Question:The idea has been brought to my attention in a Bible study that sin does not only inflict spiritual death but physical death as well. Possible biblical support for this is that when God curses Adam and Eve for disobeying, He mentions that "from dust we came and to dust we will return." However the person leading the Bible study said that before Adam and Eve sinned, they were going to live forever, what are your thoughts?
Answer:I am fairly certain that physical death was not one of the results of the sin of Adam and Eve. The Bible does not specifically say this, so there will be different opinions on whether Adam and Eve would otherwise have been physically immortal and we should not be dogmatic. However, here are three reasons I believe this is the correct conclusion:
- We know for certain that the “death” in Genesis 3 is a reference to the spiritual death which is the result of sin because the Bible says that “the wages of sin are death” in Romans 6:16 and it is certain that the Romans verse is talking about spiritual separation/death, not physical death. This does not absolutely prove that the death produced by the sin does not also include physical death, but it makes this interpretation unnecessary.
- I believe that it was God’s intention all along for us to occupy a different kind of body. It was never his intention that the physical bodies we occupy now would be eternal. I see 1 Corinthians 15:42-54 evidence that our resurrection bodies will be materially different from our current bodies. Jesus himself, when he was raised, said not to touch him as he was not yet in the kind of body he would have later on (John 20:17). This does not amount to “proof” that Adam and Eve were never intended to eternally occupy the normal human bodies that we all have, but it is strong evidence.
- There is no evidence today that sin causes people to live shorter lives. Well, some kinds of sin do, such as excessive drinking, but our bodies wear out, not due to sin but due to the natural processes involved with cells dividing a limited total number of times. Death is programmed into our genetics. A forgiven Christian who is dramatically overweight can expect to live a shorter life than a thin, in-shape but very sinful non-Christian.
None of these amount to proof, but taken together, I believe the case is very strong that Adam and Eve were not born in physically immortal bodies which only died physically because they sinned.
I believe that this incorrect idea that they would not have died physically if they had not sinned comes as a result of Calvinism, with its overstatement of the physical effects of the fall of man which happened when Adam and Eve sinned. Calvin and his followers teach total depravity, which is the idea that we inherit the sin of Adam and are completely unable to respond to God’s grace. They teach that before the sin of Adam there was no death of animals, that lions were vegetarians, that there was no rain, and other scientifically unsupportable ideas. The fall of Adam and Eve had horrendous and lasting effects, but animals ate other animals, rain fell, and animals died for many, many years before Adam and Eve sinned, as is true from the fossil record.
I would not be dogmatic about this, but I believe that it is the most reasonable conclusion that physical death was not one of the results of the sin of Eve and Adam.