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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Part III: If Adam Had Not Died

Chapter 3

The Consequences of Immortality

     IN ANSWERING 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?
     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 anything whatever!
     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

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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.

*     *    *    *

     Here, then, 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.

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 "glorious" (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 physical life.
     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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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     And 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 true.
     When we come to human beings, the situation is more complex

54. Reported in Science News, vol.89, 1966, p.447.
55. Comfort, Alex, ref.19, p.114.

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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 telling.
     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.

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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 its capacity.
     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 garden paradise.
     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.

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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 put it.

59. Declining intelligence: article in Journal of the American Medical Association, November 2, 1946, p.518. 

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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