The Theological Necessity Of The Physical Immortality Of The First And The Last Adam -- By: Arthur C. Custance

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 21:4 (Dec 1978)
Article: The Theological Necessity Of The Physical Immortality Of The First And The Last Adam
Author: Arthur C. Custance

The Theological Necessity Of The Physical
Immortality Of The First And The Last Adam

Arthur C. Custance*

*Arthur Custance was a research scientist and head of the physiology laboratory of the Defence Research Board in Ottawa, Canada, until 1970. Now retired, he devotes himself to writing and lecturing.

Romans 5:12 states that “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men.” If physical death is the penalty of sin would a sinless Adam and Eve have lived on and on forever, never experiencing physical death? Would they not then have continued to multiply indefinitely in obedience to Gen 1:28, until the earth was not merely “filled” but veritably overwhelmed with their numbers? In such a situation what alternative could there be but unimaginable overcrowding?

To state the matter in slightly different terms: Did the fall actually introduce physical death as a thing entirely foreign to the experience of an unfallen race previously endowed with a potential for unending continuance, or did it merely shorten life, which was subject to certain natural limitations in any case?

Was the principle of life that Adam and Eve first enjoyed fundamentally altered so that the penalty of sin was the acquisition of mortality itself as something entirely new, or was it simply the imposition of premature death, death before the time, a kind of capital punishment? Capital punishment is today imposed on the criminal not as a substitute for living on indefinitely but as curtailment of a life expectancy that has limits imposed by reason of our mortal nature. Was Adam’s penalty a mere shortening of life, a shortening that fell more and more heavily on the descendants of Adam and Eve as the human life span steadily declined?

We thus have two alternatives: (1) the acquisition of mortality as an entirely unnatural concomitant of human life, or (2) premature dying. We have an Adam and Eve who need never have died at all had they not sinned, or we have an Adam and Eve who, having sinned, merely died before their time.

It may be asked whether it is reasonable to suppose that a highly complex creature such as man could possibly enjoy a form of physical life with the potential for unending continuance. Is not death part and parcel of all life, an attendant condition of it? And is not man part of the web of life, experiencing death as a natural process like all other living things?

It is interesting that many who are willing to accept the idea of the inherent immortality of the human soul or spirit, a concept that owes more to Greek philosophers ...

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