The Death of Death and All of His Friends
December 18, 2016
After God declared war on the serpent, after he divided the world with a promise of salvation, he turned to Adam and the woman. And he told them the consequences of their sin.
The woman would now experience a world of hurt and hardship when it came to childbearing. Labor and delivery would now come with intense and unbearable pain. The shadow of death would now always loom over both mother and newborn. And the emotional and mental hardship of raising children would now become the norm.
Both the woman and Adam would now experience a marriage filled with dysfunction and strife. The wife would now find herself undermining the authority of her husband. The husband would now find himself tyrannically lording over his wife. A laundry list of issues would now always threaten couples: conflict, selfishness, wrong expectations, infidelity, the lack of intimacy, the breakdown of communication, the love of money, the lack of forgiveness, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and so much more.
Adam would now experience a world of hardship and futility. The ground would now fight against him. Work will never end and rest will never be achieved. Life would now be filled with frustration. And, most importantly, Adam would now have to die.
Brothers and sisters, let us allow the sadness of the consequences of this first sin sink in our hearts and minds. Adam and the woman went from blessed fruitfulness and multiplication - “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…” - to wretched barrenness and devastation - “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing…” Adam and the woman went from best wedding ever - “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh…” - to worst marriage ever - “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Adam and the woman went from a pleasant-filled garden with bountiful food, beautiful rivers and the best of gold and bdellium and onyx to an empty-handed exile with toil and hardship and vanity and certain death. In other words, Adam and the woman went from something that God called very good to something that was very bad.
The sadness of Genesis 3:16-19 would continue throughout Old Testament history. Sarah and Abraham would be barren and childless until 90 and 100. Jacob would love Rachel more than Leah. The writer of Ecclesiastes would cry out, “All is vanity!” Naomi would be left without her two sons and her husband. Michal would despise King David her husband. Job would go through living hell. Moses’ parents would have to let him go in a basket in a river. Abel would be murdered by Cain. The widow of Zarephath would say to Elijah, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” These stories echo the reality of Genesis 3:16-19. And above all, Sarah and Abraham and Jacob and Rachel and Leah and the writer of Ecclesiastes and Naomi and Michal and King David and Job and Moses and Moses’ parents and Cain and the widow of Zarephath and her son and Elijah… they all died.
Brothers and sisters, let us allow the sadness of the consequences of this first sin sink in our hearts and minds. Consider what was lost. Consider how Adam and the woman must have felt upon hearing these words from the Lord. Consider all the stories of sadness in the Old Testament. And consider how the consequences of Genesis 3:16-19 remain in effect today.
Unfortunately, when it comes to today, Genesis 3:16-19 is not an issue for much of the world. Many people today either don’t care about God’s word and the consequences of the first sin, or they learned to deal with it. You could call it a flight or fight thing. Thus we see the invention of epidural anaesthesia in order to lessen the pain. We see the filing of divorces in order to end the strife. We see the promise of the American dream and everything that comes with it in order to reward the toil.
And on top of all of that, we see that much of the world has not reckoned well with death. One half of it has basically given up. As I’ve said before, the evolutionist may call death natural. The movies may show that death is just a part of life. The philosopher may conclude that death is meaningless. And the guy at the bar? Well, he just drinks to it all and then heads home with no answer. It is so sad to see one half of the world have no real answer to death.
Meanwhile, the other half has basically tried to put up a fight. The DNA researcher may try to turn death off. The suicidal girl may think that she can own it. The Hindu may believe that it can be overcome by reincarnation and good karma. And the poet with his pen? Well, he just cries out in defiance, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” It is so sad to see the other half of the world try to come up with an answer against death.
When I think about our church, I wonder about the reality of Genesis 3:16-19 upon our lives. I wonder about the pain that Stephanie and Christine may have to soon endure. I wonder about the possible problems that may exist among our married folks. I wonder about how our students in school are really feeling. I wonder about how everyone is dealing with the struggles of the nine-to-five. I wonder how Isabel will get through this week. I wonder if there is anger or depression or emptiness or suicidal thoughts in this room. Genesis 3:16-19 is real.
But praise be to our God that we do have an answer. And the answer that we have for everything in Genesis 3:16-19 is something in Genesis 3:15. Or to be more precise - someone in Genesis 3:15. It is fascinating that God declared the answer before he declared the problem. Before we were given the consequences of the first sin of Adam and the woman in verses 16-19, we were given the promise of salvation in verse 15.
This order, this structural fact is important. It means that the promised savior Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill the covenant of old. Jesus Christ is the only one who can make everything right again. You see, Adam did not just fail in his test of obedience to God. Adam also bore consequences that in symbolic fashion forever blocked him from ever being able to take and pass the test again. Now Adam and the woman and everyone else in history would have to face a profound choice: either believe in God’s promise of a special person who would come and fulfill the terms and conditions of the covenant of life and cling to him with dear life, or reject this entire promise and turn away from this special person and strive to go at it alone. Now Adam and the woman and everyone else in history would have to face a profound choice: either follow up Genesis 3:16-19 with a bible of your own writing, or go back to Genesis 3:15 and watch that one verse blossom into the one true Bible of God’s own writing.
Adam chose the latter. At the end of today’s Scripture text, in verse 20, we see Adam doing a hugely profound thing. He called his wife’s name Eve. Actually, he renamed his wife Eve. Remember that Adam first named her woman when he said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man." The renaming of a person in redemptive history has special meaning. It refers to something new in the purpose of God. Just think of Abram to Abraham. Sarai to Sarah. Simon to Peter. Saul to Paul.
Those names were all given by God. But what is cool about the name Eve is that it was given by Adam. Adam’s renaming of the woman is a decisive move of faith. It is Adam hearing all the sadness of verses 16-19 and saying, “I believe in the promise that all offspring of hers will one day crush the head of the serpent.” Before the fall, Adam derived her name from his, as if he were saying, “She’s with me.” But now after the fall, Adam derived her name from the promise of God, as if he were saying, “I’m with her, I’m with her offspring.” As all the sadness of verses 16-19 sunk into the mind of Adam, it is earth-shattering that he did not rename the woman “Death.” He should have. After all, Mrs. Death would have gone well with Mr. Dust. But Adam did not call her by that name. Instead, Adam stamped onto her a name unforgettable, a name that he would call her by for the rest of his sad life, a name that would remind him of the great promise of Genesis 3:15. Eve: the mother of all living - or more precisely, the mother of someone special. Someone who would indeed suffer through the sadness of verses 16-19, someone who would indeed die, but someone who would then rise again to an indestructible life. And today we know that someone’s name: Jesus Christ.
And so this is the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can remove the consequences of Adam and Eve’s first sin. Only Jesus can absolutely deal with thebarrenness and desvastation and pain that comes with childbearing. Only Jesus can absolutely deal with the worst marriages and the most dysfunctional relationships. Only Jesus can absolutely deal with the toil and hardship and vanity that comes with life. Only Jesus can absolutely deal with the reality of the penalty of death.
And the way that Jesus Christ dealt with all of these consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin is this: He entered into our world. Hashtag Christmas. He became fully human while also being fully God. He lived a perfect life in obedience to the law of God. He earned the right to eat from the tree of life. He amassed a righteousness that fulfilled the covenant that Adam failed to fulfill. And then he took that record and status and gave it to us so that we would have a place in heaven. And he took our record and status and died because of it so that the justice and wrath of God for our sins would be administered and satisfied. He rose again from the dead and ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of God. He has entered into that sabbath rest that Adam would have enjoyed if he had passed the test and never sinned. He has an eternal life without any more suffering or pain or hardship or vanity. He is in a place that has no sin. And he is bringing forth a new heavens and a new earth that will know nothing of death. Nothing of returning to the ground or returning to the dust. Therefore, all the things of Genesis 3:16-19 will be swallowed up in victory. O Genesis 3:16-19, where is your victory? O Genesis 3:16-19, where is your sting? The sting of Genesis 3:16-19 is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sarah and Abraham and Jacob and Rachel and Leah and the writer of Ecclesiastes and Naomi and Michal and King David and Job and Moses and Moses’ parents and Cain and the widow of Zarephath and her son and Elijah… they all lived with the sadness of Genesis 3:16-19. But they all died with the promise of Genesis 3:15. They all died believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many people like them were tortured. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated, wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. These all lived in a Genesis 3:16-19 world. But these all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
Listen to God’s word in Revelation 21. Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…. And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”
In closing, brothers and sisters, what an amazing gospel we believe in! We have something to say to the rest of the world. We have something to say to the evolutionist and the guy at the bar. We have something better for the DNA researcher. We have someone special to introduce to the suicidal girl: an offspring of the woman, who crushes the head of the serpent. And in a world that is always winter but never really Christmas, we proclaim the death of death and all of his friends.