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Some time ago, I had a conversation with a friend and the subject of physical death prior to the Fall of mankind as outlined in Genesis chapter three came up. It was my friend’s belief that there was no physical death prior to the Fall as God had created the world as “perfect.” All of this had occurred on the sixth day (Genesis 1:31) capping an exhausting week of creation. Thus, nothing He had created in this week of purposeful activity would have been brought forth merely to die.
I’ll admit that I was somewhat taken aback; I hadn’t really given much thought to this particular belief in quite some time, but had long since concluded that a young earth model simpley was as a result of a misunderstanding of the Hebrew word for “day” which is the word Yom.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (1980, Moody Press):
"Yom can denote: 1. the period of light (as contrasted with the period of darkness), 2. the period of twenty-four hours, 3. a general vague "time," 4. a point of time, 5. a year (in the plural; I Sam 27:7; Ex 13:10, etc.)."
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (symbols omitted):
from an unused root meaning to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether literal (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or figuratively (a space of time defined by an associated term), [often used adv.]:--age, + always, + chronicles, continually (-ance), daily, ([birth-], each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), + elder, end, evening, (for)ever(lasting), ever(more), full, life, as long as (...live), even now, old, outlived, perpetually, presently, remaineth, required, season, since, space, then, (process of) time, as at other times, in trouble, weather (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), whole (age), (full) year (-ly), younger
Young Earth Creationists hold that God created the entire universe in just six Earth-calendar days. This is what it seems to say in the Book of Genesis without further reading or study on the usage of the word, “Yom”, therefore this remains what they believe. If one takes such a position that the whole of the universe was created in just six days and then factors in that Adam maybe lived alone on the earth for only a week or two before God created Eve, one can come to the conclusion that not too much actual time had passed from creation to the Fall.
Why does this series of events matter to a Young Earth Creationist? From what I have come to understand, it is as a result of most people being consciously aware of the fact that no matter what the Bible appears to say, death is a part of the cycle of life. The more time which lapses between creation and the Fall, the more implausible the concept of a no physical death world become.
Buy why should there be physical death at all? If God is God, and God indeed created a perfect world (Deuteronomy 32:4), then why should there not be an expectation that physical death would be completely absent? That is a good question and one which I will endeavor to answer here begging the reader’s indulgence by explaining that I am not a scientist and am going to only highlight the rudiments of some concepts.
The physical world we exist in is a dynamic place. One thing appears to be certain, however and that is all matter seems to be interdependent upon a constant transference in order to maintain viability. Consider a normal dry cell battery contains a set number of electrons, but it is the imbalance and movement of these electrons from one side of the battery to the other which gives it life. When the electrons reach equilibrium, the battery is regarded as dead, even though the number of electrons in the battery hasn’t changed, only their location.
This concept seems to be a basic rule throughout the Universe. When all energy is expended and the Universe is expanded to its apogee, if there is no “contraction” as theorized by certain physicists, the Universe is dead; it can no longer support life and as such, ceases to exist. Life is dynamic and it must remain in constant motion; such are the laws of physics.
At the most basic level, there are vying theories as to what exactly it is which makes up matter. Matter is defined as anything that takes up space and has weight (mass and volume). We will think of Molecules which are comprised of atoms. Atoms are comprised of Leptons (an electron, for example) and Quarks (of which Baryons, such as Protons and Neutrons, are made). This is an essential description of ordinary matter. From here, it gets a bit more complex. I won’t delve too deeply as this is really not the salient point of this commentary. However an idea of just what we are in the physical is pertinent if one is going to subscribe to the notion that there was no physical death prior to the Fall of man.
This from Wikipedia:
This definition of ordinary matter is more subtle than it first appears. All the particles that make up ordinary matter (leptons and quarks) are elementary fermions, while all the force carriers are elementary bosons. The W and Z bosons that mediate the weak force are not made of quarks or leptons, and so are not ordinary matter, even if they have mass. In other words, mass is not something that is exclusive to ordinary matter.
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The term "matter" is used throughout physics in a bewildering variety of contexts: for example, one refers to "condensed matter physics", "elementary matter", "partonic" matter, "dark" matter, "anti"-matter, "strange" matter, and "nuclear" matter. In discussions of matter and antimatter, normal matter has been referred to by Alfvén as koinomatter (Gk. common matter). It is fair to say that in physics, there is no broad consensus as to a general definition of matter, and the term "matter" usually is used in conjunction with a specifying modifier.
How this matter combines to form so many disparate objects is an argument which I’ll table for the moment. There are far too many competing theories to explain the plethora of life on this planet. Suffice to say that as I hold to a Christian view of the realm, I am not an adherent of an Evolutionary model, but rather an Intelligent Design model. That having been said, both models must recognize that functional design is necessary for this to work. Without functional design, we would remain blobs of basic matter. In our physical world, this is part of the overall design; transference of energy until an equilibrium is attained.
The consumption of matter in order to provide for this functional design seems to have been built into the Creation model irrespective the position held by those who believe there was no death prior to the Fall. The eating of plants by either man or beast results in the death of the particular vegetation consumed. The body will break down the matter and convert it into energy which is then used to feed the body. What isn’t consumed is passed through the body and expelled as waste. This waste, while of no use to the host, is certainly of use to smaller organisms which begin to go to work to harvest what consumable matter remains until energy conversion is complete and the waste material is fully consumed. Thus, the apple eaten by the human host "dies" and then goes through a variety of changes on the most basic level as its matter is consumed and expelled in an unending chain until it once again finds itself as a component of some other object.
But perhaps we’re not talking about non-sentient plants, but rather higher life forms. Okay, I’ll go along with that. The Genesis account is still rather broad, and included almost all animal life. (Genesis 1:29-30). I’ll point out here this account made absolutely no provision for marine life unless one wishes to place them into the category of “all the beasts of the Earth.”Some of these creatures have a normal lifespan which is exceedingly short. It is such by the aforementioned functional design.
A flea would therefore have to fall under the Genesis guideline as “all the beasts of the Earth” as there was no provision made for exclusion. I suppose it could be argued that a flea could have survived on plant sap prior to the Fall rather than blood of warm-blooded mammals, but again I’ll table that argument for the moment and instead focus on its lifespan. The typical female flea will lay approximately 20 eggs at a time. Given the brevity of the adult flea lifespan, most fleas can produce up to 500 eggs. Some quick math would find that with a very short period of time without physical death on the planet, we’d be over-run with fleas. The same would hold true for any of the 90 million known species of insects alone.
Consider a spider. I used to perform home inspections and noted spider-egg cases with hundreds of small little spiders emerging. There is nothing at all to indicate these spiders would or could feed on anything other than the bodily fluids of another insect, but again I’ll lay that aside for the moment and simply concentrate on their life-span and numbers. Mathematically, we would soon be a world of nothing but spiders if they could not taste death.
Perhaps we shouldn’t limit ourselves to these lower animals and move to even higher forms of life. Fine. Let’s take a rat and apply the same basic rules of reproduction without any natural (or supernatural) predators to control the population. Now rats will eat pretty much anything, so a strict vegetarian diet is not altogether implausible. The average litter for a healthy female rat is approximately twelve. Gestation of the rat is 21 days and they can reach sexual maturity in approximately five weeks. Again simple math would show that within a very short period of time, the world be over-run with rats.
Thus a period of just one year from creation to Fall would find our world in a very precarious situation without there being physical death. It is for this very reason that such Young Earth Creationists keep the time from Adam’s creation to the Fall very short; they are well cognizant of the dangers inherent in dragging out the “perfect world” scenario.
Now a reasonable question one should ask is, “Why is it that we believe there was no death prior to this Fall?” To answer that question, one has to refer back to the verses which this particular belief descends:
Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to everything that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
- Genesis 1:29-30
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
- Romans 5:12
The first passage of scripture outlines what was to be consumed by the creation having been imbued with the “breath of life” from God Almighty. Since plants are the “sacrifice” here, they are obviously not included as “living things.” This is a point of view that most botanists would find rather curious. Regardless since plants are not living things and those which are imbued with the “breath of life” are, we must conclude that anything not a plant did not suffer death prior to the Fall.
The second passage of scripture is from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman Church. In it he is attempting to describe the situation which existed under The Law. Paul is essentially addressing what would later come to be known as the concept of Original Sin. Adam’s transgression condemned all mankind to this state of sin, ergo all men would suffer physical death.
However on closer examination and read in context, this is not what Paul is saying at all. Under the strictures of The Law (Referring to the Old Testament Law which comprised the Ten Commandments and six-hundred, thirteen additional laws given to Moses by the god of the Hebrews on Mount Sinai.), mankind was forever separated from union with Creator God Almighty and was imprisoned in a place referred to as Sheol for the indeterminate future upon physical death. It was this which Paul was addressing, a spiritual death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Now if I am to go on living in the body, this will mean productive work for me; yet I don’t know what I prefer: I feel torn between the two, because I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more vital for your sake that I remain in the body.
- Philippians 1:21-24
If we are not discussing a spiritual death, but rather only the physical upon the Fall of mankind, where is the harm? Paul was clear that upon his physical death, he would be with Christ which he regarded as far better. This gets a bit confusing the more we explore.
Let us assume for the moment that we are strictly talking about the lack of a physical death prior to the Fall. Now as we have already seen, unchecked life in the physical could have damning consequences in a very short period of time. Obviously one could hold to the position that such vermin did not exist on the planet prior to the Fall, but that would be reading into the scriptures that which does not exist. Genesis 1:29-30 seems to be rather clear on that point. Therefore we have to take what God had originally intended and run through it as though there had been no Fall. Under such circumstances, what would have been the eventual destination for all mankind? With no death, there would have been no transition into the spirit and to be at Christ’s side which Paul found was much better than living in the physical.
But let us assume that Paul only said what he did because he was contrasting the fallen world he lived in with the purity of Heaven. Good enough, but as we have read throughout scripture, Heaven is described as eternal. Eternity is not the same as infinity. Infinity can best be described as a fixed point (a beginning) with a line heading off in one direction without end. For most Christians, this is what they conceptualize when they think about eternal life. This is in error.
Eternity is not a fixed point (a beginning) with a line heading off in one direction without end; eternity is best described as a circle. There is no discernible beginning or end to a perfect circle. It is to this state which we are being called to join with Christ; to enter into eternity. Romans 6:23 is a good example for it describes the state of separation from God (spiritual death) contrasted with union with Christ (spiritual life).
The natural conclusion to life without humans having suffered through this Fall to the Young Earth Creationist is stark: A life living as little more than a mindless beast, naked and without purpose. How many have actually contemplated the state of being Adam and Eve were placed in respecting the Garden of Eden? On the surface, it seems great. A good looking couple with bodies which would never age, being able to run around naked with one another all day. A temperate climate and no fear of the wildlife around them only would add to the state of unimaginable bliss; a life of no want, no worries and no harm. To this I have two questions I must ask:
- If the world was declared perfect by God (Genesis 1:31), then why the need for the Garden of Eden to begin with? Just to be clear, the Garden was an area which was defined and separate from the rest of the earth; it had boundaries. (Genesis 2:8)
What was the purpose of mankind being relegated to this perpetual state of infancy within a confined space if the whole earth was declared perfect? Without having to expend effort to do anything, of what use is the state of mankind?
I have spent much time contemplating the state of humanity left in the Garden had there not been a Fall. Of course the quick (too quick, sometimes) response from defenders of this belief is that God had always had a plan and mankind was not supposed to live in the Garden Indefinitely. Really? Please show me where God did not intend for His creation to live indefinitely in the Garden. I read where God had a plan, but I read this far, far later in the New Testament scriptures. Prior to that, there are only passages of scripture with the Old Testament where upon God talks about His vast knowledge of events and that we are not to question his actions. Good enough, but to be fair that really isn’t an answer to the question. Why create a state of being for humanity with the intention for a such state to fail, only to then blame the subjects for doing what was intended from the onset? To hold such innocents accountable for another’s actions is illogical and not at all in keeping with the character of Jesus Christ.
If one believes God is a purposeful God, then one has to conclude that God never intended for His human creation to long survive in the Garden. If such is the case, why place them in the Garden to begin with? What was the point of the Garden experience? Was it to show His creation that they are inferior, that they could easily be led astray? But led astray by what, their own passions? If they were created to be perfect, there should be no contrary passions by which to be led astray.
Perhaps God felt they could be led astray by an outside force. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the Garden was designed to protect His creation from Satan. As is well known in Orthodoxy, Satan had already fallen himself and had been kicked to Earth. (No one knows for certain when this happened as Orthodoxy would still place the age of the universe at barely a month at this point.) However if one presumes the Garden was constructed to protect Adam and Eve from Satan, God proved Himself to be wholly incompetent to the task. Satan had very little trouble not only gaining entry to the Garden, but in convincing Eve that God really didn’t know what He was talking about. I can only imagine the White House enjoying such security.
Of course once mankind had “Fallen,” God had no choice but to kick them out of His pristine Garden and into the cold, “cruel?” world. Why would this state be any worse than the Garden if the whole world was perfect? (Genesis 1:31) Regardless, it most definitely seems as though the whole of the Earth outside of this Garden to the East is far worse than conditions which were existent within. To make certain Adam and Eve didn’t sneak back in, God placed a Cherubim Angel on guard so as not to give access to the Tree of Life to either of them. So why not simply remove this tree? Why leave it as a further temptation to Adam and Eve? More questions without sufficient answers.
So at this point, physical death came into the world and it proved to be a good thing. Without this transference of matter and energy, the earth would suffer a monumental breakdown. For every organism created, the elemental matter must come from somewhere; energy conversion from the sun, consumption of other organisms, etc. Without death on a certain level, none of this could take place and as we have already seen, the Earth itself would soon become dangerously crowded with creatures that could breed far more quickly than could mankind. A common house cat can get pregnant three times a year and have as many as seven or eight per litter.
I have set up the following scenario to simply point out what occurs by well meaning people when they do not know their history, their science, or their theology. Of course this then opens up the dialog for discussion as to exactly what type of death we experienced at the Fall if not physical. If we are in essence spirit and spirit is eternal, then how can we experience spiritual death?
First, of course, we have to justify the assertion that as spiritual beings we are in fact eternal. For this I will simply refer to Christ’s words in scriptures. Jesus Christ first explains this in John 17:
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify You. For you granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those you have given Him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know You and trust the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” -John 17:1-3
Once again I wish to reiterate the definition of the term, “Eternal” for the reader’s edification. Read the definition and then apply it to what Christ is saying as he prays to God the Father in the above verse.
This from Dictionary.com :
eternal e·ter·nal [ih-tur-nl]
1. without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing (opposed to temporal ): eternal life.
2. perpetual; ceaseless; endless: eternal quarreling; eternal chatter.
3. enduring; immutable: eternal principles.
4. Metaphysics . existing outside all relations of time; not subject to change.
5. something that is eternal.
6. the Eternal, God.
Earlier I described the term “Eternal” as a closed ring without a discernible beginning or end. We use this same symbol when we enter into marriage for just this reason. What I desire the reader to contemplate and ruminate upon is this: If one is eternal, if one has no discernible beginning or end, but rather exists in an ever existent state, how can one die?
This is a difficult concept for human beings to contemplate in the flesh. We regard ourselves as finite beings existing in a temporal realm. Everything has a beginning and an end. Time unfolds in a linear manner in a forward progression. We cannot traverse this time construct no matter what science fiction may desire. An eternal being exists outside of this temporal time construct. In our spiritual essence, we do not experience linear time in the same manner our fleshly bodies must. Our bodies are a construct of this realm; our spirit is not.
The death we would experience (if such were possible is) is separation from our Creator, God Almighty. In a small way, this is what occurred when our spiritual essence was imprisoned in Sheol after the Fall as outlined in Genesis Chapter Three. The entire redemption process which Jesus Christ undertook freed us from this prison. You can see this clearly in this series of scripture verses. If you will kindly indulge me:
“What, then, was the purpose of the Law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed (read Christ) to whom the promise referred had come. The Law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. – Galatians 3:19-20
“For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
1st Peter 3:18-20
“God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code (emphasis mine), with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us (emphasis mine);He took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the Powers and Authorities (emphasis mine), He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”
- Colossians 2:13-15
What I find human beings have a difficult time of grasping is the fact that there are other beings which inhabit this realm who possess far greater power and intellect than we do. Even those who claim to believe in God and regard themselves as Christian scoff at the notion of there being spiritual entities a vast power which controlled the Earth. Orthodoxy has done a very able job of diminishing the nature of these beings. The horror genre of books and film has redirected our attention towards a group of entities little understood by anyone. It is to these beings the majority of our ills are blamed. As a point of fact, these lesser beings have very little power except that which we willingly give them.
I am speaking quite plainly about demonic entities. What is interesting about such beings is that we are given authority over them quite clearly by Christ. Paul had absolutely no trouble expelling such entities when he came upon them; such beings are completely and totally subservient to the authority given to us by Christ. We need only be cognizant of such power and authority and exercise it. I will not delve into what exactly demonic entities are in this commentary, but they are NOT angels and never were. They are something quite different.
Contrast a demonic entity with that of a Celestial entity as outlined in these two passages of scripture:
“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, , we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. This girl followed Paul and the rest of us shouting. ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment, the spirit left her.”
- Acts 16:16-18
“In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the Archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to brings a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’ Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand…”
- Jude 8-10
The stark reality of this temporal realm is that it is but a wisp of existence in eternal “time” and is inhabited by beings which are not natural to this realm. These beings are extraordinarily jealous of the fact they no longer possess us as they had prior to the work of Christ upon the cross. Because of the perceived subterfuge utilized by Christ to wrest control of this realm from their hands, they feel cheated and are enraged. Since they cannot vent this rage upon their creator, they will do they next best thing and that is to blunt the works and effectiveness of us, human beings, from coming into a relationship with our Creator while here in the flesh. The reasons are quite simple from their perspective; Paul was very clear in 1st Corinthians 6:3, “Do you not know that we will judge angels?” How much more effective will we be in meting out judgment if we are aware of our purpose here and have come to not only see these beings for what they truly are, but to see them through a relationship with Christ?
Orthodoxy was constructed to blunt the works the true church would have on this earth. Sadly most who have made good careers peddling the Gospel will not agree with me, for to do so, would mean the end of their livelihoods. While I am not desirous to see anyone put out of work, I do believe that the spreading of the Gospel should not be made a paid career. There is far more on this in my commentary, “Is the Church a Building or the People Within?” which can be found here:
The entire concept of physical death is only just another of the errors constructed to further degrade us as human beings before our Creator; to make us feel so very unworthy when as a point of historical fact, Jesus Christ went to His death an innocent man to assert just the exact opposite. (The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20, Chapter 9. Flavius Josephus)
If after reading my arguments to the contrary one can still put forth a plausible argument that prior to the Fall of man there existed no physical death in the universe, I suppose they are entitled to their opinion. I have had my say on this topic. But as I have so often asked of my readers previously, “Are you leaning upon the teachings of tradition to arrive at your conclusions; have you really explored the concept for yourself, have you asked God Almighty to reveal to you the truth of the matter regardless your personal beliefs?” How you respond to that question will tell you what your next step in your growth process should be.