Often Christians, pastors, and theologians who try to fit millions of years into Genesis 1 object to a literal, recent six-day creation by arguing, “So Adam never stepped on an ant in the Garden of Eden? That can’t be true. There had to be death before sin.” But is such an objection valid?
Aside from the possibility that ants, and other insects, are not even alive in the biblical sense, the question to ask first is why the idea of death before sin is so important that the accidental death of an ant would be an objection.
The issue of death before sin is significant because it’s a question of biblical authority and because the idea undermines the very foundation of the gospel. If we take God at His Word, it is abundantly clear that death, and this would include animal death, is the consequence and byproduct of sin and was not part of the original creation. Here are just a sampling of verses that clearly make this point.
A Perfect Creation
Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31).
Would God call a creation full of death and suffering “very good”? Certainly not! Death is “the last enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) that Jesus Christ came and died to defeat! And this would include animal death. The God who cares for the sparrows (Matthew 6:26) and who promises that someday animals will once again live in harmony (Isaiah 11:6) would not call animal death and suffering “very good.” Saying that God called death and suffering “very good” accuses God of being a monster responsible for all the evil we see in the world. But Scripture is clear—it’s our fault in Adam.
Both the animals and people ate plants before the Fall, so both animal and human death was not God’s plan for His creation; it was unnecessary and did not occur.
Death — Sin’s Consequence
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. (Genesis 2:17)
Death was the clear consequence for Adam and Eve’s sin. But if death already existed why was death given to them as the consequence for sin? They would have died anyway. Clearly death was not present in the world before sin. If Genesis doesn’t make it clear enough, Romans emphasizes the point; death is the direct result of the sin of Adam: “therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Of course, this is referring in context to human death, but Romans 8:22 tells us that it is this sin that makes the whole creation groan. If death existed before sin, then creation was already groaning, waiting for liberation from the Messiah, before sin had even entered the world. But it was sin that resulted in Christ’s coming to Earth to die as the last Adam so that Adam’s descendants could live (1 Corinthians 15:21–22) and so that creation could be restored (Romans 8:19–22).