Death and the Last Adam

This week our wee church (and way beyond) has been filled with grief, tears, shock and sadness at the sudden end of a beautiful young life, the oldest son of dear friends, a loved friend of our children and many many others.

And the words in this post come after days of having no words – only tears

On Wednesday we had a deeply moving gathering for prayer framed by readings from the Bible’s story – from creation to lament to resurrection to new creation.

The resurrection reading was from 1 Corinthians 15: 45-49

45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.

Coincidently this was also a text that we looked at in Christology class in IBI yesterday which prompted this post.

Paul’s Adam/Christ contrast, here and in Romans 5, is brimming over with eschatological hope. Gordon Fee puts it this way:

In coming as the second Adam he did what Adam failed to do. Christ bears the imago Dei in his human life. All ‘in him’ bear the restored image of God

In other words, Jesus bears the divine image in his humanity and thus blazed the trail for all who follow him.

This life is ‘natural’, ‘dust’ and ‘earthly’, filled with ‘cracked Eikons’ – living temporary and all too mortal human lives that can be ended in an instant.

But Christian hope insists that ‘this life’ – and our death by which it ends – does not have the last say.

Jesus is a ‘life-giving spirit’. What is his becomes ours – those in Christ share his destiny and will be part of a perfected and restored humanity where there is no more death, injustice, tragedy and weeping.

Is this mere wordplay – dry, abstract theology in the face of apparently senseless death?

Certainly it is for those who, looking in from the outside, see only words of comfort being used compassionately to dull slightly the sharp edge of the sword of death. But they remain just ‘our’ words and ideas.

But for those who are ‘of the man from heaven’, death is the gate to a more joyful, restored and fully human life.

This is what Christians dare to believe in the face of death. Nothing makes clearer that ‘Christianity is eschatology’ – is profoundly future orientated and this shapes all of life here and now, including how we respond to searing loss.

And so, in the midst of that searing loss, we look forward to being reunited with Tommy, who lived his life well, joyfully following the Last Adam.

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2 thoughts on “Death and the Last Adam

  1. Tommy, with his huge faith, irreverend sense of humour and adventurous spirit shall never be forgotten. God did a good job of making him and we’re thankful to Him for sharing Him with us for a while 🙂

    Thanks for this post, Patrick. (Still can’t believe you weren’t able to keep up with your daily posting though…;) )

  2. Oh, so sorry to hear this.

    Very good and encouraging thoughts on the last Adam and our future hope, though. Thanks for sharing in the midst of your sorrow.

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