There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning in the world long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world through Adam.
(NOTE: Romans 5:12-13 says that, ever since God's first command ever given to mankind was broken by Adam, death has entered 'through' sin, not 'because' of sin ... 'before the law was given, sin was in the world' ... 'death came to all men BECAUSE ALL SINNED.' See 1.4.3 for detailed study of these quotes and more in Romans 5 to see the big difference between 'through' and 'because.').
So, if there was death on earth before Adam, then Adam's sin cannot be the cause of all death.
Where do Christians get the idea that the earth was a perfect paradise before Adam sinned? From tradition, not from statements in the Bible. The Bible is silent about the condition of the earth before Adam, and thus we are free to follow historical and scientific evidence wherever it leads.
After completing six stages of creation (see 1.2), God said that it was 'very good.' This is not the same as saying that it was perfect from our point of view. It means only that creation came into being just as God planned it.
To say that the earth is less good now than when God created it is to imply that God didn't make it good enough, or that it had design flaws.
We know now that there were colliding tectonic plates, volcanos and flesh-eating dinosaurs long before Adam. The earth was – and still is – a dangerous and violent place.
God created humans to 'subdue' and 'rule over' the earth (Genesis 1:28) ... and God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to 'work it and take care of it' (Genesis 2:15) ... to make it BETTER.
Furthermore, if the earth were perfect before Adam sinned, then Adam himself would have been perfect and unable to sin, because perfect beings cannot be tempted into sin. But Adam sinned.
The Bible says, too, that Satan was already at work on earth – sinning – before Adam sinned. With Satan lurking around ready to deceive and turn people away from God, the earth was not a perfect paradise.
This is a Bible passage often quoted as proof that it was Adam's sin that brought death into the world. But – read carefully – the passage doesn't say that. In fact, it doesn't even mention Adam's name.
'I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21 NIV)
The Bible teaches that God alone is immortal. '...God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal ...' (Timothy 6:16). Nothing on earth has ever been immortal (i.e., not subject to death). Adam was not immortal.
Immortality has never been the original state for anything on earth. Immortality will be given to some people at a later time through Jesus: 'God will give to each person according to what he had done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life' (Romans 2:6-7).
There is ample evidence that the cycle of life-and-death was functioning on earth long before 4000 BC, the time the Bible says sin first entered the world 'through Adam.' (Note: 'through Adam,' not 'because of Adam.' See 1.4.3 for study of Romans 5).
The strongest evidence of long ages of prehistoric death comes from deposits of limestone, coal and oil.
LIMESTONE. Ocean-dwelling organisms such oysters, clams, mussels, and coral have shells that are broken down by waves and settle on the ocean floor where they are compacted over millions of years, creating limestone. As tectonic plates shift, sea bottom is often thrust up as dry land, and limestone is quarried to make concrete and many other products.
COAL. Coal is created from plants and ferns that lived hundreds of millions of years ago in swamp forests. They died and formed layers at the bottom of the swamps. The dead plant material was subjected to high temperatures and pressures that transformed it into peat and then into coal.
OIL. Crude oil is created over millions of years from tiny plants and animals in sea water, called plankton, trapped and buried under many layers of sand and mud. After about 150 million years of heat and pressure, plankton turn into oil and gas in pores of underground rock, like water in a sponge. The rocks fold and form a dome that catches oil and creates an advantageous drilling site.
MORE EVIDENCE. Fossils, DNA and migration tracking are additional evidence of death before Adam sinned. Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of dinosaurs skeletons, some with bones of other creatures in their stomach cavities, showing that they killed both vegetable matter and flesh. Dinosaurs went extinct long before God created humans. See 1.2 for God's order of creation.
Some Christians say that God just made the world to look old right from the beginning ... that limestone, coal and oil were created that way ... that God just planted dinosaurs bones even though such creatures never existed. See 1.2.3 for the critical flaw in the 'apparent age' theory.
Stars are born when large gas clouds collapse from gravity. The more massive the star, the faster it burns its fuel supply and the shorter its life. The most massive stars burn out and explode after only a few million years. Stars the size of our sun burn out in about 10 billion years. Smaller stars burn out slower.
We now can observe the death of stars – supernovas to black holes – with telescopes catching light emanating from them millions of years ago, long before Adam's sin. There is no indication in the Bible, or by common sense, that death of stars throughout the vast solar system is caused by someone's sin. Everything God created in our universe has always been subject to death, whether large or small, whether long life or short life.
God's plan is slow topographical, climatological and physiological changes and the adaptation and improvement of life forms to those changes. Death is essential for this process.
Death prevents suffocation from over-crowding and clears the way for new and better life ... ultimately leading to God's offer of eternal life for humans.
Imagine the Garden of Eden, for example, if it were perfect (from our point of view) and nothing ever died. Over time, with unrestricted growth and multiplication, the Garden would eventually have become so overgrown with vegetation, animals and insects that people's movements would become so restricted, and their lives so imperiled, that they would not be able to reach the Tree of Life. (Unless they cut down trees, branches and vines, but that would cause death, and then the Garden would no longer be a no-death paradise.)
'Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground – trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food ... And the Lord God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ...'' (Genesis 2:8-9, 16-17)
Adam had a normal human body and needed food to survive. But eating food as God directed is death to the food and incompatible with a no-death paradise.
So some Christians back off a bit and say that they mean no-death only with regard to humans.
But there's a problem with that limited view, too: Christians who believe that there was no human death on earth before Adam sinned are usually the ones who also believe that God created the entire universe in six 24-hour days and that Adam was the first human on earth ... which means that no one had ever lived or died before Adam sinned ... therefore, Adam's sin did nothing to actually change physical life and death on earth. Adam's sin did not wreck a perfect paradise.
In Genesis 1, when God created the first human beings, he said: 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.' (Genesis 1:28)
There would be no need for people to subdue and rule over the earth if the earth's state was absolute perfection without any death and change.
'Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.' (Genesis 4:10-17)
If the Garden of Eden were a perfect paradise without death before Adam sinned, God would not have wanted someone to 'work' it and 'take care' of it. Obviously, the life-and-death cycle was operative even before Adam sinned, otherwise there would be no need for work and care.
'... you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when eat of it you will surely die.' (Genesis 2:17)
It would make no sense for God to warn Adam (before he sinned) that the penalty for disobedience is death if no death on earth had ever yet occurred. That concept would have been totally incomprehensible to Adam unless he had already observed death outside with other people before being placed in the Garden.
'Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.' (Genesis 3:17-19)
Adam's punishment was hard work and painful toil in ground with thorns and thistles, a sentence that Adam could not have understood if everything had been perfect up to that time.
Adam's punishment was not death but rather denial of eternal life which had been offered. Adam as a person – not as humanity– no longer had access to the tree of life and would now have to work and die like everyone else.
Certainly if the punishment for Adam's sin were death to every living thing on earth for all time forward – a monumental horrific punishment – we would expect God to say so clearly through His living word (Jesus) and written word (Bible).
Furthermore, it is inconceivable that a loving and just God could give punishment of that severity and global magnitude – to all people everywhere for all time – because of the first offense of a single person. That would clearly be contrary to His own character attributes of love and justice.
Some people interpret the Bible to say that God intended the world to be perfect – all beauty, no pain, no sorrow, no death – and that Adam's sin fouled God's wonderful plan and brought death into the world and condemned everyone to eternal hell.
That interpretation of death – thought to be a bad and unintended tragedy – seems completely out of context with other things we know about God and creation.
If God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then no man's action is unforeseen or able to disrupt the divine plan.
Genesis 1 tells us that at the end of each day of creation, God said it was 'good.' As the final statement, God looked at all that was happening – including death in every life form he created – and said it was 'very good.'
Life on earth is temporary by God's intentional design, not by unforeseen events or miscalculation.
Throughout this site, the interpretation of 'death' is its plain and ordinary meaning: End of existence, no more consciousness.
Death is an intregral part of the cycle of life. Death is not a design flaw. Death is the result of normal aging as God intended, not an unintended result from someone's sin.
This site shows how the Bible teaches that, after death of the body, there will be physical resurrection, judgment and hell, then eternal death in hell (end of existence).
The Bible says there is only one exception to final death. See 3.6 for the one exception – eternal life – offered to us today. This is the core of the Christian gospel (the good news) ... eternal life through personal faith in Jesus Christ.
The ultimate point of God's master plan – at least as much as has been revealed to us – is the creation of human life and offer of salvation so that some people can escape death and have eternal life, the next stage in God's plan, all explained on the site in great detail from the Bible.
All authority is from Jesus (verse above). Not church, not tradition, not Augustine, not even Apostle Paul.
When we must choose between two or more possible interpretations, we should always choose the interpretation most in accord with what Jesus said.
Many Christians, perhaps most, but not all, believe that the earth was a perfect paradise – and no death – until Adam ate forbidden fruit. His sin, they say, fouled God's plan and brought death into the world.
With regard to Adam's sin being the cause of death, what did Jesus say? NOTHING. We have no record of Jesus ever even mentioning Adam's name. Jesus never said or implied that anyone is responsible for bringing death upon humanity. If Adam's sin were the cause of all death on earth, and if we are now all personally guilty for ruining God's creation, certainly Jesus would have told us.
Furthermore, Jesus never said that any person is, or ever has been, head of the entire human race. If we had an ancestral representative who made a bad choice that doomed all of us, certainly Jesus would have told us.
Jesus accepted death as a normal part of life, and His message was all about our own individual choices and individual sin.
We should not add to Jesus teachings, especially when the add-ons are contradictory.
Jesus said that our mission is to 'make disciples.' To say that there was no death on earth until 6,000 years ago is an indefensible position in the modern scientific world. (Science is our accumulated knowledge of God's creation.) Ascribing that position to the Bible – based only on two vague comments by the Apostle Paul – undercuts credibility of the Bible and leads people to conclude that the Bible is not trustworthy.