This is an adapted excerpt from Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story (Crossway, 2018), and is published here in partnership with Crossway.
Nobody likes being inappropriately or inadequately dressed. This is why, when we’re going to an event, we call our friends and ask what they’re wearing, and why we’re embarrassed when we think we’ve over- or under-dressed.
When the Bible’s story opens in Eden, there’s no hint of embarrassment over being undressed. We read in Genesis 2:25, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” They were, after all, made in the image of God, whom the psalmist says is “clothed with splendor and majesty, covering [him]self with light as with a garment” (Ps. 104:1–2). Evidently Adam and Eve were covered with a measure or degree of the radiance of the righteousness, beauty, and glory of God, which is why there was no cause for shame.
But that doesn’t mean there was no need for further clothing. Moses’s ancient Near Eastern readers would’ve recognized nakedness as an undesirable condition for human beings, particularly for royal representatives. Adam and Eve were representatives of the great King, and royal representatives in the Bible are always dressed for the part. Consider Joseph’s coat of many colors indicating he would be head of the family, Jonathan giving David his royal robe to acknowledge he would be the next king, and Daniel being given a purple robe by Belshazzar when proclaimed the third-highest ruler in the kingdom.
By stating that Adam and Eve were naked, it’s as if Moses intended to prompt some questions in the minds of his readers—not so much whether Adam and Eve would be clothed, but how and when they would be clothed.
Possibility of Being Clothed
In Genesis 1 and 2 we’re reading the beginning of a story that will be interrupted and rerouted when it has barely gotten started. God’s intention for his holy realm was that it be not just good, but glorious. Likewise, God intended that his people would be transformed into a fuller, more complete likeness of God by being clothed in a greater measure of the beauty and glory of God. If Adam and Eve obeyed God’s command regarding the forbidden tree, they would be transformed from glory to glory, from a state of untested righteousness to that of tested and confirmed righteousness. They would’ve been fully and forever clothed with a holiness that would never be sullied, a beauty that would never become marred, and a glory that would never fade.
But, of course, we know that’s not what happened. They fell short of the glory of God, the glory God intended for them. And then came the rumble of footsteps in the garden. They understood that the worst possible scenario for a sinner is to be found in a state of undress before God, so they scrambled to make clothing for themselves by sewing together some leaves. They were meant to be clothed by God in the royal garments of his righteousness and glory, and the best they could do was clothe themselves in leaves from the fig tree in the backyard.
And the fig leaves just didn’t do the job. They were trying to keep their shame from showing, but their uncomfortable, inadequate, self-styled solution to shame clearly wasn’t working.
So what did God do? “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). In clothing them with the skins of an innocent animal, God demonstrated how it would be possible for his people to one day be clothed in the royal splendor he had intended for Adam and Eve. One day he would deal with human sin in a pervasive and permanent way—through the covering provided by the atoning death of one precious, perfect Lamb.
That hope of being clothed—pictured in the clothing of skins made for Adam and Eve, later in the clothing of the high priest, and promised by the prophets—began becoming a reality when Jesus submitted himself not only to being born as a naked baby, but to being stripped naked in his crucifixion. Jesus experienced the humiliation of nakedness so that you and I can experience the glory of being clothed.
Process of Being Clothed
And this isn’t relegated solely to the future. Right now, if you’re in Christ, you’re being made holy, you’re becoming beautiful, you’re being clothed in the righteousness of Christ. As we bring ourselves naked and exposed before the Word of God, this living and active Word goes to work in the interior of our lives. The Spirit does his work of transformation so that we’re increasingly wrapped in the robes of the righteousness of Christ—not simply in a judicial sense, but in the reality of our lives.
The Spirit empowers us to leave behind our rebellious determination to flaunt our shameful sinfulness, and our self-righteous determination to clothe ourselves in our own glory, righteousness, and beauty. We want to put on the “new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:23). What a wardrobe! Who needs Nordstrom? When we put our focus on being clothed in this way, we become less invested and anxious about how we look in our physical clothes. We know that if the one who is clothing the lilies of the field is the same one clothing us, we can only begin to imagine how beautiful we’re becoming.
Because the Spirit is at work in us changing how we think about nakedness and clothing, we embrace modesty rather than exposure. Rather than making a fashion statement with our clothes that will cause heads to turn in our direction, we want to make a fashion statement with our character that will cause heads to turn in Christ’s direction. We want others to look at our lives and ask where we got our outfit because they want to become as beautiful as we’re becoming.
Anticipation of Being Further Clothed
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes the day when we will get the complete wardrobe we’ve longed for: “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (vv. 52–53). This will be the ultimate outfit: immortality.
Our future isn’t a return to the nakedness of Eden. Instead, Christ has made it possible for all who are joined to him to be clothed with immortality.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, Hope, a friend hosted a shower for me. Among the many beautiful things I received at that shower was a nine-month-size bunting, purchased from one of the nicest children’s clothing stores in Nashville. When Hope was born a few weeks later, we learned that her life would be very short. The geneticist told us to expect that we would have her for about six months.
A couple of months into her life, we were preparing for a special occasion, and I wanted to dress Hope in something especially beautiful. So I took that nine-month-size bunting back to the store and asked if I could trade it for something else. The sweet woman working in the store said, “Oh, but don’t you want to keep this for when she grows into it this winter?” I had to tell her that Hope was not going to live into the coming winter (the kind of awkward conversation I had many times during Hope’s brief life). I came away from the store with a beautiful smocked gown, and she wore it the next day. Then a few months later, when Hope died, and I handed over her body, the mortician asked if I had a particular outfit I wanted Hope to be buried in, and I gave him the smocked gown.
Hope was beautifully clothed in death. But, oh, how much more beautifully clothed she will be in the resurrection! She and all who are in Christ will be clothed in pure holiness, astounding beauty, and radiant glory. Right now, only Jesus is fully clothed with this resurrection glory. But he is just the first.
Our future isn’t a return to the nakedness of Eden. Instead, Christ has made it possible for all who are joined to him to be clothed with immortality. We’ll be holy through and through, so glorious we’ll need new eyes to be able to look at each other. We’re going to be so, so beautiful—beautiful like Jesus.