Archives for October 2012

Dominion in Genesis, Part 6/8: The “Missing Link” Between Adam and Jesus

The more you learn about the Bible, the more it can transform your life, so be warned::

Only read this post if you’re willing to to take the risk of becoming happier and more optimistic!

I know that pessimism and ingrained teachings “from the Bible” can be hard to shake. I know because I wasted most of my life under the bondage of false teachings. So, if you’re into gloom and bondage, don’t read any further!

As the title of this post indicates, I’m about to use an analogy from evolution. This post isn’t about evolution. However, for the record, I reject Darwin’s theory in favor of the belief that God had a part in designing every living creature over time.

The term “missing link” probably brings to your mind some kind of ape-man, the fossil of which could provide a link between modern humans and ancient apes. A missing link provides evidence and information about a connection between two different species.

The Bible describes Jesus as the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). However, Adam and Jesus were far apart in time, geography, culture, and in what they did. What if there were a “missing link” that helped us to better understand both men? Wouldn’t such a person be the greatest missing link ever? I’m not comparing anyone with an ape-man, but I think this term describes Joseph because his life tells us so much about both Adam and Jesus. While other types of Christ in the Old Testament can also provide insights, this series is primarily focused on the life of Joseph.


The Earthly Man and the Heavenly Man

You may suppose that, even if Joseph bore some resemblances to Adam, it can’t matter much. After all, Adam committed one sin, and went into obscurity for the remainder of his life.

I would differ with anyone who might dismiss Adam in this way. In fact, I believe Satan accomplished the greatest “bomb defusal” (of the worst kind) in human history when he successfully tempted both Eve and Adam to sin.

As you will recall from Genesis 1 and 2, Adam and Eve were special creations, born of God, not of any human lineage. In theory, Adam could have brought glory to God by reigning as a noble, wise, and even immortal priest-king. He and Eve were God’s representatives on the earth. Adam was the “son of God” (Lk. 3:38), and Eve was God’s daughter. Imagine the impact that this couple could have had on human history if they had continued to live as sinless, Christ-like beings!


Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise by Paul Gustave Doré (Wikimedia)

Paul referred to Adam as an “earthly man,” and to Jesus as a “heavenly man” (1 Cor. 15:48). All Christians would agree that Jesus won heavenly or spiritual victories. He obtained mercy and grace for all who had trusted the words of God’s prophets, or who would ever come to trust in Him.

Unfortunately, due to the prevalence of bad theology, many questions remain. These questions shouldn’t be treated a matter of idle curiosity because the answers are of the utmost importance to Christians:

  • If Jesus defeated Satan, why does he seem to be alive and well (Col. 2:15)?
  • If Jesus reversed Adam’s curse, why is the world still cursed (Rom. 5:18)?
  • Why does the Bible describe Jesus as a King Who reigns over all the the nations (Isa. 2:4, Rev. 19:16)? Doesn’t He reign only in the hearts of Christians?
  • What’s the extent of Christ’s dominion, or is “dominion” a bad word (Eph. 1:20-22)?

To begin with, considering the sinful state of the world, you may be wondering how it can be that Jesus “defeated Satan,” “reversed the curse,” and “reigns.” Based on a postmillennial understanding of Bible prophecy, these terms have different meanings for the past, present, and future, as follows:

  1. Jesus conclusively gained the victory in the past when He conquered evil by His life, death, and resurrection. He didn’t conquer evil as the political ruler that the Jews had hoped for, or that premillennialists still expect Him to become. All that any sinner ever needed is what Jesus already gave us—the grace to believe in Him; to receive forgiveness; to draw near to God through the Holy Spirit; and to do the will of God.
  2. In the present, Christians are (or at least we should be) working to establish God’s kingdom on this earth. We are somewhere between the cross and the end of the millennial age.
  3. Christ will become widely acknowledged as the Lord and Savior of mankind in the future. Human free will and evil shall continue to exist, but the moral and spiritual influence of Christianity will prevail. This will surely come to pass because it has been prophesied, and is the will of God (Hab. 2:14, Jn. 12:32).

I could quote many more scriptures to support my points, but others could do the same, right? In fact, biblical literalism is characterized by Christians quoting scripture texts at one another, yet seldom agreeing on anything. The Bible sometimes appears to contradict itself, but only if we try to take everything literally.

Often, the best method of learning and persuading is through stories. A story or poem humanizes the text and gives us a rich context. This is precisely what the Bible does for us by providing a “missing link” in the person of Joseph.


Adam, Joseph, and Their Legacies

We learned in part 2 about some of the ways in which Joseph was like Jesus. Let’s now consider how Joseph was like Adam. In the table below, I’ve compared the two, while including Adam’s descendants from Cain to the antediluvian (pre-flood) society. The reasons for this inclusion will be explained below.

  Adam Joseph
Background Created by God.
Walked with God.
Hung out with his father
as the favorite son.
Clothing Clothed in glory. Received coat of many colors.
Assignment Have dominion over animals
and tend the garden.
Report on your
brothers and the flocks.
Success Named the animals.
(A means of taking dominion).
Reported honestly on his brothers’ behavior.
Trial Experienced loneliness.
No animal was like Adam.
Joseph’s brothers hated him.
He wasn’t like them.
Blessed Sleep Adam sleeps and
awakens to meet his bride.
Joseph sleeps, dreams
that his brothers serve him.

Don’t eat forbidden fruit.
Don’t try to be like God.
Don’t exalt yourself
over older brothers
(cultural & moral taboo).
Sin Eats forbidden fruit. Boasts.
Spiritual Death Nakedness.
Fall from grace.
Separation from God.
Stripped of robe.
Thrown into pit.
Separation from family.
Shedding of Blood God sacrifices animals to
to clothe Adam & Eve.
Brothers slaughter
a goat to hide their sin.
Punishment Banished by God to
toil on accursed land.
Sold by brothers into
slavery in worldly Egypt.
Temptation The serpent tempts
Cain to commit murder.
Potiphar’s wife
tempts Joseph sexually.
Response Cain kills Abel. Joseph flees.
Accusation Abel’s blood calls to God. Ms. Potiphar steals
robe as “evidence.”
Punishment Cursed to wander. Imprisonment.
Cain founds a city,
resisting God’s curse.
Materialistic culture.
Joseph goes inward
and seeks God.
He is able to interpret dreams.
Societal Consequences (contrast) The Cainite society becomes
more corrupt until God
destroys it with a flood.
Josephs grows in faithfulness
until God frees him to
deliver the region from famine.


I need to clarify two parts of this: “Blessed Sleep” and “Prohibition”…

The first may appear to denigrate wives, and women in general, by putting them in a subordinate position to husbands, or to men in general. Of course, by no means is this the only time the concept of male headship appears in the Bible. I believe God intentionally designed men and women to be different in such a way that we complement one another.

In relation to this study, two points may be made. First, I find it necessary to recognize gender distinctions simply to understand the Bible, especially the symbolism. I hope your main purpose for reading this is to better understand the Bible, no matter what it says. Second, the symbolism helps bring out the fact that Joseph was in the wrong here. God had to get him away from this situation to teach him how to be a humble servant.

Godly leadership begins with servanthood. From a complementarian perspective, every husband should be a servant to his wife, though not in a servile manner. If interested, you can learn more about complementarianism here.


Joseph Dreams of Wheat by Owen Jones, 1809-74 (Wikimedia)

Although an explicit prohibition against the boasting doesn’t appear in the text, Joseph had to have known it was wrong in that culture, which recognized the rights of the firstborn (known as primogeniture) and respect for elders. Moreover, it was unnecessary since Joseph was already his father’s favorite son. Even Jacob ended up having to rebuke Joseph for having boasted about his dreams (Gen. 37:10).

We may contrast Joseph’s words with the silence of Mary, the mother of Jesus. After God revealed precious information to her through a dream, she was wise and humble enough to keep quiet about it (Luke 2:19, 51).

You will have noticed that there are many contrasts in the above table. A set of contrasts is as legitimate as a set of comparisons in Hebrew poetry. Anyway, these contrasts show that Joseph succeeded where Adam and nearly all his descendants had failed. Since God allowed even Joseph to rescue the Egyptians from starvation, imagine how much greater is the salvation that we’ve inherited through Jesus Christ!

Again, I compared Joseph not only with Adam, but also with his descendants. Adam and Eve’s fall set a sequence of horrific events in motion. During their lifetime, their son Cain founded a town. That town grew into a city, which became a civilization. That society eventually became so wicked that God had to destroy it with a flood.


Gustave Doré, The Great Flood (Wikimedia)

As for why I grouped Adam with his descendants, the poetry of Genesis 2:2-4:17 gives us the same association (pp. 450-51 of Return to Genesis). In those verses, the fall of Adam and Eve is linked with Cain’s sins, including his founding of the city that God later had to destroy in the flood.

It would transform our perspective on the world if more Christians came to understand that the Fall was about much more than Adam and Eve’s sin. Through Adam and Eve’s association with the patriarchs and other types of Christ, we can be certain that God didn’t call them only to teach people how to tend a garden or tend animals. As the son of God, Adam could have taken on the priestly role of helping people come into in a proper relationship with God; the prophetic role of proclaiming His words and teachings; and the kingly role of building a godly society, even starting in a wilderness.

Adam didn’t obey God or found a city for Him, but his son Cain did so. Cain did it for his master, Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8:44).

Joseph, who bore similarities to both Adam and Cain, was also a civilization-builder. Doesn’t this imply that God’s Messiah was to found a kingdom on the earth instead of reigning only in heaven? In fact, the Jewish people had hoped that the Messiah would come, restore the throne of David, and reign over many nations.

Since Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the suffering Messiah, we can be certain that He also became the reigning King whom the prophets had foretold. Not only did Jesus win the spiritual victories that we already celebrate, He also won the right to reign on the earth, as God had planned for the first Adam to do. This is implied in the words that Jesus proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt. 28:18).

Even though you weren’t created by God in the same way as Adam and Eve, God has a special calling on your life, if you’re a born again Christian. If not, please know that Christ died for your salvation. Either way, you can’t walk away from God’s call and expect there to be no consequences. If sin is separating you from God, He is ready and willing to forgive if you repent and seek Him, even at this moment (Ps. 86:5-7). As the Bible declares, today is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2, Heb. 3:15).

I had warned you not to read this post unless you’re prepared to accept greater joy and optimism in your life! Smile


The Extent of Christ’s Salvation

Hopefully, each person reading this now has assurance that God has saved you by His grace. It’s also vital that we understand what’s included in our salvation. Please excuse this analogy, but if we think our salvation is like a Model T when it’s actually more like a Porsche, we’ll unnecessarily be operating under a handicap as we try to serve God in this life.

The doctrine of the Fall is of the utmost importance, partly because it is directly related to the doctrine of redemption. That is, since the Fall resulted in judgment upon an entire society (actually more than one, with Noah’s generation having been only the archetypal example), Christ’s redemption must be effective in saving not only individuals, but entire societies. This must be true if, in fact, Jesus reversed the effects of the Fall.

This isn’t a “gospel according to Genesis,” though Genesis can’t be ignored. The New Testament tells us that Adam’s sin led to further sin through his physical and, most importantly, his spiritual descendants. In an opposing manner, Christ’s righteousness is progressively leading to further righteousness through all who are in Christ (Rom. 5:12-21).

The resemblances among Adam, Joseph, and Jesus don’t appear to be coincidental, and they are significant. Satan must have trembled when he saw the resemblances between Joseph and Adam in his pre-fallen state. He had to retreat when Joseph and all of Israel achieved a bloodless victory over Egypt, which he surely had regarded as his space. Satan must have wondered how God could be so gracious to sinners such as the patriarchs. He didn’t anticipate that the true Son of God, Jesus Christ, would descend from heaven to earth, become a man, and die for sinners.

Since Joseph was, unquestionably, a type of Christ. he prefigured Jesus in his suffering and exaltation; in having delivered people from death; and in having ruled over both Israel (a type of the Church) and Egypt (a type of the unbelieving world).

I will close this post by citing some Bible passages that describe how Jesus Christ took Adam’s place:

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Cor. 15:21-22 ESV)

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:4 ESV)

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:17-19 ESV)

Has the information in this post helped you to better understand what God wants to accomplish in the world through His people? What Adam failed to do, and what ancient Israel failed to do can be done by Christians through faith in Jesus. Do you agree? If so, what does it mean? Please leave a comment below. Click here to read part 7.

Dominion in Genesis, Part 5/8: Joseph’s Rise to Power

In part 4, I explained how pietism led evangelical Christians to retreat from the world with the thought that they only needed God in their hearts, not in the public sector. As the world situation seemed to deteriorate from the Civil War to World War I, Christians became increasingly despondent about the future. They adapted their end times theology to match the mood. Even though the times have greatly changed, that pessimistic theology remains pervasive in churches today.


How Christians Can Overcome Our State of Depression


Puppy Belle courtesy of Tostie14 on Flickr

Did it please God when Christians withdrew from the world and lost hope? Was this a positive, healthy development in any sense? Think of it this way… Would you consider it healthy if your pet dog or cat withdrew from everyone and looked sad?

The answer to all these questions is, “Of course not!”

We all need a certain amount of optimism just to get out of bed every morning and go to work. On balance, Christians should be the most optimistic people of all. After all, God has revealed His love and faithfulness to us, and lavished His grace upon us. It’s never God’s will for Christians to disbelieve His Word and become discouraged!

For centuries, optimistic Christians settled, civilized, and ruled America. When they protested against British tyranny, King George declared them to be “rebels” and “traitors.” We know the rest of the story.

We know equally well that America is no longer predominantly Christian. Increasingly, it’s being secularized. The current circumstances raise many challenges and questions, but they shouldn’t change our core beliefs about who God is or what the Bible teaches.

The prerequisites for regaining Christian optimism are the same as those for returning to biblical Christianity:

  • Believe that God reigns in this world, not only in places with angels, harps, clouds, and resurrected saints.
  • Know that God has granted us the ability to joyfully serve Him and glorify His name on the earth.
  • Accept responsibility for making this world more heavenly, as is commanded or expected in the dominion mandate (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. 9:1-5), the Lord’s prayer (Mt. 6:10), the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20, cf. Acts 1:6-8), and elsewhere.
Dominion in the Life of Joseph
    This brings us to the topic of dominion, which is a primary theme of Genesis. Nowhere is that theme more apparent than in the story of Joseph. After many peaks and valleys, Genesis crescendos with Joseph’s rise to power. We tend to miss the dominion-related aspect of this story for reasons such as the following:
  • Joseph’s story is so entertaining and motivational that we may be satisfied to view it merely as a kind of “chicken soup for the soul.”
  • Anticipating the enslavement in Exodus 1, we know in advance that the Hebrews’ time of prosperity and freedom wasn’t going to last long.
  • We don’t think much about the historical significance of this event.
  • We fail either to recognize or think much about the underlying symbolism.

This story practically leaps off the pages, not only because of Egypt’s prominent role in ancient history, but also with regard to the symbolic meaning. Even biblical literalists find it hard to deny the existence of allegorical or typological meanings in this story. Some of the more important ones are as follows:

Symbol Representing
Egypt The world
Pharaoh God the Father
Joseph Christ
The Hebrews (Israel)* The Church
Joseph freed from the dungeon Resurrection
Joseph raised to the Pharaoh’s throne Ascension

*Some people mistakenly refer to Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel as “Jews,” and associate them with modern Israel. However, the Jewish people are descended almost exclusively from the tribe of Judah. The Hebrews were physical Israel, which was symbolic of spiritual Israel, the Church. Paul explained this in Galatians 3-4 and 6:16. The topic is further discussed in chapter 5 of Return to Genesis, and by Michael Marlowe here.


Joseph Presents His Father and Brothers to Pharaoh by Francesco Granacci (1477-1543)

Before proceeding further, let’s briefly review Joseph’s life story…

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt because they envied and hated him. Joseph served his master Potiphar faithfully, only to find himself imprisoned on a false accusation. While in prison, Joseph became known for his ability to interpret dreams.

God caused the Pharaoh to have dreams that troubled him. Upon hearing about Joseph, the pharaoh summoned him. Joseph interpreted the dreams as meaning there would be seven years of abundance, followed by seven years of famine. The Pharaoh was so impressed that he made Joseph responsible for the storage and distribution of grain in Egypt.

Joseph stored grain during the years of abundance, then fed Egypt’s citizens and neighbors during the seven years of famine. He even provided for his family members when they came from Canaan to seek food. Thanks to Joseph and his connections with the Pharaoh, the Hebrews were allowed to settle in Egypt’s land of Goshen.

Unquestionably, God wants believers to learn from and follow Joseph’s example. He served God faithfully while suffering unjustly, and blessed many people through his wise leadership. Joseph demonstrated great faith and commitment to refrain from sin and compromise, not only as a slave and a prisoner, but also as a powerful ruler.

In case there is any question, the story upholds political service as a commendable career path to which God may call a believer. Christians should seek to enjoy harmonious relationships with government authorities instead of despising them (2 Pet. 2:10). We are commanded to pray for leaders so that we may lead peaceful, quiet, and godly lives (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Again, the symbolism is highly significant. The Church is the body of Christ, and Christians are to represent our Lord in the world. God gave Joseph wisdom and a servant’s heart so that he could become a blessing. Similarly, God wants every believer to be a blessing in this world (Jn. 17:14-18). Yes, we should preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, but “ministry” can include any good work.


The Kingdom of Christ

Since God fulfilled Joseph’s dreams and blessed the known world through him, we can be sure that He wants to do much more through Christians as we serve Jesus Christ, Who is infinitely greater than Joseph. The Bible repeatedly describes Jesus as the “King of kings” and “Lord of lords,” and assures us that He reigns over the nations (Ps. 103:19, Rev. 1:5, 19:6).

Most “Bible prophecy experts” mistakenly project Christ’s kingdom reign to a future time, on a re-created Earth. They teach that God won’t bind Satan until after Jesus returns, meaning the devil is still reigning in Christ’s stead. Presumably, Jesus is incapable of ruling until, following the example set by many third world dictators, He forcibly removes all opposition. These teachings are entirely unscriptural!

The term “new earth” appears in the Bible, but it wasn’t meant to be taken literally (Return to Genesis, pp. 263-65). In the same manner, while it’s true that every believer is a “new creation,” it doesn’t imply that God remade our physical bodies after we believed in Christ.

Oddly enough, many Christians oppose the biblical teaching that we’re responsible for helping to establish Christ’s reign in this world. This attitude seems reminiscent of Joseph’s brothers when they derisively asked him, “Shall you indeed reign over us?” (Gen. 37:8). We find the same spirit of envy and hatred in Cain, Ishmael, and Esau, and that’s only in Genesis. I’m not accusing anyone of hating and envying Jesus, but for practical purposes, I don’t see much difference.

Even as Christians, we all struggle with the “fleshly” or sin nature (Gal. 5:17). This can definitely interfere with our attempts to understand the Bible (1 Cor. 2:14). One way the sin nature manifests itself is in the desire for a kind of self-rule that mostly confines God to Sunday worship, and puts ourselves in charge of every other aspect of life.

The Bible tells us in Joel 2:28 that when God poured His Spirit out, old men would dream dreams and young men see visions. The oldest man in the Bible was Methuselah. However, when he passed away at age 969, the Flood came and destroyed that society. Jesus has a better future for us than that which Adam left for his descendants. God wants old men to dream of a glorious future, not only in the clouds (or wherever), but on this earth.

The cherishing of hopes and dreams is a commendable trait in people of any age. Joseph was at fault for having boasted, but not for having believed in his dreams. God purified him through suffering, and helped him become a faithful steward and a humble prisoner. The Lord further taught Joseph that ultimately, He controlled every circumstance in life.

In part 2, I explained that Christians shouldn’t only ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” We should also seek to follow the examples of Old Testament heroes who prefigured Christ, as well as the New Testament apostles who knew Jesus. The Lord Himself learned from the heroes and heroines of the Old Testament, beginning with Adam in his pre-fallen state. Jesus was like Adam, only without sin. In part 6, we’ll learn how Joseph was also like Adam, and what it means for us in this age. Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.