Don Preston claims the definition of “the Resurrection” is found in a correct definition of death. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Preston would ignore how Paul defined the resurrection, (1 Cor. 15:3,4). I mean Mr. Preston regularly hamstrings the inspired Apostle Paul’s interpretation to his own uninspired understanding of the text. In any event, according to Mr. Preston because Adam and Eve did not “physically” die on the day they ate the fruit God is a liar. That is, if death is to be understood in terms of the human body expiring because Adam did not die on the day he ate the fruit God is a liar. Why it is God’s extension of grace turns God into a liar Mr. Preston never explains. Additionally the implication of Mr. Preston’s superficial charge is that Christ Jesus is a liar.
In John 8:44 we find Christ Jesus explaining, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Interesting don’t you think? Christ Jesus explains the devil “was a murderer from the beginning”. Now who do you suppose the devil murdered? And what do you suppose “murder” means?
According to D.A. Carson the phrase, “was a murderer from the beginning” is “probably a reference to the fall of Adam and Eve.”[i] Dr. Carson goes on to explain, “By the success of his temptation, he robbed Adam of spiritual life, and through him brought death to the entire race (cf Rom 5:12)…Like his murder, the devil’s lies are evident from the Garden of Eden on;…”[ii] And while the liberal Raymond Brown attributes the party guilty of murder to Cain, Dr. Ridderbos who like Dr. Carson attributes the act to the fall explaining Dr. Brown’s understanding requires “radical textual modifications” which is “too lacking of support to be credible.”[iii] And Andreas J. Kostenberger explains, “The phrase “murderer from the beginning” primarily refers to the fall narrative (Gen 3)…”[iv] Dr. Kostenberger footnotes his position is supported by the findings of those I’ve already listed above along with Morris, Barrett, Beasley-Murray, Schanckenberg, Moloney and Borchertt. Thus, the vast majority of scholars come down on the side the phrase means the fall was an act of murder by the devil.
Now, what does “murder” and “murderer” mean? According to Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary murder is, “the unlawful killing of one person by another, especially with the premeditated malice”.[v] Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines the term as, “The act of unlawfully killing a human being with premeditated malice.” Webster’s also explains the term “murderer” means, “A person who in possession of his reason unlawfully kills a human being with premeditated malice.” Ok so murder means the killing of another person and the murderer is the perpetrator of the act.
Furthermore, John defined “murderer” in 1 John 3 as the act of killing a human being, (1 John 3:12). Interestingly enough the definition of a “murderer” led to the minority view on the “who done it”. This is why D.A. Carson goes on to explain in his commentary, “…for in the Garden God said, ‘You will surely die’ (Gn 2:17), while the devil promptly retorted, ‘You shall not surely die’. Either God or the devil was lying; John accepts the given that ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb. 6:18). Just as God inevitably speaks the truth, the devil spontaneously gravitates to lying: When he lies, he speaks his native language (lit. ‘he speaks out of his own [sc. nature or essential characteristics]’).[vi]
Clearly then Christ Jesus attributed to the devil the premeditated, with malice aforethought, killing of Adam. Would the postponement of the death of Adam make God out to be a liar? How can Christ Jesus attribute to the devil the killing of Adam, when Adam didn’t die that day? Is Christ Jesus making God out to be a liar as Mr. Preston’s argument would require? Or perhaps Mr. Preston believes Christ Jesus lied? Mr. Preston has certainly spun himself into quite the dilemma.
However, as we’ve suggested before, there is an alternative approach to Mr. Preston’s superficial argument. Neither God nor Christ Jesus need to be accused of lying as Don Preston would have us believe. God, acting completely within character as revealed in Scripture, extended grace to Adam allowing him to live. This act of grace, which unfolds in Scripture as God’s plan of redemption wherein believers are clothed in the blood of the Lamb was illustrated or typified when God “clothed” Adam and Eve with the skins of animals that in fact did die that day, (Gen. 3:21). Thus Christ Jesus didn’t lie when He identified the devil as a “murderer from the start” because Adam surely did die as a result of his successful temptation. Nor was God a liar, because Adam surely did die. God was simply gracious in extending to Adam His plan of redemption. And the goal of God’s plan of redemption is best typified in the resurrection of Christ Jesus, the firstfruits of all those in Him who will one day rise from the grave as He did.
[i] The Gospel According to John, D.A. Carson, Eerdmans, pg. 353
[ii] Ibid, pg. 353
[iii] The Gospel of John, A Theological Commentary, Herman Ridderbos, Eerdmans, pg. 316.
[iv] John, Baker Exegetical Commentary of the New Testatment, Baker, pg.. 266.
[v] Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Ronald F. Youngblood, Nelson, g.866
[vi] The Gospel According to John, D.A. Carson, Eerdmans, pg. 353