Cosmic and Universal Death from Adam’s Fall: An Exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a

by Henry B. Smith Jr

Paul’s theological treatise in the epistle to the Romans clearly teaches that the animal kingdom and the entire universe experienced a universal death sentence at the time of Adam’s fall in Genesis 3. This provides solid support for a young-earth understanding of the Creation/Fall narratives found in the early chapters of Genesis. First, a detailed exegesis of Romans 8:19–23a demonstrates this. The Greek word for creation, κτίσις (ktisis), in this context refers to the entire sub-human created order. Second, ‘the one who subjected it in hope’ in verse 20 is God. Lastly, there is a direct connection between this passage and the universal death sentence caused by the fall of Adam in Genesis 3:14–19.

Translation of Romans 8:19–23

The Greek text of Romans 8:19-23

The Greek text of Romans 8:19–23 (UBS) supports a young-earth understanding of the creation/fall narratives found in the early chapters of Genesis.

19 For the eager expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revealing of the sons of God;

20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but on account of the one who subjected it in hope

21 because the creation itself also will be liberated from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God

22 For we know that the whole creation groans together and suffers together until now;

23a and not only this, but ourselves also

23b who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait for adoption
as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

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Albert Mohler – The Integrity of Words and Our Confession of Faith

dr-mohler1 In the beginning was the Word. Christians rightly cherish the declaration that our Savior, the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, is first known as the Word — the one whom the Father has sent to communicate and to accomplish our redemption. We are saved because the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Believers are then assigned the task of telling others about the salvation that Christ has brought, and this requires the use of words. We tell the story of Jesus by deploying words, and we cannot tell the story without them. Our testimony, our teaching, and our theology all require the use of words. Words are essential to our worship, our preaching, our singing, and our spiritual conversation. In other words, words are essential to the Christian faith and central in the lives of believers.

As Martin Luther rightly observed, the church house is to be a “mouth house” where words, not images or dramatic acts, stand at the center of the church’s attention and concern. We live by words and we die by words.

Truth, life, and health are found in the right words. Lies, disaster, and death are found in the wrong words. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” [1 Timothy 6:3-5]

Later, Paul will instruct Timothy that sound words come to us in a revealed pattern. “Follow the pattern of sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” [2 Timothy 1:13-14]

Theological education is a deadly serious business. The stakes are so high. A theological seminary that serves faithfully will be a source of health and life for the church, but an unfaithful seminary will set loose a torrent of trouble, untruth, and sickness upon Christ’s people. Inevitably, the seminaries are the incubators of the church’s future. The teaching imparted to seminarians will shortly be inflicted upon congregations, where the result will be either fruitfulness or barrenness, vitality or lethargy, advance or decline, spiritual life, or spiritual death.

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Adolph Saphir – The “Mystery” of Israel

It is the duty of every minister of Christ to explain the mystery of Israel. It is a part of our holy religion.

It belongs to the counsel of God. It is inseparably connected with the truth as it is in Jesus.

There can be no true and full preaching of the Gospel without explaining the mystery of Israel. The very “simplest form of speech which infant lips can try”—the most elementary expression of our faith—is, “Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah”; and who can understand what is meant by the word Messiah who does not know the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, that this is the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham? The sum and substance of all the declaration of the Church is this—that Jesus has come in humility and died upon Golgotha, and that Jesus is coming again in glory. And who can understand the first and the second advents of our blessed Lord, without understanding that people which, so to say, forms the link between the two, even Israel, whom God has chosen that through them should be made known His glory and His salvation?

A minister is a steward of the mysteries of God—things which no human wisdom, and things which no human mind by its own exertions, can understand, but which God has revealed unto us in the Scripture and by the Holy Ghost. There is the mystery of godliness, “God manifested in the flesh.” There is the great mystery of “the Church which is His body.” There is the mystery of Israel, the everlasting nation, chosen of God to be the centre of the earth, and to show forth His power and goodness to all nations.

Now in these three mysteries there is one side which is patent and intelligible to all men.

Jesus Christ is an historical character. The words of Jesus are read by all. It is a matter of history that there was Jesus, and that He exerted a mighty influence in the world. But there is a mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh; and no human analysis will be able to discover that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. We, then, if we are messengers of Christ, must tell every one we know that there is a person, Jesus; but who Jesus is can only be revealed to you by the power of the Holy Ghost. We declare to you the mystery of godliness. Likewise every person knows that there is a Church, that there is a community of people who profess to believe in Jesus, but what the Church really is, is a mystery—Christ the Head, and we the members.

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Michael Boling – Reflections on Judges 8-9


Judges 8-9

The men of Ephraim became angry with Gideon because he had not called them to war against the Midianites. Gideon and his men, although physically exhausted, continued to pursue the Midianites. Arriving in pursuit at Succoth, Gideon asked for some food to be provided to his men as they were exhausted from their pursuit. The men of Succoth refused and Gideon responded that once he was done with the Midianites, he would return and tear their flesh with thorns and briars. Gideon and his men traveled to Penuel and requested food from that city as well with the same response of no provided to them. Gideon declared he would return to that city and would tear down their tower.

Zebah and Zalmunna were at Karkor along with their armies, a total of about 15,000 men. Gideon and his men attacked the camp of Zebah and Zalmunna, routing the whole army and forcing those two kings to flee, capturing both of them.

Returning from the battle, Gideon came to Succoth and found out where the leaders of Succoth were staying. Gideon showed those men Zebah and Zalmumma and then took the leaders of Succoth and thrashed them with thorns and briars as he had promised. Gideon then went to Penuel, tore down their tower and killed the men of the city.

Having capture Zebah and Zalmunna, Gideon told his firstborn son Jether to kill them. He refused and Zebah and Zalmunna taunted Gideon saying if he had any strength as a man, he would kill them. Gideon did as they suggested, taking the crescent ornaments that were on the necks of their camels.

The men of Israel asked Gideon to rule over them, but he refused, telling them God would rule over them. Gideon did make a request of the men, asking them to give him the earrings captured as plunder. They gladly gave Gideon those earrings. Gideon made an ephod out of those earrings and set it up in Ophrah. All Israel played the harlot there with the ephod and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

The land remained quiet under Gideon for 40 years. His concubine bore Gideon a son named Abimelech. When Gideon died, the people once again did what was evil in the sight of God, serving the baals, making Baal-Berith their god.

Abimelech went to Shechem to his mother’s brothers and asked them if it was better that 70 men ruled over them or only one. The men of Shechem gave Abimelech 70 pieces of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless men to follow him. He went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers and the 70 sons of Jerubbaal. Only the youngest son remained alive because he had hid himself. The men of Shechem made Abimelech their king.

When this was told to Jotham, the youngest son who had survived and hid himself, Jotham went to the top of Mount Gerizim and cried out to the men of Shechem that what they had done with Abimelech was wrong and they had forgotten all Gideon had done for them, let alone what God had done for them.

Abimelech reigned over Israel for three years, but God sent a spirit of ill will between Abimelech and the men of Shechem so the crime committed against the sons of Jerubbaal might be settled.
The end of Abimelech came in a rather interesting manner. As he camped against the city of Thebek and came against that city to take it, he encountered a strong tower in the city where all the men and women of the city had fled. Abimelech came against the tower and fought against it and he came near the door of the tower in order to set it on fire. A woman dropped an upper millstone on his head, crushing his skull. So that he would not be known as having died at the hands of a woman, Abimelech asked his armorbearer to take his sword and kill him which he did. When the men of Israel saw that Abimelech had died, they returned to their homes.

Andrew S. Kulikovsky – The Bible and hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is the formal process by which the interpreter employs certain principles and methods in order to derive the author’s intended meaning. Naturally, this is foundational to all theological studies, and before a biblical theology of creation can be built, it is necessary to discuss the hermeneutical approach that should be utilised and how it should be applied to the text of Scripture, and in particular, the creation account of Genesis.

Biblical inerrancy

Presuppositions and prior understandings have always played a significant role in the hermeneutical process, and one such presupposition is biblical inerrancy. Inerrancy is a complex doctrine, but it is internally coherent, and consistent with a perfect and righteous God who has revealed Himself. Broadly speaking, the doctrine of inerrancy identifies Scripture as true and without error in all that it affirms, including its affirmations regarding history and the physical universe.1 Article IX of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states:

‘WE AFFIRM that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.

WE DENY that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.’

Concerning the role of history and science in the interpretation of Scripture relating to creation and the Flood, Article XII states:

‘WE AFFIRM that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.

WE DENY that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science. We further deny that scientific hypotheses about earth history may properly be used to overturn the teaching of Scripture on creation and the flood.’

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Nick Batzig – The Curse Reversed

Curse-Reversed-614x277 One of the great keys to understanding the nature of Jesus’ saving work is to understand the nature of the curse pronounced by God on His rebellious image bearers. No sooner did Adam sin against God, bringing guilt and corruption to the who human race, that God came with the covenant curses commensurate with the actions of His creatures. He first pronounces the curse on the evil One, who tempted our first parents to rebel against God; then He pronounced the curse on the woman and finally He pronounced the curse on the man–the federal head of all humanity. What is most fascinating about these curses is that they are strategically given in the order in which each creature rebelled, and they are strategically placed with regard to the role that each was to play in fulfilling the creation mandate to “have dominion” by being “fruitful and multiplying,” and by filling the earth and subduing it. In short, Adam and Eve were to turn the world into the Garden by obeying God and by populating and cultivating this world that God had created to be a habitable inheritance for His image bearers. Here are five thoughts about the curses and the way in which God reverses the curse through the second Adam in His work of redemption and new creation:

1. The first curse was place on the serpent because he was the first to rebel and the first to bring disorder into God’s world. The Scriptures make clear that “the Son of God was manifest to destroy the work of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The rest of the Bible is, in the words of Sinclair Ferguson, “essentially an extended footnote to Genesis 3:15.” It is the unfolding of the enmity that God set between Satan and his seed and the woman and her seed. Of course, we need to recognize that the word ‘Seed’ in Scripture is first singular and masculine in nature, but that a plurality of persons is included in it in a secondary and related sense. It carries the idea of the One (i.e. Christ) and the man. In this first curse, there is a promise. This is the first promise of a Redeemer. God promises to crush the head of the serpent, even as the serpent attacks and bruises the heal of the Seed of the woman. In the warfare between the serpent and the Seed of the woman, the serpent would experience a fatal wound while the Redeemer would experience a wound that was meant to be fatal but which would be as if he only had his heal bruised. The difference between the two wounds is that the Redeemers would be remedied in His resurrection from the dead. Stuart Robinson, an old Southern Presbyterian theologian, in his biblical-theological masterpiece Discourses of Redemption, set out eight things that Adam and Eve could have known from this first promise. He explained that they could have known:

That the Redeemer and Restorer of the race is to be man, since he is to be the seed of the woman.

That He is, at the same time, to be a being greater than man, and greater even than Satan; since he is to be the conqueror of man’s conqueror, and, against all his efforts, to recover a sinful world which man had lost; being yet sinless, he must therefore be divine.

That this redemption shall involve a new nature, at “enmity” with the Satan nature, to which man has now become subject.

That this new nature is a regeneration by Divine power; since the enmity to Satan is not a natural emotion, but, saith Jehovah, ” I will put enmity,” &c.

This redemption shall be accomplished by vicarious suffering; since the Redeemer shall suffer the bruising of his heel in the work of recovery.

That this work of redemption shall involve the gathering out of an elect seed a ” peculiar people” at enmity with the natural offspring of a race subject to Satan.

That this redemption shall involve & perpetual conflict of the peculiar people, under its representative head, in the effort to bruise the head of Satan, that is, ‘to destroy the works of the Devil.’

This redemption shall involve the ultimate triumph, after suffering, of the woman’s seed ; and therefore involves a triumph over death and a restoration of the humanity to its original estate, as a spiritual in conjunction with a physical nature, in perfect blessedness as before its fall.

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Dr. Albert Mohler – Throwing the Bible Under the Bus

In his 1996 novel, In the Beauty of the Lilies, John Updike told of the Reverend Clarence Arthur Wilmot, the fictional pastor of New York’s Fourth Presbyterian Church, who stopped believing in God one day in 1910. On that day, the Rev. Wilmot “felt the last particles of his faith leave him,” Updike wrote.

Rev. Wilmot’s crisis of faith was rooted in his loss of confidence in the Bible as the revealed Word of God. The influence of liberal critics of the Bible had reached him even at seminary years before, and now he saw the Scriptures as just another human book. In Updike’s words, the Scriptures were “one more human volume, more curious and conglomerate than most, but the work of men–of Jews in dirty sheepskins, rotten-toothed desert tribesmen with eyes rolled heavenward, men like flies on flypaper caught fast in a historic time, among the myths and conceptions belonging to the childhood of mankind.”

Updike’s brilliant and accurate depiction of the liberal approach to the Bible remains shocking. The Higher Critics, as the liberal scholars were then known, did indeed see the authors of the Old Testament as “rotten-toothed desert tribesmen” who could not see beyond “myths and conceptions belonging to the childhood of mankind.”

Well, the Reverend Clarence Arthur Wilmot was fictional, but Dr. Karl W. Giberson is not. Giberson is not a pastor, but a professor at Eastern Nazarene College near Boston. He is also a scientist involved with the BioLogos Foundation, a group committed to the defense and promotion of theistic evolution.

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John MacArthur – The Cost of Compromise

The-Cost-of-Compromise_620 Martin Luther wasn’t prone to compromise. He famously said in his sermon “Knowledge of God’s Will and Its Fruit”:

The world at the present time is sagaciously discussing how to quell the controversy and strife over doctrine and faith, and how to effect a compromise between the Church and the Papacy. Let the learned, the wise, it is said, bishops, emperor and princes, arbitrate. Each side can easily yield something, and it is better to concede some things which can be construed according to individual interpretation, than that so much persecution, bloodshed, war, and terrible, endless dissension and destruction be permitted.

Here is lack of understanding, for understanding proves by the Word that such patchwork is not according to God’s will, but that doctrine, faith and worship must be preserved pure and unadulterated; there must be no mingling with human nonsense, human opinions or wisdom.

The Scriptures give us this rule: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

It is interesting to speculate what the church would be like today if Luther had compromised. The pressure was heavy on him to tone down his teaching, soften his message, and stop poking his finger in the eye of the papacy. Even many of his friends and supporters urged Luther to come to terms with Rome for the sake of harmony in the church. Luther himself prayed earnestly that the effect of his teaching would not be divisive.

When he nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door, the last thing he wanted to do was split the church.

Yet sometimes division is fitting, even healthy, for the church. Especially in times like Luther’s—and like ours—when the visible church seems full of counterfeit Christians, it is right for the true people of God to declare themselves and defend the truth. Compromise is sometimes a worse evil than division. Second Corinthians 6:14-17 isn’t speaking only of marriage when it says:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Satan, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.

Sadly, this familiar command to separate is frequently both misunderstood and violated. But Paul is not giving believers license for legalism, sectarianism, or monasticism.

Instead, he’s drawing on an analogy from the Mosaic law. In Deuteronomy 22:10, the Lord commanded the Israelites, “You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together.” Those two animals do not have the same nature, gait, or strength. Therefore it would be impossible for such a mismatched pair to plow together effectively. They would be unequally yoked.

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Dr. Douglas Groothius – Six Enemies of Apologetic Engagement


The evangelical world today suffers from apologetic anemia. Despite the fact that holy Scripture calls believers to give a reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15; see also Jude 3), we sadly lack a public voice for truth and reason in the marketplace of ideas. We do not have a strong intellectual presence in popular or academic culture (although some areas, such as philosophy, are more influenced by evangelicals than others). The reasons for this anemia are multidimensional and complex.

Three recent books explore the lack of a “Christian mind” in contemporary evangelicalism, and I highly recommend them. Mark Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994) explores the historical roots of evangelical anti-intellectualism. Os Guinness’s Fit Bodies, Fat Minds (Baker Books, 1994), discusses some of the historical problems and also outlines what a Christian mind should look like. J.P. Moreland’s Love Your God with all of Your Mind (Navpress, 1997) explains why Christians don’t think, develops a biblical theology of the mind, and offers helpful apologetic arguments and strategies to empower the church intellectually.

My modest purpose is briefly to lay out six factors that illegitimately inhibit apologetic engagement today. If these barriers are removed, our apologetic witness may grow into what it should be in Christ.

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J. C. Ryle – 10 Marks of the Holy Spirit in a Believer

rp_ryle12_1.jpg What then are these general effects which the Spirit always produces on those who really have Him? What are the marks of His presence in the soul? This is the question which now remains to be considered. Let us try to set down these marks in order.

1. All who have the Spirit are quickened by Him, and made spiritually ALIVE. He is called in Scripture, “The Spirit of life.” (Rom. 8:3.) “It is the Spirit,” says our Lord Jesus Christ, “who quickens.” (John 6:63.) We are all by nature dead in trespasses and sins. We have neither feeling nor interest about true religion. We have neither faith, nor hope, nor fear, nor love. Our hearts are in a state of torpor; they are compared in Scripture to a stone. We may be alive about money, learning, politics, or pleasure—but we are dead towards God. All this is changed when the Spirit comes into the heart. He raises us from this state of death, and makes us new creatures. He awakens the conscience, and inclines the will towards God. He causes old things to pass away, and all things to become new. He gives us a new heart; He makes us put off the old man, and put on the new. He blows the trumpet in the ear of our slumbering faculties, and sends us forth to walk the world as if we were new beings.

How unlike was Lazarus shut up in the silent tomb, to Lazarus coming forth at our Lord’s command! How unlike was Jairus’ daughter lying cold on her bed amidst weeping friends, to Jairus’ daughter rising and speaking to her mother as she was accustomed to do! Just as unlike is the man in whom the Spirit dwells to what he was before the Spirit came into him.

I appeal to every thinking reader. Can he whose heart is manifestly full of everything but God–hard, cold, and insensible—can he be said to “have the Spirit”? Judge for yourself.

2. All who have the Spirit are taught by Him. He is called in Scripture, “The Spirit of wisdom and revelation.” (Eph. 1:17.) It was the promise of the Lord Jesus, “He shall teach you all things.” “He shall guide you into all truth.” (John 14:26; 16:13.) We are all by nature ignorant of spiritual truth. “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God—they are foolishness to him.” (1 Cor. 2:14.) Our eyes are blinded. We neither know God, nor Christ, nor ourselves, nor the world, nor sin, nor heaven, nor hell, as we ought. We see everything under false colors. The Spirit alters entirely this state of things. He opens the eyes of our understandings. He illumines us; He calls us out of darkness into marvelous light. He takes away the veil. He shines into our hearts, and makes us see things as they really are! No wonder that all true Christians are so remarkably agreed upon the essentials of true religion! The reason is that they have all learned in one school—the school of the Holy Spirit. No wonder that true Christians can understand each other at once, and find common ground of fellowship! They have been taught the same language, by One whose lessons are never forgotten.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who is ignorant of the leading doctrines of the Gospel, and blind to his own state—can he be said to “have the Spirit “? Judge for yourself

3. All who have the Spirit are led by Him to the SCRIPTURES. This is the instrument by which He specially works on the soul. The Word is called “the sword of the Spirit.” Those who are born again are said to be “born by the Word.” (Eph. 6:17; 1 Peter 1:23.) All Scripture was written under His inspiration—He never teaches anything which is not therein written. He causes the man in whom He dwells to “delight in the law of the Lord.” (Psalm 1:2.) Just as the infant desires the milk which nature has provided for it, and refuses all other food–so does the soul which has the Spirit desire the sincere milk of the Word. Just as the Israelites fed on the manna in the wilderness, so are the children of God taught by the Holy Spirit to feed on the contents of the Bible.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can he who never reads the Bible, or only reads it formally—can he be said to have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.

4. All who have the Spirit are convinced by Him of SIN. This is an especial office which the Lord Jesus promised He should fulfill. “When He has come, He shall reprove the world of sin.” (John 16:8.) He alone can open a man’s eyes to the real extent of his guilt and corruption before God. He always does this when He comes into the soul. He puts us in our right place. He shows us the vileness of our own hearts, and makes us cry with the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” He pulls down those proud, self-righteous, self-justifying notions with which we are all born, and makes us feel as we ought to feel, “I am a sinful man, and I deserve to be in hell!” Ministers may alarm us for a little season; sickness may break the ice on our hearts; but the ice will soon freeze again if it is not thawed by the breath of the Spirit! Convictions not wrought by Him will pass away like the morning dew.

I appeal again to every thinking reader. Can the man who never feels the burden of his sins, and knows not what it is to be humbled by the thought of them—can he have the Spirit? Judge for yourself.

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