15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. 16 The LORD God commanded the man, saying, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17 NASB '95)
Well, there we have it. The first mention of death in the Biblical canon comes from God, but He's not just describing something that is "a natural part of life." Rather, YHWH Elohim is warning Adam that eating from a particular tree will bring a pointedly unnatural death upon him (and, by extension, upon all mankind).
Let's just think about that fact for a minute: The "big picture" account of creation in Genesis 1 didn't mention death at all, and the "zoom lens" account of day 6 in Genesis 2 mentions death only in the context of punishment for disobeying a specific command of God. With that in mind, there should be no question that--at this point--death is quite plainly not a part of God's creation. God neither "built" death into the original creation, nor did He "plan" for death to be introduced into creation and then offer His natural explanation for it. Death--quite simply--was just a warning at this point. Admittedly, it was a amazingly blunt and serious warning from the Creator of Everything to His highest creation at that point, but it is nonetheless it is strictly a judicial statement from God that Adam--and all of mankind with him--would "surely die" if Adam ate from that one forbidden tree. It is God's warning that something unnatural, and utterly unwanted, will be introduced into creation if Adam makes a wrong decision, which is an appalling idea all by itself. To give true "choice" to Adam, who is not only God's first "handmade" human, but also His first human representative on earth, boggles the mind. Probably the very idea is meant to boggle us just a bit, anyway.
Now, if you sit there for a few minutes and think about this, you--as I do--will inevitably ask yourselves "why on earth (literally)" would YHWH Elohim even give Adam the ability to make a decision that would--in essence--bring Death, and all his painful buddies, into an otherwise utterly perfect Creation. Why???? To us the post-modern cliche, "What was God thinking? I mean really, WHAT was He thinking???" And, of course, you will not get the satisfaction of a straightforward answer, at least not from the Biblical text we have read up to this point.
However, we do have an extraordinary little 4-person drama coming up, featuring God, Adam, Adam's wife, and a serpent, which will show us how Adam's earth-shattering (literally!) ability to choose not to obey God causes subsequent events to play out. We will also get a few pointed and quite serious statements from the Creator about the specific consequences of Adam's wrong choice, all of which clearly flow out of that one simple warning, "you will surely die." And, if we can discipline ourselves to resist the temptation to jump way ahead the the Book of Romans (a strong urge for any Christian reader at this point), we will actually discover something of how YHWH Elohim actually does think about Adam, and Adam's place in His whole Creation.
So, in this quickly coming drama, in which we discover, like Hamlet, that "the play's the thing to prick the conscience of the king" ("king" = "Adam" in Genesis 2-3, just to connect the dots a bit), will also unveil in a specific way, the mind of the Creator as He deals--in turn--with Adam and with his fellow "conspirators" at the climax of this extraordinary "morality play," which is also--perhaps, a very early predecessor of "reality TV."
We will watch and learn from this very first human "tragedy" next time, so prepare yourselves, with the next link, to make a nice little "theater-dinner," and fill some glasses with sparkling lemonade, and to find a nice table by the stage, and--above all--to know that you will not be simply spectators at this masterpiece of theater, but--in fact--heirs of the tragic climax, and children of the king.
See you next time.
Grace and peace in Christ,