If God is so good, why is this world filled with suffering and death? The answer is plainly described in Genesis 1–3. God created a “very good” world, but Adam’s rebellion brought a curse and death. The disease and death in the fossil record reflect this curse.

Why do people suffer? Why do people die? Isn’t this a horrible world we live in?

These questions vex not only the unbeliever but the believer as well. Yet as is true in every other question, we should not be ashamed to stand on the authority of God’s Word to understand death and suffering.

This question is not as difficult as it might seem. A person only needs to open the Bible and read Genesis chapters 1–3 to find the answer. Here we are told of the beginning of things—God created everything in six ordinary days. We read of a perfect creation in which there was no death. God looked at His creation and called it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

So where did death come from?

Death Before Adam?

DEATH BEFORE ADAM? If creatures lived millions of years before God made the Garden of Eden, then suffering and death arose before sin ruined creation. In fact, their fossil remains were buried under Adam’s feet. But that’s not the case! God’s creation was “very good,” and sin explains the horrible things we see in our cursed world.

Death came as a direct result of Adam’s disobedience. Genesis 2:17 tells us, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” So Adam knew there was a consequence to his actions. When he took of the fruit and ate, death entered God’s perfect creation. “For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:21).

“Because you have eaten from the tree, cursed is the ground . . . and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Our world is broken, marred by death and suffering. We must understand that our sin is what broke God’s perfect creation. The suffering in this world is the first Adam’s fault, the consequence of his disobedience to a holy God. We are all sinners because we are descended from sinners and we, too, rebel against God’s command (Romans 5:12). Not one is innocent. As a result of sin “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).

The good news is that the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, came to earth to bear the penalty of our sins and be nailed to the Cross. He defeated death by His resurrection. By His atoning blood sacrifice for us, He has made a way for us to spend eternity with Him in heaven. Further, He promised to those who place their faith in Him that in the future there will be no more death, tears, or suffering.

The perfect world will then be restored.

Dr. Tommy Mitchell, a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, earned his MD from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and practiced medicine for over 20 years. He is now a researcher and speaker at Answers in Genesis–USA.

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