Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
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Acacius of Caesarea
Paul said this in order to contradict those who thought that the Genesis story of the fall applied to nobody but Adam himself. For here he says that all have sinned, even if not exactly in the same way as Adam, and that the Genesis account applies to all men. .
Although sin was not imputed before the law of Moses was given, death nevertheless reigned in the supremacy of its own seizure of power, knowing those who were bound to it. Therefore death reigned in the security of its dominion both over those who for a time escaped punishment and over those who suffered punishment for their evil deeds. Death claimed everyone as its own, because whoever sins is the servant of sin. Imagining they would get away with it, people sinned all the more and were more prone to wrongdoing because the world abetted it as if it were legal. Because of all this Satan rejoiced, knowing that he was secure in his possession of man, who because of Adam’s sin had been abandoned by God. Thus it was that death reigned. Some Greek manuscripts say that death reigned even in those who had not sinned in the way that Adam had. If this is true, it is because Satan’s jealousy was such that death, that is, dissolution, held sway over even those who did not sin…. Here there is a t...
This can be understood in two ways: either “in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, death reigned,” or (as surely it must be read) “death reigned over even those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression but sinned before the law was given.” Thus those who received the law may be understood to have sinned in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, because Adam also sinned after having received a law to obey…. Adam is the type of the one who was to come but in reverse, for as death came through Adam, so life came through our Lord.
Paul’s meaning is that, although Moses was a righteous and admirable man, the death sentence promulgated upon Adam reached him as well, and also those who came after, even though neither he nor they copied the sin of Adam in disobediently eating of the tree.
Adam was a type of Christ not with respect to his sin or his righteousness—in this respect the two men were opposites—but with respect to the effects of what he did. For just as Adam’s sin spread to all men, so Christ’s life also spread to all men. Adam was also a type of Christ in another respect. For just as he was the head of Eve, in that he was her husband, so also Christ, being its bridegroom, is the head of the church. .
Now, we who are spiritual are sons, he says, who have been left here to arrange, and mould, and rectify, and complete the souls which, according to nature, are so constituted as to continue in this quarter of the universe. "Sin, then, reigned from Adam unto Moses"
Paul called Adam “the type of the one who was to come” because the Word, the maker of all things, had formed beforehand for himself the future dispensation of the human race, in union with the Son of God. God predestined that the first man should be of an animal nature with this in view, that he might be saved in the spiritual nature. For since the Word had preexistence as a saving being, it was necessary that what might be saved should also be called into existence, in order that the being who saves should not exist in vain. .
Those, therefore, who assert that He appeared putatively, and was neither born in the flesh nor truly made man, are as yet under the old condemnation, holding out patronage to sin; for, by their showing, death has not been vanquished, which "reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression.".
Wherefore Luke points out that the pedigree which traces the generation of our Lord back to Adam contains seventy-two generations, connecting the end with the beginning, and implying that it is He who has summed up in Himself all nations dispersed from Adam downwards, and all languages and generations of men, together with Adam himself. Hence also was Adam himself termed by Paul "the figure of Him that was to come"
In the transgression of Adam we have all through sin been cast out of paradise. The apostle teaches that even in us who were to come later Adam had fallen. In Christ therefore, in the heavenly Adam, we believe that we who through the sin of the first Adam have fallen from paradise now through the righteousness of the second Adam are to return to paradise.
Adam is a type of Christ in that just as those who descended from him inherited death, even though they had not eaten of the fruit of the tree. So also those who are descended from Christ inherit his righteousness, even though they did not produce it themselves.