Death, Hell, and Apple Trees August 15, 2006Posted by June in Artist Thinker Articles, Christianity, Religion.
How can a loving God ever allow people to die and, especially, go to Hell? And what’s with that apple tree? Why would a loving God trap people like that? And what’s so bad about eating from a tree anyway?
Have you ever asked yourself this? Well, my answer to your questions is that God does all of this because He loves us. “He does this because He loves us?” you might ask. Yes, if He didn’t do this, we would be cursing Him for His coercion; but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take this back a little bit by talking about death.
What exactly is death?
Most people would probably say that death occurs when the brain ceases to function; but this is an imperfect definition according to the Bible. For if death occurs when the brain ceases to function, then what is the second death in which there is no ceasing of brain function (Revelation 2:11, 20:6, 20:14, 21:8)? Also, the Bible is clear that a person continues to have thoughts without this brain after he dies whether or not he resides in heaven or hell (Luke 16:19-31); and thoughts are what truly matter and what people are concerned with, not the lifeless functioning of a computer.
Quite frankly, science has yet to figure out how a brain thinks on its own. The brain is basically a highly sophisticated computer. It stores information, sends out the information, receives information, has regular commands stored in it, etc.; but it does not reason, consider, or feel. Something is operating this computer. True, some theorize that if we make a computer sophisticated enough that it will eventually somehow think on its own; and there are computers that seem to think on their own; but we still have to program these computers to “think on their own.” Information had to be put into that computer. It isn’t really thinking on its own. It’s following commands and utilizing information that has been put into it. You can’t just create an advanced computer and expect it to come to life on its own. You have to also put in information, programs. It will never spontaneously come to “life” on its own upon creation.
So, then what is death? Death is a permanent separation. The first death occurs when the soul separates from the body; and the second death occurs when the soul is forever separated from God.
Think about it. When you mourn a death, you are not mourning the fact that a brain has ceased functioning. You are mourning the fact that you are now separated from that person, that soul who is dear to your heart, for the rest of your life and, maybe, for eternity if you are a Christian but that person did not accept the gift of eternal life.
So, when God warned Adam and Eve, who had never experienced death before, that they would die if they ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, He was warning them that He would cast them from His sight and protection, that they would no longer fellowship with Him.
So, why did God even set up this apple tree? Why put temptation in their way?
First of all, although the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is often portrayed in paintings and photos as being an apple tree, there is no indication in the Bible that this is actually so. More likely, the fruit this tree bore looked nothing like any of the fruit that we see today.
With that out of the way, we can discuss why God put it there.
Let me ask you something. If I asked you what kind of bread you wanted for a sandwich that I was going to make you and gave you the choice of either white bread or white bread, wouldn’t you wonder why I even bothered to ask you? In such a case, I am, obviously, determined to give you what I wanted to give you but offered you the choice just to say that I did; and, if you didn’t like it, I could say that you chose it.
God loves us and wanted our love in return. He gave us a truly remarkable gift, the gift of free will, that must exist in order for love to exist; but what good is free will if our only choices are the ones God wants us to make? Why bother give us free will?
If God had deprived Adam and Eve of the choice to disobey Him, how could anyone say that Adam and Eve truly loved God? It’s impossible.
Love must be a free choice, or else it is merely coercion. For love to be a free choice, there must actually exist choices.
That’s where the Tree comes in.
God loved Adam and Eve so much that He allowed them to choose to be separated from Him. He gave them ample warning that they would die (or be permanently separated from Him) if they ate it:
“1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'””
Yet they still ate from it; but God, being the loving God that He is, gave them a path of redemption if they so chose to come back to Him.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This does not save us from the first death. Remember the first death is part of the curse God placed on man after they ate from the tree.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
This is a temporary death for those who trust in God, though, for we will be reunited with our bodies born anew at the rapture.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
13 Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.
With all of this explained, what then is Hell do you think?
So many times in the Bible good has been referred to as light and evil as darkness. What is darkness? Can you tell me? Darkness is the absense of light. If you try to find the particles that make up darkness, you will not find it because it is the absense of light that creates darkness.
In the same way, Hell is a place from which God has completely removed Himself in order to accommodate those who have chosen to reject Him. God loves us so much that He does not force Himself on us. If we do not want Him, He will let us go; but know that the absense of God means the absense of good because evil is the absense of good; and God is the definition of good.
God already cast Adam and Eve from His immediate presence; and this imperfect world is the result of only a bit of God removing Himself. How much more terrible is it when God completely removes Himself?
Therefore, Hell is the second death, the eternal separation from God.
13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
This is the end of Part 1 in my series on God’s grace. More will come later.
Part 1: Death, Hell, and Apple Trees