Genesis 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
Of all the questions I’ve been asked as a missionary, “if God is Holy why do we still have ?” is the most common (followed closely by “if God is Loving why do we have ?).
First the short answer…God’s justice comes uses a spiritual judgment instead of physical.
And now a long answer…
God told Adam and Eve if they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil they would die (Genesis 2:16–17). Therefore Eve believed the moment she ate that fruit (or even touched it) physical death would immediately come.
Satan in Genesis 3:4 basically called God a liar, promising that instead of a curse that fruit was actually a blessing (Genesis 3:5) the Lord was trying to keep them from. And partially he was correct since Eve didn’t physically die right away.
But what did happen?
- Adam and Eve were filled with Shame for the first time and hid from God
- Instead of confessing thier sin, they blamed one another for what happened
- Eve is cursed to painful child-bearing
- Adam is cursed to painful work all his life
- They would eventualy “return to dust” in death
So what was believed to be the final judgment (death) didn’t come for more than one hundred years later
This does make it seem as if God is either lying (they weren’t going to die physically) or made a mistake (miscalculated how long it would take for death to come. But there is a third option.
He wasn’t referring to physical death.
Many Bible scholars believe God here referred to a “spiritual death” or separation from His presence in Eden. A simple reading of Genesis three also strengthens this view since there is an immediate disconnect in the relationship between God and man.
All of us (myself included) are used to seeing physical justice being carried out when someone is wrong. This begins with a simple thing as sitting in the naughty chair because you ate a cookie, but extends even to our legal system.
There is a physical justice from God; follwing a persons death as they suffer for eternity in a lake of fire. The Lord however doesn’t want this to happen (II Peter 3:9) so in mercy He offers to all of us Salvation through Christ.
There is still a justice carried out, but it’s a spiritual one that flows out of a broken relationship with God.
While this may not seem like much, our inability to deal with the struggles and pressure of life on our own shows just how much we need God.
Part of me would love to see the wicked receive a public judgment from God because to be quite honest they deserve it (the Lord is helping me become more loving in this situation). But it’s important to remember God does judge sin, even if we cannot see it.