Notice especially that God originally pronounced the curse of death should sin be committed. However, Jesus says in John 8:44 that Satan was a murderer from the beginning. When was the beginning? It had to be when God created beings whose life was in their blood, that is, humans, subject to death if they sinned. This did not occur until Adam and Eve were created. Thus, when they sinned, death had its beginning.
Genesis 3:13 adds, “And the LORD God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?' The woman said, 'The serpent deceived me, and I ate.'” Thus, from what Jesus says in John 8:44 regarding Satan's part in this episode, we find that God held Satan guilty of murder. His weapon was the deceit that encouraged her to commit sin. She did not completely overlook her respect for God but discounted it enough to give into Satan's persuasion. She did this on the strength of her desire, fueled by her lust for the pleasure of eating the forbidden fruit—but even more so to fulfill her desire to become wise. Then, Adam, though not deceived as Eve was, also discounted God's counsel in order to make sure he did not displease Eve. He was guilty of idolatry.
What does knowing these things accomplish? It shows that, even though their deaths did not occur immediately, at the very least God had delivered the power of death into Satan's hands by means of deceit just before he induced her to sin. Satan used this means to murder them, and he uses this means to this day. Incidentally, Jesus indicates in the Olivet Prophecy, as well as in Revelation, that we will witness a rise in the intensity of deceit just prior to His return.
God did not intervene to stop either Satan or Adam and Eve from following their desires. Adam and Eve had a test to pass. They failed, as have all their progeny. Only Christ has succeeded. Unless one is converted and under Christ's blood, Satan continues to hold this power even to this day. But we are not defenseless; we have Christ to help us in this battle.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
This world is the way it is, not because God hid the reality of His existence and instruction from mankind (see Romans 1:20), but because mankind has chosen to ignore God's reality and the wisdom He has made available to humanity from the beginning. Adam and Eve, representing all mankind, are the case in point. As they did, so we all have done in our days.
Virtually everyone who has ever lived eventually asks, “Why is life such a struggle?” Why does life so frequently seem hopelessly mired in what is base and frustratingly difficult? The answer appears in Genesis 2-3. No other section of the Bible so clearly depicts the stark contrast between the idyllic beauty, innocence, and potential for happiness in life in Eden and the shocking judgments God hands down just a few chapters later. The lesson is clear, but mankind still ignores the reality that, as God warned, sin destroys.
It does not matter whether any other human sees the sin nor what we think about the sin. What matters is what the Creator says. Nothing can change that because what He says is reality—truth. The early portions of Genesis teach us that, when God turned mankind loose following their sins in the Garden, people used their liberty to commit sin even more freely. Almost no one took to heart the lessons contained within the first sins. Humanity continued doing what seems right rather than what is right. As Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, buts its end is the way of death."
In Genesis 4, God records the first murder. In this case, it was not one of just any man but of a humble, righteous, believing man—by his flesh-and-blood brother! In addition, God banishes the murderer from continuing any kind of relationship with Him. Fear rises in Cain's murderous heart, making life even more burdensome for him following his choice that seemed right to him.
God then gives us a brief glimpse into the life of Cain's grandson, Lamech, who, not only has multiple wives, but also boasts of having killed a man. He then warns—following the worst example of his day, his own grandfather—that should any future harm befall him, he will be even more menacing. We see humanity's problems compounding as the number of ways that seemed right increases. Through these examples, we see that mankind's arrogance, combined with his poor choices contrary to God's instruction, grew rapidly.
If a thinking and believing person ever needs a reminder that everything in life matters, the results of Adam's and Eve's sins should do the trick. Neither of them ever considered the long-range and long-lasting effects of what they were about to do. God is showing us broadly that there is no such thing as committing a sin in a corner, one that affects nobody else, because everyone and everything are part of the operation God has created. As its sovereign Governor, He actively rules what He has made. Planet Earth almost seems alive at times because everything is so interconnected.
We must avoid thinking of God's creation as being a mere machine. In addition to its amazing resilience and recuperative powers, creation also contains living, thinking, decision-making beings, either helping to maintain it properly or destroying it. Though people of no consequence in seemingly insignificant circumstances commit sins, their sins always create effects beyond the time, the place, and the people against whom they are committed. It is no wonder that Scripture likens sin to leaven. A major lesson here is that none of us lives in a vacuum. If nothing else, earth's Creator is always overseeing it and judging. Though extremely merciful, He is also just.
The lesson of Proverbs 14:12 is this: Only too late do deluded persons who ignore the reality of God and His Word discover that they are on the crowded highway to death. What God presents in His Word is not that sinners were tricked, but that they relied too heavily on their own wisdom rather than turning in humility to the God who offers to mankind a way of clear choices—His way.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Eight)
The second death is only mentioned by name in the book of Revelation. However, as a theme, it winds throughout the Bible, always lingering in the background. But to see this, we need to understand how the Bible uses the term “death.”
There is a physical application as well as a spiritual implication, and it requires discernment to understand how the word “death” is being used in a given context. The physical application is simply the end of a human being's life, whether through age, disease, accident, or violence. The breath of life leaves the person, consciousness ceases, and the body begins to decay. This is the fate of all human beings.
But the Bible also uses death to describe the spiritual state of people who are undoubtedly physically alive. Notice Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
The death that entered the world through Adam's sin was not physical death. Adam was a flesh-and-blood human being, so his body was naturally subject to entropy. The fact that he was created as flesh meant that, at some point, his heart would stop, and the breath of life would leave. Even if he had lived a sinless life, he still would have died when his body ceased to function. Adam was never immortal; he needed to eat of the Tree of Life to live forever (Genesis 3:22). When Adam sinned, he immediately entered a state of spiritual—not physical—death, which contributed to the foundation of Satan's deception that life continues after sin.
As it remains today, Satan's treachery was effective and destructive because, like Adam, we typically live on—physically—after sinning. While Adam's physical death was a foregone conclusion due to his being fleshly, it was not the death that entered the world through his sin. Instead, spiritual death entered the world at that point and spread to all of his offspring. His sin destroyed the union mankind had with God (see Isaiah 59:1-2), without which there is no life. Accordingly, separated from God, mankind has no future beyond physical death unless God acts. The wages of sin is eternal death, and there will not be everlasting life unless God gives it as a gift.
Later in the same context, Paul substitutes the word “condemnation” for “death”:
And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense [Adam's sin] resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. . . . Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. (Romans 5:16, 18)
Adam did not physically die in the instant he sinned, but at that moment, he was brought under eternal condemnation. This is why Jesus said things like “let the dead bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:22; Luke 9:60). Those who had not been called into a relationship with God were living in a state of death—condemnation—despite going about the normal activities of life. These people were devoid of spiritual life; they were the spiritual “walking dead.”
A major reason for Christ's incarnation was so that mankind could be redeemed from this state of death—condemnation—and given an opportunity for eternal life. Thus, He says, “If anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (John 8:51). The Jews did not grasp His meaning: Those who keep His Word will never see eternal death; they will not lose the eternal life that comes from knowing the Father and Christ (John 17:3) following the Father's call (John 6:44, 65). However, He implies that those who have His Word and do not keep it will return to a state of condemnation.
David C. Grabbe
What Is the Second Death?
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 2:16: