Did Death Exist in the Garden of Eden?
Adam and his wife disobeyed God, listened to the serpent, and ate from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Immediately "the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loinclothes for themselves" (Genesis 3:7).
The next verses portray sin's consequences, but in verse 21 we see God do something interesting - "The LORD God made clothing out of skins for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them.
Wait a minute! Where did the skins come from?? Did God just sacrifice an animal after Adam and Eve sinned to cover them?
So if the penalty for sin is death, and we see over and over again in the Old Testament that an animal is sacrificed to make atonement for sin, isn't it reasonable to understand that Jesus has to die on the cross for our sin in order to make atonement?
Answers in 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution by Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker
Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker combined to write a book addressing 40 difficult questions often asked regarding creation and evolution. When discussing Old-earth creationism and Young-earth creationism, "more than the proper interpretation of Genesis 1-3, the age of the earth, or even the theory of evolution, this is the question that stands above all others: Did animals die before Adam and Eve fell in the garden?" (Keathley and Rooker, 2015, p. 255).
They do a phenomenal job examining the question of whether there was animal death before the fall in their book 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution. In the book, they outline four major views to answer the question:
- No - there was no animal death prior to the Fall;
- Yes - but animal death was still caused by Adam;
- Yes - animal death was caused by Satan; and
- Yes - animal death was caused by God.
No - There was no animal death prior to the Fall
"Kurt Wise and Ken Ham contend that no creatures, including insects and bacteria, experienced death before Adam's fall. For them and other Young Earth Creationist proponents, the question of animal death goes to the very heart of the authority of Scripture and the nature of God" (Keathley and Rooker, 2015, p. 256).
Yes - But animal death was still caused by Adam
"William Demski presents a second view. He makes the interesting argument that, though animal death predated the events of Genesis 3, their deaths still are the outcome of Adam's sin. Adam's fall, like Jesus's atonement, was a cosmic event, and as such had retroactive effects" (Keathley and Rooker, 2015, p. 256).
Yes - Animal death was caused by Satan
"And still others, including C.S. Lewis and Charles Foster, give a third view. They suggest that natural evil came about with the arrival of the first evildoer - Lucifer. Satan committed the initial moral evil when he rebelled against God sometime in the primeval past and, in so doing, brought about natural evil. Therefore, suffering and death existed before Adam and Eve arrived on the scene" (Keathley and Rooker, 2015, p. 256).
Yes - Animal death was caused by God
"Finally, some, such as Hugh Ross, David Snoke, and Mark Whorton, say that animals died before Adam's fall, but they do not hesitate to attribute the cause of death to God. They argue that the nature and purpose of death changed when Adam and Eve rebelled" (Keathley and Rooker, 2015, p. 256).
For more on this topic and others, please pick up a copy of 40 Questions About Creation and Evolution by Kenneth Keathley and Mark Rooker. This is a phenomenal resource. I have had the privilege to take classes with both men and am thankful for their work for the Kingdom.