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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Vol.5: The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation

Part III:



Table of Contents

Chapter 1.  Is Immortality Possible for Man?
Chapter 2.  Were Adam and Eve Immortal?
Chapter 3.  The Consequences of Immortality

Publishing History:
1966: Doorway paper No. 52, published privately by Arthur C. Custance
1977: Part III in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation, vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing Company.
1997: Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001: 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)

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He who handles the Gospel of Christ deals with the supernatural. Nothing can disguise this fact. The message may be printed attractively; it may be presented winsomely; it may be proclaimed dramatically. But unless there is something else, altogether beyond the power and reach of the evangelist or writer, the result of the effort can only be disappointment. That "something" is the power of God, sometimes perceived as a still, small voice, sometimes as the sound of a trumpet, sometimes as the roar of many waters. But always it is from God.
                                                                                 -- From the Scripture Gift Mission, Annual Report for 1965.



     THERE IS, of course, no point in asking what would have happened if Adam had not died, unless there really was a possibility of his not doing so. One cannot explore usefully the consequences of something which is quite impossible. To begin with, therefore, we have to establish whether Adam could, under certain circumstances, have been, in the old classical sense of the phrase, "one of the Immortals."
     To put the question a little more precisely: Is there any evidence that Adam was physiologically different from ourselves with respect to the aging processes, i.e., Was he originally immortal in the sense that he could have lived on and on without experiencing either senescence or death? Or was physical death simply the expected end for him as it now seems to be for us and for all other higher forms of animal life?
     And if death for Adam was not the original intention, then why did God create a potentially immortal creature knowing all the time that this potential would be so soon surrendered? It seems like such a futile thing to do, such a waste of creative energy. Worse than that, it looks indeed like inadequate foresight.
     It is my object in this Paper to present some of the evidence that the physical immortality of man is not such a strange conception after all and to give some thought to what would have happened to Adam and his descendants if this condition had never been surrendered and if they had gone on multiplying indefinitely. But it is also my aim to show that it was absolutely necessary for Adam to have been so created in the first place, even if he had only retained his immortality for a few hours: otherwise the redemption of fallen man would never have been possible at all.

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     In this study, it is very important to underscore the fact that the possession of immortality does not mean that death is not possible but only that death is not inevitable. The difference is crucial to a proper understanding of Adam's role in the subsequent redemptive history of man, both because of his position as the First Adam and because of his relationship to the Last Adam. The Plan of Redemption as set forth throughout Scripture involves the vicarious death of a true representative of Adam, and there is therefore a critical relationship between the two Adams.
     The theology underlying this plan involves two important requirements. In the first place, the redeemer must himself be one who, by reason of his possession of immortality, need never die; yet he must also be able to surrender that immortality if he chooses to do so. The important point here is the complete absence of the necessity of death, coupled with complete freedom to embrace it. He must be able to die, but he must also be able not to die. For example, an angelic nature would provide for immortality but would not permit the tasting of death -- hence the precise wording of Hebrews 2:9: "made a little lower than the angels that he might suffer death. . . ." On the other hand, strict identity with human nature, as now physically constituted, would not serve the purpose either, since the redeemer must then share our inherently mortal condition, and death would then have been sooner or later unavoidable. But the essence of substitutionary sacrifice is that it must be a sacrifice that actually need never be made. It must, in other words, be entirely voluntary. Thus, when the Word became flesh (John 1:14), He was made only in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), not precisely as we are now, unable to avoid senescence and death, however long we succeed in delaying it.
     The second basic fact is that because man has a body which is as much a part of his whole identity as his spirit is, such a redeemer must, in terms of life processes, have also shared the nature of the First Adam's life processes in order to truly represent man as he originally was. Otherwise, no matter how substitutionary his sacrifice might be, it would not be substitutional for man. It might be substitutional for some spiritual creature whose body is not an essential part of his total being, but Scripture makes it abundantly clear (and Roman Catholic theology has been more aware of this as a whole than Protestant theology has) that man's body is an essential part of his identity as man, and that a disembodied human spirit can exist only in a "state of violation" of its true nature. Thus, when we examine the circumstances surrounding the death of the Lord Jesus

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Christ, we learn a very important thing about the kind of body He assumed in His incarnation. And what is thus made plain about the living body which He indwelt tells us some most important facts about the nature of the physical body with which Adam was endowed.
     These, then, are the two basic assumptions: that the body which the Last Adam indwelt was immortal and not by nature subject to death; and secondly, that it was truly representative of the body of the First Adam which must accordingly also have been immortal. On these two assumptions is predicated the subject matter of this Paper. The consequences of these two assumptions, when explored thoroughly, shed much light on God's purposes in creating Adam in the way that He did, in creating Eve out of him, and, finally, in subjecting them both to a particular kind of temptation.
     Finally, lest the emphasis in this Paper should be misleading, may I reaffirm my faith in the fact that the Word that became man and dwelt among us, never for one moment surrendered His deity. A study of another Doorway Paper, "The Unique Relationship Between the First and the Last Adam" (Part IX in this volume), may be helpful in this connection.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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