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Consequences of the Fall: Death and Grace

“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

What does it mean to be a sinner? How sinful is fallen man? The Biblical answer to this question will determine the true meaning of God’s grace. And what Christians believe about man’s depravity will determine how they view God’s grace. If man’s depravity is not “total,” then man’s salvation will ultimately rest with his decision either to accept or reject God’s grace.  However, if man’s depravity is total, then the work of God’s grace will rest solely upon God.

First Human Death

God told Adam, “If you eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you will die” (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam and Eve ate of the fruit.

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:7).

The couple died! They did not instantly fall over physically dead, but they died.  They died on the inside. Their human spirits died!

Death in the Bible does not mean the end!  Death is not a ceasing to exist. Death means separation!  When Adam and Eve died spiritually, they were separated from God. This separation was manifest by their new self-awareness.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen. 3:7).

This eye-opening consequence was not recorded until Adam ate of the fruit. Why?  Adam, created first in order and taken from the ground, became the representative head of the human race (1 Tim. 2:12-15). He was responsible solely to God. Eve, created second and taken from the man, was responsible to God through the man. So the spiritual impact of the fall occurred when Adam sinned.

A new realization came into Adam and Eve’s thinking. They became natural, physically limited human beings. They responded to their feelings by sewing fig leaves together, making themselves loin coverings. They recognized that their relationship with God was not the same. They compensated for their feelings of guilt toward God and each other by covering themselves.

This fig leaf response was the first act of human reformation. Reformation is man’s attempt to cover sin before God. It is man’s way of dealing with the consequences of sin but not sin itself.

Fig leaves could not hide their sin from God.  God had declared that the wages of sin is death, not reformation. After the fall there was a barrier between God and man – the barrier of death.

“They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8).

Man’s spiritual connection with God had died!  The natural response of the spiritually dead is to physically move as far from God as possible. So Adam and Eve hid from God.

“Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Gen. 3:9).

Who looked for whom? God sought the man, not the other way around. Religion is man’s search for God. Grace is God reaching into history and giving life to the spiritually dead. God is the initiator of salvation not man! God is the architect of grace, not man. Grace comes from God to man.

Separated From God

“He said, ‘I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself’” (Gen. 3:10).

The Hebrew is very clear: “I heard your voice.” Adam hid from the words of God. Man had never known fear before. Sin produces fear. There was fear because the sin barrier was there.

“And He said, ‘who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’” (Gen. 3:11).

The question was designed to provoke a simple response, yes or no. It was to bring Adam to the point of admitting guilt before God. Rather than giving God the simple answer, man had become proud.  His pride moved him to rationalism.

“The man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate’” (Gen. 3:12a)

Rather than saying, “Yes, I have sinned,” Adam responded, “Look God, it’s this woman you gave me.  God, it’s really your fault for giving her to me! She gave me this fruit, and I ate it.” First he blamed God, and then he blamed the woman.

“Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Gen. 3:13).

The woman, like the man, passed the buck. She too refused to accept the responsibility for sin.  The first mental step toward understanding grace is to understand sin.  Man still rationalizes away the responsibility for sin along with his need for a Savior.  Many will step into eternity shaking their fist in the face of their Creator, rationalizing away their guilt before Him.

“The LORD God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, and dust you will eat all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:14).

God began immediately to adjust all of them to His righteousness. The beautiful serpent would become a repulsive creature. He will be vulnerable and under the foot of man. Notice that God treated the serpent differently than the man and the woman. He did not give the serpent the opportunity to repent.  What is the reason for this? Salvation is provided only for man, not for angelic beings (Psa. 8:4). Redemption is only possible for members of the human race.

Satan’s Ultimate Defeat

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Gen. 3:15).

“Enmity” is the Hebrew word for hostility.  “You” is singular – Satan.

“Woman” is also singular, speaking of course of Eve.  But this prophecy looked forward through the ages to Mary, the woman through whom God would come into the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

“Seed” in the Hebrew is the word for a “genetic descendant.” “Your seed” is plural – your genetic descendants.  The descendants of Satan would be those throughout history that would align with him (John 8:44). This line will culminate with the antichrist and the false prophet (Rev. 19:20).

“Her seed” is singular – her genetic descendant, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • He (the Lord Jesus Christ)
  • shall bruise you (singular, Satan)
  • on the head, (fatal, killing blow)
  • and you (singular, Satan)
  • shall bruise him (the singular Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ)
  • on the heel” (non-fatal blow, the cross).

“And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom. 16:20)

Role of the Woman

“To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children’” (Gen. 3:16).

Because the woman was taken from the man and dependent upon him and because she was deceived, God gave her the childbearing role. This role brought both suffering and salvation.  Pain in childbirth is part of the curse that accompanied the fall. This pain is passed down to all future mothers. Satan had deceived the woman. Because of this, God allowed her womb to remain without sin. This once again proved God’s amazing genius. He left Himself a way to enter the slave-market of sin hundreds of years later and not be contaminated with sin.  The woman was not the sin carrier.  Alone she could not pass the spiritual death seed on to a child.

Mary, Eve’s progeny, would bear a child conceived by the Holy Spirit. This child, though born of a physical woman, would not be a sinner. Mary herself was not immaculate, nor sinless, nor was she “the mother of God.”  She was the daughter of a man named “Heli.”  Because she was born of man, she too was a sinner and in need of a Savior.  Matthew 13:55-56 tells us that Mary had other children by Joseph.  All of them were born physically alive but spiritually dead. The Lord Jesus Christ, however, was born without sin so that He could become sin for us.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).

“Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, ‘Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me’” (Heb 10:5).

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

Physical Death

Remember, death in the Bible does not mean a ceasing to exist. It does not mean the end. It means separation. Notice the description of Rachel’s death.

“It came about as her soul was departing (for she died), that she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin” (Gen. 35:18).

When she died, Rachel’s soul departed (was separated) from her body.  Elijah prayed that a child’s soul would return to him, and the child’s life was returned.

“And he (Elijah) stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.’  Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (1 Kings 17:21-22).

Notice that the soul did not cease to be, but it did leave the child’s body.  However, this separation of soul from the body is not real death. It is merely a shadow of real death. A shadow is just an image cast by the reflection of a real object. The Bible refers to physical death as a shadow in many places.

“Let darkness and the shadow of death claim it” (Job 3:5a, KJV).

“Before I go to the place from which I shall not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of death” (Job 10:21, KJV).

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me” (Psa. 23:4a).

The Second Death

Real death is spiritual death! This is the separation of the human soul and body from God.  The Bible implies that physical death is the first death.  Physical death is not the only death, because the apostle John calls real death “the second death.”

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:14; see also 2:11, 20:6).

The second death is the soul’s eternal separation from God. This is the “death” that Satan does not want man to understand.  This is a part of the “you shall not surely die” cover-up (Gen. 3:4-5).   Jesus Christ, the greatest authority on the subject of death, said that the second death – the death of the soul – is the one to be feared.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).

To the Christian, experiencing physical death is similar to being hit with the shadow of a truck. The shadow itself would not hurt!  But spiritual death could be illustrated by being hit by the truck itself.

There are no human words adequate enough to describe the sorrow and anguish of experiencing spiritual separation from God. It would be a conscious eternal existence separated from the presence of God in perpetual torment.

Spread of Death

When Adam sinned, Eve was not the only one affected.  Adam and Eve were the first parents of the entire human race. Every human life can be traced back to them. If that is the case, then every human being’s physical DNA code was present in Adam at the moment that he sinned!   When Adam disobeyed God and died spiritually, the entire human race died spiritually “in him.”  We were all genetically in “Adam’s body” when he died. Therefore, spiritual death spread through Adam to the entire race. Catch this glimpse!

“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—”  (Rom. 5:12).

That is “all sinned in Adam.”

“In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22a).

If our great-great-grandfather had died in the Revolutionary War, having no children, we would have never been born. We would have died physically in our grandfather. Likewise, we all died spiritually in Adam.

Have you ever bitten into an apple and discovered that a worm got there before you did? How did the worm get into the apple? This might come as a surprise, but the worm did not eat its way into the apple from the outside. Scientists tell us that the moth lays her eggs on the apple blossom. When the apple matures, the eggs hatch on the inside of the apple and the little worms actually eat their way from the inside out. Adam’s sin is written in on the genetic imprint of every human heart. Death is born within man, and it works its way from the inside out.  This death nature has been passed physically through the human father. Since we all come into this world through human parents, we are inescapably connected to Adam. Therefore, we are born physically alive but spiritually dead.

A man approached Christ, seemingly having the desire to follow Him. The Lord told him that to follow him would not be an easy life. The disciple then asked for permission to go and attend a funeral of one of his people. Christ’s words are clear.

“But Jesus said* to him, ‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead’” (Matt. 8:22).

The entire human race died in Adam.

Consequences of Death

  • Domestic Conflict

“Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b).

Many commentaries say that the word “desire” means the natural physical attraction that a woman has for the man.  But if that’s true, what does it have to do with a curse? The word “desire” is the Hebrew word “masol.” It corresponds exactly with the Greek word “kathistemi.” It means to install into an office as an official position, as a ruler.

Before the fall, there was co-regency.  The man and the woman were ruling together.  There was peace in the family. This is God’s design. But after the fall, the woman was given a desire to rule over the man, or a desire to control.  But God gave the husband the role of ruler over the woman (Eph. 5:22).  This creates an obvious conflict within marriage.

What is needed to reconcile this conflict? The new birth from God is the only answer. When believers in Jesus Christ submit to their Savior and grow in their knowledge of Him through the Word, a harmony in the marriage will surface. The spiritual man is to submit himself to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and unconditionally love his wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:22-32). The woman will respond to the spiritual man, submit to him, and learn to worship God through Him.

This is what Paul meant:

“But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3).

This has nothing whatsoever to do with inferiority or superiority as human beings.  It has everything to do with God’s design for the spiritual operation of a believer’s home and function of the body of Jesus Christ (the church) in the world.

“Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.  But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children, that is the child bearing role, if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Tim. 2:9-15).

It is what is on the inside that counts.  A woman who has trusted Jesus Christ as Savior will find her greatest satisfaction and meaning in life, not in the desire to rule her husband, but in fulfilling God’s design for her as wife and mother with all faith, love, and holiness with self-restraint. This spiritual headship produces harmony that resolves the conflict between the man and the woman.

  • Curse of the Ground

God then dealt with the man.

“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life’” (Gen. 3:17).

Adam would gain his livelihood only by working the ground, emphasis on work!   What was done before the fall with ease and enjoyment would be accomplished with pain and sweat.

“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field” (Gen. 3:18).

The earth will be harsh to man.  It will resist his efforts to plant and to reap. It will produce stickers and briars and cockleburs.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19).

  • Desire to Sin

The spiritual death seed within man explains why we have the desire to sin. Contrary to popular belief, children do not have to be taught how to sin. The desire to sin comes naturally! The desire to sin does not originate from outside influences. Listen to the words of Christ.

“And He was saying, ‘That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man’” (Mark 7:20-23).

There is no doubt that an evil lifestyle influences others to live the same way.  But evil influences cannot make someone do something that they are not predisposed to do already! Sinful lusts result from that which is already in the heart and not from that which comes from outside.

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?” (James 4:1).

We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. Nor are we held accountable before God when we reach some “age.” That is simply not taught in the Bible!

How Dead Are the Dead?

If the entire human race died in Adam then we must ask this most important question.  How dead is spiritual death? Do those who are born in sin have any spiritual capability at all? Can a spiritually dead person sift through the available data and discover the information that would lead to knowledge of God and to life?  Is it possible for the spiritually dead to exercise the human will and believe the gospel? How can a spiritually dead person understand anything spiritual? The real issue facing those who venture into the study of grace is “how dead are the dead?”

If all men are truly born spiritually dead, then there is no spiritual capability at all.  Death means the absence of life! There is no life within a physically dead body and there is no life in the spiritually dead. The spiritually dead are separated from God period!

So man’s need is not partial, it is total. We do not need religion to make us better.  We need life. We do not need to reform ourselves in order to become acceptable to God.  We need life! (See “Regeneration.”)  And this life must come from God and God alone.

Adam Receives Grace

So Adam and Eve died!  What happened to them? Their first response to their sin was shame! The second act was to cover themselves with figleaves. Then GOD DID SOMETHING AMAZING! He stitched some designer clothes for them.

“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21).

This was the first act of grace recorded in the Bible!  God was the initiator of this gracious act. God chose to be gracious. Grace always begins with God! God demanded death for sin, and death it was to be. The skins evidently came from a sacrificed animal. Blood had been shed! A life had been given for a life. This gracious act sets the precedent for God’s extended grace throughout history! God chooses to extend grace to man based upon His will not man’s works (Rom. 9:15; Acts 13:48).  Grace is God giving life to the dead.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).