questions and answers:
We continue to address further questions raised by a correspondent with his third question:
Did Adam by his transgression, bring natural death into the world?
In Rom 5:12, we read that “ … by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. “Death”, then is something which came about “by”, or because of sin. It “passed upon all men”, which demonstrates that primarily, it is not so much the event of death being spoken of here, as the process of death, or “mortality” which was transmitted to all of Adam’s posterity. Because of Adam’s sin, an active principle, or law, of corruption came into operation as God’s righteous sentence of condemnation was passed, something which was a hereditary condition affecting all who came from his loins. This essential Truth is succinctly expressed by the BASF, speaking of the violation of the Divine Command:
“That Adam broke this law, and was adjudged unworthy of immortality, and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken – a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity” (Clause V).
So then, death is wages for the work of sin, as it is testified: “the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezek 18:4,20). The simple truth as revealed by Scripture, is that by transgression, Adam earned the wages of death. Death did not have a hold of him before sin, for wages are not usually paid in the absence of work! But because the condition of Adam’s nature was physically altered with the commencement of death within him; all his progeny were also born in this decaying condition. As our Statement of Faith shows, it is in this way that death “passed upon all men”. As we are told elsewhere, speaking of the remedy in Christ: “since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor 15:21,22). All who are “in Adam”, through birth inherit death as a consequence of his work of sin, but all who are “in Christ”, through rebirth (Jno 3:3-6) by faith and baptism, shall be resurrected or “made alive” as a consequence of his work of righteousness.
DEATH REALLY IS “THE WAGES OF SIN”
Notwithstanding the above, there are those who claim that death was originally an essential element of Creation. It is said that Adam was created in a mortal state, and that he needed to be kept alive by the life-giving properties of the Tree of Life. And as evidence that death was an essential part of Creation, they look at the cycle of life, death and decay that exists today, and point out that certain insects have a life span of only a few days, and certain predators can only survive by eating other animals. Yet surely there is something wrong with looking at conditions in the earth after nearly 6,000 years of decay, and assuming that things were the same in the Edenic Paradise? And especially without any Scriptural evidence that this was the case? And this also overlooks plain Bible teaching that all of Creation is under a curse, affecting everything living, as a consequence of Sin. The question arises therefore, Could there really have been decay and corruption in the earth, particularly in Man before the entrance of sin?
This is an idea which Christadelphians have always resisted, and with good reason. For if we say that Adam was created inherently mortal, then that would mean that mortality, and all that it involves had nothing to do with the entrance of sin – man was mortal aside from sin. It would be to say that transgression had no effect upon the nature of Adam, and that death is not the wages for sin (Rom 6:23), for the process of death was working in Adam prior to transgression – only being arrested by the partaking of a particular life-sustaining fruit. And if we say that the sentence of death was simply that Adam was barred from the Tree of Life, as some would contend, then this would mean that the only condemnation of sin, was that Adam could no longer eat a particular type of food! But the plain teaching of Scripture is very different.
ADAM WAS CREATED NEITHER MORTAL NOR IMMORTAL
So then, before sin entered into the world, man was not mortal; he did not have the in-working of death in him. But neither was he immortal! We know this, for in Scripture, immortality is presented as being a gift of God, granted after a probationary period of trial – and in any case, an immortal being cannot become mortal, and die. The only possibility we are left with then, is that Adam and Eve before the Fall, were neither mortal, nor immortal; they were in an intermediary state of an undying living. Bro Thomas speaks of this in Elpis Israel:
“The truth is in few words, man was created with a nature endued with certain susceptibilities. He was capable of death; and capable of endless life; but, whether he should merge into mortality; or by physical change be clothed with immortality, was predicated on his choosing to do good or evil. Capacity must not be confounded with impletion. A vessel may be capable of holding a pint of fluid; but it does not therefore follow that there is a pint in it, or any at all. In the Paradise of Eden, mortality and immortality were set before the man and his companion. They were external to them. They were to avoid the former, and seek after the latter, by obedience to the law of God. They were capable of being filled with either; but with which depended on their actions … “ (Elpis Israel P 73).
So, the first man was created a living being – made with a capacity to become mortal and die in the event of transgression, or to be transformed to immortality following a probationary period of obedience, and live for ever. And we know what took place: Adam transgressed and dying, he did surely die. But to the thinking Bible student, this leads on to another line of enquiry. As Adam was not immortal, is it possible that after a prolonged period, he might eventually die, if the transgression had never taken place, and if the Lord had not transformed his nature into immortality?
COULD ADAM HAVE DIED IN THE ABSENCE OF SIN?
This is one of those “What if?” questions, which it is not wise to dogmatise upon, but is interesting to consider. As far as the Scriptures themselves are concerned, Adam did sin, and we know what followed – they do not give details on what might have been under different circumstances. But nevertheless, it is interesting to consider. Bro. Thomas gives his thoughts on this question both in Elpis Israel, and also in a further article appearing in “The Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come”, July 1885, entitled “Our Terrestrial System before the Fall”. In both of these, he makes the suggestion, that although as we have seen, there was no active process of decay in operation within Adam or Eve before the fall as there is at present, because the animal body with which they were created is not designed for an endless existence without a change, it would eventually wear out. Thus, in Elpis Israel, speaking of the hypothesis “if they had not sinned they would nevertheless have died”, we read: “It is probable they would after a long time, if no further change had been operated upon their nature. But the Tree of Life seems to have been provided for the purpose of this change being effected, through the eating of it’s fruit, if they had proved themselves worthy of the favour” (Page 72). And in Our Terrestrial System Before the Fall, he wrote: “Adam and Eve, and all the other animals born of the earth with themselves, would have died and gone to corruption, if there had been no transgression, provided that there had been no further interference with the physical system than Moses records in his history of the Six Days”.
The suggestion is then, that the “animal body” with which Man was created, would only be capable of existing in it’s pristine condition for a certain period. It was not designed for eternity, and would eventually wear out – a very different thing to saying that Adam was created as a dying creature, with an active principle of corruption as part of his physical make-up. As Bro Thomas goes on to say, “We may admit therefore the corruptibility and consequent mortality, of their nature, without saying that they were mortal” (Elpis Israel).
But it ought to be pointed out that in any case this is more of an academic consideration than anything else – in actual fact, it could never happen. In Eden, Adam and Eve had only two options placed before them – neither of which would permit the supposed natural dissolution of their animal nature into corruption. Either they would remain faithful, and after a period of probation be granted immortality, or they would disobey, and be placed under the sentence of death. Under this consideration therefore, the issue of what may, or may not have happened had there been no sin, or no transformation into immortality, is really a non-question, for this option could never have taken place. Indeed, Bro Thomas recognizes this in the quotations above; suggesting Adam’s body could wear out in the absence of sin, if it had not been changed to Immortality by God. Again, in 1852, he wrote concerning the nature of animals, “These did not sin, yet they returned to dust whence they came. So probably would Adam, if he had been left to the ordinary course of things as they were. But he would not have returned to dust if he had continued obedient” (Tempter and Tempted, The Herald of the Kingdom, 1852).
The present writer’s thoughts are that whilst Bro. Thomas’ suggestion sounds plausible, and does not contradict the BASF, there is another possibility. As Adam and Eve were created in a “very good” state, they would remain in such condition, unless the appearance of sin would change things, as it duly did. It is quite possible therefore, that the bodies of Adam and Eve, being sustained by the “breath of life” (Gen 2:7), and having no active principle of corruption within them, could have maintained an undying existence indefinitely. This is not to say that they were immortal, but that they would live for however long the Lord wished them to before the rewarding of faithfulness, with the possibility of death occurring at any point, consequent to the introduction of sin. We have seen that the possibility of Adam’s death because of his body wearing out was not an option anyway, and this suggestion would at least allow for a probationary period of any length of time prior to the reward of immortality.
But on this particular matter, the Scriptures do not speak specifically, and therefore it is unwise to dogmatise. What the Scriptures do reveal is that Adam became a dying creature subsequent to, and because of his action of sin, and with that we must be content.
(To Be Continued)