Genesis 2:17 Why didn’t Adam die the very day that he sinned?

When God gave instructions to Adam about not eating the forbidden fruit, he clearly stated that if he ate of it, the very day he did, he would die.

The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17

Yet, everybody knows both Eve and then Adam ate and neither of them dropped dead that day. In fact, it happened just as Satan said it would…

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5

They willfully disobeyed God and ate, and they didn’t die! Adam lived until he was 930 years old before he died (Gen 5:5)! Satan evidently was right!?

Fast-forward 4000 years, and we have the Apostle Paul still talking about this event and bringing up that upon Adam’s sin there was death.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—Romans 5:12

From this verse, we see there was no death before sin because death entered the world through sin.  (God gave the vegetation for eating and while Adam and the animals ate them (Gen. 1:29-30) they ‘perished’ but the Bible makes a distinction between plant life and human (Gen. 2:7) and living creatures (Gen 1:24). Animal flesh was not eaten until after the fall so there was no death of any kind).

For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 1 Corinthians 15:21

Yet again, the topic of death and sin are brought up at the end of the Scriptures. John says,

and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation 21:4-5

This thread goes from the very beginning to the very end of the Scriptures. Surely Adam’s sin resulted in much more than his own physical death! The death God warned him of was far, far greater and with much greater consequences on all humanity and to the world since it too was subjected to condemnation (Gen. 3:17-19).

Death in the Bible

Our understanding of death is generally cessation of being. Death in the Scripture should better be understood as the separation of two things. In fact, even lexicographers never define death as extinction, annihilation, non-existence or unconsciousness.

There are several kinds of death in the Scriptures. The obvious would be physical death where the soul is separated from the body (Eccl 12:7).  Then there’s the second death where man is separated from God (Rev 21:8). Relational death as seen in marriage is a union until death which becomes the separation between man and wife (1 Cor. 7:39).  Another example of relational death is the believer but the carnal widow (1 Tim 5:6). Spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God (Eph 2:5).

Adam’s Death

When Adam was created and given life, God created him a living soul (Gen. 2:7). He was created in the image of God and had a perfect union with God in the beginning. God was his only source of knowledge, and he had a relationship with his creator. In the beginning, everything was very good (Gen 2:. Adam could have fellowship with God. His spirit was living, he was spiritually alive!

When Adam sinned, however, that very instant, this was lost (Gen. 3:7). Adam died a spiritual death and the evidence of that death is clear. Adam went from being innocent to feeling ashamed (Gen 3:7) and afraid when God approached (Gen. 3:8). He had disobeyed God and received knowledge from a source that was not God (Gen. 3:11) and it corrupted him. Adam had to be deported from God’s presence, sent out of the garden and separated from the tree which would give him eternal life (Gen 3:23).  The death that occurred that day was spiritual. From then on, those of Adam’s race (all mankind) are born dead in sin, separated from God (Eph 2:1). Death entered through sin in a day in history some 6 thousand years (Rom 5:12). The whole story of redemption hinges on that fact (Rom 5:16).

The Curse

Not only did Adam die spiritually, he also eventually died physically. This was never God’s intended purpose. God had intended man to care for the garden and take dominion of all things and live forever in harmony with his creator. Not only that, we are also told all creation suffered the consequences…

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:20-21

The purpose of Jesus Christ was to come and restore his creation, starting with Adam’s race. In seeing transgressors restored, God was delighted to send his son as a sacrifice for sin (Isa 53:10-12). Ultimately death is conquered because sin has been paid for in full! (1 Cor 15:51-58).

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Christ took on sin and was victorious! He rose from death as proof! He offers the same victory to all! Therefore, it is necessary to be born spiritually (John 3:3, 5) to have union with God once again (1 Cor. 12:13). This is only possible by faith in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:24).

“This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate (physical bread), and died (physically), he who eats this (spiritual) bread shall live (spiritually) forever.” John 6:58

“I am the resurrection and the (spiritual) life; he who believes in Me shall live (spiritually) even if he dies (physically), and everyone who lives (physically) and believes in Me shall never die (spiritually). Do you believe this?” John 11:25

In Conclusion

Therefore, we can see that Adam did in fact die that very day, it just wasn’t physical death. The evidence of his instant death is demonstrated by his actions and finally physical death ().

Just like in a day of history Adam sinned and death entered the world and brought condemnation to all men, so Christ died to pay for the sins of Adam’s race on a day in history.

The whole story of redemption can be summed up in three trees. The first tree that Adam took of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and was one of disobedience wanting to be as God. This separated Adam from the Tree of Life which was the tree that gives eternal life. The third tree was the cross where the second Adam, Jesus Christ died in obedience to the Father’s plan as the propitiation for the sins of the world. When all is done and restored by God, man will once again have access to the Tree of Life and there live eternally.

The whole story of redemption can be summed up in three trees. The tree of life became forbidden when Adam sinned and ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Christ came and died on a tree paying for the sins of mankind so that all through faith in Him could have access again to the tree of life. This is the story of redemption!

To say there was death before Adam sinned goes against the whole message of the Scriptures. Sin brought a supernatural change in the order of physical things just like Christ’s restoration of sin will bring about the complete restoration of physical things.

This is the way I see it in the Scriptures. Perhaps modern pseudo-science is affecting the views of many of my colleagues but that does not trump what was written in Scripture. Perhaps modern science will catch up someday.

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