This is a brief summary of some things I have come to understand, due in part to NT Wrights, “Paul and The Faithfulness Of God,” and some conclusions I have made along the way.
Genesis 1, Adam is created, he is supposed to be a representative of God to the world; an incarnated being who is supposed to care for and look after creation, in God’s place. In doing this he will glorify God, for this is the purpose he was created. (Yes, and be fruitful and fill the earth)
Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sin, Adam’s original purpose to glorify God and care for the world gets disrupted. And therefore; Adam, who was supposed to be a representative of God’s to the world, as an Eikon (Greek), turns out to need rescuing. The sin corrupts, and his flesh, puts a barrier between God and mankind,
Genesis 12-15, Abraham is called to be representative to the world, once again as Adam was supposed to be. We know in time, Abraham’s descendants become the family of Israel, and Israel, to be able carry out this calling of Abraham, is given the Torah. The Torah, becomes not only instructions on how to glorify God, but also how to live as a set apart people (circumcision, Sabbath, food laws, etc.), allowing the world to see that the God of the Israelites is God and all others are not. However: the Torah itself is a paradox; on the one hand it shows how to live a life that is glorifying to God, which brings blessings and life; but on the other hand it shows sin and concomitant with that is condemnation, which brings death. In the book of Romans, it says where there is no law there is no sin. So as Israel is given the Torah, sin also comes along in the package. This really was the impetuous behind the Torah, what it set out to accomplish, that is: to condemn sin. Not that Torah was in itself flawed, but the people whom it was given were. The flesh was weak, and Israel themselves could not overcome it (Romans 7 succinctly). Here is where the problem comes in, as Israel is given Torah, the life changing gift from God, they also realize that they are facing the same problems that Adam did. Their sin, preventing them from glorifying and serving God, partly due to Torah, becomes their ruining. And this gift of Torah, creates this pendulum motion, in which, trying to do right, but ultimately doing wrong. In this, now Israel itself, needs rescuing. Though Israel is set apart to rescue the world, they now also become part of the problem.
Now we turn to Jesus, who ultimately becomes the rescuer. He becomes what Adam was supposed to become, that is the incarnation, as the image bearer of Yahweh. He also becomes the true Israelite, who is able to fulfill the Torah (though it shows sin, Jesus is able to overcome it, but also to fulfill it ) and live a life that reflects this to the world. And in doing so, he rescues Israel, for he himself is an Israelite, and fulfills their purpose. And, also rescues Adam and his dilemma (the flesh), by being the new creation, and returning him (mankind) to the previous state before sin, and able to once again allow mankind to glorify God (strangely restoring the priesthood and temple ). Which only comes through the life giving spirit of Jesus. Then “as Messiah, he stands over against even Israel, doing for Israel, and hence for Adam and the world, what they could not do for themselves.”
Now through Christ’s death and ultimately resurrection, the real return from exile happens. And this return from exile; is not about returning to the land (yet), first and foremost it’s about returning to the first state that we are created. As through Adam’s flesh, and his sin, mankind has been exiled from God. But through the new spirit, through Jesus’s death and resurrection, the exile has been overcome and now we’ve been returned to a former state through the new Adam: Jesus. This has to happen first, the people have to be renewed, before the land can be returned, because ultimately if we are brought to the land without being renewed we will once again repeat history. This is the real return from exile, the exile from Genesis 1, not the exile yet of Daniel 9 (though in part this is being fulfilled, as the kingdom of God begins to be established through this present world, and as it is being built in the here and now, the age to come ambiguously begins to prevail). This is why Jesus was born, why he lived, why he died, and rose again; Jesus, therefore, did not just come just to die for sins, that is a subplot in a much larger story.