How Bad Was It? :: by Gene Lawley

Those of us who can recall the comedy routines of Johnny Carson remember a trick of the guest was to get Johnny to “bite” on the punch line. The guest would set up a narrative of something that was “really, really bad,” and Johnny would ask, “Just how bad was it?” in mock sincerity. And the guest would then spill out the comical answer to the “surprised” host.

So, how bad was it?

In a much more serious vein, how bad was it when Adam and Eve turned from God to their own desires in the Garden? They knew they were somehow guilty before God and did not want to face Him. They exhibited the inadequate provision that our flesh always makes to appease our guilty consciences—they covered themselves with fig leaves but still did not seek out God.

They hid from Him. Their fig leaves merely covered their nakedness from each other, much like people do today by putting on religious trappings and terminology. That is, “Having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5).

Adam lived 930 years, the Bible tells us, but not how long Eve lived. But they had three named sons—Cain, Abel and Seth, by the time Adam was 130 years old, and it says “he had sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:3-4), thus answering the age-old question of where Cain got his wife. (In some religious settings people are taught that the Old Testament accounts are myths and did not happen, for who in his right mind would marry his sister!)

It merely shows the short-sightedness of those theories. God simply created those two and told them to replenish the earth, and they did. Incest was not an issue with those early generations. Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and if incest is a problem, then how close would you call that relationship? Abraham, even, married his half-sister, Sarah.

But I digress, perhaps somewhat, yet the decline of physical longevity is evidence of the death curse Adam’s disobedience placed upon mankind, and he lived with it, himself, for 930 years. That is the question we are asking and exploring here: Just how bad was it?

It was really, really bad!

That Cain, the firstborn of the firstborn of all creation of mankind, would slay his first brother Abel in a fit of selfish rage over whose sacrifice was the acceptable one seems more like a 21st century American murder scene. Yet, it does tell us that when that first couple sinned, the bottom dropped out for all of mankind. There was no light of life left in them…and us! Jesus described it this way, in Matthew 6:22-23:

“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great isthat darkness!”

A couple of times when I was a teenager several of us in the community went through a cave not far away, called Crystal Cave. It had been an attempted commercial enterprise in earlier years, but then abandoned, leaving something of a pathway in among the stalactites and stalagmites to its ending several yards, perhaps a half-mile or so back through the underground. Wiring and lights had been installed but they had become unworkable and were in disarray. We had to depend on our flashlights in the darkness.

Far back in the cave we turned off our lights and the darkness was so thick and heavy that it was almost like we could reach out and touch it. We closed our eyes, and it was no different. Our only light was still darkness, just as Jesus said, “If the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

When it came to the time of Noah, God described the situation of mankind in a manner that smacks of a conclusive summation:

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, andthat every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:5-8).

When Jesus told us in Luke 17:26 and following, that, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be also in the days of the Son of Man,” He did not mention this condition of mankind. But what He left unsaid, or implied by how He described conditions, is that mankind will no longer be paying any attention to God.

His second example in the Luke passage gives the same summation for the people in Sodom in the time of Lot. The entire city was saturated with immorality such as Paul describes in the context of Romans 1:18-31. Here is a portion of that passage:

“Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…” (Romans 1:22-24).

It says that they turned their backs on God, and therefore God gave them up to the imaginations of their hearts to do evil. It brings me back to what Jesus said: “If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

What started this analysis was a thoughtful reading of Isaiah 53 that describes the then future sufferings of the Messiah for the sins of mankind. It seems to be both a physical sacrifice and a spiritual one. The prophet describes how Jesus was “bruised for our iniquities and by His stripes  we are healed,” all of which are imposed upon His physical body. As bloody and painful as it surely was, could any of us be saved by that, alone?

Isaiah goes on to write, “When You [God, the Father] make His soul an offering for sin” (verse 10), and Romans 6:23a tells us that “the wages of sin is death.” Looking back further, to Leviticus 17:11, we find this:

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”

When God turned His back on Jesus, the Man who had taken all of mankind’s sin upon Himself, and Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, whyhave You forsaken Me?” as He was hanging on the cross and died there, we know that He gave His soul, then, as an offering for our sins.

The question remains, then, what part did the bruising, beating and strips that were laid on Jesus have to do with God’s plan of redemption for mankind? Hebrews 10:10 tells us that “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” And on the flip side of that, we see in 1 Corinthians 6:19 this:

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who isin you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Redemption, then, is for the total person—body, soul and spirit—and His suffering in the body is for our sanctification. It touches on the reality that Jesus is the light of life, as John declares in John 1:4, and believers do not wait to have eternal life, but it begins at the moment of their new birth. Sanctification of our physical bodies seems to fit into the plan of God in our redemption. Thus Matthew could write of it in this way, with a quote from Isaiah 53:4:

“When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed, and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’” (Matthew 8:16-17).

Since they were at Peter’s home, there’s hardly room for a doubt that Peter witnessed that display of Jesus healing the many who came to Him that evening. Later he would write this, in 1 Peter 2:24, also quoting from Isaiah 53 of the sufferings of Jesus:

“…Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

The phrase, “…that we might live for righteousness” is hardly taking us to the heavenly realm, having left this earthly life behind. It speaks of living the life of a born-again believer while in this earthly realm. Thus He suffered in His own body that we might live in victory over the degradation that comes from the sin of Adam which we have inherited with a deathly impact upon this physical body we live in.

How bad was it? It was very, very bad. John writes of it like this:

“In Him was life and the life was the light of men, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” (John 1:4-5).

Those who do not recognize their ultimate destiny will be eternally in outer darkness where there will be continual wailing and gnashing of teeth, but those who receive the light of life in Jesus Christ will have all their tears wiped away, forever.