The Bible calls death the king of terrors, Job, chapter 18, verse 14. Death is the king over the whole human race. Everyone dies. In fact, life itself is a steady movement toward death. It’s as if your life is a candle lit when you’re born, and eventually burning itself out. We’re all made from dust and to dust we return.
The ultimate sovereign in the world then is death. Death reigns. We know that. We’re all dying. We have death thrown in our face every single day. In one way or another, we are aware of the tragedy and the reality of death. We make much when people die suddenly at the hands of a terrorist or an airplane crash or some kind of physical calamity, but nobody died in any of those events that wasn’t going to die anyway. It’s just that we’re not in control of it.
But why? Why does death reign in the world? Why is death the final judge? Why is death the ultimate sovereign? What has caused this?
I want to direct your attention to the 5th chapter of Romans. Romans, chapter 5, where we have the answer to that query. Romans, chapter 5, and I want us just to look at verses 12 through 14, listen to Romans 5:12-14, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned – for until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”
Here is the answer to why there is death in the world. Death reigns because of the presence of sin. Sin exists because of the sin of one man. Through one man sin entered into the world. The whole complex of sin, death, condemnation – all of it came through one man. In fact, one man’s one act. The reign of death over the human race is the result of Adam’s sin.
Now there are four sequential realities in the verses that I read to you, and they explain why the world is the way it is, and why we’re all dying; and this is the only explanation that is true, the only one. Let’s look at those four sequential realities.
Number One: Sin entered the world through one man, verse 12: “Just as through one man sin entered into the world.” That is explicit. With that truth, all the misery of the world is explained. Death is laid bare as to its root. And the key to understanding human behavior is placed in our hands by that one statement: “Sin entered the world through one man, one man.” Sin came into the human race through that one man who is identified, in verse 14, named Adam. The end of the verse it speaks of the transgression or the offense of Adam.
Now Adam was not the originator of sin. First John 3:8 says, “For the devil sinned from the beginning.” The devil instituted sin, inaugurated sin, launched sin with the rebellion in heaven; but Adam, succumbing to the devil’s temptations, introduced sin into humanity. Acting as if he were an agent to the devil, carrying the devil’s rebellion into the world, Adam sinned.
We know the story way back in Genesis, chapter 2, verse 15: “The Lord God took the man, put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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.”
Well, chapter 3 says, “The serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.”’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
But Even ate first. Why does it say, “As in Adam all died”? Why was it the transgression of Adam? Because Adam was the head, Adam was the head. Adam was the responsible one.
The result of that sin; curse, after curse, after curse. “To the woman I will multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain will you bring forth children. Your desire will be to overpower your husband, and he will dominate you.” To the man He said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall grow. You will eat of the plants of the field by the sweat of your face. You will eat bread until you return to the ground, because you’re taken from dust, and to dust you will return.”
In Romans, chapter 8, it says the entire creation was subjected to emptiness, futility. The whole point is that Adam was a real man – a real, genuine, true, historical person; not mythical, not symbolic. A real person. The first man. Not some kind of collective man at the end of some evolutionary process; not some kind of symbolic man; not some mythical man; not some fabricated, poetic man; but a real man. Adam is a real man, and that is essential to Christian truth in an understanding of the world and the way it is. He is a real man as Jesus Christ was a real man, and it is Jesus Christ who is called the second Adam and the last Adam. Any evolutionary lies that seek to eliminate Adam as a historical person are guilty of a destructive assault on the gospel and on Scripture.
Sin entered the world through one man. There was no sin before that one man sinned. There was no one before that one man was created. His one sin doomed the race. God only gave Adam one prohibition, but it was enough to cause selfishness to rise in his heart, and he disobeyed without being deceived. Paul tells us in Timothy he willfully disobeyed as the representative, the God-appointed representative of man.
The immediate effect was to produce a degeneration in Adam’s nature, a change in his constitution. Death hit him and he began to die. He fell from purity; he fell from innocence; he fell into corruption; he fell into guilt. In fact, it’s summed up very simply: “Through one man sin entered into the world.” Not sins, not behaviors; but nature, sin as an entity. Adam was mankind. He was the representative of all humanity. He acted for all the rest. His fall took down the entire human race into corruption, and the whole creation has suffered because of it. Again, Paul in Romans 8 says the entire creation groans under the weight of this curse.
Now we can understand how one man acts for all for whom he is responsible. A father acts and his family is affected by his actions. A general acts and his troops are affected by his action. A judge acts and all who come under the law are affected by his action. A government acts for the people and what it does affects all the people. So with Adam. He was appointed the representative of man, and when Adam sinned, the whole human race was subject to the effect. He was polluted and the whole race in his loins was polluted as well.
Genesis 3 then tells us essentially why human history is the way it is. Adam acts as man for man. When he sinned, did evil, rebelled, expressed selfishness, it flooded the entire human stream and everyone was polluted. In other words, Adam sinned and we’re all born sinners. We have all inherited his corruption.
There’s a second reality here: Death entered the human race through sin. Death entered the human race through sin. Sin entered the human race through one man, and death entered the human race through that one man’s sin. Back to verse 12: “Death through sin.” Simple statement: “Death through sin.”
There’s a sense in which death is not natural to the original nature of man as created in God’s image. Death is the penal consequence of sin. Death is the penal consequence of sin meted out by God. If Adam hadn’t sinned, he wouldn’t have died. Death was the divine penalty for his sin. And 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “In Adam all die, all die.”
Death and the decay that leads to death are the direct result of the poison that destroyed Adam’s nature, and then spread to all human beings. It doesn’t take long to see the spread in the book of Genesis. You have the fall of Adam in chapter 3, and then in chapter 5 you read this: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.”
And then we read this about Adam: “And he died.” About Seth: “And he died.” Enosh: “And he died.” Kenan, “And he died.” Mahalalel, “And he died.” Jared, “And he died.” Only Enoch didn’t die: “He walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Methuselah, 969 years and he died, and the whole genealogy of chapter 5 is marked by, “and he died, and he died,” to show the spread of death through the sin of Adam.
Solidarity in guilt implies solidarity in penalty. There is no separation between sin and death, they necessarily go together. Adam sinned; Adam died. We are the product of Adam caught up in his sin, and the death sentence is pronounced on us. That’s why Hebrews 9:27 says, “It’s appointed unto man once to die.”
Just exactly, “What does that death mean?” Well, it encompasses spiritual death, which means you are cut off from the life of God dead in any ability to communicate with God; you are as dead to God as if you were a corpse – spiritual death, separation from God’s life. Physical death separated from the living. And finally eternal death which is separation from God and the spiritually living, being consigned to hell forever. The Bible calls this in Revelation 21:8 the second death. All who die the second death end up in the lake of fire and brimstone. Sin came through one man; one man, one sin; and sin came to all. Death came through that sin.
Then Paul says in another very, very simple statement, thirdly: Death spread to all men. Death spread to all men. Back to verse 12: “So death spread to all men.” No one escapes, no one.
How do you prove that? How do you prove death spread to all men? Pretty simple, because everybody what; dies. Death spread to all men. What’s the proof? We all die. And even before we die, back to verse 12, “because all sinned.” We all demonstrate that we have Adam’s corruption, because we all die; and death is the penalty, the wages for our sin.
Even little babies in the womb die when they haven’t committed an act of sin, they haven’t had a sinful thought. But the corruption of Adam’s sin and the reality of death abides in their very being. We all die. We all possess a sinful disposition, a sinful nature.
Jesus said in teaching this principle. He said, “It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, it’s what comes out of a man.” We are defiled on the inside. This is the depravity of the human race.
How do we prove human depravity? We all die, and on the way to death, we all sin. So Adam’s act of defiance and willful rebellion, transferring his allegiance from God to Satan, brought death into the world and made us all born, conceived as sinners. God could have killed Adam and Eve then and ended human history. He didn’t do that because He had a redemptive plan. He had a plan to save sinners out of the human race so that He could take them to heaven to glorify and praise Him forever and ever.
He could have done what He did with the rebel angels. He provided no salvation for them. Lucifer and the angels that fell with him are forever corrupt, and a lake of fire is prepared for them, and they will all be sent to hell forever. But in the case of man, God set out to redeem, to redeem.
So what do we learn then about the way the world is? The world is full of death, we all die, and on the way we all sin. We all have the sin principle which demonstrates itself in death: “The wages of sin is death.”
The curse of death has come from Adam on us all, like the curse on Cain fell on his descendants, like Pharaoh sinned and the whole Egyptian army got drowned. Moab and Amalek were all destroyed for the transgressions of their fathers. The leprosy of Naaman was to cling to Gehazi and his seed. The Lord declared guilt for the blood of all the prophets on the apostate Jews of his generation. Sins of the people are visited unto the third and fourth generation. This is how God operates – one sin; all become sinners; all die. Proof; we’re all sinners.
Now with that starts his argument about how one man can have an extensive impact. Paul stops, leaving the statement incomplete as we read it. You see a line in most Bibles at the end of verse 12. It doesn’t really get picked up until verse 18. There’s a parenthesis here, but that parenthesis is very important.
And for us, at least for tonight, I want to bring you one more and a fourth point. Sin entered the world through one man, death by sin, all have sinned. Fourth point: History proves it. History proves it: “For until the law was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”
Whether you sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam or not – and that could certainly apply to a baby or child, an infant in the womb, or other transgressions that are unlike that of Adam, although they would be all like it in some sense. But the point that he’s making here is the law didn’t come until Moses. The law didn’t come until Moses, which means that from Adam to Moses, there was no written law, but there was sin everywhere. And so Paul says, “Until the law, sin was in the world.”
Yeah, you better believe it was in the world. In fact, it so dominated the world that in Genesis, chapter 6, God sets out, pronounces judgment, and literally drowns the entire human race long before there was any Mosaic law, and sin is not imputed when there is no law. So even though there wasn’t the law of Moses, there had to be a law to impute sin.
What was that law? Romans 2, it was law of God written on the heart. But mankind broke that law, so, verse 14, “death reigned, death reigned, even from Adam until Moses.” The divine condemnation was in effect, because the penalty was already on everyone, and all human beings were law breakers. Man didn’t become sinful when God gave him rules to break, man was always sinful; death reigned from Adam on. One man’s sin destroyed the human race. People may hate the doctrine of total depravity, they may resent the claim that they were born sinners; but the protest is useless because they all die, they all die.
So is there any hope for us? Is there any hope? Is there any hope that we could escape death? There is, if you go back to verse 6, “While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ – ” what? “ – died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. And while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.”
You have some statements there that are pretty important: “Christ died for the ungodly. Christ died for us. We are justified by His blood. We’re reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” That is why we’re here on this Good Friday, isn’t it? Jesus died our death, bore our punishment, died in our place that we might be declared righteous and reconciled to God. He took up the judgment for all the sins of all who would ever believe, and paid in full the price that God demanded.
The whole world lives under Adam and the reign of death. Everybody in the world is born under Adam. Everybody now is either in Adam and the reign of death or in Christ and the reign of life. We’re all headed for death. The gospel is Jesus died our spiritual death and rescued us from eternal death so that physical death is simply an entrance into glory. And that’s why Paul says, “Death, where is your sting?” It’s gone. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father, as we think about what we are as a race, cursed with sin and death, we are so grateful, so very grateful beyond words for what our Savior has done. That’s why we’re here, to celebrate the fact that He died for us. He took our place and died under Your divine judgment. He took the curse for us. He became sin for us. He bore in His body our sins on the cross, dying our death. Help us to see what was going on on the cross.
How staggering is it to think that one sin by one man could damn the whole human race. One sin by one man had the power to damn the whole human race, and yet Christ bore all the sins of all the people through all of human history who would come to believe in Him. A massive, incomprehensible weight of sin – one sin can damn the whole human race. And yet He took all our sins and paid in full the penalty that you exacted from Him. These things we pray for Your glory alone, amen.