The Death Dilemma
I was taught, and have taught as a pastor, the traditional theological position that death did not exist until after the fall of man. And since it was coming from sources I respected, I simply accepted this as gospel truth without inquiring further. However, over time I came to a realization, at least in my view, that the standard "party" line fell short when reviewed in a practical, logical way. I further believe it is the incomplete understanding of this specific subject, or the unwillingness to expand on it, that has hindered the advancement of gained historical knowledge, scriptural insight, scientific and archaeological discoveries to freely flow within the halls of Christian institutions, churches and beyond. The typical theological stance on the topic of death has become the main filter used by the "establishment" to validate, or reject, this constant flow of new information. St. Augustine once stated that the problem is never with Scripture being incorrect, but our understanding of it being either faulty or incomplete in its application. I believe this is the case with our understanding about the subject of death. Scripture will always be correct, but I am convinced that we need to take a closer, more objective look at our doctrinal position on the subject. Not because we have to altar our belief system, but rather that we might have a fuller understanding of it. These notes are not given to try to convince you of my position, but preferably to challenge you to think for yourself in determining the merits of these notes. I simply ask that you be open and apply some common sense and reason as we proceed.
The Subject of Law
Before we approach the topic of death, I feel that it is important that we first address another subject that we are familiar with, that being the matter of "law". The reason for reviewing this first will become clearer as we proceed forward.
We find that there are just and fair laws that have been established within society, as well as those laws that are active within our personal lives. These laws fulfill specific roles to help govern, maintain order, provide direction, give structure and offer a standard of acceptable public and private conduct. Without them we would quickly plunge into utter chaos and ultimate ruin. We have seen how quickly lawlessness can take over when there is a disruption of a society's normal civil structure and man is left to the dictates of his own heart. There are governmental laws that have been put in place to give uniformity of structure and an agreed upon social means of conduct. We have laws that are meant to govern our politics and the means in which it should function; there are laws for business, travel, employment and so on.
We have certain moral laws that we find are universal, no matter where we go in the world. We, as a human race, do not look to murder, steal, cheat and so on as a standard rule of acceptable conduct. The "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" has been passed on down from one generation to another and is found in every culture, no matter where one goes around the world. These are codes of conduct, or fundamental principals that guide human decency and conscience. These are laws God has established in every person, in every society of every generation, revealing not only the reality of God's Word but the origin of this universal law:
"For when the Gentiles, who have not the law (Law of Moses which is the Ten Commandments) do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; who show the work of the law written in their hearts…" Romans 2:14-15
In other words, the laws that found their way on to stone tablets, which Moses carried down from the mountain to the Jewish people waiting below, were merely representative of what laws men naturally knew were right to do because these laws were already written in their hearts. How did these natural, universal moral laws find their way into each person? God put them there, hard wired into the very fiber of every human being.
The Bible is replete with references to the existence of scientific, societal, moral and spiritual laws. Laws that we recognize originated from the ultimate Lawgiver, God Himself. We find that God has instituted laws for certain purposes which are used to govern, control, guide, maintain, bring order and propel all of creation, both man and universe.
The laws that we find within nature also provide order and structure. These laws serve a role in maintaining conditions vital for the continuation of life. The very acknowledgment in the existence of these laws demonstrates that the physical world could not have come about by some accidental chance, or through any evolutionary process. Laws are first conceived and designed through means of some level of intelligence, and then established through implementation. There is no natural process known to man that can develop, implement and enforce any known law. Therefore, negating any serious continuation of the idea that evolution can be anything more than wishful thinking, at least for the person that is willing to be honest with themselves and the facts. We easily recognize that jumping off a cliff sends us in a downward direction. We call that the law of gravity. Or sticking a wet tongue on a cold light post causes a different law to take effect. Some might jokingly refer to this one as the law of stupidity. Rubbing a balloon on one's head of hair and lifting it up demonstrates the law of static electricity. These are demonstrations of what we classify as natural laws.
When we consider the various natural laws that exist, we should ask ourselves when were these laws established? Logically, one would have to conclude that the answer would be at the beginning, right? Such things as the law of gravity, genetics, physics and many more all had to have been established at the very start in order for the present universe to exist and function in an orderly way. This only makes sense. Let us consider the Earths' ecological system for a moment. It is a closed system that is both self-regenerating and self-maintaining. From plants and insects to atmospheric and oceanic life, we find an interwoven balance of natural laws in motion that is truly fantastic in its structure and operation. A structure that is much too complex for us to remotely consider relegating this system's existence to some random, accidental event. In confronting Job face to face, we get a sampling of some of the scriptures that reveal these laws and when they were put in place as God began His interrogation in Job 38:1-41 and Job 39:1-30. Here are a few:
"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now your loins like a man; for I will demand of you, and you answer me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare, if you have understanding. Who has laid the measures of it, if you know? Or who has stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it broke forth, as if it had issued out of the womb, when I made the cloud its garment, and thick darkness a swaddling band for it, and broke up for it my decreed place, and set bars and doors, and said, "This far shall you come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stayed? ……
Where is the way where light dwells? And as for darkness, where is its place, that you should take it to its domain, and that you should know the paths to its house?.....
By what way is the light parted, which scatters the east wind upon the earth? Who has divided a watercourse for the overflowing of waters, or a way for the lightning of thunder, to cause it to rain on the earth, where no man is; on the wilderness in which there is no man; to satisfy the desolate and waste ground, and to cause the bud of the tender herb to spring forth?
How about the Second Law of Thermodynamics?
"Of old you have laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They shall perish, but you shall endure; yes, all of them shall become old like a garment; like a vesture shall you change them, and they shall be changed." Psalms 102:25-26
"Lift up your eyes to the heavens and look upon the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner…" Isaiah 51:6
Or the Earths air currents?
"The wind goes toward the south, and turns about unto the north; it whirls about continually, and the wind returns again according to its circuits (an established course or route)" Ecclesiastes 1:6
There is typically no problem with most agreeing to the idea that God established these laws from the very start in the creation process. However, we also find within this system the establishment of the food chain, natural aging and death. So, when were these laws placed within this system? The logical answer would seem to be that they were established at the beginning along with the others in completing the self-regulating eco-system. However, the standard theological answer is that neither the present food chain, nor death, was present until after the "fall of man". This immediately presents a dilemma, and where dialog begins to get rather convoluted unless there is a willingness to be objective.
It is my hope that by taking a systematic approach as we proceed from this point, we will all be able to come to a reasonably balanced conclusion, with a fuller understanding of Scripture.
The Bible is clear that death exists on two levels, that being physical death and the other being spiritual death. While we personally seem to be more consumed by the topic of physical death, what we find prominent throughout Scripture is not God's joint concern with us about physical death, but rather His attention and focus on spiritual death. It is a theme that permeates God's Word from beginning to end, and for which Christ went to the Cross to address. We can reasonably conclude through Scripture that there are two separate laws in effect by which these two different classifications of death are governed by. At question is when these laws were established.
Physical Death & Nature
Since neither of us knows of anyone who is immortal (excluding God) this side of Heaven, it goes without saying then that there is a law that does exist which impacts every person on planet Earth. Statistically, there are on average 150,000 people who die each and every single day. Of those, about two thirds or 100,000 of those individuals die due to age-related causes, meaning that as we age things just begin to wear out to the point that eventually we die a natural death. This is also true for the rest of creation. This is one of the aspect of the law of physical death as it applies to both man and nature. The theological answer that is typically given as to when physical death came into existence is generally phrased along the lines of "after man sinned" or "after the fall of man". This answer, however, is flawed due to a generalization that is not correct. That flaw being of lumping man and nature together. It should be understood that God sees and deals with man and nature differently. I submit to you that the laws for both physical and spiritual death were established from the very beginning, but for man, the impact of these laws upon the human race were attached to a condition which we will discuss at a later point.
In discussing physical death, it seems reasonable to believe that natural death (aging) and the law that governs it, has existed from the beginning of creation, serving a vital role within the natural environment, ecological balance and in God's plan. As we covered earlier, our planet is a self-contained and self-maintaining system for which laws were put into place for a specific purpose and function. The law of death is one of those laws.
When we consider the basic food chain that exists in maintaining creation, and the means of keeping a balance within nature from overpopulation, we must conclude that this was established in the beginning as well. Prior to the fall of man, God gave Adam the opportunity to give names to all living creatures. Universal names that are still used today. We find that Adam was rather specific as to giving names to creatures based on their nature. Here are some examples:
Lion - The inference is that of a beast that is fierce, frightening and strong. Especially the teeth and paws.
Vulture - denotes a keen-sighted bird of prey
Wolf - ravenous, devouring prey
Spider - swift weaver
These names were specific. What would cause Adam to name these creatures as he did? Common sense would indicate Adam was doing the same, applying common sense. He named them based on what he observed as to their character and nature. In this case, they were carnivorous.
In the beginning, how did frogs survive? How about the shark with its powerful teeth and unending search for prey make it? Did spiders not spin their web prior to man's fall to catch their prey? According to their name they were "swift weavers" from the beginning. When did carnivorous plants become, well, carnivorous? What about the anteater? Apparently we are to assume they were not ant eaters at first. However, they were created with that ability just in case?
How did all life survive? The common response to this question has been that all life was vegetarian. The reason for this traditional explanation is based upon the conviction that death did not occur prior to the fall of man. Therefore, based on this notion, the only answer that can be given is that of a vegetarian existence. To resolve the issue regarding the existence of the insect world, they were placed after the fall as well. However, we do not find any further creative acts past man's creation.
I firmly believe that the present cycle of life found in nature was already present prior to sin. I am aware that this is contrary to traditional teaching that many, including myself, have received, but let us consider a few things as we move along.
The Garden of Eden was a very special place. It was distinctly different from the rest of the planet and is where God placed man, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil.
Genesis 1:30 should not be viewed as exclusive, and yet theologically speaking, we have defined this as such. This scripture verse states:
"And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creeps upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for food, and it was so."
Upon first reading it would seem that this verse refers to all of creation and that the only food for life was every green herb. A more thoughtful look at this would reveal that there is no mention of, for example, sea or plant life. When we consider the ocean's food chain, we would have to honestly concede that ocean life was not merely swimming around sucking down mineral water, and neither were they eating "every green herb". There is nothing in this verse that would suggest that this was to be the only food exclusively. It is interesting for God to mention to Adam that not only was he given every green herb as food, but to also tell him that it was also for land life, this would seem to indicate that God was giving guidance for Adam in not only how to feed himself freely but any animal life he might utilize for his purposes such as farm animals. Why else would Adam really need to know this and why was it necessary for God to point this out? Think now.
After the flood we read in Genesis 9:3 that God mentioned to Noah that not only would every green herb continue to be for food but "every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.." Man was always physically able to eat all things but God did not give any guidance on it until here. And, all creatures that eat other things have always been physically able to eat every green herb. Interestingly, we do not read where God says after the flood that land life's dietary intake was also to change to include other foods other than every green herb. In fact, we don't read anywhere where it ever did change, or where change was instituted. So when did lions begin to eat meat? Or, a snake begin catching rodents to swallow? After the flood? Not mentioned. After the fall? Not there either. One can only conclude this omission is due to the fact that the food chain has always been the same from the beginning. God did not mention it because the guidance and direction he gave to Adam was not exclusive worldwide but a means by which man would care for livestock in his possession in the Garden, which by the time of Noah had become common knowledge. We see this care being exercised on the Ark as Noah and his family cared for a boat load of animal life while still being able to keep alive two of everything. Afterward, this natural law that was placed within creation would once again instinctively take over once off the Ark. The one thing that did change for the animals found on the Ark was the fear of man that was instilled in them. This would only make sense for God to do since after spending a year with Noah and his family, and the rest of the animal kingdom, the last thing you would want is an Ark full of house pets, or with there being only two of each kind, a short lived food supply for man or beast. Just as God did at the Tower of Babel when He scattered man for a purpose, so it is that we find it was important here as well to scatter the animal kingdom.
To hold to the concept that death did not exist until after the fall, we would also need to believe that with all the frolicking, running, skipping, swinging, jumping and many other activities that life on earth was engaged in, there never was an accident, a fall, an injury that would cause the cessation of life. Or, if we were to simply note the physical characteristics of animal life, we would be able to easily point out that from the beginning they were each well equipped to hunt and kill their prey, or to avoid being one. Claws, fangs, poisonous tails, fast legs, powerful jaws, camouflage and so much more indicate that offensive and defensive mechanisms were in place for a reason. If these animals were to be exclusively grass eating beasts, then surely God would have eliminated these things. Yet, because they are present, this can only strengthen the case outlined in this book. Should we take a deeper, microscopic look into nature that exists beyond the naked eye we would find a whole different world of parasites and killers. Or, if we delved into the world of carnivorous plants we would recognize that they were eating insects from the start.
We do not find anywhere in Scripture, after God's initial creative acts as found in Genesis, where we read of God needing to set up or establish the law of death. Whether it be the law of physical death, or spiritual death. What we do find are warnings. Warnings can only be given if someone is aware that something exists for which others need to be made aware of. This leads us to our next chapter.
Physical Death & Man
With regard to man, there is a reason that the Tree of Life was in the Garden of Eden (the real fountain of youth). Adam and Eve were to be physically sustained indefinitely by the fruit of it and therefore immunized from the processes of natural death. There is no other logical explanation for this tree being there at the beginning. When sin entered into the world (of man's, not nature's), physical death came to man by means of separation from the Tree of Life as they were expelled from the Garden. This separation exposed them to this natural law. It is at this juncture that we also find that Adam and Eve violated a spiritual law that was in place which subjected them to the law of spiritual death. In doing so it also caused them to become exposed to the law of physical death that they would no longer be immune to. God's prior warning to Adam to not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil indicates that these laws were already in place as God told Adam what the outcome would be should Adam not heed God's command. A law has to first be established and in force before someone can violate it. The law of gravity has existed from the beginning, we only acknowledge its existence and deal with its effects when we violate its principles, or move into its sphere of influence. We read that there does exist, "the law of sin and death," as noted in Romans 8:2.
It is hard to say how many times they ate the fruit from the Tree of Life but we do see its powerful effects, for even after being expelled from the Garden and separated from this tree, Adam lived to be 930 years old. The life expectancy of the following descendants of Adam started to slowly decrease in years with each passing generation as their immune system became more diluted from the generation before them. It has only been more recently that life expectancy has increased. This is mainly due to the improvement in medicine in helping our immune system, and in maintaining our health. Something the "Tree of Life" did organically.
God did not have to expound on the subject of death with Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:17, for I believe they were already aware, due to their surroundings what that entailed. At the least as it related to tending to the garden which would have had to produce the cessation of some type of natural life. If you have ever tended to a garden, you know the process of plucking, pruning, clearing, cleaning, cutting and more to keep the garden cleared and productive. Any rational person would have to acknowledge that this type of activity would have had to cause the death of something that these activities were applied to. In doing so it would reveal that the law of death in nature was already present. Surely Adam used dead, dry branches for a fire, unless we are to now say that, although there was daytime and nighttime, there was no need for light or warmth for those cool evenings. Physical death became a universal reality for man after the fall due to their banishment from Eden and this separation from the Tree of Life. Spiritual death was the personal separation and altered state from God that also occurred and was passed on to all of mankind. Scripture is clear that sin brought forth death to mankind, not to all of creation simultaneously:
"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world (dealing with order, arrangement, organized humanity), and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men.." Rom 5:12
Due to one man, sin entered human society (Gk. "kosmos" as used primarily in N.T. to refer to humanity), and death due to that sin, and so death passed on to all humanity. Comparing other scripture references that use the same Greek word "kosmos" for world, we see that definition is determined by conversation, which is most often referring to humanity, such as:
"..the world cannot hate you, but me it hates because I testify of it, that its works are evil." Jn. 7:7
"The Pharisees therefore said to themselves, "Perceive you how you prevail nothing? Behold, the world is gone after him." Jn. 12:19
"And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, "These that have turned the world upside down are come here also." Acts 17:6
"First, I thank God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." Rom. 1:8
"..and be not conformed to this world, but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind." Rom. 12:2
"But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world." 1 Cor. 11:32
"The world by wisdom knew not God.." 1 Cor. 1:21
"..that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." 2 Cor. 5:19
We could go on but I believe you have grasped the proper understanding of the term "world", taken from the Greek word "kosmos", as it is meant to be understood in its common New Testament application. That is, due to sin, death entered into the world of mankind, not death entering into all of creation. We have incorrectly placed death within nature as starting at the same time and caused by the same thing in an attempt to maintain a stubborn position that has more it seems to do with pride than theological purity.
In Genesis 3:17-18 we read that the "ground" was cursed. This curse produced thistles and weeds that has complicated all of life, and has caused man to work by the sweat of the brow. However, death is not inferred. There are conflicting approaches to Romans 8:17-25. Some have chosen to have this portion of Scripture, as it uses the word "creature," to refer to creation. Some Bible versions have actually changed the word "creature" to "creation". It is interesting though that it was not changed in the other places that the same Greek word (ktisis) is used, such as:
"..preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes" (revealing that every creature is referring to people) Mark 16:15
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, 'he is a new creature, old things are passed away." (2 Cor. 5:17)
"For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, or uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Gal. 6:15)
"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature." (Col. 1:15)
".. the hope of the gospel, which you have heard, and which was preached to every creature under heaven..." (Col. 1:23)
Again, in every instance it is obvious that the references are concerning man, or mankind. Likewise Romans, Chapter Eight, deals with man waiting, subject to vanity, to be delivered from the "bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God". That groans and travails in pain together (for man, due to sin, rest of creation burdened with a ground cursed), along with those who have the first fruits of the Spirit.
We see this Greek word translated as "creation" in places such as:
Mark 10:6 "But from beginning of the creation God made them male and female."
Mark 13:19 "not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. And except that the Lord shorten those days, no flesh should be saved.."
2 Pet. 3:4 "..Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation (not simply beginning of creation but of the creation, again a reference to the start of man when the promise was first given)"
Rev. 3:14 "These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God."
The interesting use of "the creation" is to signify once again man, and separate from simply "creation", or "creation of the world", as is the case in Romans 1:20 where it specifically states, "the creation of the world.."
I contend that we have erred in associating the position and condition given to man as being the same as with the rest of creation when we are discussing death, when in fact we are told that man was created unique and given dominion of the rest of creation, with the command to subdue it. In making this association, we have wrongly concluded that death did not exist period, before man sinned and only became a "reality" when he did, impacting all of creation due to this one act. Listen, the "Knowledge of Good and Evil" was already present and real before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, correct? How did this knowledge of evil come to exist? Can one say that God is the author of evil? Of course not. Logically, the reality that knowledge of evil was accessible means so was the ability to do evil once having that knowledge. So too is the reality that death was already present but its accessibility and impact was contingent on a different action.
Some feel that somehow to believe that death was already present within God's creation does one of two things. One, is that it makes a mockery of the atonement message of man needing redemption. I am not sure how one can conclude that when the fact remains that man still is in need of being redeemed from this fallen state, and from the clutches of the law of death brought about by universal sin. And spiritually speaking, our own personal sin. This just does not make any common sense. It is a poor attempt to maintain a theological position concerning death that one does not need to make. The second is placing God as being responsible for death and suffering. Again, laws are in place for certain purposes and reasons. Warnings are established for certain laws in order to avoid negative consequences. God did just that, yet those warnings were not heeded. Therefore the responsibility and blame is not on God who, even now, continues to warn both you and I of consequences for actions that will not result in our favor. Have we not paid the price for some of the times we did not heed His warning or advise? Yes we have. Who is to blame? Again, what God established with the natural environment and throughout the universe has to be understood as separate from His plan, approach and dealings which He has established with mankind, for they are not the same.
Part of the struggle in accepting death as in the beginning is man's notion of what is meant by "paradise". What is meant by God's Genesis 1:31 statement. The incomplete application of Scripture. And finally, the personal and emotional feelings individuals may have that has created an inability to apply some reason. We somehow get into a Pollyanna mindset when we begin to discuss certain aspects of Scripture and end up in a bunch of theological or philosophical gobbly goop. This is one of those areas.
The term "paradise' conjures up more independent and personalized definitions than virtually any other word. The reason being is that most people take a subjective approach as to what "paradise" means for them. Talk to a male Muslim and you will get a "man's world" viewpoint from the 7th century of 72 virgins waiting for them on the other side. But talk to a feminist and chances are paradise to her would be the absence of male domination. Neither is based on any objective truth or information. Christianity likewise has had its struggles in avoiding the colorizing or embellishing of the term beyond what we really know about the subject. Each of us tend to personalize what we think paradise is like, or should be like. An example would be paradise always being sunny, with a constant temperature of 75° degrees along with a nice gentle breeze coming off of rolling waves as they ripple onto a sandy seashore. Add to this the idea of nothing to do but lounge around listening to whatever one's favorite music is. Oh, and we would never age after our preferred selected birth date. The list of course can be as diverse as the number of people on this planet. A view we project then onto our belief system and onto Scripture. Yet we read that God's ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. What He considers "good" is often times, and very frequently, different than what we consider to be "good". We tend to have our own subjective view of what God meant in Genesis 1:31 when He said "..it was very good." A view that is colored by what we think "good" is if we were God.
The word "paradise" has referred to different places in Scripture. Old Testament saints were in a place called "paradise" that held them prior to Jesus death and resurrection, for Scripture states that Jesus was to be the first fruits of resurrection from the dead, therefore this paradise they were in was not Heaven. This is why Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would join Him in paradise that same day for He was headed to this location to liberate those saints who would follow after Him in resurrection power. The event of Jesus ascension into Heaven did not happen until three days after His death on the cross, therefore the "paradise" that Jesus mentioned to that thief that day was not Heaven. The Garden of Eden was called paradise, and it can very well be that in this special garden that was made for man, death was not present, but this paradise did not encompass all of the earth, merely a small place for which they were banished from. And lastly, Heaven is also called paradise.
The Hebrew word for "paradise" refers to a park, forest or orchard. In the Greek, it refers to a place of future happiness. Heaven is surely a destination of present and future happiness, and in Revelations 21:4 we are told that at the end of all things, that being the conclusion of God's dispensational dealings with man, there will be no more death or dying, but that is still yet future when God will make all things new. Time will cease to exist to measure out beginnings and endings, for which death is a part of, and in place of it will be eternal life in a world that will always be in the present, and including the "Tree of Life" that will once again, according to Scripture, be for the continual sustenance and healing of the nations. A new heaven and a new earth, with God being present, will take on a whole different aspect of life and existence, and a different set of laws will govern it for we see, as an example, that the law of death will no longer have a place and purpose in God's plans for the future.
As far as a present or past place being like a park, forest or orchard, the Garden of Eden qualifies as that, but even then (against the subjective notion of paradise for many) Adam still worked by caring for the garden. It was paradise in that Adam and Eve only knew the goodness of God, His blessings and knew nothing of evil, struggle, pain, personal death, sickness, suffering and so on until they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The reality is that we are dealing with two different meanings which bring with it two different conditions.
Due to this idea that death within nature did not exist prior to Adam, people of faith have been forced to believe that dinosaurs, and any other pre-historical life, would have had to have died off after the fall of man. This view generally attempts to fit their extinction with the Flood of Noah, and consequently, a narrow view that the Earth then can be only 6,000 years old or so based on calculating biblical genealogy. This is an untenable position that makes Scripture out to be a farce, while seeming to contradict the facts that we have when in reality Scripture does not state how old the universe is. This one subject alone has helped fuel the battle over science that is not required, or necessary. How can we justify the long length of time it takes for light from distant stars to visually reach us? Or, explain the longest "living" tree being 9,500 years old without having to tap dance around the "young earth" model as it is currently presented with some type of gyrating double talk? It is painful. The main fear in accepting any age longer than what can be traced genealogically through Scripture is that it would be giving in to evolutionary theories. This fear has crippled any serious review of theological positions taken, or of honest and sincere discussions. For some, this fear stems from a concern that any other stance would lend itself to the Bible being in error when in reality, it would only be revealing that our understanding of God's Word was incomplete. It is important to be reminded that God's Word will never be shown to be incorrect, only our understanding of it. I think the other aspect has more to do with the pride of man. Few like the idea that they may be wrong in what they espouse.
Because of this view of a young earth, an attempt is then made to fit the rebellion, the attempted war with God and the fall of Lucifer, to be somewhere during the 7 days found in Genesis One. Or, immediately before he arrives to tempt Eve in the garden. It is a theological position that just does not work. Some of these sincere efforts are based on an uneven notion of what "very good" means in Genesis 1:31. Great effort is made to point out how this portion of Scripture states that :
"..God saw every thing that He had made, and behold, it was very good…"
The argument is made that God would not be able to call all that He did in the first chapter of Genesis "very good" if the earth revealed "death, decay and suffering". Some even suggest that sin would have had to already be present if death was also present. This idea is due, to a large degree, with a notion that death and sin are inseparable, and not recognizing that laws would have to be present before effects can be noted. This points out the unfounded marriage made between man and nature, as well as death and sin. In other words, death can only exist in nature at the same time that death is found in man. And only due to the same reason, meaning that death can only come into existence due to sin and so it is man's sin that brought forth death not only to man but to nature. The thought that natural death in nature could have already been present is fully rejected.
We read at the end of each restorative day where God saw that what He did was good, then Genesis 1:31 concludes the chapter with God seeing the final culmination of those days put together and states ..."God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good." This simply means that the totality of all that God did in the end of this process was "much better", more "fitting" than what it was. More beautiful, more suitable, serviceable, desirable and whole with regard to where it was in verse two, causing God to be very pleased. It means no more, no less. There is an undue emphasis being placed here by certain theological circles to make this verse say more than it does. Understand that things that are renovated are much better than they were in their degenerative state. But that does not mean that you cannot see signs of its past life if you look to uncover it. Classic and antique cars are wonderful, and I have complimented the work of some owners by stating "very good job!". Yet underneath is the original skeleton from which it was restored from. They are not perfect, or without a marred history, they are simply in a renewed state and stage in their existence.
Water cleanses but fire purges. The earth, having been flooded twice before, in the end will be purged by fire (2 Pet. 3:10) to remove all signs, residue, and remains of earth's past turbulent history. This event will produce a new earth (Rev. 21:1) and the third and final generation. Until then, these things will remain, even through the coming Millennium.
Death's Personal Impact
What makes it even more difficult for many to consider that death could remotely be involved in creation from the beginning are the negative, personal feelings, experiences and fears that we have attached to it. These feelings are often attributed to the sense of loss and of separation from loved ones that pass away due to death. Along with views of death as final, or the cruelty and suffering witnessed that proceed death that makes it difficult to see any logic, value, purpose or having a meaningful role in God placing death within His creation. Specifically being this self-contained, self-maintaining eco-system we call Earth. We are constantly surrounded by the natural processes of death, along with rebirth and new life that arise out of it but rarely acknowledge the importance and benefits it actually has. Again, it is a law man was not to be impacted by, but due to sin, became subjected to. These personal feelings concerning death naturally taint our ability to be objective. Our experiences and limited understanding cloud our sense of balance as we seek to view things more from God's perspective than from our own assuming ideas. We easily fall prey to a subjective, utopian view of how paradise, eternity and life should look like in a perfect universe. How can death be a part of any of it?
We find that God made "coats of skin" for Adam & Eve. Coats of skin God took from some animal or animals that either He Himself slew or took. It has been said that since this was the first recorded death in Scripture, which was after man's sin and due to that sin, that this is the starting point of death's existence. However, this should not be taken to mean anything other than it was simply the first recording of it as it was pertinent to the narrative. We seem to elevate nature to the same level that God gave only to man, and something He Himself has not done. Although we most often approach this event theologically in pointing out how sin brings forth death, in this case the slaying or offering of something innocent in place of man, I tend to think God was also looking practically at this as well since not only had Adam & Eve become acutely aware that they were ashamedly naked, but they were also getting ready to be booted out of the comforts of the garden paradise that had been their only home, and out into the harsh world beyond the borders.
We have come to hate death because it has separated us from our parents, children, friends or loved ones. It causes change in our lives when we prefer things to stay the same. It brings an end to relationships that we wish could continue. Death brings with it guilt for those who feel they did not spend more time with those who passed. Or, the regrets for things said and done that were not made right. The missed opportunities to say "I'm sorry!". The list goes on.
With such emotional pain and anguish, why would God, or anyone, look to instill death within creation? I tend to look at it this way. We buy some item with a set of instructions. We think we can figure it out quicker than trying to understand that folded piece of paper. We end up with some extra piece (sometimes pieces) that don't seem to be too important until we find that the purchased item will not function properly, completely or at all. Why? Who would have figured that this one little piece that was left out held the key to everything else working as it should. Oh the details! We might not fully understand all the details that were necessary for this massive universe to take shape and to work, and we might not like, or agree with all the pieces, yet each is necessary.
For you and me, death will be a split second of time, of the conclusion of this life and the start of a different one. Of our inner spirit, the real you residing within, shedding a mortal, natural body that has been aging and wearing out since conception, and stepping into a different realm we are only given a glimpse of in Scripture. That day is approaching for each of us. Are you prepared to face it?