hold to the young earth position deny that there could have been death
before Adamís fall. They argue that the Bible declares death came only
after Adam as a result of his sin: "Just as sin entered the world
through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to
all men, because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12; cf. 8:20-22).
responds by saying there are several problems with this argument.
First, Romans 5:12 does not say all animals die because of Adamís sin,
but only that "all men" die as a consequence. Second, Romans 8 does
not say that animal death results from Adamís sin, but only that the
"creation was subjected to frustration" as a result of it (v. 20).
Third, if Adam ate anythingĖand he had to eat in order to liveĖthen at
least plants had to die before he sinned. Fourth, and finally, the
fossil evidence indicates animal death before human death, since
people are found only on the top (later) strata, while animals are
found in lower (earlier) strata.
Let me add
some additional thoughts to what Dr. Geisler has written:
says, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the
world, and death through sin, and thus death spread
to all men, because all sinned." Here we learn:
Adamís act of rebellion sin entered the world.
through sin resulted Ė but to whom?
spread to all men.
spread to all men because all men sinned.
it doesnít say that death spread to all the animals Ė it says death
spread to all men.
what kind of death is the Apostle Paul talking about? Remember, the
Bible describes five kinds of death:
Physical death Ė death of the body (James 2:26)
Spiritual death or separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 4:18)
Eternal death Ė the second death (Rev. 20:14)
to the law (Rom. 7:4)
to sin (Rom. 6:11)
5:12, the Apostle is primarily referring to "b" Ė spiritual death.
Genesis 2:15-17 tells us why this is so:
Then the Lord God took
the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And
the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden
you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you
shall surely die."
specifically told Adam and Eve on the day they would eat the forbidden
fruit, "You shall surely die." Did they physically
die that day? No, they did not. After they sinned, Adam and Eve
were still walking around. In fact, Adam lived to be 930 years old.
They tilled the ground and had children.
specified in Genesis 2 and 3 and by Paul in Romans 5 must be
spiritual death. When Adam sinned, he instantly "died," just as
God said he would. He remained alive physically, mentally,
volitionally and emotionally, but he died spiritually. That is,
man broke his harmonious fellowship with God and introduced the
inclination or the propensity to sin (to place oneís own way above
Godís). This is what is called "the Doctrine of Original Sin" (not a
particular sin, but the inherent propensity to sin entered the human
realm as men became sinners by nature).
In light of
"death through sin" Paul is talking about is not equivalent to
physical death. If so, Adam and Eve would have physically died the day
they ate of the tree. The Bible is talking primarily about spiritual
death resulting from sin.
humans have earned the title of "sinners." Only humans can experience
"death through sin." Animals donít sin and arenít called sinners in
the Bible. Further, animals are not offered the gift of eternal life
if they repent.
death Adam experienced is carefully qualified by the Apostle Paul in
Romans 5:12. He writes: "Death spread to all men" Ė not to all
plants and animals Ė just on human beings.
Romans 5:18: "Therefore, as through one manís offense judgment
came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one
manís righteous act a free gift came to all men, resulting in
justification of life." Here, Paul is talking about manís fall, his
spiritual dearth and separation from God and Godís salvation via
Christís death to provide salvation to cover the sins of all men.
They must receive this gift by faith in Christ.
spiritual death, man became mortal, liable to all the miseries of this
life and cut off from the possibility of existing physically forever.
In other words, as a result of the Fall, God condemned Adam to a
limited life span and the certain fact of physical death in the
future. God took away access to a tree in the garden that gave Adam
and Eve the potential for eternal physical life. How do we know?
Scripture tells us this in Genesis 3:22-24:
Then the Lord God said,
"Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil,
and now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of
life and eat and live forever" Ė therefore, the Lord God sent
him out of the Garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was
taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east
of the Garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way,
to guard the way to the tree of life.
Adam and Eve had the potential for eternal physical life before they
sinned and even afterwards. John MacArthur comments in his Study Bible
regarding these verses:
God told man that he
would surely die if he ate of the forbidden tree. But Godís concern
may also have been that man not live forever in his pitiful,
cursed condition. Taken in the broader context of Scripture, driving
the man and his wife out of the garden was an act of merciful grace
to prevent them from being sustained forever by the tree of life.
before the Fall God made provision for Adam and Eve to sustain their
physical life forever; but after they disobeyed God, not only was
there immediate spiritual death that came to them, but God pronounced
a curse on them and told them they would eventually physically die by
cutting them off from the tree of life.
3:17-19 we are told: "Then to Adam He said, ĎBecause you have heeded
the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree of which I
commanded you, saying, "You shall not eat of it," cursed is the
ground for your sake. In toil you shall eat of it all the days of
your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face ye
shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it
you were taken, for dust you are and to dust ye shall return.í"
Christians believe that when Adam and Eve sinned, it brought immediate
spiritual death to them and the certainty of future physical death.
Christians also believe that original sin came into existence at this
time. Further, Christ is the only provision for manís sinful
condition. But the facts do not mandate that Christians hold plant and
animal life died only after Adam and Eve sinned.
But how did
the Fall affect nature? What is the meaning of Romans 8:20-22, where
it states: "For the creation was subjected to frustration (futility)
not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in
hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to
decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We
know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains
of childbirth right up till the present."
"futility" or "frustration" refer to the inability to achieve a goal
or purpose. All creation is personified to be, as it were, longing for
the transformation from the curse and its effects. Because of manís
sin God cursed the physical universe and now no part of creation
entirely fulfills Godís original purpose."
interpret this verse to say that Adamís sin ushered into the creation
every kind of natural decay and all pain and death.
They assume that the law of entropy which describes the decreasing
order in the universe, did not take effect until Adam and Eve sinned.
Based on this assumption, the time between the universeís creation and
Adam and Eveís fall must be brief to explain why the physical evidence
shows no period when decay and death were not in operation.
are several problems with this interpretation. First, if one holds to
the twenty-four-hour-day hypothesis that God took six days to create
everything, then according to Romans 8:22, the "whole creation" would
include the universe and all the stars. But if so, did the stars not
burn after the first day? Physics demands that the stars were burning
and that entropy was in effect at that point. If this is the case,
then decay was present from the very first day.
As Dr. Hugh
Ross has written in The Genesis Question:
When we consider that the
second thermodynamic law is essential for lifeís existence,
essential for eating and mobility and countless other activities
that most of us agree are enjoyable and good, we see no reason to
suggest that the law should be judged as bad. Thermodynamic laws
were included when God declared His creation "very good" (Genesis
We must be careful,
however, not to confuse Godís very good creation with His best
creation, or more accurately, His ultimate goal for His creation. In
the new creation there will be no thermodynamic laws Ė no decay, no
frustration, no groaning, no grieving (see Revelation 21:1-5). The
thermodynamic laws are good, in spite of the "decay," "frustration,"
and "groaning," because they are part of Godís strategy for
preparing His creation to enjoy the blessings and rewards of the new
So, for Adam
and Eve, if they did any work in the Garden, then a loss of energy and
a certain amount of decay was present. Why? Because work is essential
to breathing, circulating blood, contracting muscles and digesting
food. These are all virtually life-sustaining processes. Adam was
working, tending the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15) before he sinned.
Thus, Romans 8:20-22 could not imply that Adamís sin inaugurated all
of the decay process.
refers to the creation "groaning," what other effects from the curse
is he talking about? It could be that in Genesis 1:28 God commanded
man to tend the environment, but because man sinned the environment
has been ruined. The human effect on the environment is roughly
analogous to the results of sending a two-year-old child to tidy up a
closet. Left alone, the closet will become less tidy due to the
natural tendency toward decay and disorder. Typically, though, the
two-year-old will greatly speed up the decay and disorder process.
Isaiah 24:5 describes the devastation of the planet that results from
the insubordination of human beings to God. Just as one must wait for
the two-year-old child to grow up a little before expecting him to
help tidy up a closet, so too the creation waits for the human race to
experience the results of God conquering the sin problem.
church fathers as Origen, who lived 185 to 254 A.D., interpreted
Romans 8:20-22 to imply that decay has been in effect in the natural
world since the creation of the universe. Since Origen preceded by
hundreds of years the scientific discovery of the laws of
thermodynamics and entropy (which include the principle of decay), it
is clear that he did not come up with his interpretation as a result
of trying to comply with the modern scientific theories of his day.
other reasons that tell us that physical pain and decay must have
existed before the Fall? Yes. In Genesis 3:16 God says to Eve, "I will
greatly increase [or multiply] your pains in childbearing." He does
not say "introduce." He says, "Increase" or "multiply," implying there
would have been some pain in any case.
Yancey has so clearly shown in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts?
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan), some pain is good. Itís good that when I
put my hand near fire, the pain warns me of danger. If the pain wasnít
there, I wouldnít know that my fingers were burning. Pain is Godís way
of keeping us from destroying ourselves. Adam and Eve certainly must
have had the use of touch and could feel pain in the Garden before
the Fall. They must have had a nervous system that protected them
from any dangers in their environment in the Garden. They must have
been able to feel a bee sting, or to get poison ivy, or to be pricked
by a thorn. When Adam and Eve sinned, the consequences and risk of
pain and decay didnít begin, they simply increased.
sin we human beings commit causes us all naturally to react negatively
to decay, work, physical death, pain and suffering, and while
ultimately all of this is somehow tied into Godís plan to conquer sin
permanently, there is nothing in Scripture that compels us to conclude
that none of these entities existed before Adamís first act of
rebellion against God. On the other hand, Godís revelation through
nature provides overwhelming evidence that some of these aspects did
indeed exist for a long time period previous to Godís creating Adam.
The Death of
Animals: How Does That Relate to the Atonement?
question that arises is this. If animals died before the Fall, doesnít
this alter the biblical doctrine of Atonement? Some cite Hebrews 9:22,
which says, "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be
cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no
forgiveness." They interpret this verse to say, "The basis of the
gospel message is that God brought in death and bloodshed because of
sin. If death and bloodshed of animals (or man) existed before Adam
sinned, then the whole basis of atonement Ė the basis of redemption Ė
But this is
faulty exegesis. While it is true there is no remission of sin without
the shedding of blood, Christís blood, it does not necessarily follow
that all shed blood is for the remission of sin. To say there
could have been no bloodshed before sin is to make the same exegetical
errors made by those who claim there were no rainstorms or rainbows
before the Genesis Flood.
10:1-4 explains that the blood of animal sacrifices will not take
away sin. The sacrificial killing of animals was a physical
picture of the spiritual death caused by sin, which necessitated the
death of a substitute to make atonement, as well as a foreshadowing of
the ultimate efficacious sacrifice that God Himself would one day
provide. Since the penalty for sin is spiritual death, no animal
sacrifice could ever atone for sin. The crime is spiritual, thus the
atonement had to be made by a spiritual Being.
of blood before Adam sinned in no way affects or detracts from the
doctrine of Atonement. Upholding that central doctrine in no way
demands a creation scenario in which none of Godís creatures received
a scratch or other bloodletting wound before Adam and Eve sinned. Even
in an ideal natural environment, animals would be constantly
scratched, pricked, bruised and even killed by accidental events and