The Creator’s Grand Design—Part 5

The Great Deception

“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 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 2:16,17

HAVING created our first parents perfect, and in his image, God could rightly expect them to obey his law in order to continue receiving the blessings he had so lavishly provided for them. However, they did not intuitively know what their Creator expected of them. This knowledge had to be communicated to them. Having received it and having been created perfect, Adam and Eve had the moral strength to resist temptation to disobey God’s will.

Certain instructions were given to our first parents. They were to multiply and fill the earth. They were also to subdue the earth. God’s law provided that they could freely eat of all the trees in Eden with one exception, which was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The Scriptures do not indicate what sort of tree this was. Perhaps it was not greatly unlike many of the other trees of the garden. It is doubtful that the fruit of this tree contained a mysterious element which, if eaten, would give one understanding that he did not previously possess. It was the act of disobedience in partaking of this tree, and the circumstances to follow, that would lead to a knowledge of good and evil.

The commandment not to partake of this forbidden tree was simple and understandable. Man-made laws are often complicated and therefore obscure in meaning. Frequently one feels a measure of insecurity as to the intent of certain laws unless a lawyer is consulted, and even these professional interpreters often disagree. Even in the Supreme Court of the United States there are frequently split decisions over the meaning of laws, and this despite the fact that the Supreme Court judges are the most highly trained men in the country in the interpretation of the law.

But Adam and Eve did not need a lawyer to interpret the plainly stated law concerning “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They were not to eat of this tree—that was all. There were no obscurely stated circumstances under which they were to have the privilege of deciding whether or not they could properly eat of the forbidden fruit. There were no exceptions of any kind. “Thou shalt not eat of it,” was the law, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”


This law was originally stated to Adam, but he had communicated it to Eve; and of Eve it is written: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Gen. 3:6) Eve noted that the forbidden tree was pleasant to the eye and good for food. This was true of the other fruit-bearing trees of the garden. But it was also to be desired, as Eve thought, because it would make one wise. Certainly there is nothing wrong with being wise, if wisdom is used along proper lines. So it is obvious that the Creator did not explain to our first parents why the fruit of this particular tree was forbidden.

It was wrong to partake of this tree simply because God had forbidden it. This was the supreme test of obedience which the Creator placed upon our first parents. It was, in reality, a test of their faith and confidence in him. But more importantly, it was a proper test. If man were to obey God’s laws only when he decided that they were proper, we can see what chaos would result. God does not always arbitrarily withhold information from his people concerning his reasons for his commandments, but he does expect us to obey even when in his wisdom he does not reveal the reason. This was the test which confronted Eve, and later Adam.

A part of the image of God in man was his freedom of choice. God desired man’s obedience, but only if man, because of his trust in his Creator, desired to obey. If such an objective could not be attained, man would have to be destroyed—“In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Eve yielded to the temptation. She offered the fruit of the forbidden tree to Adam, and he too partook.


The Apostle Paul wrote, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (I Tim. 2:14) Eve’s deception was apparently in believing the “serpent’s” assurance that death would not result from disobedience. (Gen. 3:4) Adam was not deceived by this falsehood; nevertheless he joined his wife in the transgression. Now Adam and Eve were to learn that God meant it when he said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) In the marginal translation of this text God’s warning of the death penalty reads, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.” This suggests not an instantaneous snuffing out of life, but a gradual process of dying, and that is the way it happened.

Adam and Eve were driven from their garden home and prevented from having access to the trees of life, with the result that they began to die. Adam, starting on the downward course from the top of perfection’s scale, lived 930 years before he returned to the dust from which he was taken. When he died, the full penalty for his sin had been exacted. Adam was not deceived as to the nature of the penalty; nor has there since been any change in the divine penalty for sin. More than four thousand years after the decree was issued, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,” (Gen. 3:19) the Apostle Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death,” (Rom. 6:23) and in Ezekiel 18:4 we read, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”

What is Death?

Webster’s Dictionary defines death as “the state of being dead.” Webster also uses the word “extinction.” These definitions are fully in harmony with the teachings of the Bible. In Ecclesiastes 9:10 we read: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” This is in agreement with Ecclesiastes 9:5,6, which reads: “The living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished.” Clearly, then, death is a state of oblivion.

Satan’s Lie

As we have noted, the Scriptures declare that Eve was deceived. Without doubt it was the statement made by the “serpent,” “Ye shall not surely die,” that deceived her. In Revelation 20:2 we find the expression, “that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan.” This is a reference to the “serpent” which appeared to and deceived mother Eve. Evidently Satan, who is a powerful although invisible spirit being, spoke through the serpent. Just how he conveyed his message to Eve is not important. For our present purpose we will consider that it was the Devil who deceived Eve, ignoring whatever part the “serpent” may have played in it.

Concerning the Devil, Jesus said: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” (John 8:44) Here Jesus takes us back to the events in Eden. He states that Satan was actually a murderer, for it was under his influence that our first parents transgressed God’s law, and this resulted in their death. Our Lord further identifies Satan’s treachery in Eden by saying that he was “a liar, and the father of it.”

Yes, it was Satan who fathered the sin of lying, his first lie being his statement to Eve, “Ye shall not surely die.” God had made it plain that death would result from disobedience, but Satan denied this. And not only was he successful in deceiving Eve on this point, but he has successfully carried on his campaign of deception ever since, with the result that only a few throughout the ages have believed God on the subject of death. The vast majority unwittingly believe Satan and continue to insist that “there is no death.” This work of deception will be allowed to continue until the time in God’s plan when Satan will be bound, “that he should deceive the nations no more.” He will be bound for a thousand years and then destroyed.—Rev. 20:1-3

It was not difficult for Eve to believe that she would not die as a result of disobedience. After all, she had had no experience with death. She had seen no one die. Doubtless she took Satan’s denial of the Lord’s statement very literally and believed that despite her disobedience she would continue to live and enjoy all the blessings of Eden and also have the added advantage of being much wiser. How bitterly disappointed she must have been when, debarred from the trees of life in Eden, she realized from year to year that the seeds of death were working in her and that she would become feeble and die. Adam had no illusions on the matter, for he was not deceived. He knew from the beginning that eventually he would die.

The fact that the human race began to die despite Satan’s assertion, “Ye shall not surely die,” proved that he was a liar, just as Jesus has said. But having foisted this deception upon Eve, Satan did not propose to allow subsequent circumstances to prove him wrong; so his next great deception was that death is not what it seems to be but that in reality those whom we call dead are more alive than ever. It is held by Satan, and by those who espouse his great deception, that only the body dies. The claim is made that there is a separate entity within humans which cannot die, and that at death this escapes from the body and lives on in another realm. The great power of this deception is in the fact that no one wants to die. It is pleasant to believe that “there is no death.”

In continuing to foster this deception, Satan has introduced into the minds of men almost innumerable theories as to what happens to the “never dying” part of man when the body dies. There are the theories of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls. Reincarnationists believe that every time a child is begotten, or born—they are not sure which—a “departed spirit” enters into it, there finding a home until this newest body dies, when the disembodied spirit is again homeless until it has an opportunity to find refuge in another infant. The theory is that most of us have made many of these excursions and will probably keep on doing so. Just how the reincarnationists explain the constantly increasing population of the earth we have not yet learned; for according to this no-death theory there are more spirits reaching earth each year than are departing. Where do the extra ones come from?

The transmigration of souls theory is somewhat different, and not quite so pleasing. This theory also calls for continuous cycles of the “soul,” but the soul does not always succeed in finding refuge in a human body. While, according to this theory, during our present visit to earth we may be human beings, the last time we were here we may have been a dog, or a cat, or an elephant, or a spider; and the next time we come we may find that our soul is flitting through the air in the body of a bird, or hopping around in the body of a croaking frog. The bodily form we will possess each time we come depends upon how well we have conducted ourselves on the previous visit. There is an end to this, for finally the soul departs for the last time, and after that, in due course, it finds rest in a mythical Nirvana, meaning “extinction of the flame of life,” or “loss of all personal consciousness by absorption into the divine.”

This satanic method of endeavoring to prove true the lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” has been adopted into most heathen religions in one form or another. This is why a Hindu tries to avoid stepping on an insect or killing a fly, lest perhaps he injure the feelings of an ancestor. To many it may seem difficult to understand how anyone could believe such ideas, but really these are no more unreasonable than the no-death theories which have found their way into the professed Christian religions.

The “Wages of Sin”

All the religions of the world attempt, each in its own way, to deal with the problem of sin. Rewards are held out to the righteous, and there are punishments for the wicked. A faithful Hindu might not have to come back to the earth as a dog, and he will reach Nirvana with fewer earth cycles than those less faithful. Also, in the creeds of the churches, account is taken of the fact that there are saints and sinners, believers and unbelievers, faithful and unfaithful; and attempts are made to explain how the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished.

In all this theorizing, the simple fact of the Bible that “the wages of sin is death” is ignored. (Rom. 6:23) How could one believe that “the wages of sin is death” and at the same time insist that “there is no death”? Besides, when God’s penalty for sin is denied, his reward for righteousness cannot be understood and appreciated. Paul wrote that “the gift of God is eternal life.” (Rom. 6:23) How could eternal life be a special gift for believers if it is true that saint and sinner alike must live eternally, whether they want to or not?

Refusing to accept the reality of death, the creed makers invented their own conceptions of God’s punishment for sinners—the “souls” of sinners, that is. The creeds of the Dark Ages set forth two general views—the Catholic and the Protestant. According to the Catholic view there are two places to which wicked “souls” go when they depart from the bodies in which they lived as humans. One of these is called “hell,” and the other “purgatory.” Hell, it is alleged, is only for willfully wicked sinners, those who defy the church and turn their backs upon all its rules and regulations. Many “heretics,” it is claimed, fall into this category and therefore are doomed to spend the endless ages of eternity in hell. In this hell the wicked are said to be tortured in burning flames many times hotter than any fire ever produced by man.*

* See the booklet “The Truth About Hell,” in which every text in the Bible containing the word “hell” is examined.

From the humane standpoint the teachings of the heathen seem better than the hell dogma. But the Catholic Church does have an alternative. If one wishes, he can avoid being wicked enough to go to hell and go instead to purgatory. Purgatory, it is claimed, is just what its name implies, a place of purgation, or cleansing, from sin and defilement, so that one is eventually made pure enough to enter into the bliss of heaven. The purging methods in purgatory, are, of course, very strenuous. The tortures in purgatory are different from those of hell, mainly in the claim that they are not eternal.

In the Middle Ages various reformers discovered that the doctrine of purgatory is not taught in the Bible, that the word “purgatory” does not even appear in the sacred record; so they protested against this teaching. This, however, created a problem; for by doing away with purgatory, they had no place for the partially wicked “souls” to go except to hell. From the standpoint of mercy, the Protestants really worsened the outlook for sinners, particularly the partially wicked among them.

Not in the Bible

The doctrines of purgatory and eternal torture are not taught in the Bible. Some have reasoned, “If there is a heaven, there must be a hell.” There is, indeed, a heaven—that we will discuss in a later article. However, the alternatives set before us in the Bible are not heaven and hell, but life and death. Death is the penalty for sin, and life is the gift of God. This marvelous gift was proffered to our first parents and was available to them on the condition of obedience to God’s law. They disobeyed, and the penalty of death came upon them.

Satan’s deception has been so great that it has robbed language of its meaning. Ordinarily everyone would know the meaning of the words “die” and “death”; but Satan’s lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” has been so deceptive that in theological circles these words are twisted to mean “separation from God,” and separation from God means torture in a fiery hell. It is man’s earnest desire to live that makes him so readily susceptible to Satan’s no-death deception. Even under the abnormal conditions of sin, sickness, and war, life is considered by most people a boon, a blessing, and it is hard to believe—millions refuse to believe—that when the heart stops beating there is no more life. Possessing this determination to live, mankind has fallen ready prey to Satan’s lie, “Ye shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4) They are glad to believe that “there is no death.”

This human attitude toward life is one of the things that sets man apart from the lower animals. God created man with the intention that he should live, not temporarily, but forever. Death, therefore, was the severest penalty that could have been attached to sin. Little wonder that we shrink from it, and it is not surprising that so many are willing to insist that it is not real, but rather that what we call death is merely a means of escape into another life.

A Future Life

Severe though the death penalty is, the Scriptures emphasize its reality. Nevertheless, the Bible does hold out a hope for a future life, based, not on the illusion that there is no death, but on the promises of God to restore the dead to life in the resurrection. When the Prophet Job had suffered beyond the point of ordinary human endurance, he asked God to let him die. Having thus prayed for death, Job raised the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14) Job did not ask, “If a man die, is he really dead?” Job knew that those who die are dead and not suffering the tortures of a supposed fiery hell. It is because he knew this that he asked God to let him die; for this, he believed, was the only way he could be free from suffering.

What concerned Job was whether or not God would restore him to life at a later time. Answering his own question under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he said: “All the days of my appointed time [in death] will I wait, till my change come. [Then] Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee: Thou wilt have a desire to the work of Thine hands.” (vss. 14,15)

In the New Testament Jesus confirms this hope of being called forth from death in God’s due time, using as an example the death of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, of Bethany. This account is recorded in the 11th chapter of John. When Jesus heard that Lazarus had died, he said to his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” The disciples did not understand the import of this remark. They thought Jesus referred to the “taking of rest in sleep.” Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” (vss. 11-14) A very fundamental truth of the Bible is set forth in this conversation between Jesus and his disciples. Actually, as Jesus said, Lazarus was dead; but because he expected to restore him to life, Jesus spoke of death as being merely a sleep. The same thing is true of all mankind—the dead, and those who will yet die. Death as the penalty for sin would have been eternal oblivion for all of Adam’s children, except for the provision of divine love through Christ, who gave himself in death as a substitute for the forfeited life of Adam. Paul wrote, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”—I Cor. 15:22

A little later Jesus awakened Lazarus from the sleep of death as an illustration of the divine purpose for all mankind. When awakened from death, the people will know that God spoke the truth when he said that death would be the penalty for sin, because they will have experienced it. They will know that while dead they were not in a hell of torture, nor a purgatory of pain. They will know that they had not been in a heaven of bliss. The Hindu believer will know that he had not been a butterfly or a tiger while he was dead. All will know that they knew nothing while they were dead and will thank God for the opportunity he has given them through Christ, the Redeemer, to live again!

Click here to go to Part 6
Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |