Too easily we mistake the consequences of our sin with the judgement of God. This article was written very early in the Game Start series. I now feel that a later article, About Punishment, captures a more complete view of this topic.
First I will introduce a few concepts after which I will explore them in the Genesis context.
God is sovereign and all-powerful yet we have freedom to make our own choices. This is a classic Christian dilemma. One way to help resolve the issue is to see that we are free to choose and God exercises His sovereignty by dictating the consequences of our choices. And by the way, the consequences are usually dictated in advance, so we are without excuse.
The ultimate choice we make is to accept or reject Jesus. If we reject the Son then we reject the Father, and all God has planned for us. So God, though He loves us, grants our wish to live separate from Him, and denies us access to His heaven. The consequence of this is the Lake of Fire because it is the only alternative to Heaven.
Someone once told me that His Grace is giving us good things we donít deserve and His mercy is not giving us bad things we do deserve. This is quite a nice way to view the ďgoodĒ outcomes we get from God but we also remember that he is a Righteous God who is bound to judge us. For these reasons we both love and fear God. (This is a big topic that I wonít explore for the moment.)
A fairly mature understanding of Godís judgement is that, God is not punishing us as much as allowing the consequences of our decisions to unfold.
Ultimately Godís wrath will be poured out on all mankind but He will save those who have accepted His Son as their Lord. This is described in Revelation. It is total destruction. But it does not happen until the Word of God is preached throughout the world and man has become totally sinful and without excuse. In the meantime Godís judgement is mixed with mercy and we see that He is always planning to draw man back to himself.
In many ways God has set things up so that if we deviate from His ways, the consequences seem to come automatically. For example, if we deviate from Godís plan for men and women to live in marriage, faithful to each other, then we are not surprised to see sexually transmitted diseases increase. Some people go too far and view all judgement as the natural consequences of our actions. I think they see this as a way to imagine God as all-loving and so He never initiates anything that they might consider bad. Others assign everything bad to Satan. But God does (or will) judge and does discipline and itís not nice. We are in a life and death struggle! Best to accept Jesus and by-pass judgement.
In Genesis 3:14-19 God curses the snake and the ground, but does not curse Adam or Eve. Instead He declared that Adam came from dust and will return to dust. Dust of the earth always refers to mortality. Adam was created mortal. Then, in Genesis 3:22, to prevent Adam living forever, God removes Adamís access to the tree of life. God provided the tree of life so that as long as Adam was living in fellowship with God, he could live forever. It was Adamís decision to sin that brought this consequence on him and on all mankind. (By the way, in the Book of Revelation, the tree of life is restored Ė praise God!)
Truly Godís word to Adam that the day he ate of the tree of good and evil, he would die, (Genesis 2:17) was full filled. The death that God was referring to was the eternal separation from God that was caused by sin. This is the second death (Revelation 2:11). This is fulfilled the day Adam sins. But Adam and his descendants live on for over 900 years. The day is like a thousand years scriptures (Psalm 90:4, 2 Peter 3:8) are now relevant. Clearly 1000 years is the length of life that God created Adam to have and the day Adam sins the Tree of Life is removed and Adamís natural life span cuts in.
I also believe that Adam was created in perfection. What else for the Son of God? He was immune to all diseases and degenerative disorders. But alas, when Adamís descendants intermarried with daughters of the other men (Genesis 6), their DNA was polluted. This pollution gradually takes effect and then, in the very small population group created by Noahís sons, the degeneration rapidly takes effect and life spans ramp down quickly. But this was simply the consequence of manís sin.
What foolishness to write down 120 years for manís life span in Genesis 6:3 and then to describe men living to 600 and 900 years. Did the author made a mistake? Genetics is not my speciality but I am aware of scenarios where isolated animal populations in breed and develop different traits. Isnít this exactly what we would expect as the corrupt genes start to spread in the population, and then with the very small breeding group created by Noah and his sonís, suddenly the life spans start rolling down very quickly. Even Jacob made comment about this in Genesis 47:9. The scattering of Noahís descendants at the Tower of Babel again created small breeding groups which then led to different races. (See the timeline in Appendix A2 of Page-1-God.)
In the last few paragraphs I have cast a lot of the bad things that happened to Adam and his descendants as the consequences of their actions. Hooray, God does not do anything bad! It is just the consequences of our decisions. Well, not so! In Genesis 3:16-19 God specifically says that the womanís pain in childbirth is increased and, that men will have ďpainful toilĒ in producing food. Not nice! What can I say?
Throughout the Old Testament we see that when things were nice Israel would drift away from God and when God allowed some enemy or famine to come against them they would turn back to God. Adam and Eve had perfection and they turned away. Godís judgement here is clearly described as painful but itís because God wants them to turn back to Him.
The classic role for a man is as provider and a woman as the child bearer. Godís judgement goes to the very core of these roles. But God had always planned that it was His role to be provider and He was the creator of life. When Adam and Eve rejected Godís command they usurped Godís role and took the consequences.
Here is something I said to put a positive spin on the 120 years...
When God declared that manís life span would be 120 years it was designed to focus us on the brevity of life. Man was living to nearly 1,000 years but his heart was becoming hard and he was turning his affections away from God and to the delights of this world Ė the daughters of men. But with a life span of 120 years we are conscious of death from an early age. We see our grandparents and parents die. Intuitively we know that we must face Godís judgement and the brevity of life forces us to make the decision whether to seek God or reject God. Otherwise we would put it off and then our hearts become hard and we are lost forever. So shortening our life span tends to draw us back to Him.
However this was clearly the consequence of interbreeding with inferior day-6 women. Inferior because their DNA was only programmed to give them shorter lives. This grieved God. He was not angry but sorry that this had happened. However God works through all things for good. In this case our shorter life serves to draw us back to Him before our hearts become hard. (So why did God give day-6 man so much shorter life than He gave to Adam? Probably to ensure that these day-6 men would see Adam as superior just as the angels in heaven understand God is sovereign.)
I discuss other surprising aspects of this in more detail in chapter 20, ďAbout the NephilimĒ, of Page-1-God.
From the Garden of Eden flowed 4 rivers, which I suppose to have clear sparking water, fed from a river from within Eden. At its centre was the tree bearing the fruit of life. The New Jerusalem has four walls of sparkling jewels. At its centre is the throne of Jesus who is Life and the river of life flows out from the throne.
Godís judgement of Adam and Eve was to exclude them from the garden and cause them pain. Godís judgement on those who reject Jesus is to exclude them from the New Jerusalem leaving only eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. From the very start God has been signalling the very end.
A couple of years after writing this I grasped something new. It is fully explained in Page-1-God, Appendix B3, ďAbsence of goodĒ, in the section, ďSo how did all this happen?Ē This deals especially with Genesis 6 but uncovers a fundamental truth, namely, the bad things are not God punishing man for his wickedness (because it has never worked), but God is merely exhausting all possibilities before He sent His son to die in our place.