God and Creation—Part 10

Adam Condemned to Die

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
—Genesis 3:19

WHEN EVE TRANSGRESSED, being beguiled by the serpent, and Adam also transgressed eating of the forbidden fruit, they set in motion the penalty of death. The sentence that befell them had been spelled out clearly to Adam by God. He had put Adam into the Garden of Eden to dress and keep it. There was an abundance of food in the garden and God had told Adam, “Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”—Gen. 2:16,17


After Adam and Eve had transgressed God’s law (Gen. 3:6), we read, “The eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.”—vss. 7-13

God, in his foreknowledge, knew the downward course in which sin would continue to lead the human race, now that his law had been broken. Knowing this, he realized that the procreative abilities with which he endowed our first parents, through the separation of Eve from Adam, would be prostituted. For this reason, and seemingly almost immediately after they disobeyed, he caused Adam and Eve to feel a sense of shame because of their nakedness. This led to their making of coverings, and throughout the ages since, clothing has helped the race to keep the God-given powers of reproduction under control.

Adding to their shame, our first parents, because of their disobedience, came under a spell of fear. This unhappy reaction to sin has been the experience of wrongdoers throughout the ages since. Adam and Eve had good reason to fear. Having been created perfect, they could have resisted the temptation placed before them. Eve, of course, was deceived. But even so, she too readily disbelieved her Maker. The ‘serpent’ was merely the mouthpiece of Satan, the Devil. Just how the reported conversation with Eve was conducted the account does not say, nor is it important for us to know. But the arguments presented by Satan were effective, and now that both Eve and Adam had disobeyed, we find them cringing in fear before their Maker and true benefactor.


Adam and Eve were soon to learn that God meant it when he said, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ Their sentence reads, “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Gen. 3:16-19

A further affirmation of this sentence of death is given in verses twenty-two through twenty-four of the chapter. These verses read, “The Lord God said, Behold, … now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”

In the Marginal Translation of Genesis 2:17, God’s warning of the death penalty reads, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.” This suggests not an instantaneous snuffing out of life, but a gradual process of dying, and that is the way it transpired. Adam and Eve were driven out of their garden home, and prevented from having access to the trees of life, with the result that they began to die. Adam, starting on the downward course from the top of perfection’s scale, lived nine hundred thirty years before he returned to the dust from whence he had been taken. When he died, the full penalty for his sin had been exacted. Adam had not been deceived by God as to the nature of the penalty.

Nor has there since been any change in the Divine penalty for sin. More than four thousand years after the decree was issued, ‘Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,’ the Apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, affirmed, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) As we have seen, Adam was made a “living soul” (Gen. 2:7), and in Ezekiel 18:4 we read, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”


What is death? Webster’s Dictionary defines death as ‘the state of being dead.’ Webster also uses the word ‘extinction.’ These definitions are fully in harmony with the teachings of the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 9:10 we read, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”

Such severe calamity came upon the Prophet Job that he thought it would have been better for him had he died as an infant. In giving expression to this sentiment, he reveals clearly that death is a condition in which the ‘wicked cease from troubling, and the weary be at rest.’ We quote:

“Why died I not from the womb? why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly? Why did the knees prevent me? or why the breasts that I should suck? For now should I have lain still and been quiet, I should have slept: then had I been at rest, With kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves; Or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver: Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been; as infants which never saw light. There the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest. There the prisoners rest together; they hear not the voice of the oppressor. The small and great are there; and the servant is free from his master. Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul; Which long for death, but it cometh not; and dig for it more than for hid treasures; Which rejoice exceedingly, and are glad, when they can find the grave?”—Job 3:11-22

Here Job is explaining that those who suffer much, and can get no relief, are glad when they realize that death is near, that they found the grave. As he explains, those who are dead are ‘still and … quiet.’ They sleep and are ‘at rest.’ This is in agreement with Ecclesiastes 9:5,6 which reads, “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished.” Clearly then, death is a state of oblivion. The ‘dead know not any thing.’ Their former loves, their hatreds, and their envy, all perish in death.


Adam’s transgression of Divine law brought death not only to himself, but also to his offspring. The Apostle Paul expresses it thus, “By the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation.” (Rom. 5:18) And again, “As in Adam all die.” (I Cor. 15:22) Since Adam’s transgression, all of the human race have been imperfect, afflicted more or less by diseases of various sorts. Yet withal, under normal circumstances, no one wants to die. The expression, ‘natural death,’ is often used in contrast to accidental death, or death by violence. Actually, however, there is no such thing as natural death. To humans, death is always unnatural. That is why we never become accustomed to it. Whether it strikes in infancy, in childhood, in middle or old age, it is always an unwelcome visitor.

But we can thank God for the promise that this dreaded enemy is one day to be destroyed! When the loving purpose of God in Creation is fully accomplished, everything out of harmony with him and with his laws of righteousness will be routed from the earth and, as Paul says, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:26) Paul’s declaration confirms the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who wrote, “He [the Lord] will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.”—Isa. 25:8

This glorious consummation of the Divine plan will be brought about through Christ. When Paul wrote that ‘judgment came upon all men’ through Adam, he added, “Even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Rom. 5:18) And in I Corinthians 15:22 he wrote, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” So, while a tinge of sadness enters our hearts as we think of the joys and blessings that were forfeited as a result of original sin, we can rejoice in the hope that, as a result of the redemptive work of Christ, that which might have been is yet to be. Paradise will be restored!

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Dawn Bible Students Association
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