Table of Contents
Part III: If Adam Had Not Died
The Consequences of Immortality
the question, What would be the consequences of immortality?
one is really concerned with a more profound question still,
which must be answered first. The issue of what would have happened
if Adam had not died resolves itself into a more fundamental
one of what would have happened if Adam had not sinned. And
this in turn involves an even more serious consideration: namely,
what would Adam, as an unfallen creature, really have been like?
Until we know this, we cannot predict with any measure of assurance
what he would have done with his life. Does sinlessness mean
that he would have simply lived on through each day in a state
of childish innocence and purity? And if so, what was God's objective
in creating him? To fill heaven with cherub-like human beings?
Becoming like a little child in order to enter heaven (Matthew
18:3) surely does not involve remaining like a little
child. Then, if Adam was not intended to remain a "child,"
what kind of a "man" would he have grown up to be --
and after reaching maturity, what then?
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Now we have in the New Testament
a very clear picture of the potential there is in Adam had he
never sinned. That we do have in Jesus Christ an unfallen Adam
is abundantly clear from the testimony of His friends and His
bitterest enemies alike. This testimony to the faultlessness
of Jesus Christ is very striking. Living a life which was almost
entirely exposed to public view and pursuing a course that ran
counter to the whole current of His contemporaries, He could
yet challenge His worst enemies to convict Him of one single
fault (John 8:46). And apparently they were unable to think of
There is perhaps an even more remarkable
testimony to the sinlessness of this Man, namely, His own testimony.
For He showed an entire freedom from any sense of the need to
ask for forgiveness of
anyone at any time, even
of God. It is a rule among men that true greatness is always
accompanied by a sense of personal failure. It does not always
mean a confession to God; it may be merely a confession to oneself.
But part of the essence of greatness lies in the ability to evaluate
oneself truthfully, and this kind of honesty always demands the
ultimate admission of personal failure in some particular area
of life. Jesus stands before us as entirely unique in this respect,
however, for He never indicated in any way the slightest need
of forgiveness. It has been said by critics that such confessions
of sin, had they ever been made, would quickly have been deleted
from the record by those who sought to present the Lord as the
perfect Lamb of God. But, as Renan has quite properly observed,
there is such a perfect consistency in the record we have of
His person as set forth cumulatively in the Gospels, that the
invention of such a figure would be a far greater miracle than
the mere recording of the truth about Him.
* * * *
is Man unfallen, absolutely unselfish, completely wise, infinitely
patient, gentle yet fearless, capable of appropriate moral indignation,
impressing others with His manifest physical strength, rejoicing
with those who rejoiced and weeping out of the purest sympathy
with those who mourned, ruling Nature but never abusing His power
over it, graciously accepting the ministration of others even
when it was least needed, and constantly in communion with God.
Here is Man, full of grace and truth, glorious in person. This
is the human potential that was so "precious" in the
sight of God. Here is true nobility.
In Medieval times, it was customary
to ask whether the Incarnation would have been "necessary"
if Adam had not fallen. The answer, according to Pico della Mirandola
in his Nine Hundred Theses, (published in 1486) is that
"God would have been incarnate, but not crucified."
(49) Other Renaissance
scholars before Pico held, quite properly I believe, that "the
nobility of man was such as to make the Incarnation entirely
congruous with the splendour of human nature: for God to become
man was something altogether fitting for both God and man."
In short, man unfallen was a glorious
creature, having a glory both of spirit and body. The body of
the Lord Jesus Christ was as
49. Mirandola, Pico della: quoted by Philip
E. Hughes, Christianity and the Problem of Origins, International
Library of Philosophy and Theology, Presbyterian and Reformed
Publishing Co., Philadelphia, 1964, p.28.
(Philippians 3:21) as His Person was. In Gethsemane those who
came to take Him fell back before His majestic presence. Taylor
has summed up the situation by saying: (50)
The power of God working through
the perfect manhood of the Lord enabled Him to take up again
that dominion over nature which man had lost. We see in Jesus
the loving reverence towards nature, and also the absolute authority
over her, which might have been the prerogative of Man had he
not let go his hold on God and abused his stewardship.
"We must think of the powers
exercised by Christ," says Professor Hodgson, "as being
open to manhood where manhood is found in its perfection."
It is easy to
think of Jesus as a wonderful person moving about graciously
and working among the poorer classes of people who gladly accepted
His gentle ministering. But it is well also to remember that
He could be so over-poweringly angry, so magnificent in "presence,"
that the most powerful group of leaders who opposed Him were
somehow unable to lift a finger against Him even in the Temple
where they must have felt their authority most unchallangeable.
It is well to remember that a man's physical "presence"
is part of his identity. What nobility there is in a truly great
soul indwelling a truly magnificent body! It is a mistake to
suppose that our bodies do not count. They do. The "radiant
personality" displays its radiance in the face.
Our bodies in some way express us -- or bring us to nought.
It is clear from Scripture that the body is very important --
indeed that redemption is impossible without the sacrifice of
a body, for redemption is impossible without the shedding of
blood, and this means nothing less than the destruction of a
Whereas it is true that the application
of the redemptive process depends upon the nature of man's
spirit which allows him to see his own need and to appropriate
God's promises, it is still a fact that the manner of
man's redemption hinges upon the nature of man's body, which
requires that the Son of God be made flesh in order to achieve
it. Man cannot be understood except as a body-spirit entity,
so uniquely constituted as to be redeemable by the vicarious
sacrifice which God permitted His Son to make of Himself on our
behalf, assuming not only the spiritual counterpart of human
nature but the physical counterpart as well.
There is a great temptation to
look upon the Lord's death as more importantly a death of spirit,
the surrender of that part of life which we tend to think of
as somewhat apart from the body. I believe the New Testament
does not support this emphasis. The Lord's
50. Taylor, John, Man in the Midst,
Highway Press, London 1955, p.51.
death was a whole death,
the death of the body as well as the spirit, the former being
quite as essential for our redemption as the latter. Scripture
is full of references to this fact: indeed, the main emphasis
is here. Consider the following: "Who his own self bare
our sins in his own body" (I Peter 2:24). Hebrews
10:10, "We are sanctified through the offering of the
body of Christ. . . ." Again, Hebrews 10:19,20, "Enter
into the holiest by. . . his flesh." Colossians 1:21,22,
"You...hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh
through death." "Christ has suffered for us in the
flesh. . ." (1 Peter 4:1), and "He is the saviour
of the body" (Ephesians 5:23). These, and other passages,
underscore that man is a body-spirit entity. He cannot be divided
and remain whole. The hope of bodily resurrection is not a sop
to our materialism, but an assurance of our very survival as
whole persons. The Lord Jesus sacrificed His whole person for
us -- body and spirit. This is why the incarnation -- the embodiment
-- of the Redeemer was absolutely essential.
Thus, in the incarnation the Lord
Jesus Christ revealed three great truths: the nature of God,
the nature of Adam (as unfallen man), and the nature of man in
his present state. He showed what God was like because He was
God. He showed what Adam was like because He was a second Adam.
He showed what we are like now because we crucified Him. And
finally He opened the way for man who is dead to live again,
not just in some future world and without the "encumbrance"
of a body, but here and now as a whole man quickened as to his
mortal body (Romans 8:11), renewed as to his mind (Ephesians
4:23), and re-created as to his spirit (John 3:3).
Reverting again to the Medieval
world view, I am convinced that its philosophy about the relationship
between body and spirit was correct -- despite the fact that
it seems to have largely ignored the matter where welfare of
the common man was concerned. But it is as Hugo St. Victor, (51) chief of the twelfth-century
mystics, said, "The spirit was created for God's sake, the
body for the spirit's sake, and the world for the body's sake:
so that the spirit might be subject to God, the body to the spirit,
and world to the body." There was no denying the importance
of the world, because it was the setting in which the body was
called to function; and there was no denying the importance of
the body because it was the setting in which the soul functioned
as to its humanness.
Whereas the New Testament makes
it clear that the body can be more of a curse than a blessing
to us as we are now constituted, this
51. Hugo St. Victor: H. O. Taylor, "The
Medieval Mind," in Book 2 of The Early Middle Ages, Macmillan,
London, 1938, p.91.
was not true at all in
the case of the Last Adam. It would have been entirely inappropriate
for the Lord of Glory to be incarnate in a body like ours, subject
to sickness and disease, senescence and death. But it was entirely
appropriate that He should be incarnate in a body like Adam's,
which initially was subject to none of these things. Indeed,
only by properly understanding the real nature of the body that
was prepared for Him (Hebrews 10:5) and which He indwelt throughout
His earthly ministry can we grasp the significance of what happened
at the very end when He purchased our redemption on the Cross.
And what happened there sheds its own wonderful light on the
constitution of a truly human body untainted by sin. The Cross
was the inevitable termination of the life of the Second Adam
in the light of the First Adam's fall. On the other hand, the
Transfiguration of the Second Adam would have been the logical
termination of the life of the First Adam if he had not
fallen. Both events shed light on Adam's destiny, as a fallen
creature, and as an unfallen one. At this point, however, it
is the Transfiguration that concerns us.
The circumstances surrounding the
Transfiguration as recorded in Matthew 17:1-9 are very important
for the light they shed. Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, had lived
a life of sinlessness, and now He had reached the perfection
of maturity through the things which he had experienced -- the
things which He had "suffered," as Hebrews 2:10 puts
it. Complete innocence had grown into unchallengeable virtue.
He was now ready to enter into the joy of a higher order of life,
not by being freed from His body as though embodiment was a disadvantage
in itself, but by being transformed in it and with it into a
more glorious quality of human existence. So will all the children
of God be transformed in a resurrected body after death And some
without even experiencing death, for we shall not all sleep
but we shall all be changed (I Corinthians 15:51). And
our bodies will then be fashioned like His glorious risen body
(Philippians 3:21) with its strange and wonderful capabilities
of being seen, touched, and identified and yet being able to
pass freely through all physical barriers. We shall have bodies
capable, too, of receiving and handling food (Matthew 6:29) and
then a moment later of vanishing beyond the range of ordinary
vision (Luke 24:30,31); for Jesus shared a meal with some of
His disciples in order to demonstrate the reality of His presence,
actually partaking of bread before their very eyes (Luke 24:42,43),
and promising that they would do the same. Notice the words,
"with you," in Matthew 26:29.
Returning now to the account of
the Transfiguration: having so lived a perfect life and received
on the Mount a signal evidence of His
Father's complete approval,
Jesus had reached that first potential terminal point of His
human existence and might have passed on into glory by a simple
transformation which seems already to have begun to take place,
filling His body with light. This was the joy which had been
set before Him, and this was the joy which would have been the
lot of every man if sin had not entered and by sin death (Romans
5:12). As the Jewish commentators long ago had perceived: "Had
it not been for the Fall, death would not have been so terrible
and painful, but a joyful incident in man's career," for
God had created man with the capability of immortality (Wisdom
of Solomon 2:23). But we are told in Hebrews 12:2 that instead
of the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross. The
Authorized Version reads here, "for the joy that was set
before Him. . . ." But in fact the original Greek has
which should be rendered more precisely, "over against,"
"in place of," or "instead of." In short,
rather than going on into glory, which might have been His normal
expectation as man made perfect, He returned to His earthly career
and told the disciples who were with Him what would be the outcome
of this decision (Matthew 17:9). It is worthy of note that the
Williams translation reads here: "who, instead of the joy
that was set before Him. . . ", and the version produced
by Smith and Goodspeed reads: "who, in place of the happiness
that belonged to Him, submitted to a cross."
In other words, the Second Adam
achieved the perfection of maturity as a human being which Adam
and all his other descendants utterly failed to do, and then
having set aside this joy which was the natural terminus of a
sinless life, He came back into the stream of history again with
the deliberate intent of experiencing death voluntarily, without
compulsion, and for our sakes.
The circumstance is clearly full
of significance in the present context, for it signifies that
man, as man in a sinless state, could have been conducted from
this order into a higher one by a simple transformation in which
death plays no part. The pattern shown us here "in the mount"
was the pattern which the First Adam and his descendants might
have followed if sin had not entered. I believe that if men had
not sinned, they would have matured through the daily experiences
of life here on earth in the company of both God and of others
like themselves until innocence was turned into virtue.
When that virtue was come to the full, then each one would have
arrived at the position that the Lord Jesus was in when He was
ready to be translated into heaven. That is to say, if there
had been no Fall and
no need for redemption,
that experience would have been the common lot of man, not as
the "end of life," but as the fulfillment of it, not
as something to be dreaded and postponed at all costs, but something
to be striven for and longed for throughout the whole of life.
Taylor put it this way, (52)
In the transfiguration of Jesus
we see what could have happened, we see the ultimate perfection
that God intends for man. No physical deterioration, no rending
of the earthly body from the soul, but metamorphosis, as smooth
as sunrise, into the full-grown man.
In the experience
of the First Adam and in the experience of all his children,
the length of time spent bound by this physical world order would
have depended only upon the progress made by each person toward
the full stature of manhood. When that stature had been achieved,
a metamorphosis would have carried the individual forward into
a higher sphere of life, which would, however, by no means exclude
the continued association and enjoyment of all that this life
holds dear. For, as Jesus was still able, for forty days after
His resurrection, to enter at will and without hindrance into
the company of His disciples, so those now transformed would
have been able at will to fellowship with those who had not yet
reached maturity. Thus, unfallen man would have known nothing
of the awful sense of separation which is the sting of death.
And indeed, the whole of life would have been daily and wonderfully
sweetened by communion not only with God, but with those thus
made perfect. To climax the striving toward perfection by a transforming
experience that has no element of death whatever would surely
be a thing to hope and long for, not a thing to dread and delay.
Taylor has written of the wonder of such experience in a beautiful
quotation by an anonymous author in the following words: (53)
For six weeks of springtime
nineteen centuries ago, perfected Man was seen and loved on this
same earth that the unfallen Adam, the germinal Man had walked
. . . and that we live on now. At will, He showed Himself, at
will He was unseen. He consorted with His friends, and went for
walks, and shared a supper, and picnicked by the lake. Nothing
could have been homelier, nothing more natural. For it was
natural: that is the point.
In such a world,
then, men would not die. The two worlds, the earthly and the
heavenly, would then no longer be separated by "a great
gulf fixed." God would dwell with men as He did in the Garden
of Eden and as He will yet do, according to Revelation 21:3.
52. Taylor. John, ref.52, p.51.
53. Ibid., p.54.
what could be the consequences for the world itself, the physical
order of things, this "school for man," if man had
thus retained his original immortality? What of population growth,
for example? For in such a sinless world where men might live
for centuries, people would still have multiplied and filled
the earth, since the command to do so was given before man sinned
(Genesis 1:28). Would men have gone on multiplying indefinitely
until the earth groaned under the very burden of their numbers?
With the world as it is, this situation would not be a happy
one. Indeed, to quote a recent report, (54) "The spectre of senile people over-running the
earth as a result of lives prolonged [by modern medical miracles]
was presented as a 'terrifying prospect' by Sir George White
Pickering, Oxford University Professor of Medicine, at a symposium
at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in
New York. The catastrophe of indefinite life has led Dr. Pickering
to ask whether it is not time to halt the program of research
and development that will make such a thing possible." This
is a very revealing observation, though much of the "terror"
stems from the fact that human wickedness would greatly compound
the problems of population over-crowding. Yet even in a sinless
world, such a prospect would hardly be a pleasant one. Is there
some other factor, then, which would tend to restrain population
growth? And what of the progress of civilization? Both points
lead to interesting conclusions, the consequences of which find
some illumination from the history of antiquity and from recent
research in gerontology.
First consider the matter of population
growth. We can surmise from the records in Genesis of pre-Flood
generations, that there is a law at work among human populations,
as among animals, that the age of a parent at the birth of his
first child is related to his expected life span. In his article
"The Life Span of Animals," the well-known biologist
and author of The Biology of Senescence (1956), Alex Comfort
pointed out that "longevity in mammals is . . . closely
correlated with net reproductive rate." (55) Short-lived mammals (like rabbits) mature quickly,
and quickly begin to raise a family. Long-lived mammals, such
as elephants, mature more slowly and take longer to reach parenthood.
Some small animals breed exceedingly slowly in spite of their
size, raising only one offspring per brood, and others are prolific,
but on the average, the statement made by Comfort is generally
When we come to human beings, the
situation is more complex
54. Reported in Science News, vol.89,
55. Comfort, Alex, ref.19, p.114.
because man is not "natural"
in his behaviour in the sense that animals are. But we do have
the records of Genesis for the period near to man's beginnings,
and of course we have data on man today. And the contrast is
In the early chapters of Genesis
we are given a list of descendants of Adam with their ages at
the birth of their first-born son and their ages at death. Statistical
analysis of these figures is interesting. One cannot, of course,
assume that the age given at the time of the first-born son
is necessarily the age of that parent at the birth
of the first child, for in some cases girls may have preceded
boys, and we are not given any information about female infants.
But as they stand, the figures are very remarkable. In another
of the Doorway Papers we have treated this subject in greater
detail. (56) We
need here only to point out that if the standard Spearman Rank
Order Correlation formula is applied for the seven persons listed
as having sons at a given age (Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahaleel,
Jared, and Methuselah) and if we thereby correlate total life
spans and ages at birth of first-born son, we find the correlation
value to be 0.96, which is very nearly a perfect correlation.
If, as a matter of interest, the same treatment is applied to
the figures given in the Alexandrian Septuagint and the Vatican
Septuagint, the correlations are found to be 0.07 in both cases,
which is to say that the data do not bear the same relationship
at all. This indicates that the figures in the Hebrew text are
more probably correct.
Then if we calculate the average
age at the birth of the first son for those individuals in the
Hebrew text, we have a figure of nearly 116 years. Whereas today
it is not uncommon to find young mothers only 11 or 12 years
of age in some parts of the world, and it is not common to find
women bearing children after reaching the age of 50, in the world's
earliest period when men lived to be hundreds of years old, the
first child was as a rule not likely to be born until the parents
were nearing the century mark. This suggests that if men did
not age at all, the growth of population might be even more dramatically
slowed down. Or to put the matter negatively, a man who lived
on for several hundred years would not, for reasons that remain
yet to be explored, start raising a family by the time he was
twenty and go on raising children at the rate of one every year
or so thereafter. Children would be born far later and perhaps
spaced more widely in point of time -- not because they were
not wanted, but for some other reason which has to do with the
process of maturing. This would no
56. "Longevity in Antiquity and Its Bearing
on Chronology," Part I in this volume.
longer be a question
of the "biology of senescence," for men would not grow
old. It would be a question of the "biology of maturing."
In any case, population explosions would not then be part of
the process, and the sinless (and ageless) world we envision
would be slowly peopled rather than crowded to the limits of
Moreover, I am persuaded that in
such an idealized world, man would not have spread outside the
gates of the Garden of Eden, but would have expanded the limits
of the Garden as his own society grew. This, as I see it, was
what was intended -- to turn the whole earth, progressively,
and by mastery of all its climates and ecologies, into one vast
This, to my mind, in no way implies
that civilizations would have remained in a state of simple agriculturalism.
There is nothing in Scripture to forbid any form of human endeavour
that is creative. Only, nothing created would ever have been
abused. We would see a world culture glorying in the creativity
of man, using but not abusing (as Paul puts it, I Corinthians
7:31) everything that is within man's creative power, in the
arts and sciences alike.
And how rapidly civilization would
have evolved when men individually could, over the centuries,
accumulate so much and share with others, similarly accumulating,
so much of skill and knowledge! Imagine visiting Italy and casually
asking Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci what his latest work
was. Imagine how knowledge would be compounded when each man
gathered for himself and in himself the experience of centuries,
and shared it with others of like vast understanding. Perhaps
Archbishop Whately was right when he said that Aristotle was
but the rubbish of an Adam. Thomas Aquinas held that Adam knew
"all that was humanly knowable." (57) The first man, he said, "was established by
God in such a manner as to have knowledge of all those things
for which man has a natural aptitude." I doubt really whether
this is a necessary assumption, only that he had a perfected
intelligence which would enable him rightly to understand all
that he sought to understand by the use of the intellect. But
he may have had more than this, for he may have been endowed
with a perfectly functioning group of instincts, those "guides"
with which animals are so perfectly provided, and which Fabre
(58) in a moment
of inspiration termed "inspired activity."
Today it would seem that about
the only instinct man has retained -- or so some psychologists
claim -- is that of swallowing.
57. Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologica,
I, Q. 94, art. 3.
58. Fabre: quoted by W. R. Thompson, "The Work of Jean Henri
Fabre," in Canadian Entomologist, 1964, p.70.
But certainly the Fall
affected man's mind and darkened his understanding so that he
knows few things with absolute certainty. His mind needs renewal
(Romans 12:2). But there is probably no need to assume that man's
mind lost its tremendous power immediately. The decline may have
at first been slow. The patriarchs may not merely have accumulated
more knowledge; they may have had much finer brains to begin
with. There is evidence that even today intelligence (not knowledge)
may be declining still. (59) And if this is true, one must look back to our forebears
with increasing envy the further they are removed in time. In
more than one sense, there may have been giants in the earth
in those days.
Thus we can dream of such a sinless
world, where an individual a thousand years old is still only
a child in age (Isaiah 65:20), where the spoiling effects of
sin would not ruin every gift that man has learned to exercise
so effectively, and where the last enemy, death, would no longer
blight all man's bright hopes of achievement and lay his best
efforts in the dust.
We cannot do more than dream of
such a paradise now, for man has sinned, death has entered, every
leisurely process of life has been shortened and shortened and
shortened until it has become one hectic scramble to reach some
goal for which time is too short and which itself proves in the
end not really worth striving after. The end comes too soon to
complete it perfectly, and death thus becomes our final enemy.
Yet the Lord has great promises for those who are redeemed, and
I cannot doubt that when time shall be no more (Revelaion 22:5),
then the new heavens and the new earth will be the setting for
the fulfillment of all our brightest visions and highest hopes.
Surely the Bible's last two chapters hold out this promise of
a reality which we shall be heirs to, and of which even now we
taste an earnest, when corruption shall have put on incorruption
and mortality shall have put on immortality (I Corinthians 15:54),
the end for which the first was made, as one poet has so beautifully
59. Declining intelligence: article in Journal
of the American Medical Association, November
2, 1946, p.518.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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