“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:21,22).
These verses, coupled with others throughout the Old and New Testaments, teach a very important principle not fully appreciated by those Christians who would hold that man evolved from lower animals, or even that his tenure on Earth was preceded by millions of years. For if the earth is old, then death is part of the natural order of things, and billions upon billions of organisms have lived and died, struggling for existence, surviving if they were fit.
Taken at face value, however, the Bible indicates a far different scenario. Evidently, at the beginning, all living creatures (i.e., conscious life as opposed to plants and non-conscious “animals”) were created to live forever. There was no death, for all were designed to be vegetarian (Genesis 1:30). God had warned them of disobedience to His one command: “For in the day that thou eatest thereof [i.e., of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] thou shalt surely die” (or more literally, “dying thou shalt die”) (Genesis 2:17). All of creation was placed under the curse of death at that time, the animals (v.14), the plants (v.18), the ground (v.17), and mankind (vv.15–17,19); all would be dying. Sadly, as we know all too well, this situation continues today (see Romans 8:22).
But if death is a part of the created order, what can our text mean? Furthermore, if death was not specified as the penalty for sin, what does the death of Christ mean? Belief in the concept of the old earth destroys vital doctrines, including our redemption through Christ’s death.
Thankfully, the reign of death and the curse will end one day (Revelation 21:4; 22:3) as God restores the creation to its intended state. JDM