T. Desmond Alexander – Don’t Pack Your Bags for Heaven

Hope for the Deepest Darkness

When the only certainty about life is death, the Gospel message of resurrection-life offers comfort and hope. When you stand beside the open grave of a loved one, the proclamation of Jesus Christ as the resurrection and the life contrasts sharply with the hopeless comfort of an atheist. Knowing that there is life beyond death remains one of the great pastoral strengths of the Christian faith. Here is a hope that transcends the deepest despair.

While the reality of resurrection life continues to be a core component of what all Christians believe, many believers are much less certain about the form it will take. Many expect that earthly life will be transformed into heavenly life, whatever that will look like. They may not subscribe to the popular caricature of floating on clouds with wings and playing harps, but they believe that the life to come will center on Christians living in heaven in God’s presence. For many life now is all about living on earth, life then is all about living in heaven, and these two realms remain distinct and separate.

To continue reading T. Desmond Alexander’s article, click here.

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Glenn Peoples – What is Conditional Immortality?

“Conditional Immortality” is an unfortunately cumbersome piece of jargon that refers to a fairly simple belief: That human beings are mortal, and can only receive immortality on the condition that God gives it to them as a gift through faith in Jesus Christ.

It begins with an understanding of the nature of humanity as revealed in Scripture. According to the Genesis account the first man was formed out of the dust of the ground, then God breathed life into him and he became a living soul (Gen 2:7).

dust + breath of life = living soul

The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh, which has been variously translated as being, life, soul, creature, etc. but is never equivalent to the Greek/Platonic concept of the soul as an immaterial invisible immortal being, and instead refers to us as whole beings, and to the various aspects of our being such as heart, strength etc. (In fact the KJV translates nephesh in 44 different ways!) The same word is used for the animals (e.g. Gen 1:21,24 “living creatures” = living “Souls”). Thus conditional immortality regards each human as a unit, a soul, comprised of the dust of the earth and the life-giving breath of God, and not as a combination of two or three separate entities (body, soul and spirit).

To continue reading Glenn Peoples’ article, click here.

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Peter Grice – The Neglected Doctrines of Resurrection and Bodily Transformation

Today in Protestant circles we still hear a lot about the immortality of the soul, despite this doctrine being passionately rejected by Martin Luther 500 years ago. But we rarely hear of the immortality of the body, an important feature of resurrection, nor do we even hear that much about resurrection in general! Will all rise physically from the dead, like Jesus did—or only the saved? And if all rise in physical bodies, will the bodies of all be fitted with immortality, never to die again — or only those of the saved?

These kinds of questions are essential for assessing any doctrine of salvation and damnation, and yet they are often absent from the hell debate, and from broader discussion. Both heaven and hell are widely seen as ethereal destinations, to be arrived at immediately upon dying. But this truncated version of the biblical schedule of events renders resurrection and final judgment superfluous, even incoherent. Why were the unsaved sent straight to hell before Judgment Day, the very point at which they will be sentenced to hell? And if the saved and the unsaved already reside in the place where they’ll spend eternity, why bring them out? If they are brought out in resurrection, only to be shortly sent back there but this time in a physical form, how can those realms be suited to both physical and nonphysical habitation?

To continue reading Peter Grice’s article, click here.

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Warren Prestidge – The Spirits in Prison: I Peter 3:18-20

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit… (RSV).

The first sentence is one of the most succinct statements of core Christian faith in the entire Bible. But what does that last part mean?
Some earlier scholars held that the “spirit” here is Christ’s divine nature, but modern commentators all recognise that this is amounts to reading later theological concerns back into the New Testament.

Many hold that Peter is speaking of the survival, with increased vigour, of Christ’s divine (or divine-human) spirit, after the death of his body. It is argued that “flesh” and “spirit” refer to two separable parts of Christ. However, in Greek the expression “made alive” (zoopoietheis) can apply only to what has been lifeless, dead, and this is particularly obvious here, where there is a direct contrast to being “put to death” (Greek thanatotheis).

Clearly, then, Peter is referring to Christ’s resurrection. In the New Testament, the verb zoopoiein is used routinely in this sense, as a virtual equivalent to egeirein, “to raise up”. As Kelly explains: “Here the contrast…is between Christ’s death and resurrection The verb for ‘make alive’…is virtually synonymous with ‘raise from the dead’…”

Furthermore, “flesh” and “spirit” do not refer here to two parts of Christ or of human nature. “In fact the flesh-spirit distinction which we meet in the NT…is completely OT in inspiration and has nothing to do with the Greek, ultimately Platonic, dichotomy of soul and body…” Nor is it likely that the “spirit” here is the Holy Spirit, although that interpretation would accord with the resurrection (Rom. 8:11).

To continue reading Warren Prestidge’s article, click here.

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Anthony Buzzard – What Happens When We Die? A Biblical View of Death and Resurrection

If contemporary secular society has retained a flicker of interest in any department of religion, it is surely in the question of life after death—if only to provide answers for inquiring youngsters. Faith in the reality of life beyond the grave seems to be faltering, since an article in the NOW magazine of December, 1979 quoted the astonishing statistic that 50% of those who claim to be Christians and churchgoing members of the Church of England do not believe in an afterlife! And yet, in New Testament terms, Christianity without a belief in the afterlife represents an absurd contradiction. Indeed, the tendency to doubt the future resurrection of the faithful called forth some of Paul’s most forceful words. To the church at Corinth he wrote:

First and foremost, I handed on to you the facts which had been imparted to me: that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised to life on the third day, according to the Scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas [Peter] and afterwards to the Twelve. Then he appeared to James, and afterwards to all the apostles. In the end he appeared even to me…This is what we all proclaim, and this is what you believed. Now if this is what we proclaim, that Christ was raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there be no resurrection, then Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, then our gospel is null and void, and so is your faith; and we turn out to be lying witnesses for God, because we bore witness that he raised Christ to life, whereas, if the dead are not raised, he did not raise him. For if the dead are not raised, it follows that Christ was not raised; and if Christ was not raised, your faith has nothing in it and you are still in your old state of sin. It follows also that those who have died within Christ’s fellowship are utterly lost. If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we of all men are most to be pitied (1 Cor. 15:3-8, 11-19, NEB).

To continue reading Anthony Buzzard’s book, click here

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Michael Boling – Exposition of John 11:35: Jesus Wept


“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

As the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 is likely one that most, if not all Christians have memorized. Be honest now. When you were a child in Sunday School or VBS and you were asked to select just one verse in all of the Bible to memorize for a prize, this is probably the verse you selected. Beyond its brevity, I believe these two simple words express a profound truth, a veritable treasure trove of simplistic profundity if you will. In this post, I would like to explore what John 11:35 says about Jesus and his mission and why there is more to this passage than just Jesus feeling sad over the death of a friend.

First, let’s look at what the word “wept” means in this passage. It is the Greek verb dakryō which simply means “to weep or shed tears”. Interestingly, John 11:35 is the only time this particular verb is used in the New Testament. However, the word from which dakryō is derived, namely the Greek noun dakryon or tear(s) is found ten times in the New Testament. William Mounce, in his Reverse-Interlinear New Testament translates John 11:35 as “Jesus burst into tears.”[1]

With that as a foundation, we need to then examine the context of John 11:35 to take note of why Jesus burst forth into tears and along the way, we will also compare the response of Jesus to the emotional response from the other individuals in this event, namely Mary and Martha, the sisters of the deceased Lazarus.

Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha and friend of Jesus had died. Jesus had been made aware that Lazarus was sick and closing in on death with the hope He would come and heal Lazarus. However, Jesus tarried, refraining from immediately journeying from Jerusalem to Bethany to attend to His sick friend. We know from other miracles Jesus performed that He did not have to physically touch an individual in order to heal them. One simple word could result in anyone at any location on earth being healed by Jesus. Yet Jesus chose to not do anything at that time which begs the question as to why, especially since Lazarus was such a close friend. Jesus notes his reasoning in John 11:14-15, declaring “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

At first glance, this seems to be a rather nonchalant approach to a sad situation. Lazarus, friend of Jesus had died. Those who heard the words of Jesus recorded in John 11:14-15 must have been taken aback given the fact that not only did Jesus decide not to journey to Bethany to heal Lazarus or to at least comfort him as he lay dying, but upon the death of Lazarus, Jesus simply states that Lazarus is dead and He is glad that happened for their sakes. That is quite a statement to make and it surely left many scratching their heads as to what the overall intention and motive of Jesus was all about.

Next, we find Jesus embarking on the two day journey from Jerusalem to Bethany. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Martha, upon hearing of Jesus’ arrival, went out to meet Him, but Mary her sister stayed in the house. We find Martha declaring that if only Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died with Jesus providing a bit of a clue as to what His plans were in His statement “Lazarus will rise again.” Martha, seemingly clueless as to what Jesus was ultimately intending to do, responds with recognition that she did believe that in the resurrection, Lazarus would live again. Jesus responded to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live”, a pivotal verse for understanding what John 11:35 is really all about and something we will return to a bit later.

After observing Mary and those who were mourning the death of Lazarus weeping, we are told in verse 33, “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” Before we see how everything we have discussed thus far ties into John 11:35, we need to first look at the different word used for weeping in reference to Mary and the Jews who were there at the time. John uses the Greek verb klaiō which means “to mourn, weep, lament; of those who mourn for the dead.” This word is used 41 times in the New Testament, typically in conjunction with someone mourning for the dead as demonstrated in John 11 or those mourning over an event or a difficult situation.

We next need to examine two other important words which speak further to how Jesus felt about the death of Lazarus, that of “groaned” and “troubled” used in John 11:33. The word translated as “groaned” is the Greek verb embrimaomai which means “to charge with earnest admonition, sternly to charge, threatened to enjoin.” “Troubled” is the Greek verb tarassō which is defined as “to affect with great pain and sorrow.” So what we have is Jesus earnestly impacted with great pain and sorrow at the death of Lazarus. This means that Jesus was not devoid of passion and love for others as He took on human flesh. Jesus was saddened greatly by the physical death of Lazarus. In fact, this is why Jesus burst out in tears. Unfortunately, many tend to stop there simply believing the only reason Jesus was moved to tears was because He was saddened at the death of His friend. In reality, there is far more to the story.

As we dig a bit deeper, what needs to be noticed in the overall flow of this passage is the perspective taken by the different players in this drama. Mary, Martha, and those surrounding them mourned the fact that Lazarus had died. Even though Martha expressed a belief in the resurrection from the dead, her focus was on the immediate loss of her brother with little focus on what Jesus had declared in verse 25. Now we must not be too hard on Martha because many at that time were not aware of the mission Jesus would soon accomplish or what He was alluding to in verse 25, something we will now discuss as we move towards examining why Jesus wept in John 11:35.

We ask again why would Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus? Was it just because He was saddened at the loss of a friend or was there a greater issue this entire event speaks to that must be examined? As we noted earlier in this post, a key verse to understanding what is taking place and why Jesus did not immediately heal Lazarus is found in John 11:25 where he declared “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” What a profound statement and one that speaks to the very reason Jesus came, namely to deal with the issue of sin and death. Jesus is the one promised way back in Genesis 3:15, the One who would bruise the head of the enemy. Why did God make that prophecy at that time? It demonstrated why there was a need for a Redeemer. Since the wages of sin is death, both physical and spiritual death that impacts our relationship as the creation with our Creator, a Redeemer was needed to fix this problem. The reason why God told Adam and Eve that if they ate of the fruit, dying they would die is because physical death would now be a process of life. Additionally, our spiritual relationship with God was impacted due to sin which again required a Redeemer to come to provide a solution to both issues.

The entire movement of Scripture points to Jesus, the Redeemer. At this point in the gospel account, Jesus was slowly but surely making His way to the cross, the truly pivotal point in all of history. Jesus could have either healed Lazarus when He was notified that Lazarus was sick or Jesus could have raised Lazarus from the dead without mentioning the fact that He is THE resurrection and the life. For Jesus, raising Lazarus was not really the point of the exercise. The point of raising Lazarus from the dead was to have the opportunity to relay the fact that physical death is a part of life due to sin. While Jesus raised Lazarus back to life, Lazarus would yet again succumb to the wages of sin which is death. The good news that is found throughout Scripture is that of redemption through the cross. Jesus notes that gospel message in his statement “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” Death has no sting in the grand scheme of things for those who believe in the Redeemer because Jesus conquered death and the grave. As believers, we have the promise of the resurrection from the dead.

So why did Jesus weep? This still remains a bit of an unanswered question in our journey through John 11. We have already noted that Jesus demonstrated His compassion for Mary and Martha and the loss of their brother. This shows at least that Jesus was not some emotionless person who was not moved with compassion while He walked the earth. But why did Jesus weep? Was it just a feeling of sorrow at the death of a loved one? I think the Pulpit Commentary’s statement on this passage says it best:

“Jesus wept. The shortest verse, but one of the most suggestive in the entire Scripture. The great wrath against death is subdued now into tears of love, of sympathy, and of deep emotion. Jesus shed tears of sympathetic sorrow. This is in sacred and eternal refutation of the theory which deprives the incarnate Logos of St. John of human heart and spirit. These tears have been for all the ages a grand testimony to the fullness of his humanity, and also a Diving revelation of the very heart of God (see Isaiah 25:8).”[2]

For those not familiar with Isaiah 25:8, that passage states “He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.” We know that is the very thing that will ultimately take place when Christ returns. At the cross, the penalty of death was paid on our behalf and at the resurrection of Christ, the first fruits down payment, the promise of our future resurrection from the dead and eternal life was demonstrated. So John 11:35 really speaks to the very heart of who God is and what His plan has been from before the foundation of the world to deal with this sin and death problem. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word wept with those who weep. The Word died on a cross in order to reconcile sinful man and a holy God. The Word of God points to the Word who brings life and who conquered the grave so that we might live. The Word wept when Lazarus died because He knows the impact sin has on our relationship with Him. John 11:35, although the shortest verse in all of Scripture, speaks a truly profound message. God loves us so much that He gave His one and only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Jesus wept. Who knew so much could be packed into such a small verse!

[1] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11&version=MOUNCE
[2] http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/john/11.htm

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Michael Todhunter – Do Leaves Die?


Fall in America and throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere is a beautiful time of year. Bright reds, oranges, and yellows rustle in the trees and then blanket the ground as warm weather gives way to winter cold. Many are awed at God’s handiwork as the leaves float to the ground like Heaven’s confetti. But fall may also make us wonder, “Did Adam and Eve ever see such brilliant colors in the Garden of Eden?” Realizing that these plants wither at the end of the growing season may also raise the question, “Did plants die before the Fall of mankind?”

Before we can answer this question, we must consider the definition of die. We commonly use the word die to describe when plants, animals, or humans no longer function biologically. However, this is not the definition of the word die or death in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word for die (or death), mût (or mavet), is used only in relation to the death of man or animals with the breath of life, not regarding plants. This usage indicates that plants are viewed differently from animals and humans.

Plants, Animals, and Man — All Different

What is the difference between plants and animals or man? For the answer we need to look at the phrase nephesh chayyah. Nephesh chayyah is used in the Bible to describe sea creatures (Genesis 1:20–21), land animals (Genesis 1:24), birds (Genesis 1:30), and man (Genesis 2:7). Nephesh is never used to refer to plants. Man specifically is denoted as nephesh chayyah, a living soul, after God breathed into him the breath of life. This contrasts with God telling the earth on Day Three to bring forth plants (Genesis 1:11). The science of taxonomy, the study of scientific classification, makes the same distinction between plants and animals.

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Marc Ambler – Is, Ought or Enemy?: Making Sense of Death and Suffering


I began writing this article in the Olifants rest camp in Kruger National Park; a nature reserve 20,000 sq km (7,000 sq miles) in size, almost as large as Wales in the UK. It is traversed by hundreds of kilometers of roads where, though tens of thousands of people visit every year, one can drive on dirt roads and not see another vehicle for long periods of time. It teems with wildlife and one can come across elephant, zebra, rhinoceros, lion or buffalo around any bend in the road.

One of our remarkable experiences over a few days’ visit was the observation of a giraffe pair trying to coax their youngster across a river in which we subsequently saw some crocodiles furtively hiding. The male and female adults were on the one side waiting for the youngster which after some time, ran about one third of the way into the river, hesitated, turned, and with a kick if its hind legs ran back to the side and up the bank.

What followed was a fascinating ‘story’ as the father crossed back across the river and tried to gently coax the reticent teenager to the water, hooking the youngster’s neck with his own and nudging him in a direction he was loath to take. The young giraffe continued heading away from the river, looking back as his father headed in the opposite direction along the river bank. Eventually the youngster lost courage and came back to the father. The last we saw they were walking together down the river, presumably looking for a safer place to cross, the mother keeping abreast of them on the opposite bank.

As well as the 150 mammal species, the park hosts 340 tree, 115 reptile, 50 fish and 35 amphibian species. And after a day of game viewing either self-drive or with a park ranger, visitors can relax in any one of a number of camps, each an oasis of green within a sometimes hostile environment.

The park began with the proclamation of a reserve by Paul Kruger the president of the South African Republic (1883–1902). A Christian whose stated goal in establishing the park was “for setting aside certain areas where game could be protected and where nature could remain unspoiled as the Creator made it”, Kruger did so against much opposition in an era of unrestrained hunting and settlement of land. It today is a trans-frontier park extending into Mozambique in the east and Zimbabwe to the north.

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Michael Boling – Lessons From the Garden: Existence, Relationships, and Processes – The Tragedy of Sin


Something happened in Genesis 3 that shifted the course of history and impacted the entire universe. It seemed like such an innocent or unimportant action as after all, what is the big deal with eating something? We all need to eat right? Shouldn’t we as humans be able to decide for ourselves our own actions and what we believe to be right and wrong, if there even is such a thing?

Such a series of questions is potentially what was going through the minds of Adam and Eve as they pondered the tempting words of Ha-Satan that fateful day in the Garden. Whatever type of food grew on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was being talked up with God’s command to not partake of that tree being questioned. Adam and Eve both gave in to the lure and the lies of the enemy, thus disobeying God’s singular and clear command of “Do not eat”. As a covenant, God’s command to Adam and Eve had two consequences attached to it – Do not eat and you will live; Eat and dying you shall die. Disobedience of God’s commands is noted throughout Scripture as sin. Thus, the actions of Adam and Eve in disobeying God was sin and their sinful deed thrust the entire created order into disarray just as God had declared it would if they disobeyed His command.

As we continue to examine the threefold issue of existence, relationships, and processes, we have moved from a state of perfection to a place where sin has impacted the entire construct of the universe. Our current existence is perfectly described in Romans 8:22 which states, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” Why does it groan? It groans under the weight and impact of the consequences of sin.

God made a covenant with Adam in the Garden – do not eat of the tree and you will live; eat of the tree and dying you shall die. In breaking the terms of that agreement by sinning against God’s command, Adam introduced a drastic change to humanity’s existence. No longer would man live in perfect harmony with nature and his fellow man with eternal physical life being the norm. In sinning, Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden and from the physical presence of their Creator. Instead of tending a lush Garden and having dominion over creation, thorns, thistles, and enmity between, man and fellow man and man and creation was the new norm. The travails of childbirth was the new norm. Furthermore, our existence now included a constant battle between the seed of Ha-Satan and the seed of the woman, a constant struggle against not just the daily battle to survive physically, but also spiritually. Our very existence post-sin experienced a dramatic shift from a place of perfection to the groaning we now see all around us.

This alteration of our existence post-sin also has a massive impact on relationships. As we noted above, man was removed from the Garden and from the physical presence of God. Sin impacts our relationship with God. He is holy and that which is not holy cannot enter His presence. We fight the constant battle of the lure of the flesh versus obedience to God’s commands for righteous living. Our hearts chase after evil rather than being in passionate love with our Creator. We have a broken relationship with our God that needs mending. Sin also impacts our relationship with our fellow human beings. God gave us His commands so that we might understand what it means to love God and others. When we watch the evening news, it is evident that man’s relationship with man is marred by murder, lust, envy, jealousy, rage, theft, adultery with these just being the tip of the iceberg regarding man’s inhumanity to man. Our relationships with others are broken and need mending.

Finally, we come to the issue of processes. Earlier I mentioned the aspect of God’s covenant with Adam that if he disobeyed God’s command, dying he would die. Sin introduced the process of death and decay. The Hebrew verb construct in Genesis 2:17 speaks of the process of dying that will assuredly result in the finality of death at a future point. In the Garden, the process was one of life without death and decay. Post-sin, we know experience all around us a much different reality, one of things wearing out (i.e. decay) and that of physical death. The processes of life need mending.

If this seems like somewhat of a depressing post let me assure you that it is just that very thing. Understanding the past reality of perfection in the Garden and understanding the present reality of a universe that is marred by the impact of sin allows us to grasp what the promise of redemption and restoration is all about. Moreover, if we do not understand what we are redeemed from and why we need to be restored and what that redemption and restoration will look like, we truly are missing the entire flow of the biblical message. I noted that our existence needs mending, our relationships need mending, and that the processes of life need mending. God promised in Genesis 3:15 that One would come to deal with Ha-Satan so that this mess we now endure would be fixed. The One who came is Yeshua our Messiah. He is our Redeemer.

In the next and final post in this series, we will take a look at what this redemption is all about and how our existence, relationships, and the processes of life will be mended forevermore.

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Michael Boling – Lessons from the Garden: The Theological Importance of No Animal Death Before Sin


Other than the discussion over the issue of how long the days of Genesis 1 are, arguably one of the most heated debates among evangelicals on the issue of origins is whether there was any death and more specifically, whether the is a biblical case for animal death before sin. Typically those who aver the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) or Biblical Creationist model of origins unequivocally state Scripture teaches there was no death, animal or human before sin.

Many might ask why this issue is of any importance when interpreting Scripture. After all, what does it matter if animals died as this is a normal course of nature and passages such as Romans seem to only discuss the fact that Adam sinned thus causing the need for the redemption of humanity. What does that principle have to do with the issue of whether or not animal death might or might not have occurred before sin? These are valid questions and as we continue to learn valuable lessons from the formative pages of Scripture, we can understand this issue of death and when it began to rear its ugly head and why this is of such importance.

It certainly does not take a rocket scientist to observe or comprehend we live in a world replete with sin, from ISIS to abortion to famine to all manner of man’s inhumanity to man throughout history. To a large degree, such horror should not be surprising to the reader of Scripture. The Apostle Paul declared in Romans 3:10-11 “”There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” Later in this same chapter Paul notes “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the animal kingdom there exists the food chain where some animals prey on other animals for food with humans arguably existing at the top of this food chain. We also readily observe animals and humans eating plants for sustenance. This order of business is accepted as the normal order of things in our present world. What do this have to do with a discussion of whether animal death existed before sin you might ask? In response to such a question one must first establish the current nature of things in order to investigate whether Scripture describes what life was originally intended to be like at the beginning of creation and in the Garden of Eden.

Old Testament Teachings

Was Edenic life the same as we observe it today with a cycle of life and death existing in the animal kingdom or is death an intruder into the original plan God had due to the entrance of sin? The answer to that question is what we will address next.

Much debate centers on how to interpret the nature of the original creation. Was the original creation perfect in every way with no evidence of death among animals and the first humans (Adam and Eve) as averred by YECs or did God merely create everything as good or even just very good with allowance for death among animals? In order to answer this we have to get into some “nerdy” study of the original language. Additionally, we have to look at the overall concept of sin and death to include what the inclusion of death in the original creation might mean in the overall scheme of Scripture.

Five times in Genesis 1 God declares his creative act to be good. On the sixth and final day of creation, God declared his creative act to be very good. The Hebrew word used for good in Genesis 1:10, 12, 18, 21, and 25 is טוֹב transliterated as towb. As with many Hebrew words towb has a large semantic range meaning it has a wide variety of meanings depending on the context. With that said, despite the large semantic range for towb the central essence of the word is a description of something that is excellent, valuable in estimation, upright, excelling, or beautiful just to name a few of the more frequent uses of the word in the Old Testament. At the conclusion of the creation week God declared his creation of man to be very good or in the Hebrew טוֹב מְאֹד transliterated as meh•ōde’ towb. The Hebrew lexicons translate these words together to mean exceedingly or greatly good. With all that said is there still room for a lack of perfection in the original creation where death, at least among the animal kingdom to have existed.

Some suggest that if the original creation was perfect, a different term should have been used, such as the Hebrew word shalom as it is stated by those individuals that the word used for good in Genesis 1 does not indicate or imply a state of perfection.

If shalom means perfection and towb (good) merely means good or very good then why is shalom not used in Genesis 1 to describe the original creation? That is actually a very good question. While shalom does indeed reflect an essence of perfection, the perfection subsumed within the variety of meanings of this word addresses an entirely different aspect of life that what is depicted in the opening chapter of Genesis. It reflects the wellbeing of a person, most notably in their wholeness, whether physical or spiritual. While some might aver there is a similarity in application to what would be described in a perfect creation, the differences in use of shalom and tob are notable and important.

Working our way back to how tob is used in Genesis 1 we must establish what good or very good meant in the context of this chapter. Noted Old Testament scholars Keil and Delitzsch provide some valuable insight into this issue. They note:

”God saw his work, and behold it was all very good; i.e., everything perfect in its kind, so that every creature might reach the goal appointed by the Creator, and accomplish the purpose of its existence. By the application of the term “good” to everything that God made, and the repetition of the word with the emphasis “very” at the close of the whole creation, the existence of anything evil in the creation of God is absolutely denied, and the hypothesis entirely refuted, that the six days’ work merely subdued and fettered an ungodly, evil principle, which had already forced its way into it.”[1]

To insert animal death before sin by the misinterpretation and misapplication of tob is to affirm the existence of evil, in this case death, before the entrance of sin. God quite clearly declared the original creation to be perfect, free from the influence of death.

What then did the original creation, both animals and man eat for sustenance and if they ate plants does that not mean there was death as plants then had to die in order to be eaten. To a large degree there is not much disagreement that plants are not living beings or nephesh chayyah and thus could not have experienced death. Genesis 1:29 states God gave man “every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” Furthermore, perhaps in expectation of those who would claim that animals ate one another prior to the fall God stated in Genesis 1:30 “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

The first instance where the death of an animal is described in Scripture is in Genesis 3:21 where “God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them,” a clear prototype of the sacrificial covering of sin which found its completion in the death of the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ on behalf of the sins of all mankind.

New Testament Teachings

Now we will look at what the New Testament has to say about the impact of sin on both mankind and creation. The same naysayers who attempt to allow for animal death before sin look to the New Testament, in particular the teachings of the apostle Paul as evidence that sin only impacted humanity and thus was not relevant or did not impact the animal kingdom. They point to verses such as Romans 8:22 which says: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” as well as Romans 5:14 which states “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.”

The full impact of sin is noted quite clearly in Romans 8:22 where Paul states “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” In order to fully understand this passage we must back up a couple of verses to Romans 8:20-21 where the full impact of sin can be observed. Romans 8:20-22 states:

”For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

What exactly is Romans 8:20-22 referring to? Biblical scholar James Dunn comments that Romans 8:22 “speaks of a suffering in which all creation participates.”[3] The impact of sin was so great it resulted in a curse upon the entirely of creation to such a degree the entire universe groans under the weight of this sin to this present day. Just in case there was any question as to what is meant by all of creation all one has to do is look at the meaning of the Greek word used for creation in Romans 8:22, namely κτίσις which is transliterated as ktisis. This word refers to all of creation or anything that was created to include both man and animals. The Apostle Paul wonderfully outlined how the sin of Adam impacted not only humanity but all of God’s creation to such an extent that the perfection experienced in God’s original towb creation will not be experience again until Christ comes back to restore all things to perfection.

Some try and get around the completeness of the impact of sin by stating the animal kingdom experienced death prior to sin; however, sin did impact humanity, thus trying to skirt the proper use and application of what is intended by “all of creation”. Such a position demonstrates a lack of understanding of what kosmos means throughout the New Testament. Even a cursory look at a respected Greek lexicon such as Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament would have revealed that in Romans 5:12 kosmos “is synonymous with the Old Testament “heaven and earth” and…denotes here the universe which consists of heaven and earth and in which is found the totality of all individual creatures.”[4] The concept is not that animals sin. Conversely, what is meant is that through the sin of Adam, death became an unfortunate fact of life for not only humanity but for all of creation.

The cycle of sin and death currently experienced by humanity was not the order of the day in the original creation. Man and animals were originally created as vegetarians. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God placed a curse on man, Satan, and the earth. Thus sin impacted not just man but all of creation. Redemption will come to all of creation when Christ returns. To accommodate the presence of death in the animal kingdom before sin is not a trivial thing as making such assertions or accommodations reflects an inaccurate understanding of the grand theme sin and redemption portrayed throughout Scripture. Death, whether that be human or animal death, was an intrusion into God’s perfect creation. Sin is the fly in the ointment if you will and nowhere in Scripture is there a demonstration of the existence of death in the original created order before sin.


[1] C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), 41-42.
[2] Paul Taylor, Six Days in Genesis (Green Forest: Master Books, 2007), 32.
[3] James Dunn, Word Biblical Commentary: Romans 1-8 (Dallas: Word Books, 1988), 472.
[4] G. F. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Volume III (Grand Rapids: Rm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2006), 884.

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