But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. —Genesis 2:17
In the beginning, God created the wonderful Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve to enjoy and in which to commune with Him. The Lord God placed the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9). As long as Adam and Eve ate of the tree of life, their health and vitality were preserved. They were created with living, immortal souls, and God made provision for them to physically live forever. However, God commanded them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for disobedience was death. God made mankind free moral agents and gave them the power of choice which is necessary for the power to love.
Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the enemy and ate of the forbidden tree. When they committed this sin or transgression, their eyes were opened to the reality of good and evil (Genesis 3:6-7). This knowledge forever stole from mankind the innocence in which they had originally been created. Before disobedience, Adam and Eve were in a condition of innocence and spiritual purity.
God was true to His word as He is today and will be in the future. God’s pronouncement of death in the garden was fulfilled. What kind of death resulted? The curse of death was twofold in nature—spiritual and physical.
Spiritual death occurred and there was a separation between God and man. God is a holy God and can not be in harmony with that which is unholy. The spiritual communion and relationship that existed between God and man was broken because of sin. The soul of man was corrupted with the knowledge of good and evil which was propagated through Adam’s fall. Children still today never have to be taught to do wrong as they are naturally inclined to sin. King David spoke of this in Psalms 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” David was expressing and acknowledging the sinful nature that he had from the beginning. This principle is often referred to as “original sin.” It refers to the propensity and inclination to sin that every individual brings into the world at birth.
There have been many religious controversies and divisions over the cause and/or transference of this sinful nature that began in the Garden of Eden and has passed to succeeding generations. At the end of every discussion and debate, the truth-seeking individual must acknowledge the reality of Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” The tendency and inclination of unredeemed man is to the sinful things of the flesh. Through the blood of Jesus and the cleansing power of the Holy Spirit, man can be restored to a relationship with God. While the capacity to sin still exists because of the power of choice, the inclination of redeemed man is to righteousness.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). The immediate death that Adam and Eve suffered was of a spiritual nature. Without forgiveness and cleansing, the soul of man is eternally separated from God in a spiritual death. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).
The same curse of death had not only spiritual ramifications but also physical ones. While the soul of man was immortal, God pronounced that “dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). This was not God’s original plan, but after Adam’s sin, “He drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). From the moment Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and stopped eating of the tree of life, their physical bodies ceased to be rejuvenated and their bodies began to deteriorate. The longevity of the fleshly body seems to have been dependent upon eating of the tree of life. Its properties sustained the body and preserved it from decaying. From the time of Adam’s sin, man’s physical, earthly life has been limited in years.
The curse of sin was death both spiritual and physical. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Spiritual death and physical death were together a result of Adam’s sin and it passed down to all people. Spiritual death is the separation or alienation of the soul from God because of unrighteousness. Physical death, cessation of the activity and functioning of the physical body, came as a result of the fall. The pronouncement of death was one, but the consequences were twofold and far-reaching.