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Divine Capital Punishment

The wages of sin is death.

Genesis 3:21-24 (ESV)

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Many Bible commentators believe that there was no death of any kind before Adam and Eve sinned, despite the fact that the plain reading of this passage is that death was normal. The making of garments of skins is not described as some kind of big deal, even though animals died in the process. Also, we’re told that Adam and Eve won’t live forever because they can’t eat of the tree of life, not because something about them changed. And if they didn’t need the tree of life to begin with, why’s it there?

This passage doesn’t say that the whole world was transformed. Even Adam and Eve’s transformation was just that their eyes were opened, and they knew good and evil. Instead, much of the support for the no death before the fall view comes from the New Testament.

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

The word translated as “world” here is “kosmos.” Since kosmos can mean mankind, this isn’t definitive. However, the case for the “no death” interpretation has other points in its favor.

Both views on this are valid. However, beware of one specific error. Don’t call either side the “literal” interpretation; both views qualify as literal. “Literal” is a widely misunderstood term, and not just about this passage either. If you say that you interpret the Bible literally, there’s no telling what people will think that means.

Be especially wary if someone specifically asks you about this. Many people use “literal” to refer to some specific doctrines, which they may be hostile towards. Still, this can be a great opportunity to witness if you’re careful. Come back with something like, “What do you mean by ‘literal’?” or, “What do you think the literal view is?” If they tell you some crazy idea they associate with literal interpretation, you can straighten them out.

Never forget that many non-believers think we’re idiots. Much of this is due to popular misrepresentations of what we believe about Genesis. It’s frustrating, but don’t let it get to you.

Pray for the people who are hostile towards Christianity. They may seem about as far away from conversion as it’s possible to get, but appearances can be deceiving. Many Christians, including me, were once in that boat.

Don’t just pray for an opportunity to witness. Pray for their health, or their job, or whatever they need. If you don’t know what their needs are, find out.

Ask God to help you connect better with them. Don’t rush on the witnessing.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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