The Last Enemy, Death, Brought to Nothing
“The last enemy, death, is to be brought to nothing.”—1 COR. 15:26.
1, 2. What conditions did Adam and Eve originally experience, and what questions arise?
WHEN they were created, Adam and Eve had no enemies whatsoever. They were perfect humans who lived in a paradise. They enjoyed a close relationship with their Creator as his son and daughter. (Gen. 2:7-9; Luke 3:38) Their life prospects were indicated in the very commission God gave them. (Read Genesis 1:28.) To “fill the earth and subdue it” could be accomplished in a certain amount of time. But to continue to ‘have in subjection every living creature that is moving on the earth,’ Adam and Eve would need to live forever, Adam never having to abdicate his oversight by dying.
2 Why, then, are conditions so different now? How did there come to be so many enemies of human happiness, the greatest enemy being death? What would God do to bring these enemies to nothing? The answers to these and related questions can be found in the Bible record. Let us examine some essential portions of it.
A LOVING WARNING
3, 4. (a) What command did God give Adam and Eve? (b) How important was obedience to that command?
3 Although they had the prospect of living forever, Adam and Eve were not immortal. To keep living, they had to breathe, drink, sleep, and eat. More important, their lives depended on their relationship with their Life-Giver. (Deut. 8:3) Accepting God’s guidance would be essential for their continuing to enjoy life. Jehovah made this clear to Adam even before Eve was created. How? “Jehovah God also gave this command to the man: ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will certainly die.’”—Gen. 2:16, 17.
4 “The tree of the knowledge of good and bad” stood for God’s right to determine ultimately what is good and what is bad. Adam, of course, already had a sense of good and bad; he was created in God’s image and had a conscience. The tree would indicate to Adam and Eve that they would always need Jehovah’s direction. For them to eat of the tree would be to claim moral independence, which would cause enormous damage to them and to the offspring they would produce. God’s command with its penalty conveyed the gravity of such a course.
HOW DEATH ENTERED THE HUMAN FAMILY
5. How were Adam and Eve led into disobedience?
5 After Eve was created, Adam informed her of God’s command. She knew it well and was able to repeat it almost verbatim. (Gen. 3:1-3) She did so to someone who presented himself as a serpent, a cautious creature. The one behind the serpent was Satan the Devil, a spirit son of God who had allowed himself to nurture a desire for independence and personal power. (Compare James 1:14, 15.) To achieve his evil ends, he accused God of lying. He assured Eve that reaching out for independence would result, not in death, but in becoming like God. (Gen. 3:4, 5) Eve believed him, asserted her independence by eating of the fruit, and persuaded Adam to join her. (Gen. 3:6, 17) The Devil had lied. (Read 1 Timothy 2:14.) Still, Adam “listened to [his] wife’s voice.” Though the serpent might have seemed to be a friend, Satan the Devil was in reality a cruel enemy who knew the fatal consequences of his suggestion to Eve.
6, 7. How did Jehovah handle the judgment of the wrongdoers?
6 For personal reasons, both Adam and Eve rebelled against the One who gave them life and everything else they had. Jehovah, of course, was aware of all that had happened. (1 Chron. 28:9; read Proverbs 15:3.) He had allowed the three individuals involved to show how they felt toward him. As a Father, surely Jehovah was deeply hurt. (Compare Genesis 6:6.) He then had to act as Judge, supporting and applying his own statement of the consequences.
7 God had told Adam: “In the day you eat from [the tree of the knowledge of good and bad] you will certainly die.” Adam may well have understood this “day” to be a 24-hour day. After violating God’s command, he could have expected Jehovah to act before the sun set. “About the breezy part of the day,” Jehovah approached the couple. (Gen. 3:8) He held court, as it were, establishing the facts from the responses that Adam and Eve gave. (Gen. 3:9-13) Then he pronounced sentence on the wrongdoers. (Gen. 3:14-19) Were he to execute them then and there, his purpose regarding Adam and Eve and their offspring would come to nothing. (Isa. 55:11) Although he confirmed the death penalty and the effects of sin began immediately, he allowed Adam and Eve to produce children who could benefit from other provisions that He would make. Thus, from God’s standpoint, Adam and Eve died on the day they sinned, and they actually died within one “day” of 1,000 years.—2 Pet. 3:8.
8, 9. How were Adam’s offspring affected by his sin? (See opening image.)
8 Would the children of Adam and Eve be affected by what their parents had done? Yes. Romans 5:12 explains: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because they had all sinned.” The first to die was faithful Abel. (Gen. 4:8) Then Adam’s other offspring grew old and died. Did they inherit sin as well as death? The apostle Paul answers: “Through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners.” (Rom. 5:19) Sin and death inherited from Adam thus became implacable enemies of mankind, inescapable for imperfect humans. We cannot exactly describe all that was involved in passing on their sad inheritance to Adam’s immediate and more distant offspring, but passed on it was.
9 Fittingly, the Bible refers to inherited sin and death as “the shroud that is enveloping all the peoples and the covering that is woven over all the nations.” (Isa. 25:7) This suffocating covering, or shroud, this intricate webwork of condemnation, entraps all people. So the fact is that “in Adam all are dying.” (1 Cor. 15:22) The question that naturally follows is, as expressed by Paul: “Who will rescue me from the body undergoing this death?” Could anyone?a—Rom. 7:24.
ADAMIC SIN AND DEATH BROUGHT TO NOTHING
10. (a) What are some Bible verses indicating that Jehovah would bring Adamic death to nothing? (b) What do these verses reveal about Jehovah and his Son?
10 Yes, Jehovah could rescue Paul. Directly after mentioning “the shroud,” Isaiah wrote: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (Isa. 25:8) Like a father who removes the cause of his children’s suffering and dries their eyes, Jehovah takes great joy in bringing Adamic death to nothing! In this he has a collaborator. First Corinthians 15:22 reads: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” Similarly, after Paul asked “Who will rescue me?” he continued: “Thanks to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25) Plainly, the love that moved Jehovah to create mankind did not grow cold with the rebellion of Adam and Eve. And the one who shared with Jehovah in the work of bringing the first couple into existence did not lose his special fondness for their offspring. (Prov. 8:30, 31) But how would this rescue be accomplished?
11. What provision did Jehovah make to help mankind?
11 Human imperfection and death involve both the sin Adam committed and Jehovah’s righteous judgment. (Rom. 5:12, 16) We read: “Through one trespass the result to men of all sorts was condemnation.” (Rom. 5:18) What could Jehovah do to remove his condemnatory judgment without invalidating his own standards? We find the answer in Jesus’ words: “The Son of man came . . . to give his life as a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28) The one who was Jehovah’s first spirit son made clear that he, having been born on earth as a perfect human, would provide a ransom. How would this ransom satisfy justice?—1 Tim. 2:5, 6.
12. What was the corresponding ransom that satisfied justice?
12 As a perfect man, Jesus had prospects similar to those of Adam before he sinned. Jehovah’s purpose was to fill the earth with Adam’s perfect offspring. Hence, with deep love for his Father and for Adam’s descendants, Jesus gave up his human life in sacrifice. Yes, Jesus gave up a perfect human life that corresponded to what Adam had lost. Thereafter, Jehovah restored his Son to life as a spirit. (1 Pet. 3:18) Jehovah could justly accept the sacrifice of that one perfect man, Jesus, as a ransom, or purchase price, to buy back Adam’s family and give them the life prospects that Adam had forfeited. In a sense, Jesus took the place of Adam. Paul explains: “So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living person.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”—1 Cor. 15:45.
13. How will “the last Adam” act to help the dead?
13 The time will finally come for “the last Adam” to act as “a life-giving spirit” toward mankind in general. The majority of Adam’s offspring will be brought back to life. Why? Because they have already lived and died. They will need a resurrection, a returning to life on earth.—John 5:28, 29.
14. What provision from Jehovah would help reverse the imperfection that Adam passed on to his offspring?
14 How would mankind be freed from their struggle with inherited imperfection? Jehovah provided for a Kingdom government made up of “the last Adam” and chosen associates from among mankind. (Read Revelation 5:9, 10.) Those associated with Jesus in heaven will have experienced what it means to be imperfect. For a full thousand years, their joint rulership will provide assistance to those on earth, helping them to overcome the imperfection that they could not conquer on their own.—Rev. 20:6.
15, 16. (a) What is “the last enemy, death,” and when will it be brought to nothing? (b) According to 1 Corinthians 15:28, what will Jesus do in time?
15 By the end of the thousand years of Kingdom rule, obedient mankind will have been liberated from all enemies introduced by Adam’s disobedience. The Bible says: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive. But each one in his own proper order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who belong to the Christ [his joint rulers] during his presence. Next, the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has brought to nothing all government and all authority and power. For he must rule as king until God has put all enemies under his feet. And the last enemy, death, is to be brought to nothing.” (1 Cor. 15:22-26) Yes, death inherited from Adam will at last be done away with. “The shroud” that entraps the entire human family will have been removed forever.—Isa. 25:7, 8.
16 The apostle Paul completes his inspired summary with these words: “When all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Cor. 15:28) The purpose of the Son’s rule will have been accomplished. He will then, with deep satisfaction, return his authority to Jehovah and present to him the perfected human family.
17. How will Satan finally be dealt with?
17 What about Satan, the one who initially caused all the misery that mankind has experienced? Revelation 20:7-15 provides the answer. In a final test of all perfect humans, Satan will be permitted to try to mislead them. The Devil and those who follow his lead will be eliminated everlastingly in “the second death.” (Rev. 21:8) Because those within its grasp will be forever out of existence, this death will never be brought to nothing. “The second death” is, however, no enemy of humans who love and serve their Creator.
18. How will the commission God gave Adam be fulfilled?
18 Perfected mankind will then stand before Jehovah as fully approved for everlasting life, with no enemies anywhere. The commission given to Adam will have been accomplished without him. The earth will abound with his offspring, who will delight to oversee it and enjoy its many life forms. May we never lose appreciation for the way in which Jehovah lovingly brings the last enemy, death, to nothing!
a Speaking of the efforts of scientists to explain the cause of aging and death, Insight on the Scriptures comments: “They overlook the fact that the Creator himself decreed the death sentence for the first human pair, implementing that sentence in a way that man does not fully understand.”—Vol. 2, p. 247.