Did God Intend Death?


(system) #1
The fuller biblical picture of death often gets lost in debates about origins.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/did-god-intend-death

(James Stump) #2

I found this post to be very thought provoking. Were you provoked? How have we misunderstood the role of death?


#3

I tend to be practical. Without death, where are you going to put everybody? And who wants an immortal parasite nibbling forever at your immortal guts?


(Larry Bunce) #4

Genesis 1:27 – So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

The only reason humans could have been created male and female was because God intended them to reproduce. Without death, the world would have become overpopulated very quickly. Plants had already been created bearing seed. Had every seed dropped by every tree grown to maturity, animals soon would have been unable to walk between the trees.

Earlier discussions on this forum have repeatedly brought up the fact that God threatened Adam and Eve with death if they ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. How could this have been a threat if they had never witnessed death?


(Lindsay Hudkins) #6

This is a very thought provoking article. Here is what I am wrestling with at the moment.

The author states: “God says ‘See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’ (Gen 2:22, NRSV).”

This implies that living forever was the goal - living forever without sin. Granted, the text does not seem to say that they were created immortal, but rather it was a gift that they had access to before sin entered into the picture.

Then later she states: “I think it can by a simple distinction: death without sin, physical death, was intended by God, but death with sin—physical death caused by or touched by spiritual death—was not.”

Why would God create image bearers for his earthly temple that were susceptible to physical death? That seems contrary to the other temple image we are given in Revelation where it seems that God’s original goal of living with his image bearers forever is accomplished. Access to the tree of life will not be taken away at that point because death has been forever conquered by Jesus. To say that God created humans to die (even a physical death without sin) seems a difficult concept for me to accept.

I would also argue that you cannot compare the death of an animal or plant to the death of a human. That seems to me to be equating human life with other life forms, when the Genesis story seems to point out the unique role and function of humanity, an extreme differentiation of purpose and place among life forms (even as a theistic evolutionist, I believe this).


(Jo Helen Cox) #7

Love this articale. Agree on so many points. God created death from the beginning of the universe.

My only objection is the last part of this sentence.

I think it can by a simple distinction: death without sin, physical death, was intended by God, but death with sin—physical death caused by or touched by spiritual death—was not. - See more at: http://biologos.org/blogs/jim-stump-faith-and-science-seeking-understanding/did-god-intend-death#sthash.EI1MH22P.dpuf

If God knows everything then He knew exactly what was going to happen in the garden. God knew the serpent would wiggle in. He knew the people would eat. He let them. That was His choice. Without these we would not have free will. What God intends is that we learn to use our free will to be good and not evil.

God created a physical realm to teach of of the spiritual realm. He wants image bearers to resemble His Spirit by following Him. When we stop being good we follow only our physical nature which tends to be very selfish. Satan’s whispers sound logical to selfish desires. We choose to become children of Satan instead of children of God. Evil slowly kills our soul and our spirit dies before we physically die.

What Jesus accomplished in His physical death changed nothing in regards to physical death, because.every Christian has died since.

We can and do compare humans with other life forms. Always have. To insist that our differentiation is so different that comparison is useless ignores all the traits that do compare. Those traits were place there by God for our understanding of our placement in creation. We are made from dust, the earth, just like animals. That means God intended for us to compare ourselves with animals, creatures who can not sin. Only humans have the Breath of God and the knowledge of good and evil. That is a spiritual thing not a physical thing.


(Bethany Sollereder) #8

@LindsayHudkins,
These are very good questions, and I think you are right on the money to ask them!

“Why would God create image bearers for his earthly temple that were susceptible to physical death?”

If death was always a part of this world, as I have suggested, then it means that the new Temple described in Revelation was also always intended. God always intended us to live, die, and live again. And this seems strange: why wouldn’t God just make us immortal from that start? The answer lies, I think, in the fact that there are values that can exist in a mortal, physical world that could not exist in an immortal, physical world.
Take reproduction as an example: if everyone lived together, it would be only a very few generations before the earth was full. Many people would never have gotten the chance to live, and the entire last generation would never get the chance to experience the joys of parenthood. There are wonderful values that only get a chance to happen because we have a mortal creation. People don’t usually imagine that there will be new babies in heaven.
This in itself might be enough. But consider other things: if God knew sin would happen (which is what you argued), then you wouldn’t want an immortal creation. That would mean people of evil would live forever: Genghis Khan, Stalin, Hitler–there would be no end to their reigns of terror. Perhaps God initially created us mortal because God knew that we would need time to get it right?
Keep asking good questions!


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9

God created the universe as a limited physical reality.

God did not have to create the universe, but God did, because God is good.

Did God need to created humans as physical, limited that is mortal beings? If we were unlimited eternal beings, wouldn’t we be exactly like God? How many Gods do we need?

My answer is that God created us as mortals, because that is the only way or the best way we could be created.

If we were not mortal limited beings we would not be born, we would live forever.

If we were not mortal limited beings, we would not have to make any serious choices to be good or evil, selfish or generous.

If we were not mortal limited beings, we would not have to love God and to love others

If we were not mortal limited beings we would not have to think about science and theology, we would not have to take care of the earth.

If we were not mortal limited beings we would not have to be a part of God’s kingdom, to marry, and support one another.

If we were not mortal limited beings we would not have to eat, to drink, to rest and sleep, to wear clothing, to live in dwellings, to have sex, to think, to work, to study, to communicate, to do anything.

If we were not mortal human beings we would not have to be saved by Jesus Christ and be responsible for the decisions that we make.

If we did not die, we could not really live.


(Paul Allen) #10

“Second, the heart of the Gospel itself actually shows that mere physical death is not the result of sin. After all, we believe that Jesus deals with our sin problem: completely, totally, once-and-for-all. But Christians still die physically”

You pose an interesting statement : “physical death is not the result of sin.”

The word death is used in a variety of ways in scriptue eg: Romans 6:10 “We have died to sin just as Jesus did”

“If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life — to those who commit sins that do not lead to death” (1 John 5:16a).

Specifically, John tells us that if we pray for a brother who commits a sin not leading to death, God will grant it to that sinner. On the other hand, there is a sin that leads to death, and though John does not exactly forbid praying for the brother who so transgresses, his language suggests that we should not be concerned to pray for those who commit the sin leading to death (1 John 5:16). The death spoken of refers to eternal death; thus, it seems likely John understands there to be at least one unforgiveable sin. So perhaps, you are correct!

But in Romans 6:1–13, Paul shows the relationship of union with Christ to mortification. In Romans 6, the apostle is answering the objection that justification promotes sin. He teaches that the work of Christ on the cross, which is the basis for justification, is also the basis of sanctification.

Paul bases his argument on the believer’s union with Christ in His death and resurrection. He says, “For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5 nasb).

The Bible sets forth this union under two heads: the believer is in union with Christ by covenant and by conversion. First, the believer is in union with Christ by covenant. In 1 Cor. 15:21–22, Paul establishes that all mankind was brought into sin and condemnation because it was in covenant with Adam. Similarly, all the elect are saved because they are in union with the Lord Jesus Christ.

When Christ came to earth He obeyed the law of God perfectly and offered His sinless life as a sacrifice for the sins of His people. Because He is the covenant head of His people, He acted for all His elect, and they acted in Him. When He obeyed, they obeyed; when He died, they died; when He rose from the dead, they arose. Thus, the guilt of their sin was imputed to Him as He hung on the cross, satisfying the wrath of God; therefore, their sins are forgiven (Rom. 3:24–26). Furthermore, because Christ obeyed the Law perfectly, His perfect obedience is imputed to them, and God declares them to be righteous (Rom. 6:7; 2 Cor. 5:21). This pardon and imputation of righteousness is the believer’s justification.

Jesus, in His role as prophet, interpreted His death in several of His “words” on the cross. He first suggested that His death was the death of death in His puzzling cry of dereliction, “ ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ ” (Matt. 27:46). Jesus always had spoken in language evoking unbroken fellowship with the first person of the Trinity, praying to and speaking of “the Father” or “My Father.” Now there was distance—“My God,” not “My Father.” Had the Father truly abandoned the Son? Or did Jesus merely feel abandoned?

Jesus’ wrenching question contains no error. The Father turned from the Son during “the great exchange,” when Jesus bore our sins and gave us His righteousness. He became accursed for us (Gal. 3:13). He who knew no sin became sin, and when He did, He suffered the consequence—separation from the holy God (2 Cor. 5:21; Hab. 1:13). The death of death began here, when the spotless Lamb suffered death for His people.

Jesus’ other words on the cross agree that His death constitutes the decisive blow against death. In John 19:30 Jesus declared, “ ‘It is finished.’ ” Perhaps, therefore, Jesus meant He had paid the debt of sin in full. But the word for “finish” usually means to complete or fulfill rather than to pay. Jesus had finished the work the Father had given Him (John 17:4). His sacrifice had put sin and death to death.

From the beginning, Scripture testifies that the wages of sin is death (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 6:23). This is a wage all humans will have earned for their own sin when they stand before God, their Judge. Yet while we will stand before God one by one, we also will stand before Him as members of a community, in solidarity with our representatives, Adam and Jesus. When Adam sinned, death entered the world and reigned over all (Rom. 5:12–21). But Jesus reconciled us to God through His death (5:10). He brought grace rather than judgment, justification in place of condemnation, life instead of death (5:15–21).

But if Jesus bears the punishment of death for sinners, then the just God cannot punish them again. They are free from liability to death. Jesus is indeed the one true man, the one faithful Israelite. He is the head of a new humanity characterized by repentance and faithfulness to God.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #11

Jesus died for our sins, but if we failed to accept His forgiveness, then we are still lost in our sin.


(James Francis Go) #12

I don’t like the idea of seperating the body from the soul. The idea of ‘physical death’ and ‘spiritual death’ being noticably seperate is quite troublesome and Gnostic to me. God intends physical resurrection of the entire human race. It’s seems very clear He didn’t want death to be permanent in the first place. I can’t see the death of human beings as something other than a device to seperate men from God introduced by Satan.

My understanding of the atonement is called Christus Victor. Instead of just paying for our sins on the cross, Jesus defeated death with his resurrection. The idea is that this will enable the physical resurrection when this returns. I can’t combine my view of Christus Victor with assuming that death in human beings is natural.


(George Brooks) #13

@James_Francis_Go

Josephus and others seem to be quite emphatic that sections of the Jewish priesthood (et al.) held three distinct views:

  1. there was no life without the body (Sadducees), and only a few faithful would be provided a replacement body.

  2. there was no life without the body, but almost all the faithful would be provided a replacement body (Pharisees).

and

  1. there WAS spiritual without the body, and this spiritual existence for the faithful would be enabled by either having a different or replacement body provided within days of death (in order to proceed to a paradise like waiting area of God) … or the spirit would be enabled to dwell in the ‘waiting room’ until the End of Days (where an even more blessed existence would continue, with or without a body of flesh).

As I’ve mentioned in prior threads… it is the latter position (as described in detail in the ancient work “History of the Rechabites”) that most closely approximates the POPULAR view of the afterlife in Western society.


(James Francis Go) #14

Honestly all of those positions sound a little heretical IMO. We won’t get a new body, our old ones will just be glorified. Also, I still don’t know how to combine a historical Adam and Eve and Cbristus Victor with evolution; Christus Victor’s premise is that Jesus’s main goal was to defeat death, which would be an unnatural state of being. It would make much more sense for Adam and Eve to have been a parable for a metaphysical event that caused Original Sin and hasn’t yet been revealed


(George Brooks) #15

@James_Francis_Go

Even the story of Gilgamesh touches on religion’s explanation for why humans die.

The ultimate test of divinity has always been immortality !!! What kind of original sin could you really think there was? The original nature of humanity is that it was mortal … it was not divine. God tells us that even sinful Adam and Eve could access immortality by means of the Tree of Life.

There doesn’t seem to be any connection between sinning and immortality… other than Adam’s sin forced God to intrude and forcefully keep Adam from getting to the Tree of Life.

Your view would make more sense if God said: “the fruit of the tree of life has no affect on sinners” !!! <<<!!! Right?

But this is not the biblical position… Even sinners like Adam could have been immortal.

I think too many writers here are locked into medieval interpretation of the Eden story … instead of a Biblical interpretation.


(Christy Hemphill) #16

If our old body has returned to the dust, isn’t the granting of a glorified body at the Resurrection, a “new” one, or at least a total recreation? And if it is a recreation of an immortal body, it is not a recreation of the same body, it’s inherently different.


(Mykola ) #19

Hi all, I am new to this site. I came across it earlier today and after reading this article and some of the comments felt compelled to join.
I also believe that physical death was in the design.
For when the Lord created Time - beginning and the end with whatever process in between, physical death exists in it by default.
I believe the Lord revealed to me the two main reasons for creating Time. If God lives in eternal realm, where physical Death does not exist for obvious reasons and all His creation there is immortal, why was there a need for an inferior material realm populated by mortal, weak fallible beings to have been created?
First reason: Sin being an immortal entity could not have been destroyed in the eternal realm as well as the fallen angels who were corrupted by it. Again because there is no Death or the End of life in eternity. God created this physical realm for Sin and its agents to enter and to make this World their dwelling place. The ownership was received after Adam’s fall. Sin is a spiritual virus that corrupts God’s creation. Mankind is top of God’s creation yet was created with such a vulnerability - Flesh and Blood
so susceptible to temptation, such an easy target. So, perfect opportunity for Sin to corrupt God’s best! As we all know they exploited the weakness successfully only to inherit it themselves and to become inseparable part of this mortal realm through being Revealed and Condemned by the Law of Moses. Romans 8:3 says "He condemned sin in the flesh"
Sin and Darkness with its agents are now legally revealed and condemned and have become an inseparable part of Time which God will destroy thus making sure His enemies are neve able to corrupt any of His creation again. John 16:11 says "… the ruler of this world is judged"
Second reason: our creation in His image and according to His likeness. Mankind out of all God’s creation is given the greatest gift and right which is to become His children, to have and experience most intimate relationship with the Father the Son and The Holy Spirit which none of other God’s creation have ever had. As the Bride of Christ His Church is given the right to become one with the Trinity, to relate to God and to know Him in a much deeper way. Only Mankind is given the privilege to call God Abba Father, when we accept Jesus Christ.
The creation of flesh and blood nature,The Fall, entering of Sin, condemnation by the Law and the Redemption/Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ are all essential stages of our creation or becoming His children. Only through the ministry of Christ and the Cross we could know the core nature of the Father or who God really is, which is self sacrificial Love. How would we know and experience forgiveness and mercy if there was nothing to forgive for? How would we know the joy of deliverance and healing if there was nothing to deliver from? How would we know the depth of love and acceptance if we were neve lost? How would we know the patience and long suffering of His love if we were never disobedient to Him? How would we know His strength if we were never weak?
Apostle Paul says "it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.”
‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:44‬ ‭
“However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:46‬ ‭
So, in order to become everything that The Lord predestined us for in this world and in the world to come we need to be born of water first and then of the Spirit. Only Mankind are given this privilege.

Thank you for an opportunity to share this :slightly_smiling_face:


(Phil) #20

Good thoughts to ponder @Nick1. Welcome to the forum. It takes a while to get comfortable, but don’t let that stop you, as we are all pretty friendly, and even the few old grouches are likeable in their own way.


(George Brooks) #21

I had never noticed this verse before.

This seems to be a clear distinction between Paul’s views and the general views of the Pharisees!


(Mykola ) #22

Thank you Phil for kind words :slightly_smiling_face:
English is not my mother tongue, so i am sorry if you sometimes see bad grammar or poor vocabulary.
I will go on exploring the site. I like what I have read so far, feels like the members here have a very sound and balanced approach to the Scripture.