Photo Cred: (1) | Updated: 3/7/2019
Lastly in this discussion of the Creation Account and my view of it, I would like to touch on the subject of death. How it is quite the wrench within most views of the Creation Account and can simply knock some views down altogether. But before we acknowledge any of that, what does Genesis chapter 3 actually say regarding death? Let’s find out.
For the first time in the Bible, death is introduced and a whole lot of stuff goes down because of its collateral damage on all things good and godly. After the events of the Creation Account and by the end of chapter 2 in Genesis, everything seems to be dandy. Adam and Eve are nude and chill, God is done making Creation, and the whole Universe has been perfectly fine-tuned to a tee for the centerpiece of Creation: mankind. Yet what follows in chapter 3 is a different type of epilogue because the story is not done yet. In light of the rest of Scripture, the story has actually just begun for the serpent has slithered onto the scene with sin in mind.
Now who is the serpent mentioned here exactly? Short answer, Satan. Long answer, definitely Satan (2). Wait, so then what is Satan doing in the Garden of Eden if he is evil and everything else is good? How did he get there? To answer that we need to backtrack a bit to understand who exactly Satan is and pinpoint his role in this story.
Satan was a prominent angel that was once named Lucifer before his fall from grace (3) and is technically the first to sin (4), but not the one who brought sin into the world as Adam takes the fall for that one (5). In actuality, Satan’s sin tainted the heavens (the Universe), while Adam’s sin tainted our world (the Earth). When he sinned, God cast the formerly known Lucifer, along with a third of the angels that rebelled with him, out of Heaven as sin can have no part with God’s goodness. Satan’s attempted coup d’é·tat to take God’s throne as his own failed miserably (6) and Hell became the new home for the fallen angels (7).
This moment in history took place sometime after Genesis 1:31 and before Genesis 3:1 because we have evidence to believe that the heavenly creatures watched the Creation Account (8). As my father, Mark Cribari, put it simply: “The creation of the spiritual must have preceded the creation of the physical, in order for the angels to observe God’s work.” With this framework of Satan’s history and his placement in it, let’s pick up where chapter 3 starts with the serpent of old.
What I find peculiar about Ch. 3 is the very fact that Satan is just there. He has no explanation or backstory besides that he was “crafty,” “more cunning than any other beast,” and God made him. There is no mention of his part in the Creation Account, except what is revealed in the rest of the Canon of Scripture. In a way, Satan’s story in the Bible is told in a nonlinear way with flashbacks here and there to fill in gaps of his own timeline in the grand scheme of things.
From this strange introduction to a stranger being, we find this fascinating encounter between a crafty creature and the femme fatale. The conversation immediately begins with Satan questioning God’s word (9), transitions to Satan’s truth-layered lie (10), and leads to the first sin. But was it the first death? Now that is the point of contention.
As one man put it, the first few chapters of Genesis are semi-poetic history and that is part of the struggle with grasping the truth in relation to this tough portion of Scripture. But back to the question of contention: was this the first death or was there death before the end of mankind’s goodness? Let’s look further.
From what I understand from this text, I believe this to be an open-ended issue, but I very much favor the idea that as Romans 5:12 infamously states that “death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” Later on in Romans 5:14, it supports the idea that death is a direct result of Adam’s offense before our perfect God and that death was not present among God’s Creation in the beginning. For if death did exist before the Fall, to what capacity?
The best argument I’ve heard is that everything could die physically, although Adam and Eve later died spiritually and this is what corrupted Creation. We humans are the centerpiece of Creation and as imagers of God, we represent Him here on Earth. We are God’s ambassadors who are designed to glorify God in all that we do, including taking care of Creation.
If we think about it logically, we realize that Adam and Eve didn’t die physically from their disobedience. The text doesn’t say they physically died until years later after being banished from the Garden of Eden. Rather, they died spiritually and ruined their covenant with God. Because of sin, Adam and Eve’s souls were stripped of their spiritual connection and this left them scarred. From then on, every human now has that same scar on their soul.
From this viewpoint, natural death occurring before the Fall is different than the disease of sin corrupting the souls of men as this type of death is the gradual decay of God’s image bearers, which is us humans. As C.S. Lewis put it nicely (11),
“It is impossible at this point not to remember a certain sacred story which, though never included in the creeds, has been widely believed in the Church and seems to be implied… I mean the story that man was not the first creature to rebel against the Creator, but that some older, mightier being long since became apostate and is now the emperor of darkness and (significantly) the Lord of this world… It seems to me, therefore, a reasonable supposition, that some mighty created power had already been at work for ill on the material universe, or the solar system, or, at least, the planet Earth, before ever man came on the scene; and that when man fell, someone had, indeed tempted him… If there is such a power, as I myself believe, it may well have corrupted the animal creation before man appeared.”
Suffice to say, the Creation Account is a tough topic to perfectly get a handle on because of all of the various ideas we have to consider when talking about it. The current debate at hand in regards to our origins will continue long after we are all gone, so don’t get too worked up on something we will never know until we die. This blog series was meant to simply explain very plainly what I believe in relation to the Creation Account and some main points of heated disagreement within the body of Christ that needed to be addressed. With that, Godspeed and Jesus bless!
- Isaiah 14:12
- Isaiah 14:13-14.
- Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:22a
- Revelation 12:3-9
- Matthew 25:41b
- This argument was originally from my Dad who quoted the first two passages below in support of this notion in one of our infamous late night discussions. He argues that in Scripture, the spiritual always comes before the physical. Therefore, the spiritual Creation preceded the physical Creation. Hence, Satan was created and fell before Adam and Eve were created. The last passage noted here is from my own research that solidifies, in my mind, his theory as full-proof. Job 38:4-7, Psalm 8, and Hebrews 2:5-9 (key phrase: “the world to come.”).
- Genesis 3:1b
- Genesis 3:4-5
- The Problem of Pain (P. 119, 122-123)