Death Inside and Outside Eden and Death Inside and Outside the New Jerusalem?
by Jack Hoehn
Sabbath School ORIGINS # 12 suggests that Death before Adam’s fall is the deal breaker for accepting any other form of Creation than one done briefly (in 6 literal days) and recently (a few thousand years ago). Even though everything we know about our universe suggests earth, sun, moon, and stars were created billions of years ago!
For example, this week in March 2013 at sundown if you look towards the setting sun you may be lucky enough to see just after sundown a comet PANSTARRS; if you miss it this week, it will take 106,000 years before you see it again. Most of us accept that things like this seem to be true. Astronomers find comets come from the Oort-cloud of particles left over beyond Pluto from the creation of our solar system about 4.6 Bya (which could give us an approximate starting date for the true chronology of Creation Day 1?).
We Can’t Create Life
The lesson emphasizes that we know how to kill things, but we don’t know how to make things alive, which is very true no matter what chronology of creation you think best fits the facts. Again the controversy within Adventism is constantly confused with the controversy between atheist evolutionists and Bible believing creationists who cannot accept the chronology of the Young Earth Creation model. The constantly repeated error (I am tempted to use the word “lie” but I think it still is an error made with good intentions but faulty theology) is that if you don’t accept that earth and everything in it was made very quickly and very recently, you have joined the infidel atheist camp!
Creationists of all types agree that life had to have been created by God. We don’t claim that life even over billions of years could have happened by itself, by accident, by chance, by purely natural self-directed chemical events or folding of proteins. Creationist evolutionists may believe that God remains in the shadows, behind life but sort of hands-off. Intelligent Design progressive creationists (Old Earth Creationists) think God was directly involved in directing His creation at every step, but that these steps were over ages, and not done recently in 144 hours.
What the Bible Does NOT Say
Romans 5:6 does NOT say, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the plants and animals.” [It says Christ died for humans.]
1 Corinthians 15:22 does NOT say, “For as in Adam all plants and animals began to die, so in Christ all plants and animals stop dying.” [ It says human death was solved by Christ’s death.]
2 Corinthians 5:17 does NOT say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! And it takes about 1 week for all this to happen just like the first creation, so hurry up and get with it folks!” [Most of us have found that the New Creation is a slow and progressive creation over much longer than one literal week, not an instantaneous one by any means.]
Death Inside and Outside of Eden
There was no Tree of Life created during any of God’s Creation Days until he planted a garden in Eden. There was darkness, there was no firmament, there was no land, there were no plants, there was no visible stars, sun, moon, birds, fish, animals of any kind; it was a very imperfect, incomplete earth before God intervened. God the Creator fixed all these problems and it was a very good earth, but what that good earth was like, if it was like the earth we now have (which I think is still good although imperfect) or if it was a Disneyland earth of perfection is a matter of debate. He created life but Genesis has no record of an anti-death mechanism created until, in Genesis 2, He puts a Tree of Life into the Garden. Plant death of course was God’s plan inside and outside of Eden from the beginning. (Genesis 1:29, 30).
Animal death before the fall outside or inside of Eden is not as immediately obvious in Genesis, but Satan seems permitted to have power over the beautiful reptiles before the fall. And since humans were created mortal (Adventism is clear on this) why would Adventists think that animals were created immortal? So I maintain that animal and plant death was part of the pre-Eve/Adam fall world inside and outside of Eden, except for the creature or creatures with access to the tree of life. The reason for this is not that God wanted death in the animal and plant kingdom, but because Earth was the venue for the Great Controversy with Christ and Satan.
Death Inside and Outside of the New Jerusalem
Will there be any death in the New Jerusalem? Well of course there will be the second death. Revelation 21:8. “ But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
But Revelation 21:4 promises, “There will be no more death.” Whether this means there will be no more human death, or no more plant and animal death is not specified. It is wonderful that there is at Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:2). But why do humans need a Tree of Life if there is no more death? Why do we still need the antidote if there is no poison?
As Eden was a special place, different from the created world outside of Eden, so the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of Heaven appears to be a special place on this earth, at least at the beginning of eternity. Ellen White presents the New Jerusalem as a walled city surrounded by the resurrected hosts of the lost and fallen angels.
During the millennium Isaiah 34 suggests there will be vultures and owls, ravens, jackals, and hyenas—all scavengers and carnivores on the desolated earth suggesting at least animal death on earth. Earth after the millennium when the New Jerusalem returns to earth is still a battlefield of Christ with Satan and their competing philosophies of life. Revelation 22:15 agrees, “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” So even in the future, even with the New Jerusalem earth remains a place with death (murderers) outside of Eden restored for some period of time. Isaiah 66:22-24 hopefully are temporary and symbolic? At least until, as Adventists believe, all outside the New Jerusalem will be purified with cleansing fire.
What does this mean?
I’m not trying to create a new Adventist eschatology. I’m just showing that within our existing Adventist eschatology there seems to be a time when Eden restored is like the first Eden, a safe and holy place on a planet that was and will remain for some time into the future a battlefield between good and evil, between Love and Selfishness, between Christ and Satan. To demand that there be no plant and animal death on earth before the fall of mankind is a false requirement not required by the Bible.
I have previously blogged on why, according to C.S. Lewis, animal and plant death would exist in a good God’s world of freedom and choice before the fall of man, and why God would want to protect his newly created children in a special safe Eden with a Tree of Life from an outer world in conflict with danger and death.
“Wages of Sin as death can apply to angelic fall and rebellion long before the creation of man.
a.) Death as the result of sin could result from Satan’s fall long before Adam’s fall. As C.S. Lewis writes, “The origin of animal suffering could be traced, by earlier generations, to the Fall of man—the whole world was infected by the un-creating rebellion of Adam. This is now impossible, for we have good reason to believe that…Carnivorousness, with all that it entails, is older than humanity…It seems to be, therefore, a reasonable supposition, that some mighty created power had already been at work for ill on the material universe, or the solar system, or at least, the planet Earth, before ever man came on the scene… If there is such a power, as I myself believe, it may well have corrupted the animal creation before man appeared…some animals live by destroying each other.” (CS Lewis, Problem of Pain, pages 133-135.)
b.) Romans 5:12 clearly speaks of human death, not animal death, and Paul’s argument loses nothing if we believe that animal and plant death existed before the human fall.
c.) Romans 8:18-24 “the groaning of creation” is surely true, but gives no indication when that groaning started, likely from Satan’s fall and banishment to earth, and then from Adam’s fall, and then from Noah’s Flood, and now again from environmental exploitation.
The Great Controversy pre-existed the creation events. There were “sinners” on earth long before Adam and Eve were created. A sinful Satan and sinning angelic host cast to the earth before the creation might imply that the creation events themselves may have been happening on a battle field.
If each of creation’s Days were accomplished in disputed territory, where God’s ways and God’s laws were being actively opposed by Satan’s ways and Satan’s philosophy, might this not explain why the geologic record of life on earth appears to be one of repeated conflict?
Dear Fellow Adventist
You were born into a wonderful world that existed long before you or anyone you know was born. This world you know shows both the goodness of God and the badness of Satan. Your life has been a balance between the wonderful good and the terrible evil. In spite of this you have seen that God is good, and have put your confidence in Him and the hoped-for return of His Son.
Does it really destroy all your hopes and strengthen all your fears, if God has created over a longer period than 144 hours?
Does it really steal from you your confidence in God and the Bible if humankind in the image of God was created 6,000 years ago or 60,000 years ago?
Will you really give up Sabbath observance if God didn’t create everything in 6 literal days, but instead in 6 Heavenly Days of unknown length?
“In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth” remains true no matter what kind of Creation chronology you support. As Sister White reminds, “Just how God accomplished the work of creation he has never revealed to men.” (PP113) (I do wish she had also said, Just when God accomplished the work of creation he has also not revealed to men!) But I am not asking you to accept YEC/OEC/ or the secular chronology of life on earth. I am asking that IF you were convinced that in fact God had done things a different way or with a different chronology than you now believe, would that cause you to give up on God in disgust?
I don’t think so! I have confidence that your faith in God is not, as Satan slandered Job, “Disappoint Job and Job will curse you!” I think many sincere Adventists I know might be disappointed if the true history of Creation is longer than they used to think. But most would choose to stick with God even if He created in a different way than they used to think. Like Job, they may sit for a while and mourn the loss of their simple but inadequate beliefs, but eventually they will testify to Satan and the world, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” I trust Him as my Creator, no matter how and when He chooses to create.