Death is a reality of the human experience that we all must face. As Christians, we find hope and meaning in understanding death through the lens of Scripture. In the Bible, death first entered the world through the original sin of Adam and Eve. Their disobedience in the Garden of Eden initiated a cycle of sin and death that has affected all generations since.
So what exactly is the first death recorded in the Bible? To find the answer, we must go back to the early chapters of Genesis.
The Forbidden Fruit and the Fall
In Genesis 2, God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and gave them dominion over all the plants and creatures. God told Adam “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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” (Gen 2:16-17).
This commandment was a test of obedience. Sadly, Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit. As God had warned, this act of disobedience resulted in a separation from the state of perfect communion they had enjoyed with their Creator. For the first time, Adam and Eve experienced shame, guilt, and fear. They tried to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord (Gen 3:8).
Their sin also activated a curse on creation. God said to Eve “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen 3:16). And to Adam God said “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen 3:17).
So while Adam and Eve did not experience physical death immediately, they underwent a kind of spiritual death. Their special relationship with God was broken. And the process of decay leading eventually to physical death began.
Cain Murders Abel
Adam and Eve had two sons named Cain and Abel. As young men, Cain worked the ground as a farmer while Abel tended flocks (Gen 4:2). In the course of time, both brothers brought offerings to the Lord. Cain presented produce from his harvest while Abel offered the firstborn of his sheep.
Scripture tells us “the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering” (Gen 4:4-5). We are not told exactly why God favored one sacrifice over the other. But His rejection provoked jealousy and anger in Cain’s heart.
God warned Cain to master the sin threatening to overtake him, saying “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Gen 4:7). Tragically, Cain disregarded God’s instruction. When he and Abel were alone in the field, Cain rose up and murdered his brother.
The Lord confronted Cain and said “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Gen 4:10). As punishment for this first murder, Cain was cursed to wander the earth as a fugitive. Cain feared that other people would try to kill him, but God placed a mark of protection on Cain warning that vengeance on him would bring a sevenfold retribution (Gen 4:15).
So Abel was the first person in the Bible whose life was taken through an act of violence. His premature death served as a terrible consequence of sin’s spread through the human family.
Death Comes to All
After this tragic event, Adam and Eve had another son named Seth. The Bible traces all humanity back to these early generations. Adam lived 930 years, a remarkably long lifespan compared to modern times (Gen 5:5). But despite his longevity, Adam still experienced physical death. The reality of mortality had caught up with him.
Genesis 5 recounts the descendants of Adam down to Noah. It records the ages that each person lived, and then repeats the refrain “and he died.” This shows that death spread to all, which Romans 5:12 confirms: “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
While Abel was the first recorded death of a particular individual, the legacy of Adam’s sin meant death became inevitable for every human. The curse of death passed from generation to generation. No one could escape it.
The Wages of Sin
Why did the original sin of Adam condemn all humans to eventual death? Scripture teaches that death entered creation as a direct consequence of sin. When God created the world, there was no death. All was perfect and good. But mankind’s rebellion against God shattered the pristine condition of the world.
The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death.” Just as workers earn payment for their labor, the payment earned for sin is death. Paul argues that sin gives death its power and sting (1 Cor 15:56). Because all humans sin, death spreads to all.
Thankfully, Christ provides an escape from this dreadful curse! The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). But apart from salvation in Him, sinful man remains under the tyranny of death.
So to summarize, Scripture presents death as a form of punishment upon the human race for sin. While Abel was the first recorded death, Adam’s disobedience caused death to pass as a curse upon all his descendants right down to the present day. Let’s draw some key lessons from examining the Bible’s first death.
Key Takeaways from the First Death in Scripture
- Disobedience Brings Death: God warned Adam that eating the forbidden fruit would result in death. Adam and Eve’s choice to disobey this command initiated the reign of death in creation.
- Sin Produces Spiritual Separation: The first type of death Adam and Eve experienced was spiritual separation from God. Their sin created a barrier in their perfect communion with the Lord.
- Cain’s Sin Led to Murder: Cain’s jealousy and anger at God’s rejection demonstrated the spread of sin. This drove Cain to murder his brother Abel, the first recorded death in Scripture.
- Death Spreads to All: Adam’s original sin condemned the entire human race to death. The repeated refrain “and he died” in Genesis 5 shows that mortality caught up with every descendant of Adam.
- Death is the Wages of Sin: According to Paul, death enters the world as payment for the universal sin of mankind. Death has power because of sin.
- Christ Defeats Death: Praise God that Jesus defeated the curse of sin and death through His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection! Eternal life is found in Christ alone.
The sobering reality of death began with the first sin. But Christ overturned death’s power through His atoning work on the cross. As we confront our mortality, we can take comfort that believers in Jesus have victory over the grave!
Facing Our Mortality with Hope
You have an appointment with death—it is a stark reality of our frail human condition. Hebrews 9:27 declares “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” But if you have received God’s gift of salvation, you can approach death with hope rather than fear.
The aging and death of our earthly bodies will pale in comparison to the glory that awaits in eternity. Paul declared, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom 8:18). What wondrous promises for those who belong to Christ!
While we mourn death whenever it invades our lives, we do not sorrow without hope. The day is coming soon when the last enemy, death itself, will be swallowed up in victory (1 Cor 15:26). We will see the full realization of Christ’s resurrection power. The curse of death will be erased forever!
Until that glorious day, press on in faith even when death casts its shadow over you. Take courage in Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25). Let this unshakeable hope strengthen you to finish your race with endurance and keep your eyes fixed on eternity.
Though death’s power still pains us in this fallen world, it has been broken by Christ. Cling to Him who holds your life securely in His hands. He has given you eternal life, and you will never perish (John 10:28). Meditate on these glorious truths that you may walk all your days in the freedom and victory Jesus purchased.
Death will not have the final word, for you have passed from death into new life in Him. Hallelujah!