Lesson 8

August 14 - 20

Was There Death Before Sin?

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 1:20-28; 3:1-24; 6:11-13; 7:21-23; Rom. 5:12-14; 6:23; 8:18-22.

MEMORY TEXT:  "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23, NKJV).

KEY THOUGHT: Death first entered this planet as a direct result of Adam's and Eve's fall. It not only affected humans but animals, plants, and all of creation. God's plan of redemption includes both humanity and the entire creation.

Sabbath Afternoon   August 14

WHAT DO THESE FOSSILS MEAN? One of the current challenges facing those who believe in a recent Creation is the evidence marshaled by secular geologists that life has been on this planet for millions of years before the first appearance of humans. It is true that human fossils only appear near the top of the geologic column (that layer of fossil bearing rocks that covers the surface of the earth), while plants and animals of many different types appear in the rocks deeper down. If one accepts the dating of these rocks, it appears that complex life forms seem to have existed before humans for hundreds of millions of years. The implication of this is that death existed before humans, meaning that man's fall was not the event that really brought death.

Some have tried to get around this challenge by suggesting that it does not matter whether lower plant and animal life forms existed and died before humans. In this lesson we will explore these issues in the light of biblical evidence.  

Sunday  August 15

DO ANIMALS MATTER? (Gen. 9:8-17; Matt. 6:25, 26; Luke 12:22-24).

What does Genesis 9:8-17 tell you about God's care for the animals and the rest of His creation?  

There are a number of indications of how important God's creatures were to Him when He first created them. He desired them to be fruitful and multiply; He provided for their food and care; He placed them under man's protection; and, most important, He pronounced what He had made as "very good." It is interesting that after the Fall God did not directly curse the animals (the snake was an exception), although they would suffer as a consequence of Adam's fall. And after the Flood, God included them in the covenant He made with humankind (Gen. 9:8-10).

How important was the animal kingdom to Jesus? Matt. 6:25, 26; Luke 12:22-24. 

We often cite Matthew 6:25, 26 and Luke 12:22-24 as evidence of the question of God's love. If He cares for a lowly sparrow or raven, then surely He cares for us! Yet, it is easy to forget that the Creator in the New Testament is the same Creator in the Old Testament. Ellen White reminds us that "The Saviour was the One who had instructed the Hebrews in the wilderness ..." and that the "merciful provisions of the law" that Jesus gave "extended even to the lower animals, which cannot express in words their want and suffering."—The Desire of Ages, p. 500.

The Bible teaches that the suffering and decay experienced by the animal kingdom were directly linked to the fall of humankind. Yet some suggest that the fossil record reflects nearly 600 million years of animal suffering prior to the creation of humankind. One of the more vexing problems we face is the problem of pain in the animal world, especially if one believes that the animal kingdom existed for millions of years before humans.

The Bible indicates (Rom. 8:18-22) that animal suffering was directly linked to the fall of humankind. To suggest that animals lived and died for millions of years prior to Creation and the fall of Adam and Eve not only contradicts Romans 8 but also runs counter to the fact that Jesus is a compassionate Creator and Savior.

Considering that animals suffer because of the fall of our first parents, how can we show more compassion to them?  

Monday  August 16


What was Adam's role in relationship to the animals? Gen. 1:28; 2:19, 20.  

The Bible portrays an intimate, close relationship between Adam and the animals. He is told to "rule" over them and then to name them. What is the point of all this?

By placing Adam in charge of the animals, God hoped to convey to him and Eve and their descendants some important lessons. First, it gave a sense of appreciation for their own relationship to God. By caring for the animals, our first parents experienced the joy they brought God and also an appreciation for His love for them.

Second, it taught them the lessons of responsibility, interdependence, and service. These concepts are beautifully expressed in the following statement: "All things both in heaven and in earth declare that the great law of life is a law of service. ... The same law of service is written upon all things in nature. The birds of the air, the beasts of the field, the trees of the forest, the leaves, the grass, and the flowers, the sun in the heavens and the stars of light—all have their ministry. Lake and ocean, river and water spring each takes to give. ...'Give, and it shall be given unto you is ... written no less surely in nature than in the pages of Holy Writ."—Education, p. 103.

This interdependence and law of service is integral to God's entire creation, including both the plant and animal kingdoms. In the case of the animals, they needed humankind's care and love. Humans, in turn, would see that the animals provided many things for them as well, not the least of which is love. In essence, God created humans and animals in what might be called a "symbiotic" relationship—they needed each other—each had its role to play in God's created hierarchy. Note that both humans and animals share the breath of God.

This created interdependence is one reason why the supposition that animals preceded humankind by millions of years does not fit a biblical perspective. A major purpose for creating lower life forms was to fill out the hierarchy of interdependence that would work within God's "law of service." The key to this hierarchy is the humans, who were responsible for the lower creation.

Jesus said, "Give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:38). How have you experienced this dynamic truth in your relationships with others? How did you receive the greatest blessing in the act of giving? As the recipient or as the "donor," the one who was doing the giving?  

Tuesday  August 17

NATURE BEFORE AND AFTER THE FALL (Gen. 1:30; 9:3-6; Isa. 11:6-9; 65:25).

What indication do you find that there was no death in the animal kingdom before the Fall? What about meat-eating animals? Gen. 1:30; 9:3-6; Isa. 11:7; 65:25.  

Biblical evidence suggests that there were no flesh-eating animals before the Fall. According to Genesis 1:30, the original diet of all animal life was "every green plant." As Ellen White says, "One animal was not to destroy another animal for food."—Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 396.

From our present understanding of meat-eating animals, it seems that it was not possible for them to live on a vegetarian diet. Carnivores (meat-eaters) are an essential part of the "food-chain" in our ecosystem. Scavengers are nature's garbage disposal system—they help clean up the dead carcasses. However, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are quite specific that it was not this way in the beginning. This would suggest that major changes occurred in the plant and animal kingdoms—changes beyond our current understanding.

How does the Bible describe the nature of the animal kingdom in a sinless world" Isa. 11:6-9;  65:25. 

One way of understanding what nature was like before the Fall is to study the Bible's description of the new earth. The Bible makes it clear that death was an unintended and unwelcome intruder in our world and that it will have no part in the earth to come (Isa. 11:6-9; Rev. 21:4). This mystery is as unfathomable as the one that assures us that our mortal flesh shall put on immortality (1 Cor. 15:50-55). Somehow, the very nature of life on this planet will be transformed! This biblical view, however, contradicts current understanding of the laws of ecology. Modern ecology tells us that death is an essential part of life in our present world. In fact, most biologists find it difficult to understand how it could be possible to have life without death, since to them death is so essential to the current cycle of life. But the transformation at the Second Coming will not only include humanity but also the entire creation (Rom. 8:19-21). The creation itself is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed so that it, too, will be liberated from its bondage of decay!

How does it make you feel to know that death, the unintended and unwelcome intruder, will be destroyed forever!  

Wednesday  August 18


How did the Fall affect the "law of service" and interdependence? Gen. 6:12; 9:2.  

"Under the curse of sin all nature was to witness to man of the character and results of rebellion against God. When God made man He made him ruler over the earth and all living creatures. So long as Adam remained loyal to Heaven, all nature was in subjection to him. But when he rebelled against the divine law, the inferior creatures were in rebellion against his rule."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 59.

"It is because of man's sin that 'the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together.' Romans 8:22. Suffering and death were thus entailed, not only upon the human race, but upon the animals."—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 443.

Adam's relationship to the animals was not too different from that of a king to his people. In a sense, the animals were Adam's "subjects." There is a lesson that runs throughout the Bible, especially throughout the books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, that when kings, or other leaders, are righteous, their people tend to follow them in righteousness. However, when the leaders are wicked, the people follow them in wickedness.

What hint do we find in Genesis 6:11 that humanity's rebellion adversely affected the animal kingdom?  

It is significant that the Bible points out that the earth became full of violence because the people on earth had corrupted their ways. In short, the rebellion of humanity spread into the entire creation as noted in the comment of Ellen White above. A hint of that change is found in Genesis 6:11, which tells us that, owing to humanity's wickedness, the earth had become "corrupt" and "full of violence." It is often assumed that this violence refers to wicked human deeds. Ellen White adds the following insights about the wickedness of pre-Flood humanity and its influence on the animal kingdom: "They [humans] loved to destroy the lives of animals. They used them for food, and this increased their ferocity and violence, and caused them to look upon the blood of human beings with astonishing indifference."—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, pp. 63, 64.

In what positive or negative ways have some leaders influenced your life? In what ways does your example influence others around you?  

Thursday  August 19

DEATH IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM-BEFORE SIN? (Gen. 1:1-31; 2:17; 3:2-4; Rom. 5:12, 14; 1 Cor. 15:21).

What indication is there that animals did not exist for millions of years before Adam and Eve? Gen. 1:1-31. 

As we noted in an earlier lesson, the Bible knows nothing of a creation in this world earlier than that of Genesis 1. The best reading of the Hebrew in that chapter does not allow it. The only Creation dealing with this planet is that recorded in Genesis 1. According to the account given there, plants preceded the creation of humans by three days (Gen. 1:11, 12), while birds and animals were created on the fifth and sixth days (Gen. 1:20-25). There is no evidence in the Bible to support the idea that for millions of years before the Fall dinosaurs lived and died. Such theory would challenge God's Word and misrepresent His character regarding the relationship between His creation and sin, suffering, and death.

It would seem strange that our loving God and Creator would supposedly allow 600 million years of animal suffering, which some Christians, without proof, propose took place prior to the creation of humankind. The explanation the Bible provides about animal suffering is that found in Romans 8:12-22. Creation was subjected to the "bondage of decay" as Romans 8:21 implies.

What does the Bible say about the origin of death? Gen. 2:17; 3:2-4; Rom. 5:12, 14; 1 Cor. 15:21.  

Evolutionists have long recognized the implications their theory has for the biblical account of Creation. As early as 1840, geologist Edward Hitchcock wrote, "The general interpretation of the Bible has been, that until the fall of man, death did not exist in the world even among the inferior animals. For the Bible asserts that by man came death (1 Cor. 15:21) and by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin (Rom. 5:12). But geology teaches us that myriads of animals lived and died before the creation of man."—Elementary Geology (Amherst, Mass.: J. S. and C. Adam, 1840), p. 273. Clearly, as Hitchcock recognized, this particular scientific interpretation of geology and the Bible account of origins are in conflict.

Suffering and death are connected with the fall of our first parents, and did not take place before. What does this fact tell you about the character of God and the reliability of His Word?  

Friday  August 20

FURTHER STUDY:  Review chapters 3 through 7 (4, 5, 6) in Patriarchs and Prophets, where the story of the Fall, the plan of redemption, and the Flood are discussed. Reflect especially on the following passage:

"The sacrificial offerings were ordained by God to be to man a perpetual reminder and a penitential acknowledgment of his sin and a confession of his faith in the promised Redeemer. They were intended to impress upon the fallen race the solemn truth that it was sin that caused death. To Adam, the offering of the first sacrifice was a most painful ceremony. His hand must be raised to take life, which only God could give. It was the first time he had ever witnessed death, and he knew that had he been obedient to God, there would have been no death of man or beast.'—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 68

Ellen White explicitly denied that the animals found buried in the fossil record represented the existence of animal life for millions of years prior to the Creation week of the Bible. Rather, the origin of these animal remains was to be understood as the result of the biblical Flood. Remains of men, animals, and plants in the earth, i.e., fossils, "are regarded as proving the existence of vegetable and animal life prior to the time of the Mosaic record. But concerning these things Bible history furnishes ample explanation. ... At the Flood the surface of the earth was broken up, marked changes took place, and in the reformation of the earth's crust were preserved many evidences of the life previously existing."—Education, p. 129.

1. Are the pains and sufferings of lower life forms a moral issue?  How does it reflect on the character of God?  Should God be concerned? Do you think He is concerned?  
2. Since the age of the earth and the fossils are such controversial subjects in some quarters, what is the best way to handle them?  What would Jesus do? 

SUMMARY:  According to the Bible, all life was created by God. Death did not exist in the creation until after the Fall. As a result, the entire creation is subject to death, including the animal kingdom. The creation will be redeemed from its bondage of decay at the same time as the children of God.  

The Criminals' Church

J. H. Zachary

Abel Ti's gang was well known in the community around Mt. Hagen, in Papua New Guinea. They had terrorized the region so much that the community nearly became a ghost town.

Finally the police caught Abel and sent him to prison. He was assigned to work six days a week with Sundays off. But Abel noticed that some prisoners did not work on Saturdays or Sundays. He learned that they were Sabbath keepers. Abel was jealous and decided to claim to be a Sabbath keeper so that he too could get Saturdays off. It worked, and he wanted to use his free day to sleep, but he feared that the guards might notice and send him back to work. So he decided to attend the Sabbath worship services instead.

Then Abel escaped from prison. With two of his former gang members, he fled into the Jungle. The trio built a bush house for themselves and dug a tunnel under their home as an escape route should police find them.

While they worked, Abel did some serious thinking. One day he told his friends, "We are not living right. We have hurt people; we are always running from the law. We need to change our ways."

"What do you have in mind?" one of his friends asked.

"We should attend church. Let's go to the Protestant church in the village this week," Abel answered.

"Nothing doing!" his friends quickly replied. "We have hurt too many of the people in that village. If we show up in church, they will call the police, and we will be arrested!"

Abel thought for a moment and then said, "We could build our own church right here beside our house."

"What denomination will the church be?" one of the men asked.

"Seventh-day Adventist," Abel replied. "I went to their meetings in prison." The three men began gathering material to build their own church. In a few days a lovely bush chapel stood beside their home in the jungles of Papua New Guinea.

(continued next week)

Abel Ti (left).  J. H. Zachary is international evangelism coordinator of the Quiet Hour, located in Redlands, California.

Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group.  You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation.

Editorial Office:  12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor:  Randall W. Younker
Editor:  Philip G. Samaan
Associate Editor:  Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Assistant:  Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design:  Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator:  Glen Robinson

Copyright © 1999 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist.  All Rights Reserved.

This page is Netscape friendly.
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.

Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team.
Last updated August 5, 1999.