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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

26 September 2005

Adam and Eve and Abel

Q: Were Adam and Eve immortal when they were created? And when they were commanded to have children (if they were immortal when commanded) would that mean their children would be immortal as well? This leads to the question of God’s intent for creating man and making Eve for him: Was it God’s original intent that they should be together for ever in an immortal state?

Also was Abel’s sacrifice accepted because it was a “law of Moses” type sacrifice? If it was, then did he have a knowledge of Christ's coming atonement?

A: God definitely designed man to live forever. In Genesis 2, death is mentioned not as a natural consequence but the result of disobedience to the Lord’s Word. God commanded, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (vv. 16-17)”

We know also that children were supposed to be conceived and born in a state of perfection (meaning, also, deathlessness) from earlier verses. During the Sixth Day, “God blessed [Adam and Eve]. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth....’ (Gen 1:28)” That this blessing came prior to the Fall is evident, since Genesis 1:31 records that as God surveyed everything He’d done, He noted that “it was very good.”

Death isn’t a “natural” part of life, as the world often teaches. Romans 5 emphasizes the fact that death entered the natural world because of man’s sinful rebellion against God. For example, “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. (v. 12)” Adults and children, people and animals — all face death because Adam sinned.

To restore our true natural — that is, our created — state, God worked super-naturally. In the Person of the Son, He took on human flesh, lived a perfect life, died an atoning death which paid for all sins, and rose again on the third day. The apostle wrote, “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.... For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:17, 19)” This righteousness is ours through faith in Christ, as exemplified by Romans 3:21-30.

This righteousness credited through faith in Jesus restores the heritage of eternal life. Just as the death of Christ “unhappened” in His resurrection, so we also receive the promise of the reversal of decay and death and of life forever. Jesus pioneered mankind’s return to created perfection and eternal life: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:20)” We claim the promise, trusting that on the Last Day we’ll see its fulfillment, as Paul continued: “Each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (15:23)”

As for Abel’s acceptable sacrifice, Scripture (Gen 4:1-16) provides scant detail. Yet we know from reading the prophets that God looks not only at what is sacrificed, but especially at the spirit in which it is offered. Abel came to God in faith; Cain didn’t.

Perhaps the types of gifts offered — Abel’s of blood and life, Cain’s of produce — don’t only distinguish between their different occupations. Instead, Abel’s also recalls the first death as God killed animals to clothe his fallen parents (Gen 3:21) while also anticipating the all-availing blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross. As Hebrews 9:22 notes, “Under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”

How much Abel understood of the promised Savior, we don’t know; however, his parents heard what the Lord said to the serpent in Genesis 3:15 and we assume that they conveyed this promise to their children. Hebrews 11:4 leads us to think in this manner: “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”

And now we’re back to your first question, for we see both death and life in the sacrifice of Abel and the greater sacrifice of Christ, for “the blood of Jesus [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)” In establishing Israel’s dietary laws, the Lord said, “The life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. (Lev 17:4)”

God forbad the consumption of blood so that the sin-tainted, death-shortened lives of creatures would not enter the people. However, at the appointed time, the Son gave His own blood, that the life of Jesus might be the life of His people. This “participation [communion] in the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10:16)” keeps the believer spiritually alive until the dawn of eternal life in the resurrection of all flesh.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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