The book of Revelation is super confusing for a lot of people, and I can understand why. The apostle John uses layer upon layer of rich symbolism and so many subtle allusions to the Old Testament that it would take years of careful studying and reading to begin to even catch a few of the allusions. There is a consistent theme that runs through the book that can help us understand, though: in Christ and the martyrs, the work of Adam is completed. There is a popular myth that Adam does not play a huge role in the Bible outside of Genesis, Paul, and I Chronicles. This post will show how understanding the work of Adam is key to understanding the whole of the Scriptures, and that he forms an inclusio around the whole storyline of the Scriptures.
The key to understanding the work of Adam could be presented as such: to cultivate the world to bring as a peace offering, to protect the Bride and grow into maturity together, and to defeat the Serpent.
One of the themes of Genesis is maturity. When the world was created, there were no plants because there was no man and no waters, the first famine, a consistent theme throughout the Bible. God, in response, constructs Adam out of the dust by his Breath and causes water to spring out of the ground. Adam was supposed to cultivate the Garden, extending its borders beyond the mountain (Ezekiel 28:13-14), by following the rivers from the spring to the four corners of the world. As he performed the kingly duty of cultivating the world, he was bringing the world to maturity to match the heavenly model.
Ultimately, Adam was supposed to present Bread and Wine to God and have a peace meal with him. We learn this through Leviticus when the details for the qorban, near-bringing, grain offering is addressed to Adam (Leviticus 1:2). Bread is grain matured. He was also supposed to drink wine with Yahweh just as Christians now drink wine in the presence of the Lord as the lines between sacred and profane break down. Wine is matured grapes. Bread and wine are matured, or glorified, peace offerings.
Adam was also supposed to grow into maturity so that he could partake of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Notice that the text says that all of the fruit of the garden shall be food for you (Genesis 1:29). When Adam matured, he would partake in the fruit and take his place on God’s heavenly council. He couldn’t complete his work on his own, though, so Yahweh created a Bride for him out of his side to help him fulfill his work. The two, now together, would grow into maturity and partake in the fruit together.
This was complicated when the Serpentine-angelic figure entered the Garden, who enticed the couple to take the fruit early. Adam was supposed to wage holy war against the Serpent and guard his bride from iniquity. Unfortunately, we all know that Adam failed and he and his wife ate of the fruit too early and became subject to death. Adam was no longer able to cultivate the ground from the rivers that flowed from the Garden, but had to use the sweat of his brow. He also did not have access to uncursed land, which would not present thorns and thistles to prevent safe cultivation. There would now be pain and evil in his task.
So, we fast forward to Revelation. It is important to note that Revelation is the second part of John just as Acts is the second part of Luke. Without Revelation, John would be an incomplete story.
Jesus, the new Adam, is finishing the work of Adam all through John-Revelation, but it may be hard to see without ears to hear. In the Gospel of John, we are told that water and blood came from the punctured wound of Jesus’ side. Just as Woman was constructed from the side of Adam, the Church would be built on the blood and water that came from the side of Jesus. Adam is not working alone in Revelation, but has a Helper, his Bride to be. John creatively shows us Jesus as a new Adam: he is mistaken for a gardener because he was buried in a fresh tomb in a garden, where the tomb was the new spring in the center of the Garden of Eden. Mary finds him tending to the Garden surrounded by two Cherubim, the angels placed in front of the entrance to Eden. Jesus’ references to Mary as “Woman” recall Eve, who was not named until after the curses were laid. Jesus, now acting as Yahweh, then breathes on the disciples to give them the Spirit to bring their dead souls to life. Also recall that the Spirit was compared to water throughout the whole Gospel, especially in chapters 3 and 4.
So, by the end of John, Jesus finds himself as an exalted Adam: he has a bride, a garden, a source of water, and a world to cultivate. So we find ourselves in Revelation. Jesus, the exalted Adam, is to begin his work and start cultivating the world to find himself bread and wine.
A couple of notes before I go to Revelation: One of the key things to understand is that, in some way, God is going to kill everybody who is alive by his appearance. The only question is if you will be raised to eternal life or to eternal contempt in the Resurrection. Understanding that, we understand that for Jesus to cultivate people in Revelation means killing them somehow. This post cannot and will not be a full examination of Revelation, it simply cannot be. A lot of things will be passed over for the sake of clarity. Some other time, it would be important to note the call-back to Ezekiel, the Son of Adam, in Revelation 11 as key to understanding the Adam texts more fully.
Revelation 13 presents us with a false, serpentine Trinity. The first beast, the Dragon, is a false-Father, granting authority to the second Serpent of the anti-Trinity; the Sea Beast is granted authority and has an injury reminiscent of death; the Land Beast is a false Spirit pointing people toward the worship of the Sea Beast. It’s also a false Spirit in that it gives life to unmoving images, just as the Spirit gives life to the Eikons of God. Just as we might have understood God as a single Person in the Old Testament, we understood the Serpent as a single person in the Old Testament. The New Testament shows us a fuller picture of God and the serpent, both as triads of Persons. It is Satan, the draconian accuser, who now tempts Adam (Luke 4; Matthew 4; Mark 1) and Eve (1 Peter 5).
Adam is supposed to wage war against the Serpentine Trinity now. Jesus, son of Adam, raises a new army (Revelation 14:4) to wage holy war against the serpent, protecting the Bride to be presented blameless before God (Ephesians 5). Rather than fighting by himself, the new Adam prepares his Bride to do war with him against the Serpent, eventually winning against him (Revelation 20; cf. Romans 15). It is in preparing his Bride for battle that the new Adam protects his bride from the Serpentine wiles, eventually defeating him by trampling over death by death.
Finally, Adam was supposed to cultivate the world. He was supposed to bring a grain offering to God, and he does so: Revelation 14:14-16 shows an angel with a sickle reaping the world as if it were grain. The grain is gathered, and it is here that the fires of the heavenly altar separate the grain from the chaff. The fires of the altar will burn up the offering: but they will either be purified in this death or destroyed like chaff. The wine offering is gathered, too, when the angel in charge of the fire commands that the world be gathered for wine. An angel treads the grapes of the world and it is turned into wine at the winepress of the wrath of God. Just as grapes must be crushed to become wine, humans must be crushed to mature into a full drink offering (2 Timothy 4:6; Philippians 2:17). After the wine and bread are prepared in the fire, Jesus institutes a Bridal peace meal (see my discussion on polygamy for more) where he eats the worshippers (the image of eating is not new to Revelation: see Jesus’ letter to the Church at Laodecia when he threatens to spit them out).
After the peace meal, the worshippers enter a new sort of Eden. A lot of people think that the story of Eden begins in chapter 21, where it seems to enter out of nowhere. This post has shown that Jesus, the new Adam, has been cultivating the world to become a new Eden since the beginning of time (the beginning of the Gospel of John). After the worshippers partake in the peace meal with Jesus, they live together and Jesus walks the Garden as Yahweh walked in Eden. There is no more Sea because there are no more Gentiles (they are now full Jews in the Messiah) and there is a new Tree of Life. The tree has twelve kinds of fruits, a symbol of the full maturity of creation (just like the twelve tribes of Israel were a microcosm of all of creation, as were the twelve apostles), ready to heal the nations by partaking in its fruit.
More could be said about the lack of an ocean and the lack of lights. Simply put, the Trinity replaces all of the symbols and functions that the six days of creation were used to fill, so that Jesus may be both God and Adam in Revelation. Understanding the work of Adam explains the story of Genesis, and the whole of the Old Testament, but it helps us understand the book of Revelation. The Apostle John is shown in symbols how Christ and his Bride would be a new sort of Adam and Eve, finishing the work set out for man and ushering in a new Eden.