Table of Contents
Vol.5: The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation
IF ADAM HAD NOT DIED
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Is Immortality Possible
Chapter 2. Were Adam and Eve Immortal?
Chapter 3. The Consequences of
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1966: Doorway paper No. 52, published privately by Arthur C.
1977: Part III in The Virgin Birth and the Incarnation,
vol.5 in The Doorway Papers Series, Zondervan Publishing
1997: Arthur Custance Online Library (HTML)
2001: 2nd Online Edition (design revisions)
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
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.
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
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.
Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights
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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.