There are two main perspectives in life: flesh and spirit. The flesh deals with biology, or genealogy. The spirit deals with law, because “the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14).
Those who do not understand the concept and purpose of law tend to believe that the law is carnal and therefore should be put away. In the contrast between flesh and spirit, they put the law in the realm of flesh, as if law and spirit are incompatible and contradictory.
Yet Paul claimed that the law was spiritual and asked in Rom. 3:31,
31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.
In asserting this, Paul agreed with Jesus, who said in Matt. 5:19,
19 Whosoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Yet many Christians fail to study the law, and teachers fail to teach the law. Worse yet, those who teach the law usually teach it from an Old Covenant perspective. In doing so, they fail to understand the book of Hebrews, which gives the New Covenant perspective that reflects certain changes in the law (Heb. 7:12).
Our present study will be based on a New Covenant perspective and will show the contrast between flesh and spirit.
Adam and the Last Adam
Adam became “a living soul” (Gen. 2:7); the Last Adam (Jesus Christ) “became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). The soul is fleshly, carnal. The Greek word psuchikos is often translated “natural,” but it means soulish. The word is derived from psuche or psyche, which means “soul.”
The mind of the soul is limited in its understanding and ability to hear the word of the Lord, because it is fleshly. It is the carnal mind. Whereas the Greeks thought that the soul was spiritual, the Bible calls it fleshly and distinguishes it clearly from one’s spirit (1 Cor. 2:11, 14).
If we follow the leading of our soul, the “natural man,” we follow the leading of our earthly father, Adam. If, however, we follow the leading of our spirit that has been awakened by the Spirit of God, we then follow the leading of our heavenly Father.
Adam is carnal; the Last Adam is spiritual. Whoever we claim as our father is the one to whom we must submit. Those who claim descent from Adam (and earthly parents) are under the law of the original man of sin who commands us to sin even as he sinned. This is the law of flesh.
Those who have been begotten by the Spirit are given the authority to be called the sons of God (John 1:12, 13). They have changed their identity from being fleshly children to spiritual children. This is the law of the spirit.
Paul found that he had an inner conflict between his flesh and his spirit. He wrote in Rom. 7:25,
25 … So then, on the one hand I myself with my [spiritual] mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
1 John 3:4 tells us that “sin is lawlessness” (anomia). Hence, it is the flesh that is lawless, for it is subservient to Adam, the first sinner. But Paul thanks God that he has changed his identity, his mind, his conscious awareness, from his soul to his spirit.
For this reason, he could say that with his mind he served the law of God. So is it with all who have become new creatures in Christ who, like Paul, serve the law of God.
Flesh and Blood
The name Adam comes from dam, which means blood. This can have either a positive or negative connotation, but for our purpose here it shows the connection between soul and blood. The law says (literally) that “the fleshly soul is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11) and “its blood is identified with its soul” (Lev. 17:14).
You might say that blood is the carrier of the soul. And because flesh and blood are linked together, so also do we read of “the fleshly soul.”
The Greeks thought that the soul was spiritual, but the Bible says it is fleshly—that is, the carnal mind. For this reason, Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:50,
50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
Flesh and blood come from Adam, for that is how he was created as a soulish man. Those who identify themselves with Adam cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Only those who are begotten by the Spirit are the inheritors.
Adam was created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). The Hebrew word translated “likeness” is demuth, whose root is damah, which is also the root of dam. Thus, a father might say of his son, “he is my blood,” or “he looks just like me.” The idea of “likeness” has to do with resembling one’s father, either in appearance or in actions.
However, Adam’s blood was rendered unclean when his soul sinned against God. So God sent His Son to replace corrupted blood with uncorrupted blood. The legal protocol was for us to “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood” (John 6:53).
This, of course, was not a carnal procedure but spiritual. The Hebrew word basar, “flesh,” has a double meaning. It also means “good news, gospel.” Hence, the metaphor of eating His flesh and drinking His blood meant believing, consuming, and assimilating the gospel of Christ.
Hence, if we believe that He is the Son of God sent to purchase sinners with His blood, and if we believe that He was raised from the dead for our justification, then we have consumed His flesh and blood. When we are baptized, we proclaim that the old man of flesh has been crucified with Christ and that we have risen from the dead in the likeness of Christ. Rom. 6:5, 6 says,
5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self [“old man”] was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin.
So the “likeness” of God that was lost in Adam can be regained through righteousness of the Last Adam. But we must discard the corrupted flesh and blood of our natural (soulish) father, in order to come alive with new blood in the likeness of our new Father.
The Dispute over the Inheritance
The problem is that flesh and blood was born first and therefore considers itself to be the firstborn son. The soul does not understand that it cannot inherit the Kingdom. The soul disagrees with the divine plan, for it is self-centered and acts with self-interest in mind. Rom. 8:5 KJV says,
5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
In essence, the soul does not want to give way to the spirit, even though one’s spirit, when baptized by the Holy Spirit, is immortal and incorruptible and far more capable of ruling the inheritance properly.
Whereas flesh and blood might have inherited the Kingdom, if Adam had not sinned, we know that Adam did sin and that this disqualified him as an inheritor. Another way had to be found to produce the sons of God who would inherit the Kingdom.
The New Covenant promised to create new creatures in Christ who would inherit the Kingdom. In the covenants God made with Noah (Gen. 9), Abraham (Gen. 17), Moses (Deut. 29), David (Psalm 89), and others, the main feature was the fact that God made the promise by the power of His own will.
It did not depend upon the will of man, because man did not promise anything. Only the Old Covenant required the promises of men (Exodus 19:8), and this was why it was doomed to fail from the start.
No man can prevent God from fulfilling His promises, for He is all powerful. The salvation of the world, then, can only come through the New Covenant, and for this reason, it is based on “the promise of God” (Rom. 4:20).
Man’s will may thwart the Old Covenant, but it can only delay the fulfillment of the promise of God. In the end, God is powerful enough to turn the hearts of men and cause them to repent, so that they can be saved. And if this does not happen during one’s lifetime, they will certainly bow to Him and swear allegiance to Christ (Isaiah 45:23) when they are summoned to the Great White Throne.
The two covenants are pictured in the story of Hagar and Sarah. Everyone has two parents. Some stories picture the two fathers, such as Adam and Christ, whereas other stories picture the two mothers, such as Hagar and Sarah. One must have both parents in order to be an inheritor of the Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the children dispute over the inheritance, each presenting evidence by which he hopes to convince the Judge to rule in his favor. Fleshly people claim to be qualified on the grounds of their flesh, their genealogy, their descent from Adam, Abraham, Israel, etc. Spiritual people set forth their claim on the grounds of God’s promise and their spiritual genealogy, having been begotten by the Spirit.
Which argument will prevail? That is the big question.
The second great fleshly soul to emerge in biblical history is Nimrod, the great rebel. As with Adam, Nimrod’s story teaches us more about the great dispute between flesh and spirit.
Nimrod was the founder of Babel, or Babylon. Gen. 10:10 says, “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel.” Being founded by Nimrod, it was founded in rebellion against God and was the rival of Jerusalem that was founded by Shem. Shem ruled under the title Melchizedek.
As the inheritor of the birthright (after Noah’s death), Shem was the rightful king of the earth and the “priest of the Most High God” (Gen. 14:18). Shem outlived Abraham, so the birthright was never passed down to him. Instead, it went directly from Shem to Isaac, who was 110 when Shem died.
Nimrod was a hunter, and as we see so often, men’s occupations often prepared them for their ministries or life’s work. So David was a shepherd who learned to lead sheep, and Jesus was a carpenter who learned to build the Kingdom. Nimrod was a hunter who learned to hunt the souls of men and enslave them.
Nimrod’s enslavement of his fellow men began with his passion for hunting. When he hunted men, he became bloodthirsty in violation of the law (Lev. 17:10). This attitude developed over a period of time, according to chapter 7 of the book of Jasher. It started when Nimrod put on the garment that Ham, his grandfather, had stolen from Noah in Gen. 9:23, 24. God had given this garment to Adam after he lost the garment of God’s glory.
The garment was passed down to the birthright holder of the next generation and was finally given to Noah. But then Ham and his son Canaan stole the garment and hid it for a long time. The garment was finally given to Nimrod, son of Cush, son of Ham. By doing this, he usurped the power of the birthright from Shem. Shem then left Ur of the Chaldees and built Jerusalem.
Babylon and Jerusalem thus became rival cities, each claiming to be the rightful capital of the Kingdom, which at that time included the entire earth. Shem was the rightful ruler, but Nimrod held military power.
Nimrod’s name is derived from marad, “to rebel.” This word is used in Num. 14:9, “do not rebel against the Lord.” The great rebel founded Babylon, but the priest of the Most High God founded Jerusalem.
The big question in those days was whether Nimrod or Shem was the rightful holder of the birthright. Today, the question is whether Mystery Babylon or the New Jerusalem is the capital of the world (Christ’s Kingdom). Babylon is long gone, but the spiritual city still remains and figures prominently in the book of Revelation.
The earthly Jerusalem too is slated for destruction (Jer. 19:10, 11), for it was disqualified for its idolatry. In the time of Christ, this disqualification was ratified by its rejection of Christ. Rev. 11:8 tells us that, spiritually speaking, Sodom, Egypt, and Jerusalem are all the same city.
For this reason, the old cities have been replaced with spiritual cities that compete for the throne of the world.
Nimrod represents those who rebel against the will of God, who has given the throne rights to Jesus Christ and who rules from the New Jerusalem. Nimrod, then, is the father of the rebellious, even as Adam is the father of all sinners.
Ishmael provides us with yet another picture of Kingdom rivals. As the son of Hagar, he represents those who are of the Old Covenant, the children of bondage, and the children of the flesh (Gal. 4:49).
Ishmael was the son of Abram; Isaac was the son of Abraham. Ishmael was born before Abram’s name was changed to Abraham. It was only after God added the hey to his name (and to Sarah’s), representing the breath of God, the Holy Spirit, that they could bring forth the promised son.
Along with Christ Himself, the Holy Spirit is “the promise of the father” (Luke 24:49). Without the Holy Spirit one cannot be begotten by God (Passover), nor learn obedience by the leading of the Spirit (Pentecost), nor give birth to the son of God, “Christ in you” (Col. 1:27), at the fulfillment of Tabernacles.
Ishmael represents those who think that they are the sons of God by virtue of their flesh, or natural genealogy. Paul makes it clear that they are not inheritors (1 Cor. 15:50).
Paul’s writings are unique in Scripture in that he is the only one who reveals the importance of both parents in this matter of Sonship. First, he shows that to have Abraham as one’s father, a person must share his faith. Gal. 3:7 says,
7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
Secondly, he shows that one must also have Sarah as one’s mother. Sarah represents the New Covenant (Gal. 4:26). One cannot claim to be a son of God apart from being birthed through the New Covenant.
Hence, Paul says, those who are of the earthly city of Jerusalem are Ishmaelites, because Jerusalem is their mother, Hagar (Gal. 4:25). The Jews who claim Abraham as their father are not inheritors of the Kingdom, unless they have New Covenant faith. Apart from Christ, they remain Ishmaelites, regardless of their physical genealogy.
Another great fleshly type in prophecy is Esau, who is called Edom, “Red” (Gen. 36:1). His name connects him to Adam, “ruddy,” who was the father of sinners. Both men have the word dam in their name, indicating “blood.” But whereas Adam was supposed be in God’s likeness, Edom portrays the bloodthirsty nature of the flesh.
This comes out most clearly in Ezekiel 35:5, 6,
5 “Because you have had everlasting enmity and have delivered the sons of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of the punishment of the end, 6 therefore as I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will give you over to bloodshed, and bloodshed will pursue you, since you have not hated bloodshed, therefore bloodshed will pursue you.”
In each case above, “bloodshed” is from the Hebrew word dam, “blood.”
Edom’s love of blood or bloodshed stood in sharp contrast to the peaceful nature of the sons of God. The city of Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” Bloodthirsty people are not citizens of the true City of Peace, for they violate the law of God that says in Lev. 17:12,
12 Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, “No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.”
Blood was meant “to make atonement for your souls,” not to be eaten as food. For this reason, the soul was in the blood, and the blood of sacrifices were to be poured out on the ground and covered with earth (Lev. 17:13). This was also why unclean birds were forbidden as food, for they ate dead animals without draining the blood (Lev. 11:13-19). We are what we eat, and the spiritual food laws forbid us to be bloodthirsty.
Yet like many birds of prey, Esau was “a skillful hunter” and “had a taste for game” (Gen. 25:27, 28). In this way, he was also like Nimrod. Esau later despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob for a bowl of stew (“red stuff,” Gen. 25:30). Here the word “red” is from adom, which is another form of dam. We read that “Therefore, his name was called Edom.”
The red stew that he hungered for was a spiritual sign of Esau’s bloodthirsty character. In other words, the red stew represented blood, which he craved spiritually.
Esau’s problem was that he misused blood. Blood was supposed to be used for atonement. Ultimately, it was only Christ’s blood that could atone permanently, once for all. True faith in Christ was to spiritually drink His blood (John 6:53), not to demand or crave the blood of others.
Hence, also, the method by which the Kingdom is to be established is not to return to Palestine and kill all of its inhabitants, as was done under the Old Covenant. The fact that this has been attempted since 1948 is characteristic of Edom, not of Israel.
The true Kingdom of God is centered in the heavenly Jerusalem, while the old city by the same name degenerated into “the bloody city” (Ezekiel 22:2; 24:6, 9; Nahum 3:1). In other words, its spiritual nature was that of Edom, not Israel.
In later history, we find that Edom (Greek: Idumea) was conquered by Judah in 126 B.C. and forced to convert to Judaism. They were forced to change their religion, but this did nothing to change their hearts. A century later, they were the most bloodthirsty and rabid people fighting against the Romans. The last stronghold to be taken was Masada, where the last band of Edomites had sought refuge.
The merger between Judah and Edom meant that two sets of prophecies were to be fulfilled by the Jews. In 1948 the Jewish state was actually a prophetic manifestation of Edom, though it was called Israel. To truly be Israel, they would have had a heart change through Christ, and would have taken the land by the principles of the New Covenant.
Yet to this day they remain hostile to Jesus Christ as well as to their Palestinian neighbors. For further study, see my book, The Struggle for the Birthright.