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Ross, in his Creation and Time, a somewhat populist and often slightly documented popular work, amidst his knowing proposals, advises us on the meaning of Romans 5 (pp. 60 ff.). The reason for this surge into theology appears to be this: he does not wish it to appear that Adam's death was an institution for man that came following, and indeed because of his sin. He would appear to want death to be 'around' for man, anyway. As to why that should be so: it seems that a more uniformitarian weld with Christianity is to taste, God being invited or permitted to fit in with a few concepts of 'Nature', which for its part is not to be handled too roughly. God is to be adjusted to scale, rather than Nature, so that as a result all things, as far as possible - to quote Peter - "all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation" (II Peter 3:4).
This extreme seeming sensitivity to change in the structure and in the system is a notable one (after all, creation from nothing was something of a change in the first place, and the concept that God does not 'change' things requiring judgment or apt development, is a strange and spiritually invasive one, deployed in an area where it is unwise to invade - viz. The Creator and His word). Whatever however the intention, it is the result which is our concern.
For the moment, let us look at the proposal: that "death" in Romans 5:12 is to be some sort of 'spiritual death'. It is further proposed that in Genesis 2:17, the death is likewise 'spiritual', despite the fact that in Genesis 3:19, the resultant curse, following the breach of the test conditions set for Adam and Eve, is in part this:
In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.One wonders what it takes to make a thing clear: dust does not seem very spiritual...
Now in Romans 5, let us give the matter attention. Of course there is no question that a severance from God in spiritual alienation is involved, and that this can be called a type of death; but that is not the point. The issue is this: is the death in Romans 5:12 definable as spiritual ?
Ross gives us to understand concerning Adam's fruit, that the 'day' you eat of it... you die, implies a 24 hour period or something such (marvellous in view of his other thoughts on 'days', which give more a feeling of laze, haze or maze, in which evening and morning flit in and out of an astronomical setting which includes the institution of the celestial time-keepers as such, as if time never occurred to them - which is a very marvellous business, and brings back at once thoughts of Alicethrough the Looking Glass).
Now Adam is not a celestial body defined for time-keeping (though when allegory is at work in a stringently sequential historical work, one never can be quite sure what will next be proposed... and even then, one prefers not to contradict what is actually written). Hence Adam's day of doom is the episode, the era, the chronological advent period; just as an employer might say: On the day you do that, you are finished, to an employe, whose dismissal processes may nevertheless take months. 'Day' has a breadth of meaning the determination of the correct element of which depends on the context, and on such little matters as usage: for example whether there is sequence, and a chronological input notice of one kind or another.
Actually of course Adam died in his exclusion from the divine presence at once (or very shortly), and in his return in the divine curse, to dust, in due course. It is all there; you could even talk, if you would, of a mental death, in his disorientation, conceivably his cosmological fantasies - as implied for descendants at least in Genesis 11:4-6... for Babel's tower indicated in context that "now nothing they propose to do will be withheld from them." It was no mere pile of bricks, as ziggurat towers archeologically excavated have made clear. Provision could indeed be made for a nice little meeting with some deity (-ies) on the top.
The prophet Amos indicates how just such follies infiltrated from the philosophies of men, perhaps quintessentialised into 'spiritual' vagrancies, in the religion of the Jews (5:26):
You also carried sikkuth your king, and chiun your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves.Isaiah does no less:
You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. let now the astrologers, the stargazers, and the monthly prognosticators stand up and save you from what shall come upon you.Jeremiah is ironic:
Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them... thus shall you say to them: "the gods which have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens" (10:2,11).Cosmologies and their causes, beautifully crafted combinations of God's thought and man's, God's knowledge and man's ignorance, man's assumptions, frequently hidden as serpents from scrutiny, while mathematical aspects of these assumptions are bared as if they had some portent other than that of the underlying philosophy: these are amongst the idols of the twentieth century. They call like sirens to men: 'Come and make peace with us, for your lord is on a long journey, and our thoughts, are they not as God's, and is not the wisdom of man as the wisdom of God, and shall we not now build a tower of philosophy, and call it astronomy, and worship before one 'god'!' (Of course astronomy per se is no idol; it is merely that like other studies, it is often lent, secretly, or taken surrepetitiously.)
We shall shortly revert to cosmologies: those glorious syntheses of knowledge, daring, philosophic blindness and casual assumptions made with indescribable derring-do (and again, at times merely an academic subject, though often on loan). Let us now however return to Romans 5. We were discussing the amazing ambush of the text and context for 5:12 into a merely 'spiritual' death, and contrasting this penchant with the statements of Genesis, to which it undoubtedly refers. What however of Romans 4-5 itself ?
In fact in Romans 4:24-25 we find it made clear that - topic of justification - we are in the realm that includes, and indeed focusses on plain, unvarnished, physical death. There is not even any gloss to the coffin. It reeks of physical death (whatever else). Of the One who was "delivered up for our offences" (from Isaiah 53), it speaks; of the One who was... raised in terms of a corpse quickened (not 'spiritually'... Luke 24:39, Acts 2:26-31); of Him indeed whose spirit had long before been committed to His Father, and whose body did not rot, as Peter told it. It was the resurrection of a body physically crucified with physical death, a body which decisively neither rotted nor allowed for any rot about a merely 'spiritual' death.
'Spiritual' death is not proposed as sufficient for the atonement, whatever else may or may not be implied.
Physical death of a man as a man in a body (Hebrews 2:10-14) - the Scripture goes into great detail on this topic - is so much in view that the phrase "by His blood" is often used as a synonym for it (Ephesians 1:7, 1 Peter 1:18-20), and "in the body of His flesh through death" similarly (Colossians 1:22). Thus in Romans 4, we are in no doubt at what is involved in the crucial, critical transactions of death and life on which the theme moves. It is the death from which One, the Christ, is resurrected (as Machen put it, of 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, the 'thing' that went to the grave is the 'thing' that is raised in sequence). It is the sacrificial atoning death leading to atonement and resurrection (Romans 4:25). It is the death Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6), in a context where it is specifically compared with this:
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:7-8).It is the death which He should accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31), one that required betrayal (Luke 9:44), a Cross, a being spat on, a committing of His Spirit to His Father as His body deceased, which enables being "justified by His blood" (Romans 5:9). It is a death carefully traced out in Romans 5:6-11, one which ends with this: 'therefore'! "Therefore just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned..." (Romans 5:12). The context of death is the base of the application of death. If any wishes to accuse God of a logical slide, without ground, it is better to accuse such a person of the logical slide instead, for God's word is consistent, and all the sliding is in the mind of man. God speaks clearly (Proverbs 8:8-9), and the sequestration of His word for philosophy is not apt (Colossians 2:8).
b) Textual Ostracism
We can proliferate of course: the death of the body is part of a huge process of moral death, spiritual death, mental death thrusting into place when Adam died: all in the sense of the moribund, the alienated, as exhibited in abuse of God's word, which started on earth in Eden with Satan, for the record.
In passing we may note that this differs from mere maturity... which in turn differs from mere youth - age per se is not judgment, nor is development per se 'deterioration'. So in making man or stars, or stretching out space by whatever process appealed to Him, God in all integrity placed His created objects and subjects in precisely that form, condition, spatial inter-relationship and situation that was His wish. After all, we read that He "created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created" - Revelation 4:11 - even if it had not occurred to us before! God made space as large, or enlarged it by stretching it forth as much as seemed good, He made objects as incidental as a stage director has his chairs on stage, for whatever purpose they may have been constructed; and He used such dynamics of creative ebullience and power as seemed to Him apt, just as indeed is the normal case with other authors, except that in their cases they may have constraints which were lacking for the Almighty.
Let us continue to say, in passing, that Ross's idea that God shouldn't really make up His own stage and age of stage and conditions for the stage, and have His own institutive as distinct from constitutive practices, as certainly seems implied in his protestations about fair play and all that: this is physics at its most directive.
Even God, it would seem, is not immune from instructions from his creatures about the mode of His creation, the format of His functions, about the contemporary laws of the created things and their binding impact on the Almighty's thoughts in His exploding and irrupting things into being at the first. He it would seem, was not free as to how to proceed, to what extent to use process instead of advanced format for things, or as to what condition was the appropriate one, to make by fiat or formation for the tests, extravaganzas of creation and the conditions for the creatures He desired. Even stage directors on earth have more power in their line of creations than that!
One must marvel at the creatures of God, what they would teach Him...! Of course, at times theatre critics can almost seem the same, as they decide where the author really should have done this or that. In their case, there is at times some justification, for they as men deal with men in a universe already created. When however it comes to critics telling us from current formats of matter, based at that on this or that cosmological set of assumptions, what it is fitting that God should do - one marvels. I have taught, and children of my own race can be exceedingly presumptuous; but when it comes to God we are in the field of a mind infinitely superior to ours, with modes and plans of His own.
How truly: "My thoughts are not as your thoughts" (Isaiah 55). If logic does not teach us, let realism provide! In short, God is the author (for the time - He undertakes to remove it) of the nature where man strives now this way, now that, to understand in studies such as physics. God is the author of this. Physics, a derivative of a derivative of God, constantly changing (physics, not God), is not the author of God.
We were speaking of death, Adam's death, its physical force and its possible extensions as we analyse the matter. We have considered in passing the question of the distinction between maturity and decay, between presumption and performance, in looking at what God has done in creation; and in turn, looked at the similar distinction between intrusive activism thrust into the thoughts of God, delusive insertion of man's thoughts into His mouth, and a reasonable and reticent willingness to learn from the mouth of God the intents of His heart; and then to stop, before acting as His counsellor.
We revert to the central emphasis at this point. Whatever elements of death might be multiplied in our thoughts about implications, one thing is mercifully of the most simple and utter clarity. It is this: the death in view for Adam, for the one man in Romans 5:12, the sinner, it is physical, whatever else. Eminently physical is this core of death, this 'therefore' death of Romans 5:12; just as eminently rotational (cf. pp. 174-197 supra, 482-498 infra) is the darkness-light concept of daily days, in its major thrust in Genesis 1, in the way described; which in turn is in a text which is eminently generational in its reference to the succeeding members of the human race, after Adam (ages of participants provided, as selected); and which is exceedingly detailed in its geographical placement, in this historico-astronomical-environmental-expiatory-developmental- explanatory, assessive outcome for man. Man, his options, outcomes, mistakes, continuity, the cumulative judgment coming: it follows like arm after arm in swimming, in an intimacy that is fundamental in Genesis.
In looking then at Romans 5 and its close correlative, its intimate companion, Genesis 1, we wish to interpret, not to ostracise the text! Thus for example God did not tell us of winged creatures flying, in his creation (Hebrew terms used apt for birds and insects - see Harris, Archer, Waltke, Theological Word Book of the Old Testament, pp. 654-655), thousands of years before fruit trees were fashioned (millions, trillions, take your pick, it is purely voluntary, when you are a divorcee from the text and context) - as in Genesis 1:12,21. Let 1:24 cover insects and the case is only worse.
God is not a cosmologist but the Creator. It had to work. He specified the location and the correlation. It is not as if His declared stage-setting of light, darkness and their enveloped contents, sun, stars, formed, fashioned and unified operationally... it is not as if this meant a non-rotational, non-solar, non-diurnal, non-geographical, non-particular, non-localised, non-biblical Adam or non-Adam assemblage on a wholly different setting, only delusively integrated with the continuity of history, into which its constant, emphatic 'generations of' fits it, like rib to rib. The biological disruption, symbiosis severance and the like, would be as absurd as the contextual one. In fact, man has tried to teach God what He means, or should mean, and this without any excuse, almost since the time God first spoke to man, and man spoke to God (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-3); and this ? With or without alien coaching.
While we are on this topic, we might as well be pointed. When the Almighty wishes to judge, to condemn, to instal corruption as Romans 8:18 ff. provides, to subject creation to vanity and the like, as we shall shortly examine, this is no small thing. At His wish, He can instal the second Law of Thermodynamics, for example, or any other construction. He is not limited either in systems, imagination, or self-control. It is not difficult for Him!
Hanging by the neck is no small thing... nor is this long-standing sentence on creation. Five years hard labour is no small thing. When such things are decreed, then things happen. Environment changes... considerably. Is it the passion for poetry which, thwarted wells up in the heart of so many, or is it purely spiritual, that people want to read what God says and then confine it to some phase or period or situation, as if this dictated what could be or will be! Prison is certainly a change and the consignment of this creation in significant measure to penal servitude (together with grace and mercy, to be sure, and the coming of the Gospel gloriously installed; but this for the moment apart): that is not nothing... This is no less true even if it is 'felt' that this meant nothing, that the stage required no adjustment, the creation merely said, Ha! and Hum! like Pooh Bear and went on as usual. The Almighty in making a judgment and instituting a demeaning and laborious and mortal situation for man quite expressly, spelling it out in... dust, made with it just such... adjustments to the environment as seemed good. He did it in time, and to time.
Time, gentlemen, time! It is about man having the time of his life with the chosen time parameters of God Almighty that we are talking; with that option, instead of taking time to abide by His times, who will not bow to the created clocks of man, to their philosophical cogs, suitably hidden behind the cosmological casing. God will not bow to man woefully imagining that passing (sometimes more, sometimes less rapidly) equations of the current fluctuating academic status quo are the course of creation.
How delusive, to read back into creation, its placement, speed, power, mode, from the partially comprehended actions of its status quo - even if these were ever found aptly, without the revisionisms that ricochet constantly, at times almost monthly! Mehlert illustrates this well, as also the vigorously pursued mutual contradictions and assaults of the 'darling' models of doting academic cosmogonic 'parents', in his monograph, The Origin of the Universe..., Creation Technical Journal, 1994, Part 2, pp. 223-237.
How ludicrous to seek to transform the matrix of creation into its mode, to cripple the power that created its furnishings with the process of sitting on the chairs, to make the factory the car, the dock the ship, the artisan the article, tied as if by the power of unbelief, hypnotically, to passing events, as if this determined the institution of created events. But God is not tied. He speaks.
To move for the moment more specifically to Ross, in his cited work he even proposes peace-talks on time and such matters, between the contestants; in effect peace between the word of God and the thoughts of man, which push upon the door of God's word with the ebullience of lava, and the power of air. The intention may be good, this is not denied; but the inventions of man have no place by that door into which, in the equally unalterable living Word, a man must enter to be saved (John 10:9).
Man was made, sinned, died as a result in a creation stage made for the purpose, not servilely uniformitarian in its concept, as if the stage controlled the author, but one adapted duly, with lawful consequences both physical and spiritual, following for the actors who sinned.
c) A Dusty Matter
Romans 5 then is about Adam and death as a dusty matter. If Downer of Australia has his 'the things that batter', Romans 5 has before us 'the things that shatter'. This text confirms this one man, and uses THIS singularity, incidentally, as a foil and mode in relation to Christ as one man - but oh so different!
Man then was made, sinned, died as a result in a creation stage made for the purpose, not uniformitarian in its concept, but with lawful consequences both physical and spiritual, following for the actors who sinned.
Romans 5 fits intimately then with Genesis, confirming the concepts - 'one man', Christ, meaning one man (there will be 'more' Christs of course, indeed they now are! but we are talking of Scriptural interpretation, not the devil's impersonations)! One man sinned; one man saved; one man died to convert the race to sinners (result, not purpose), one man died to convert the elect to those actually covered with His righteousness, by blood payment for them.
d) A Deliver Us from Double Dealing
There is simply no room for double dealing on the topic of 'death' in this passage. Annoyance at some form of Creation Science, desire for a uniformitarian universe free from any judicial (and some forms of initial) impact from a spiritual and physical sovereign, fear of ridicule, automatic pilot thinking, whatever: it makes no ground for this slide. It is a slide to something excluding physical death in the death of Adam specified in Romans 5:12; from the fact that sin has and had this physical result. It slides from the Biblical implication that before sin man did not die, was not prone to it, and the indication that the creation itself, as Romans 8 shows, was for sin subjected to a travail, futility, bondage, curse syndrome which it had not previously experienced. Life felt the pangs of man; life environment mirrored man's state, the stage blazed with the purple light of sovereignty, the red light of danger, the dark light of judgment (cf. p. 1164 infra).
Like wild children in general, man is forever trying to anoint his fallen condition with political, biological, philosophical or astronomical schemas which ignore this fact. They do not however remove it. Such things for all the houpla - the magical, metaphysical ouija - as we saw earlier in Ch. 2 supra, do not create. They are rather the implements of desecration which some would enthrone as the god of this Age.
This is the twentieth century special, the due end of nineteenth century rationalistic pomposity, which has led naturally on to three world wars (counting the Cold War with Solzhenitsyn as the third, and it has embraced plenty of subsidiaries!). It has, shall we say, stimulated an experimental investigation of strife, horror, supremacy, superiority and survival as implements of greatness.
Meanwhile our environment is slowly collapsing, just as the morals and manhood and womanhood, yes and childhood of the race is collapsing around its vain dreams. They do not work politically, militarily any more than biologically, or logically; these are not the implements of creation. Like a wanton spendthrift, the world however goes on with its superman, superpower, superprocess nonsense while it is beggared, millions starve and more millions slaughter each other as a sort of afterthought to the 3 world wars, happily making perhaps irreversible damage to the scene itself, with brilliant force-led exploits with the burial and general dispersal of radioactive materials, with joys to follow.
Long before this, in ancient Israel, in that earlier hemisphere of history, decline was both bold and noteworthy. Further, glimpses of results may be discerned, and prophetic strictures, quite readily are found.
While the world was first made a place of wonder to investigate, with the curse it has profound and potentially terrible danger, mixed with adventure. As things come to progressive and cumulative decline, man comes to hunt animals (Genesis 9:2-5), but the concept of hunting for men, contrary to justice - for gain, this is embargoed. Indeed, Micah 7:2-4 uses a contemporary Israeli-trend to so act (i.e. in 'netting' men - using a net, with both hands!), as one ground for forthcoming divine judgment upon them. From all such things God is wholly divorced (Micah 7:2-4).
In fact, one whole book, that of Habakkuk, commences with an anguished query from the prophet: why ? Why is there "strife and contention", why "plundering and violence" - the law is not kept (Habakkuk 1:1-4). God being "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity" (1:13), the prophet asks: Why is this permitted ?
The Lord's answer is that the days will come when this will no more be so (Habakkuk 2:14 cf. Isaiah 60:18, 11:4-10); that vast judgments are afoot whereby such a world will be cleansed amid great destructions (Habakkuk 3:4-16); and that a man must meanwhile live, walk in the faith of the God who will do these things, unlike those who live for what may be grasped with power in the pleasure of the moment. These are the proud (2:4-5) who may trust in themselves and the attainments of their power; but those to whom God will attribute righteousness: these will trust in Him who is far different from that (3:17-18).
Thus while the creation groans (Romans 8:21-22) because it has been 'subjected', righteousness does not follow the naturalistic fallacy; far less does it impute to the creative action of God, the condition of this judged, cursed and censured earth, as if it were an opening format - or gambit - of God in His creation, rather than a disciplinary action.
It has become indeed fashionable to avoid two quite obvious facts in this regard.
First, the sins of man are rewarded, although with great restraint, by God, even in this present time (I Peter 4:17-18, II Peter 3:9). If then man, the manager and overseer of created life under God is to writhe so much in agonies of his own folly's derivation, and judgments on them, however restrained; if apoplexies of anguish periodically rack the race, reminding man of his madness (Ecclesiastes 7:29, 9:3), how then will his 'household' be exempt ? If man in his darkness lives in prison, will the property live in the light, unblemished and unmarred by the fiasco of faithlessness exemplified and exhibited by the wayward 'boss' ? Not where spiritual direction, demonstration and exhibition is the criterion. Moreover, if man should like to imagine it otherwise (for what does he not like to imagine in his 'exemptions' and 'dignities' without God ? ), it is not so written. Thus it is written and so it is.
Secondly, although there is a derivative action on man's 'house' of creation, and suffering from the top leads to suffering below (but see C. S. Lewis's modulation in Timeless at Heart, pp. 66-77), that is not all; any more than it is for mankind. William Paley's excellent contribution on what might be called broadly symbiosis, supplemented by many, has good application to the point that there is more, even so, to biology than survival, to animal life than pain, to the vitality of the lower creation than its suffering. There are found multiplied instances of co-operation, company, companionability and sheer joie de vie (cavorting bison are a sight to see! wonderfully rendered on video); while books capture something of the exuberance and vitality of creation, subdued though it be.
'Bondage' is not anti-life, but a divine commentary. Prison is not torture, though it is equipped for it, and a reminder of it. The exuberance of beauty and duty, responsibility and responsiveness, glitter and wonder, as in bird festivities and mutually supportive migrations: these things are as real as the other. As always, some prisoners are full of gloom and rankling, while others find that the restrictions can lead to careers. So here: life is limited in the clangor of calamity which man created by pressing the button clearly marked - Forbidden! but the life of the creation is far from extinguished, and its pathos and power, the wonder of its soarings and the gentleness of its lowerings, in the pastures by the streams, are not extinct because sad minds become hypnotised by its vulnerability or their personification of beast into man. Indeed, its day will come, even that for the lower creation (Romans 8:19, 21, Acts 3:21, Isaiah 11:7-9).
These things round off the reality of the case; they mitigate its immediate force: however they do not obliterate the fact of the Fall or the ferment of its results (*1). What they do is doubtless what they are meant to do: they give sobriety to sinning man, and remind the race that without the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, its vulnerability is absolute, not only before the world, but before Him who made it.
Meanwhile the world gives its complex testimony for mankind to watch every day. If however it is complex, yet is not confusing, when sin is realised in its domination and deadliness, and judgment is seen with sheer radiance of joy, because it is covered for all who yet love the Lord of creation, and accept both His rigours and His relief, costed in the Cross, which in the Person of His Son, He intimately bore. And that He did not for Himself, but for this fallen race, that in one step, He would remove its deadly disease from fostering its frenzied dominion, and grant peace.
Let us amplify now a little, and watch the situation in its first development. The sin of Adam was crucial, pivotal, made by one in the very image of God, set in a situation of life eternal or curse. The amplitude of the scenario must not be foreclosed. The issues are celestial, supernal, magnificent in potential, abhorrent in drab, defeated, yet-to-be-itemised results for rebellion.
Yet this is not all. Not only are we told that man sinned; we find also that what is identified (Rev. 12:9) categorically as the devil: this was the dynamic of delusion, set in the earthly scene, for the test. Adam and Eve should have known that the format chosen, beast (Genesis 3:1), was under their jurisdictive management, and not formed to provide them with counsel (Genesis 3:1,4-5). As to that, it was for God to do. The first idol thus appeared, not by its creation but by its misuse: a disastrous choice!
The scene therefore is, as Paul states it in Ephesians 6:12, one of evil principalities and powers, here ably headed. If man had obeyed God, the victory would have been simple. He did not. It was defeat which was so easy. A convulsion in creation that renders feeble by comparison any concept of Bangs, now occurred. It was fast. A writhing horror had seized man, had grappled with this new and materially-formatted creation, which the Almighty had been to such enormous labours to make; and it had marred the human triad (cf. pp. 349A ff. infra) which otherwise would have had dominion under God (Psalm 8, Hebrews 2:5-9).
The textbook of sin now lay open and on the table for mankind to read, and to experience. Was not this personage, made in the image of the Almighty, prepared to share in His marvels ? but now invoked by this race, there spread an occlusive, polluted pall hanging like a bane over the earth. Unblessed history with glazed eyes made her debut (cf. Psalm 1:4-5; Jeremiah 17:5-6).
Just as the 'Cross' in Galatians 6:14 implies, as Professor John Murray emphasised, all the love and planning and salvation which went before (cf. Revelation 13:8), so this fall of man encompasses and superintends over a vast error of spiritual evil: deadly, dynamic and intrusive. It is aggressive, assertive and now invasive into a work of prodigious proportions; into the very earth with its heavens. And its results ?
The powers that here coursed were now in judgment setting, and the results were of corresponding proportions. The creation was subjected to vanity. From such beginnings history emanated, able to be restored to the wonder God had at the first provided, only by the salvation which God at once foreshadowed (Genesis 3:15). Of this, He often speaks both in terms of spiritual regeneration, and of the new creation to come (Acts 3:19-21; II Corinthians 4:14, Romans 5:1-8,17; Isaiah 60:19 ff., 65:17, 66:22, Hebrews 12:25-29, I John 3:1-3, Revelation 21).
Let us however revert to Romans 5, where we were noting that sin has this physical result: before it, man was not set to die, but judgment came and it stays for all outside Christ, unmitigated. If then you take Romans and Genesis to mean what they say: one Christ - one man, one Adam - one man, it is no problem. At first, no death is to assail man physically. He is, in Genesis, exceedingly close to the creation of all life. He starts. He falls, He is condemned. There are consequences for creation, better faced, that cannot be outfaced, or successfully counterfeited into a... creative process. In particular, the new car of created life meets early with an accident that was far from accidental. Nothing is odd at all. We are told that there is a strange apparent program in the cells of mankind which requires death, and expert opinion has been expressed that it could be far otherwise in abstract theory; but this is how it is. That is the way it goes, and has been made to go.
So it is: sin is unprogrammed, death is programmed, with of course room as always, for divine intervention one way or another, to prolong or diminish, to astonish or dismay. (See 'miracles' - Index.) Celestial non-interventionists who feel it would not be fair, proper, expedient or in some special way the gen, for God ever to touch His systems except to touch them up, have in their favour only a subtle intimation of systemitis, which is no real advance; and it is a pathological export easily gained from the rule of atheism in the minds of many, and agnosticism in the minds of more. This is however, of all things, wholly discordant with the divine acts shown in creation and the massive multiple judgments and deliverances dramatically and repetitively recorded in the Bible; and this with great emphasis. After all, Christ Himself, the eternal Word, come to this world in incarnation, demonstration, resurrection and ascension; and He is Himself miraculous - that is, in inception, conception and capacity. Moreover as shown earlier, celestial non-intervention is discordant with reason. As for 'interpretation' on any such basis: it is interpretation by contradiction.
God is not an onlooker of an astral universe which shrugs off any divine dealing; He is the maker of a stage which has its modes from time to time, as He sees fit. He made it; He does the fittings; He is the tailor, craftsman, producer, constructor, assessor. Until this is seen concerning the word of God, confusion reigns.
e) A Multiple Necrosis
Let us stress again that the death Adam suffered was not merely physical; the first instalment was immediate, the second sure; both clearly occurred. But we cannot spiritualise in this context without doing violence to the basic, central emphases, pervasively defined throughout scripture, and precisely presented here.
Symbolism of death does not deny, but rather illustrates it. Symbolism of burial does not deny, but uses the physical as basic; and anoints the hearer with burial realities, as already noted in Romans 4:24-25 as foundational, and here applied, following the 'therefore' that leads into Romans 5:1, as also into 5:12.
You certainly can apply the physical death; but not deny or exclude it in this context, any more than in 1 Corinthians 15, where the basic bedrock starts in verses 1-3, and gives the path to the passage, that opens indeed the door of meaning. Christ died physically and visibly (though His Spirit ascended); and then all in Him die (spiritually), being through Him guaranteed a body-substitute to cover the impending death of the old one. This is in terms of His losing His old one, in vicarious justice and demonstrating His new one, for hope. There is more to it than the physical, not less. Corruptible, mortal bodies provide a death which is not terribly hard to place ... which must be 'swallowed up', the grave thereby being denied; though that is in the end, since for millions in the beginning, the grave will assert what Christ at first covered, for the end - physical death.
Man, till the rapture on Christ's return, does die. HE is the first-fruits of those who will arise - when ? At His coming. From what death is He the first-fruits ? From the one noted; and that ? "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and ... was buried, and ... rose again the third day" (1 Cor. 15:3-4). That was not a spiritual arising on the third day, from the place where He lay, as its criterion; it was physical. Despite the horror of the modern song, there is a time to get physical, and that is where physical death is involved, is essential, inescapable and systematically sentenced.
Superficiality in such places is abhorrent. Sin did bring death, and it did it in two basic phases: spiritual and physical (and indeed, as earlier noted, in more than that!). Adam's day of death is not, certainly, that of a rotational heavenly body in a numerical order of days, since he is not a heavenly but an earthly body, indeed, of the earth, earthy. HIS day of testing became that of questing, condemnation, and a variety of death, of which the physical was the brutally frank and necessary finale, delivered at once in promise by God, in His curse - sweat till death, dust to dust.
f) The Sentence that Subjugaged Necrosis
We do not alter the Bible in order to avoid a point, discard a notion; rather we learn. We analyse the claims to see if they are warranted, when views arise. WAS there then no death physically in a transformatory and tragic triumph of judgment on sin ? Was there no death in store for man before Adam sinned ? The curse in response to the act makes it clear that this is foundational justice, approved punishment, designate consequence. Man was, had no sin, had no death, was warned, tested, sinned, had sinfulness, was granted death, and under curse, immediate consignment to a condition unidentical with non-curse. The judge did not announce as a penalty what in fact preceded it! We are not in Alice in Wonderland.
But was there other death before Adam sinned ? The creation was subjected in hope because of Him who so subjected it; and not willingly. Does that mean that all creation became consigned to death and suffering for the first time, in every category? Possibly. It certainly means that there was a massive input of curse and judgment on a creation which earlier did not have this.
The text indicates a universal judgment on the creation, a subjection to vanity, futility, the bondage of corruption. Is this chiefly at the level where such things are appreciated as such ? Possibly... Is it exclusively there ? "the whole creation" certainly is far broader than that. Such things may be discussed and have been considered; but one thing is obvious: man had no death, no bondage to death, no bondage to corruption, to curse-type suffering (pain can be an admonition, and is not the same as curse). Creation has been drastically and dramatically altered because of man's sin. It is under judgment. It was not so.
In the beginning, moreover, the creation was co-ordinated in sequence with man, good; and in it man took his place.
It is not specifically stated whether there was any form of suffering before the fall: the sin of one man, the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45), who was bodily made "from dust". What is stated is this: corruption, of which death is part, vanity, futility to which the creation was subjected - was so ordered that creation was subordinated to this decree, to this finding, this authoritative debasement (Romans 8:20). The sin-in-judgment syndrome had an onset on the creation, had a commencement... Corruption in penal servitude, this had an advent. To be subjected to something, the recipient needs to be there.
When God curses, things happen ... (cf. Mark 11:12-24).
The decree, we find, was not welcomed, but it was enacted. We do not need too much research to find this decree. After all, Genesis 2:1-4 tells us that we have an account (generations) of God's creation of the heaven and the earth, while Genesis 5:1 tells us, following the generations of the heaven and the earth, the account of Adam's own family and being.
The earth is subjected to a curse, which is something not willingly endured, or in the sense of the Greek in Romans 8, not spontaneously accepted. It was imposed. The account of the generation of heaven and earth and of Adam in his family history, this has but one subjugation. It is the curse. It followed sin. Romans also refers to it, stating that through this Adamic act, sin entered the world, spreading death to all men. To invent some other curse, some other subjugation to "corruption" and to "futility" is to add to the word of God (forbidden in Proverbs 30:6). We may indeed neither add to nor contradict what God declares, for our own pleasure (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:30-32, Revelation 22:18-20, Matthew 5:17-19, Mark 7:7, Micah 3:5, Jeremiah 23:9-21). The parameters are as stated.
What however was the curse ? In Genesis 3 it affects not only man but environment. The very ground was cursed. Romans expands the 'problem': the creation is subjected, subordinated to corruption (which includes death); it has an impact to which it could (metaphorically) respond willingly or otherwise (and in man's case, non-metaphorically!). It is therefore, there, extant, in a state not so subjugated, not so subordinated, not so subjected, first. It is fact 'good' - and after man's creation, 'very good' (Genesis 1:31). The world was no death-camp.
Now however it is explicitly in bondage, serfdom, in an unhappy, unnatural, difficult, harassed condition, contrary to good specifications, having been so disposed by divine authority, the very one which at the first created it. The last thought is that everything had to continue as it was. That is as far off as is the East from the West.
The test context in Genesis, moreover, makes it abundantly clear that there was in particular no death for man. He could in fact live for ever (Genesis 3:22), a somewhat obvious result where there is no death, no discontinuity (a felicitous state, which those who know the Lord will in one sense share, if they live on earth at the time when He appears)! Both in the Old and in the New Testament, man sins and dies therefore. As to the living for ever ? That was explicit. He might. Man was not at all a part of any uniformitarian continuity of death. This is specifically excluded. He was part of a specialised continuity of life. Death appeared as alien, foreign, unimposed, contrary to specifications, something in the offing to be imposed if the conditions were not met. It was a sentence for drinking-driving, as it were; but not at all imposed without the offence occurring. Man for one was both innocent and without death.
Let us reflect now on the fact that Romans, we have seen, specifies further. Not merely was the ground cursed, but the creation itself was subjected to bondage... if you like, imprisoned. God denies that this was its natural state. What is Nature ? It is the nature of what God has made, physical and chemical, astronomical and geological, material and mental, spiritual and in all enduements. It is often used as what is not-man. It is given whatever nature, at whatever time and in whatever way and for whatever reason, that He, in His discretion, determines. It is a slave to Him; not vice-versa. God asserts that He put the creation into its present state, contrary to nature, so contrary indeed, that it represented a species of futility (as prison does to the prisoner betimes!). This sentence-death-subjugation syndrome was superadded.
What then ? We are dealing with initial outcomes of a rotationally brief creation, where man at the head, affects the tail, and all is plunged into 'darkness' not of the Middle Ages, but of the subjected ages. Of this, ours is one; with this difference, that it has a Saviour displayed through whom now the chains may be removed, in the aspect of sentence and weakness, but not entirely the suffering, for the whole creation yet labours to this hour, awaiting the manifest display of the sons of God (Romans 8:21, Matthew 24:43): Then shall the righteous "shine forth as the sun". When ? When Christ who is the life of His own, returns to select and separate, to gather His 'crop' (Matthew 13:41).
g) An Open Path and a Closed Gate
In the beginning, however, it was not so. Man had an open path to live for ever, but this path through sin was barred. He did not live for ever because he sinned. He gratified the knowledge lust, the thing which he desired: a cosmic sort of knowledge, presumptuous like so much cosmology, which would know as God - Genesis 3:5 - yet with the mind of man, without the word of God. Result: a cosmic sort of curse.
Indeed, from the outset, Adam's action was against the Word of God, or taking it, like Eve, as suggestive ... not sovereign. Adam grabbed the knowledge he wanted (or thought he did so) - and went on till death made its lugubrious and unmetaphorical comment, in his returning, as per invoice, to the dust. That invoice, it was divine; that death, it is that with which we are so familiar, and which we inherited. We (Romans 5:14) did not sin as Adam sinned - we were not like him, innocent at the outset, out of bondage, free from futility, apart from corruption. Only one single man (and wife - cf. 1 Timothy 2:13-14) so sinned, could sin in that category. But short of Christ's second coming time, for which I eagerly look: death reigns. This it does - except Christ's salvation intervenes, and appears - till the resurrection, mute testimony to the curse the Cross can cancel.
Trifling with these realities is neither wise nor scriptural.
h) The Parallel Cases
So it went on. Right up to the days of Moses (Romans 5:14), the race voluntarily sinned in its new mode, being made sinners also (Romans 5:19) through Adam, who was the type of Him who was to come. Christ's death is homogeneous as death, with that of Adam: not in sin, for He had none, but with sin - donated, conferred, by all who should come to Him; and with this sin He died. The way Adam died is the way Christ died. Adam pointed it; Christ absorbed it. Christ's death was for justification (Romans 5:1-19, 4:24-5:1, Hebrews 9:15), and it was parallel to, conformable with and consequent upon the death due to Adam. That is the application of Romans 5:12,17-19.
Looking back again, in context, we come to Romans 5:8-10, in the matter of death, in the sense of "blood", for which the Lord's scripture gives clear enough testimony. The death of Christ ? If, we read, we were reconciled to God by His death, much more we shall be saved by His life ! Reconciled ? Why ? Death reigned by one, One broke its reign by dying vicariously, victoriously (Hebrews 9:15, Romans 4:24-25, 5:17-20), physically (Romans 5:9-10). It is as in 11 Corinthians 5:19-21, in which He became sin, who knew no sin. It is that in which the curse (Galatians 3:10-13) being removed, through His hanging on a tree, we who repenting, believe and receive Him, are reconciled to God, curse-freed.
What then ? Why do people constantly try to bring, act as if to bring divine things to a creature's routine and scope. It is so boring as well as so wrong; confusing the infinite with the finite; and it may provoke wrath (Romans 1:18-19) of which this world has enough.
In fact, man was made to live. He sinned. He died.
Christ did not sin; He died for His own people, freely offering to all (John 10:15).
Sin changed man and brought in what we know as history - the often dismal business of sin and death in their horrendous places. This death has reigned - except, in the interim, spiritually for escapees (Hebrews 2:1-4); and eventually, through Christ's conquest of this same death, with its morbid mortality and corruption, their spirits will be clad with new bodies (1 John 3:1-3). That will be a celestial change.