Did you know that there is a beautiful picture of the gospel in the story of the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3? I’m not referring to the protoevangelium in Genesis 3:15. Rather, we are given a foreshadow of both the severe consequences of our sin and how God responds to our sin through Christ Jesus.
Let me show you where it is so you can share it with others (maybe by sharing this article). I’ll begin with a brief hermeneutics lesson, then give a summary of the context, and then I’ll outline the picture of salvation depicted in the Old Testament account.
A Brief Hermeneutics Lesson
The New Testament gives us the means of interpreting and understanding the Old Testament (that is, it give us the proper hermeneutic): it is to be read through the lens of Christ. As Martin Luther described it, we must see how the Old Testament talks about and points to Jesus.
The Old Testament is full of types and shadows of things to come related to Jesus. In it, we see a semblance—a fuzzy picture, if you will—of who Christ is and what he will do in both his first and second comings.
There are multiple passages that show is this. The author of Hebrews tells us, for example, that the priests “serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb 8:5), and that “the law has but a shadow of the good things to come” (Heb 10:1).
Paul and Jesus each gave examples of how the Old Testament is type and shadow of Christ. Paul said that “as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). Jesus told his disciples, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt 24:37), and “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).
One of the clearest indications that the entire Old Testament points to Jesus is what Luke says about Jesus’ encounter with men on the road to Emmaus following Jesus’ resurrection: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Thus, the way to understand properly the Old Testament is to see how it points us to Jesus.
A Little Context: Genesis 2
The fall of man is recorded almost immediately after the creation accounts, though how much time passed between when God made mankind and when Adam and Eve sinned is unknown. It could have been a few hours or many years.
Genesis 2 tells about how God created man in his own image (that is, God and man share some attributes, but not all). God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, a literal paradise free from all contamination and decay, and told Adam that he could eat of any tree except one: the tree of knowledge of good and evil or else Adam would die. This indicates that God gave man free will to choose to trust God or rebel against God.
God then created a female as a helpmate—a wife—of Adam, giving us the divine institute of marriage. Adam called her “woman” (after the fall, Adam called the woman “Eve”). While living in the garden, we’re told that the two “were both naked and were not ashamed” (Gen 2:25). This indicates more than physical nakedness, but emotional and psychological nakedness. Adam and Eve were transparent, open, and vulnerable with each other and God.
It is in this this context in which we see the fall of mankind and how God responds to that fall, giving us the type and shadow of Jesus.
Seeing the Gospel in the Fall of Man
Genesis 3 gives us a fascinating and beautiful picture of the gospel. In it we see the sin itself, the consequences of sin, and how each (God versus Adam and Eve) responded to the sin.
Adam and Eve Sinned then Tried to Hide It
Verses 1-6 outline the fall of mankind. The serpent (Satan) approached Eve and twisted God’s word in order to convince her to eat the forbidden fruit. Satan said to Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (3:1). This is the first twisting of God’s command. God actually told Adam (who likely relayed the command to Eve), “You may surely eat of every tree in the garden” (2:16). By twisting God’s word, Satan got Eve thinking that she and Adam were allowed to eat of every tree. However, she rightly responded to Satan that God said every tree except one (3:3).
Satan then again played mind games by outright denying God’s word and claiming God was withholding things from her and Adam. Satan claimed, “You will not surely die,” and that if she ate, “you will be like God” (3:4-5).
Eve, now probably questioning God’s motives, was now enticed, so she ate and then gave the fruit to Adam who also ate (3:6). They had now sinned against God!
Quick side note: Satan tried these same tactics—twist God’s word, deny God’s word, malign God’s character—when he tempted Jesus, but in that case Satan utterly and totally failed (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-12)!
After they sinned, they immediately realized what they did, so they tried in vain to fix it or cover it up (literally). First, they sewed make-shift clothing out of fig leaves (3:7), and then they tried hiding from God, probably so he wouldn’t see what they did and kill them (3:8).
However, God already knew what they did. Also, while he would have been well within his rights to immediately strike them dead, he chose instead to show grace by giving them a chance to repent.
God Calls Them to Repent
We see that God called Adam, who was hiding, to open up to God and come before him. He said to Adam, “Where are you?” (3:9). God did not ask because he did not know Adam’s location. Rather, he was giving Adam a chance to be honest and transparent, to humble himself before the Lord.
Adam did respond, but it’s not clear whether he did so while still in hiding or whether he came out and showed himself to God. I suspect it was the latter. Adam confessed to God that he realized he was naked, feared God, and so he hid from God (3:10).
God’s response is quite telling: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree which I commanded you not to eat?” (3:11). Again, God is not asking out of a lack of knowledge on his part. Rather, he is giving Adam an opportunity to confess—to repent—to God his sin.
Adam did confess when he said, “I ate,” but only after first blaming Eve and even blaming God: “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree” (3:12). Yes, Adam confessed, but now in his sinful state, he tried to shift the blame to others, including God.
God also gave Eve an opportunity to repent when he said, “What is this that you have done?” (3:13). Following Adam’s lead, Eve first blamed the serpent and then confessed to eating the forbidden fruit.
Having admitted to their sin, albeit while playing the blame game, God now outlined to Adam and Eve the extent and severity of their sin.
God Outlines the Consequences of Their Sin
I won’t go over all the consequences God outlined for the serpent, Eve, and then Adam in verses 14-19. Rather, I want to highlight the larger consequences of their sin.
There were four consequences, three that God outlined to Adam and Eve, and one that he didn’t describe, yet Adam and Eve experienced. First, God told them that pride, ego, and selfishness will now cause strife in their relationships. He told Eve, “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you” (3:16).
Second, he told them that they will each suffer to survive and procreate: Eve will have pain when she gives birth, and Adam will now sweat and struggle to feed his family (3:16-19).
Third, God reminded them that now, having sinned against God and just as he warned them, they will now die: “. . . till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (3:19). This seems to indicate that prior to the fall, Adam and Eve would have not faced physical death. However, now that they sinned, they will surely die.
Fourth, God cast Adam and Eve out of the Eden, separating them forever from his perfect goodness and holiness (3:22-24). The intimate, personal relationship with God (and with each other) they once enjoyed was now gone.
Along with consequences to themselves, God told Adam that his sin has far-reaching consequences. He told Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you” (3:17). This indicates that creation itself is now cursed because of Adam’s sin. Paul reiterates this truth when he reminds us that all creation is cursed because of Adam’s sin and groans in pain awaiting the day it is set free from its bondage at the Second Coming of Christ (Rom 8:19-22).
God, however, did not leave it there. He immediately did something that is a type and shadow—a foreshadowing—of Christ: he offered them grace and hope.
God Forgives and Covers Their Sin
Verse 21 is probably overlooked by many. However, it is a verse that is pivotal to understanding the full story of the fall (and eventual renewal) of mankind: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (3:21).
Remember, Adam and Eve tried to cover their own nakedness—their own sin—with fig leaves. They tried to overcome and fix what they did wrong, but their efforts, as valiant as they may have been, were wholly inadequate. In order to cover up their shame and guilt, blood had to be shed (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22).
God himself took an innocent animal (or maybe more than one) and killed it, shedding that animal’s blood, in order to cover Adam and Eve in their sinful state. The animal did nothing wrong, yet God chose to act himself in order to cover the two who sinned against him.
God shed the blood. God covered Adam and Eve. God clothed them in the innocence of that animal.
That act in that one verse is the type and shadow of Christ! That one verse foreshadows the good news of the gospel!
God willingly sent his son, Jesus, to shed his blood for the sins of mankind. Jesus voluntarily sacrificed his life so that sinful man would be forgiven. That animal that God killed in Genesis 3:21 is a foreshadow of Jesus on the cross. It’s blood that was shed to pay for Adam and Eve’s sin is a picture of Jesus’ blood that pays for the sins of mankind. The skins that Adam and Eve were wrapped in is a foreshadow of the righteousness of Christ God wraps around all those who put their faith in Christ Jesus.
At Calvary, our guilt and iniquity were placed on Jesus (Isa 53:6; 1 Pet 2:24), and Jesus’ perfect righteousness is credited to all who repent (Zech 3:1-10; Rom 4:5; 2 Cor 5:21). This is what is depicted in Genesis 3.
Like in the Eden, God acts to save and God saves. All we need to do is come before God, repent of our sin, and put our faith in Christ Jesus.
That is the gospel, and it was foreshadowed at the fall of Adam and Eve.