Were Adam and Eve Saved? | Ben Carlson

by | Jan 15, 2024 | Old Testament, Systematic Theology


Were Adam and Eve Saved?
[1]

 

Introduction

Adam and Eve heard from the mouth of God the first promise of the gospel in Genesis 3:15. But did they believe in it? Did they receive and rest their souls in the promise that the Redeemer would be sent into the world to destroy the devil and reverse the curse and bring in everlasting blessedness?

I believe they did. Though they died in their sin the day that they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17), at the end of their lives they died in faith, trusting and hoping in the promised Messiah to come (Hebrews 11:13).

Although there are no explicit statements in the Bible which tell us this, there are some indications and evidences in the beginning chapters of Genesis which reveal the faith of our first parents after they fell into a state of sin.[2]

 

Adam’s Faith

Although Adam is responsible for bringing eternal ruin and destruction into this world, and although he is the covenantal head and natural root of all his fallen race, and although he received God’s curse upon his labors and upon his life (Genesis 3:17-19), there are good reasons to believe that he embraced the promise of salvation by faith and became part of the line of promise.

1.) Adam may have named his wife in light of the promise of Genesis 3:15.

Before the Fall, Adam calls his wife “Woman” (Genesis 2:23). But after the Fall, he calls her “Eve”. Genesis 3:20 states, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” Eve means “Life” or “Living-one”. This is a remarkable name that Adam gives his wife. Immediately before this, God announces all the curses that would come upon them and the universe for their sin. The worst of these curses is death (v. 19). Both Adam and Eve would die and return to the dust. In light of this, we might think that a more fitting name for Adam’s wife is “Maveth” (meaning death) because in her fallen state, she was the mother of all dying. And yet, in the face of the curse of death, she is called Life.

Was Adam acting presumptuously? No. He had warrant to believe and hope in God’s mercy not simply because God did not immediately strike them down with death but because of God’s promise to them in Genesis 3:15. John Gill remarks that Adam gave his wife this name because it “was prophetic of what she would be . . . and the ground of this faith and persuasion of his, that he and his wife should not die immediately for the offence they had committed, but should live and propagate their species, as well as be partakers of spiritual and eternal life, was the hint that had been just given, that there would be a seed spring from them; not only a numerous offspring, but a particular eminent person that should be the ruin of the devil and his kingdom, and the Saviour of them; and so Eve would be not, only the mother of all men living in succeeding generations, but particularly, or however one descending from her, would be the mother of him that should bring life and immortality to light, or be the author of all life, natural, spiritual, and eternal; and who is called ‘the life’, which is the same word by which the Greek version renders Eve in the preceding clause.”[3]

2.) God did something for Adam and Eve to picture and point them to the promise of salvation.[4]

Right after Adam named his wife Eve, we are told in Genesis 3:21, “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Previously, our first parents covered their nakedness with loincloths made of fig leaves (v. 7). But now, God clothes their whole bodies with “garments [or tunics] of skins”. These garments were most likely made from animal hides. This material would better protect Adam and Eve from the harsh elements of a fallen world. But I believe there was a greater purpose for these hides. They symbolized how life would come to sinners in a fallen world. We are not explicitly told how these animals died, nor how God made these garments, but it seems clear that this happened by way of the first animal sacrifices recorded in the Bible. Animal skins are later used as a covering for the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:5; 26:14; 35:7, 23; 36:19; 39:34; Numbers 4:6, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14) and in making sin offerings (Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:11; 8:17; 9:11; 16:27; 19:5) and burnt offerings (Leviticus 7:8) to the LORD. These sacrifices atoned for the guilt and sin of the worshiper and made him acceptable before God. And this is what we see God doing for our first parents. For life and restoration to come to Adam and Eve, God had to lay their sins and punishment on another and clothe them with the life of their substitute. This act of atonement and imputation was typified in the garments of skins they were given, but it would be accomplished in the substitutionary death of Eve’s Seed who would be crushed for their iniquities and would cover them with His righteous life.

Gill remarks that the purpose of these animal skins was not just for clothing or for protection “but for sacrifice, as a type of the woman’s seed, whose heel was to be bruised, or who was to suffer death for the sins of men; and therefore to keep up and direct the faith of our first parents to the slain Lamb of God from the foundation of the world, and of all believers in all ages, until the Messiah should come and die, and become a sacrifice for sin, the sacrifices of slain beasts were appointed”.[5] And Charles Ellicott adds, “Until sin entered the world no sacrifices could have been offered; and if, therefore, these were the skins of animals offered in sacrifice, as many suppose, Adam must in some way, immediately after the fall, have been taught that without shedding of blood is no remission of sin, but that God will accept a vicarious sacrifice.”[6]

3.) Adam’s actions after God expelled him from His glorious presence in the Garden indicate that he was not barred from the promise of salvation.

Although Adam was driven out of the Garden (Genesis 3:24), he did not move far away from the Garden. He wanted to be as close to God in a fallen world as he possibly could. In fact, he may have lived close enough to the Garden that his family could regularly approach the LORD at the east entrance and bring offerings and sacrifices to Him (Genesis 4:3-4). And eventually, his family would call upon the name of the LORD in organized worship (Genesis 4:26). So, although Adam was excommunicated from God’s garden temple, he still taught and led his family to worship God in the wilderness.

But contrast Adam’s actions with the actions of his son, Cain. After God rejected his offering and after he murdered his brother Abel, God punishes Cain by making him a fugitive and wanderer on the earth. But unlike Adam, Cain had no desire to draw near to God after God judged him for his sin. He left the special presence of God and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden (Genesis 4:12-16). There he built an impressive city that was artistically and culturally advanced but was also full of blasphemy, debauchery, and bloodshed (Genesis 4:17-24). Cain named this city after his son Enoch, which means “wandering, flight, or unrest”. Alfred Edersheim remarks that this city “has been aptly described as the laying of the first foundations of that kingdom in which ‘the spirit of the beast’ prevails.’”[7] It was full of godless people with godless pursuits who worked independently of God to accomplish their worldly endeavors. So, after Cain fell, he lived like a cursed man who hated the LORD. But after Adam fell, he lived like a man redeemed by God’s grace who determined that he and his house would serve the LORD.

4.) Adam finds a place in the lineage of the redeemed.

The genealogy in Genesis 5 is “the book of the generations of Adam” (v. 1). But in particular, it is the book of the generations of Adam’s son Seth (v. 3). Unlike Cain and his descendants, the descendants of Seth are those who find favor with God (like Noah), call upon God in worship (like Enosh), walk with God (like Enoch), and believe God’s promise of salvation (like Lamech).

Why then is Adam included in this genealogy? Because he not only stands as the head of his fallen race, but he also stands as the head of the redeemed race. He is not numbered with Cain and his cursed descendants, but he finds his name in the generations of those who have faith. And since he was the first to put his trust in the promise of redemption, he is first on the list. Patrick Fairbairn comments, “It is as the parental head of the whole lineage of believers that [Adam] is represented.”[8]

 

Eve’s Faith

Eve doubted and distrusted God’s Word when she obeyed the devil and ate the fruit, but there are good reasons to believe that she also believed in the promise of salvation.

1.) God promised that Eve would become an enemy of the devil and his works.

In the first part of Genesis 3:15, God declares to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman”. God promises here that the woman, who is Eve, would renounce her allegiance to Satan and become his avowed enemy. At the Fall, they were on good terms with each other. In fact, Eve willingly subjected herself to the devil when she sinned against God. But God says here that enmity or hostility would soon mark their relationship. Eve would fight against the serpent and be at war with him the rest of her life. Implicit in this pronouncement is the promise of Eve’s deliverance and salvation. Her friendly ties with Satan would be broken, and she would repent and return to the side of God again.

2.) Eve may have believed that God’s promise of redemption would be fulfilled in the fruit of her own womb in the names that she gives to her children Cain and Seth.

 

Cain

Eve names her first son “Cain”, which means “gotten or acquired”. In this name she confesses, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD” (Genesis 4:1). This may seem like a simple statement of praise to God for the blessing of a child, but there may be more here than what initially meets the eye.

There is debate about how to interpret the Hebrew particle eth in the phrase eth-Yahweh. Many English versions translate it as a preposition. They read, “from the LORD” (KJV, NKJV) or “with the help of the LORD” (NIV, ESV, NASB). But at least one English version translates it as an accusative/object sign. The International Standard Version reads, “I have given birth to a male child—the LORD.” This translation makes clear that Eve believed Cain to be the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 and thought he was the promised God-man and Messiah!

But is this translation exegetically possible? Yes. John Walton remarks, “The . . . expanded ‘with the help of’ makes sense, but is difficult to support from Hebrew usage of the preposition. The alternative is to treat ’et as the direct object marker. In that case ’et-yhwh must be taken appositionally (i.e., ‘I have acquired a man, that is, the Lord’), as suggested by Luther. This same grammatical construction is used in the next verse [Gen. 4:2], ‘his brother, Abel [’et-hebel].’ Grammatically this is not impossible, but it makes for very difficult theology to describe Yahweh as a man. Those who choose this option usually make reference back to 3:15 and speculate that Eve mistakenly believes she has given birth to the Messiah.”[9]

Has this translation been embraced by any in church history? Yes. A long line of theologians has interpreted Eve’s words in a messianic sense. Herbert Edward Ryle elaborates, “According to the traditional Patristic and mediaeval interpretation, the sentence admitted of a literal rendering in a Messianic sense: ‘I have gotten a man, even Jehovah,’ i.e. ‘In the birth of a child I have gotten one in whom I foresee the Incarnation of the Lord.’ . . . The Targum of Palestine . . . has ‘I have acquired a man, the Angel of the Lord.’”[10] Edmond Clowney, a modern-day theologian, also sees this translation as a possibility when he says, “Eve, too, spoke in faith when her first son was born: she had brought forth a man with the help of the Lord (Gen. 4:1 could be translated, ‘I have brought forth a man: the Lord.’).”[11]

In light of this exegetical and historical reading, it is possible to understand Eve’s naming of Cain as an incorrect yet admirable act of faith in thinking that he was the Divine Warrior promised in Genesis 3:15 sent to destroy the devil, his kingdom, and his works.[12] In other words, her doctrine was right but her timing was off.[13] Martin Luther comments, “Hence it was that Eve, when she brought forth her first-born, Cain, hoped that she had now ‘gotten’ that bruiser of the head of Satan. And though she was deceived in that hope, yet she saw that the promised Seed would assuredly at length be born at some time or other from her posterity.”[14] And Alfred Edersheim states, “Apparently she connected the birth of her son with the immediate fulfilment of the promise concerning the Seed, who was to bruise the head of the serpent . . . It . . . showed how deeply this hope had sunk into her heart, how lively was her faith in the fulfilment of the promise, and how ardent her longing for it.”[15]

 

Seth

But even after Cain demonstrates by his murderous deed that he is not the promised Messiah but is a child of the serpent, Eve gives birth to another son and calls his name “Seth”. She may have thought that this new son had taken the place of Cain as the promised Seed when she says, “God has appointed for me another offspring [or seed] instead of Abel, for Cain killed him” (Genesis 4:25). Gill comments, “and by calling him a ‘seed’, she may have respect unto the promised seed, whom she once thought Cain was, or however expected him in his line, as being the firstborn; but he proving a wicked man, and having slain his brother Abel, on whom her future hope was placed, has another son given her, and substituted in his room, in whom, and in whose family, the true religion would be preserved, and from whom the Messiah, the promised seed, would spring.”[16]

Eve’s naming of her children, then, may show us how convinced she was that God would bring forth from her womb the promised Seed and Savior of the world.

 

Conclusion

Were Adam and Eve saved? Without being too dogmatic, I believe they were. And their salvation serves as a remarkable example of how the Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman came into the world to save sinners, even the chief of sinners. Adam and Eve may have brought ruin upon the whole human race, but they were not excluded from the promise of redemption. As Article 17 of the Belgic Confession states, “We believe that our most gracious God, in His admirable wisdom and goodness, seeing that man had thus thrown himself into temporal and spiritual death, and made himself wholly miserable, was pleased to seek and comfort him when he trembling fled from His presence, promising him that He would give His Son, who should be made of a woman, to bruise the head of the serpent, and would make him happy.”

From this, let us glory in the work of Christ and the power of His gospel, which saves all kinds of sinners. It saves self-righteous Pharisees (Paul), wicked, idolatrous kings (Manasseh), criminals facing the death penalty (the thief on the cross), our fallen first parents (Adam and Eve), and children of wrath like us who come from them. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

 

 

[1] This question assumes that Adam and Eve were real, historical people; were under the wrath and eternal condemnation of God because of their sin of eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and were offered terms of peace and salvation by God in the first promise of the gospel recorded in Genesis 3:15. These things can be proved from Scripture, but that is not the purpose of this article.

[2] A.W. Pink takes the opposite view in his book The Total Depravity of Man. He asserts, “Nothing whatever is mentioned to Adam’s credit afterward [after being driven out of the Garden of Eden]: no offering of sacrifice, no acts of faith or obedience. Instead, we are merely told that he knew his wife (4:1, 25), begat a son in his own likeness, and died (5:3-5). If the reader can see in those statements any intimation or indication that Adam was a regenerated man, then he has much better eyes than the writer—or possibly a more lively imagination” (https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/depravity_nook.html#chapter2). Humbly and respectfully, I hope to show you in this article that there are intimations and indications in Genesis that after the fall Adam was a regenerated man (and Eve a regenerated woman).

[3] Gill, commentary on Genesis 3:20.

[4] I am indebted to Joe Wilson for the thought that the animal skins were “a picture of the gospel”. See his sermon “Where Are You” at https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=17241754144137.

[5] Gill, commentary on Genesis 3:21.

[6] Ellicott, commentary on Genesis 3:21.

[7] Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament, 19.

[8] Patrick Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1989), 1:267.

[9] John Walton, Genesis, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 262. Logos Bible Software. The NET Translation Notes criticize this view in part because of a differing interpretation of Genesis 3:15. It states, “Some understand ta, as the accusative/object sign and translate, ‘I have acquired a man – the LORD.’ They suggest that the woman thought (mistakenly) that she had given birth to the incarnate LORD, the Messiah who would bruise the Serpent’s head. This fanciful suggestion is based on a questionable allegorical interpretation of Gen 3:15.” I obviously don’t think seeing Genesis 3:15 as the protoevangelium is “a questionable allegorical interpretation”!

[10] Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, commentary on Genesis 4:1.

[11] Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 39.

[12] If this is the correct reading, Eve held to a very high Christology at the beginning of redemptive history. She believed her human baby was Yahweh in the flesh!

[13] Richard Barcellos, “What does Hebrews 10:7 Mean?”, www.tinysa.com/sermon/94222149101296.

[14] Luther, Commentary on Genesis 3:15. https://www.wolfmueller.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Genesis1-4Study.pdf.

[15] Alfred Edersheim, Bible History Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1995), 15.

[16] Gill, commentary on Genesis 4:25.

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God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

God is Wise, and Hidden, and Revealed | Tom J. Nettles

Job mocks the repetitive irrelevance of the presentations of his comforters. He particularly derides the speech of Bildad for his restatement of the obvious that God is more powerful than his creatures. With seething sarcasm, Job quips, “How you have helped him who has no power!” Just telling me that God is stronger than I is neither enlightening nor particularly insightful in expanding our understanding of the ways of God with his creatures.

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