunday morning: “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26). That is how Adam receives his life, that is how we receive our lives, by grace as a free gift of God apart from what we do (Luke 12:32). He is “mercy” like it’s said in the prayer of humble access:

But you are the same Lord,

Whose nature is always to have mercy.

Adam, the High Priest

What would be of a temple without a High priest? Adam as a created being was given a charge to rule over the created things. That was his first act of worship as the one in charge of worship. In fact, Thomas Merton writes and says:

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God’s] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.”

His point is that the created things worship and glorify God by being and flourishing in their original God-intended state. When an apple tree starts bearing mangoes, then it has disobeyed. Its charge was to bear apples not mangoes. So was Adam, his act of worship was to be Adam—highest and ruler among the created but lower than the Creator.

When Adam is given the world to enjoy for the glory of God (Genesis 1:28-30), he takes charge seriously by naming the animals (2:20). This is his first act of worship in God’s temple garden. Vocation should never replace worship; it should always be an act of worship. In the things we do every day, we carry out our God-given functions, and that is how grace is dispensed in the work place—Coram Mundo. The point is: in whatever you do, God has put you there for His glory alone. Things begin to get messy when we start seeking our own glory in these little things that can give none of it to us.

Adam, God’s Prophet

Prophets, easily defined, are people ordained by God to speak for Him. He heard from God directly (Gen 1:28-30), and went to carry out ministry as the Lord had spoken (Gen 2:19-20). It is of utmost importance to point out that unlike the other prophets that come after him, Adam had a natural ability to fully and perfectly keep God’s Law, although it doesn’t last long.

Adam, the first Christ?

This is not the first time that I am stirring up controversy, and it won’t be the last. But on this point, the now dead Anglican theologian Robert Capon in his book Genesis the Movie had raised the question: “If Christ can be the last Adam, why can’t Adam be the first sacramental appearance (the first real presence) of Christ in the movie?”

Using Paul and the preacher of Hebrews who both bring forth the notion of “types and shadows,” then Adam is the first type or shadow of Christ just like Christ is the Last and better Adam. With this notion, all the OT characters are a type of Christ, and therefore Jesus is the better Version of them who does what they couldn’t do. This is how Jesus encourages us to read the OT, to see in these characters a shadow of Him and how he fully and finally does what they all couldn’t do.

Adam and Christ

Starting next week, we will be developing this idea of Christ being “the last Adam.” But even now, in these first two chapters of Genesis, we see a semblance between Adam and Christ (although this picture becomes full blown from Genesis 3 and going ahead).

Jesus Christ is the last and better Adam because the first Adam couldn’t get his act together. Christ is a better High priest in the order of Melchizedek whose one perfect sacrifice takes away the sins of the world for once (Hebrews 4:14).

Better still, unlike Adam who was created above all created things, Jesus was given a name above all and exalted to the highest of places and one day every knee shall bow before him and declare His Lordship (Phil 2:9-11).

Whereas Adam spoke God’s first word—that of naming the created things; Jesus Christ spoke God’s last word—it is finished. Christ is the Yes and amen of God’s promises (2 Cor. 1:20).

As I close, let me state that one of our greatest sins is to treat these “shadows and types” as if they are the real thing. In the real world, shadows are a representation of the real thing but cannot do what the real thing does. You can’t drive a shadow of your car, can you? But the shadows are in themselves Good News because they are a promise of a future gaze. When you look at a shadow, then the real thing is nearby. I will close with this quote from John Piper:

“Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”

Keep digging,


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