How could death, decay, and imperfection possibly have been present on a perfect earth, prior to the disobedience and transgression of Adam and Eve?

Email Received:

I read your Creation commentary, and I am interested to know what you think about some things. It's my understanding that God didn't want Adam and Eve (or their billions of descendants) to have to endure the miseries that we have. He IS good and loving, is HE not? The lamb was "slain from the creation of the world" because God knew already the end of the story, not because He WANTED to the story to turn out the way it has. And because Jesus destroyed death, death will not exist in the new creation.

Didn't God say that BECAUSE of the fall of man, THEN the earth would produce thorns and thistles? Apparently, a "curse" impacted the genetic structures of everything, at least on the planet we call earth. God made clear to Adam and Eve, after they sinned, that whereas death had not existed before, it would then, and whereas thorns and thistles had had not existed before, they then would, right?

I certainly wrestle with the difference between "good" and "perfect." I conjecture that the "natural" functions of eating and digestion, for instance, had an original purpose that folded neatly into God's blueprint. That is, it doesn't mean, necessarily, that "poop" was ever a bad thing in the way we know it now, as an agent of disease. Maybe the way that we understand composting in gardening and farming circles might be similar to the way God intended our bodies (and those of the animals/plants) to function—as constant vessels of co-creation, perpetual engines of nutrition and life-giving substance to the raw materials of creation (none of which, pre-fall, were subject to death). So, using this logic, IF there was no death in this "good" creation, then the "good-ness" of eating and pooping was actually a HEALTHY thing for the world, not a source of discomfort and unpleasantness like we know it to be now.

Which brings me to my next question. Revelation 21:27 seems to indicate that EVEN in the new heavens and new earth, there will be folks that are "detestable and false" and will not have entrance into the New Jerusalem. What do you think of that?

Ted's Response:

From my perspective, your points of discussion about this topic are similar to looking at individual trees, versus looking at the overall forest. For instance, if someone is stating that the fruit on a certain tree should be oranges, when in reality the tree is in an apple orchard, then it renders any "orange" arguments about that tree immaterial, if not invalid.

So I would rather stand back and view the overall picture of the creation, to understand general ideas about it, before zooming in and looking at individual features of it. If there can be no agreement as to whether we are looking at a grove of apple trees or orange trees, further discussion is a waste of time.

For example, I have had several people try to convince me of the existence of a young earth by using various arguments, focusing on single issues, such as moon dust thickness, the alleged change in the speed of light over time, etc. In many of these cases, I referred them to a page at one of the main young-earth sites, Answers in Genesis, on the web:

Most of those attempting to convince me of a young-earth point of view have been unaware that numerous arguments, often used to "prove" the young-earth position, have been found to be inconclusive, at best, and erroneous, at worst. As such, their use has been discouraged by the staff at Answers in Genesis. Thus, such arguments in any meaningful discussion were, and are, irrelevant.

Here is an example of how you and I are interpreting the overall forest differently, right from the start. Yes, God is both "good and loving." But perceiving God only that way is considering merely part of His nature. God is good but, at the same time, can hate many things (for instance, in Deuteronomy 12:31, 16:21,22; Proverbs 6:16-19; Malachi 1:2,3). Furthermore, a great many people will suffer and be destroyed when God judges the world, as is shown in passages such as Isaiah 24:1-23, which is discussed further in my commentary Natural Disasters and Socio-Economic Collapse.

We humans, who live on this earth, think of suffering and misery as strictly bad things, because they hurt and are unpleasant to us. But what if torment and affliction were planned, by God, prior to the inception of this universe and earth, just as there are many whom God has created to be objects of His wrath, prepared for destruction (Romans 9:22)? If so, then we never could understand God's overall plan (the "forest") if we myopically looked at the horrific things around us (the damaged "trees"), trying to figure out how a "good and loving" God could possibly allow such things to happen.

Most of humanity is constantly perplexed and baffled by this seeming contradiction, because they are not looking at the overall big picture. The fact is that evil, calamities, pain, suffering, and death merely are tools used by God to attain His ultimate goals, all of which are good. More about this can be read in one of my email responses to someone else: Who is responsible for evil? Does God know what He is going to do before He does it?

Most young-earthers cannot conceive of the possibility that a perfect God could have created an imperfect universe—on purpose. Making the assumption that this universe was "perfect," prior to the sin of Eve and Adam, is building a foundation made of soft sand, not solid rock. If that premise is false, and I feel certain that it is, then any tenets built on top of it are inherently faulty, and destined to collapse, as well.

If we consider that there is yet another, brand new Creation to come (Revelation 21:1,5), which indeed will be perfect and pure, then it makes absolute sense to me that in God's infinite wisdom and intelligence, He first would have created a universe which is defective and decaying from the start. He even provided illustrations of this in the lineage of Jesus (see the second greater than the first). I think of it as "perfect imperfection."

Such an imperfect creation would be the supreme example of how things should not be for all of eternity. After all, how could we ever truly appreciate perfection and righteousness if we never had experienced imperfection and sin? How could we fully comprehend how wonderful and awesome God is, and how could we be motivated enough to worship and praise Him, for eternity, if perfection and righteousness were commonplace and were all that we had ever known? Indeed, the old and new Creations will be as dissimilar as night and day.

I do believe, as you stated, that the Lamb was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8). But this was not simply because God knew beforehand that humanity would sin (and, therefore, that the Lamb of God would have to be killed to pay for sin). That is the "tree" that most of Christendom understands and accepts, and indeed it is true. But there is way more to it than that.

I believe the larger "forest" is that God created humans predisposed to sin. As such, it was inevitable for them to choose it, with their fallible free will, especially after being tempted by Satan. After all, Satan presumably was created long before Adam and Eve were, and even he would not have known what pride, disobedience, and rebellion were unless God had instilled those traits into him, initially. More on my beliefs of how God's predestination came before, and supercedes, our free will (like the original "chicken" came before the "egg") can be found in this email response: Which do you feel is true: God's predestination or our free will?

Just as Satan was not perfect, Adam and Eve were not perfect either. Had they been perfect, it would have been impossible for them to have been tempted by sin. They succumbed to sin because they were created as imperfect, flawed beings. Only Jesus was/is perfect, and only He was capable of resisting all sin (see first and last Adam). Had our original parents been able to refrain from sin indefinitely, or permanently, they very well could have viewed themselves as "perfect little gods," which no mortal humans ever will become, because we all are imperfect.

God wanted the story to turn out the way it did; otherwise, God rightfully could be accused of "messing up," which is not the case. I believe that everything has been predestined, by God, to take place just as it has, in every detail. If God had wished for this present creation to go on eternally, He would have made it perfect from the start. Moreover, no sin ever would have entered into it, just as no sin ever will enter into the new, perfect Creation to come (Revelation 21:27), after this one has worn out and has been discarded (Psalm 102:25,26; Hebrews 1:10-12).

You are right that Jesus destroyed death and, furthermore, that death will not exist in the new Creation. Jesus did overcome death, and death will be the last enemy of God to be destroyed, after Jesus has triumphed over all of His enemies (1 Corinthians 15:24-26)—the ultimate fulfillment of which will be at the end of the Millennium, when death is thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). But that, in no way, implies that death was not always a part of this creation, initially for plants and animals, then for humankind.

Death did not suddenly "pop" into existence, for all living things, when Eve and Adam disobeyed. Just as time, as we know it, had a beginning (2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2), which was when this universe was created, so the process of death, as we know it, had a beginning at the same moment. This universe has been "dying" from the moment it came into being, just as is true of a newborn baby. Furthermore, the grace of God was provided for us before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9), but not simply because God knew that we would need it. Mainly, it was because He knew that He was going to create a reality, inherently flawed, in which that grace would be essential for our ongoing existence.

Most people who believe that there was no death in the animal and plant kingdoms, prior to Eve and Adam's sin, also embrace a young-earth view. The natural implication is that death would have been absent for only a few solar days—a simple task for God to keep everything alive for that short period of time. Of course, these people think there had to be a young earth to negate evolution, because then things would not have had time to evolve.

What they fail to understand is that no matter how old this creation is, it would have been impossible for one species to evolve into another species. This process never has been proven to exist, since it cannot exist, and that is because God will not allow it. He created all species from "scratch." Moreover, no matter how many billions of years "primordial slime" existed in optimal conditions, it could not have developed into life, on its own, because only Jesus, the Creator (John 1:3; Colossians 1:15,16; Hebrews 1:2), is the Author of life (Acts 3:15).

For young-earthers, if there was no death prior to the initial sin of humankind, the idea of a universe and earth that are billions of years old becomes extremely problematic. It is much simpler to construct an entire creation model where no death originally was part of a young universe/earth. But just because that is a nice, easy, pleasant, convenient, idealistic theory does not cause it to be true. I am convinced that it is not true; and, at this point, I think that only God Himself could persuade me to believe otherwise, in case I am wrong. Death prior to mankind's sin, in an imperfect and old universe, simply makes too much sense to me.

Pertaining to "thorns and thistles"...God planted a garden, east of Eden (Genesis 2:8). From that point until Eve and Adam sinned, all we see is the inside of that garden. But what was the rest of the earth like, on the outside? Was the entire earth like the garden of Eden? Or could there have been thorns and thistles outside of Eden, where Adam and Eve eventually were banished? It does not matter, because the whole notion is irrelevant. Who cares?

Even if, at that time, all of the earth were a lush garden, which suddenly turned into a wilderness when Adam and Eve were booted out of Eden, it would not change my view that their sin was appointed to happen. In addition, the rest of the earth was predestined to be cursed because of their sin, and then they were foreordained to work at tilling the soil to be able to eat.

Reading the text, though, I've always gotten the impression that the garden of Eden was a uniquely nice place on earth, where everything was pleasant and where bringing food from the ground was relatively effortless. The status of everything outside of this "sphere of comfort" simply was unknown at the time. It could have been lush, or it might have been thorny, or perhaps it was fertile, undeveloped land that would have been easy for future generations of people to cultivate, had they expanded outside of the garden of Eden in a sinless world.

Note that Adam was not exempt from work in the garden (Genesis 2:15). Similarly, Eve would not have been exempt from all pain in childbirth, had she been there long enough to have children. It's just that, due to her sin, her pains in childbearing were greatly increased once she left the garden (3:16), just as Adam's work to till the soil was painful once he was expelled (3:17).

The natural functions of eating and digestion, inherently, are based on decay and decomposition. I believe that this only could happen in an imperfect universe, which was decaying and decomposing—and contained within it the process of death—from the start. Thus, these functions were a natural progression within such a universe, and on such an earth.

I agree that death of humankind was a byproduct of Eve/Adam's disobedience/sin, but that alone does not confirm that death was not already taking place in the animal and plant kingdoms. (See Didn't death in this world and decay in the universe begin when Eve and Adam sinned?) Nor does it establish that death was not predestined to take place from before the foundation of the earth, as I believe it was. Death of animals and plants had been taking place for hundreds of millions, if not for billions, of years. Their decaying, decomposing remains sank deep into the earth, over a very gradual and protracted process, and became the oil that has been used by humankind, as a source of energy, for thousands of years. Thus, the ongoing death of these carbon-based organsims had been planned by God and was "very good" (Genesis 1:21).

As far as "poop" goes, it isn't now, nor has it ever been, a "bad" thing, simply because it is an unclean, contaminated substance capable of spreading disease. Actually, "poop" is a "very good" thing, because its existence demonstrates that an organism is being cleansed of impurities. In fact, it is one of the many "very good" things that God designed to demonstrate that His imperfect universe was/is running smoothly, and will be doing so until this realm of imperfection is trashed and tossed out like an old, worn out garment, having served its purpose. Yet I have very little doubt that there will be no waste in the new, perfect Creation to come, because that new heavens and earth will experience no decay or decomposition at all; therefore, there will be no byproducts of such processes.

In my NIV Bible, the Scripture verse you cited reads this way:

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
I don't see room for anyone who is detestable and false in that perfect realm, inside or outside of the New Jerusalem. On the contrary, nobody like that will exist anywhere in the new Creation. The gates of the New Jerusalem never will be shut (Revelation 21:25), and the kings and people from all the nations always will be able to come into it and go out of it freely (21:24,26).

If everyone will have free access to that city, and if nothing shameful nor deceitful ever will enter into it (Revelation 21:27), then that means to me that everyone on the entire new earth will be perfect and free of sin, for eternity. Essentially, conditions on the new earth will be the opposite of the conditions on this present earth, which always have been lacking and imperfect, from its inception.

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