Our planet,” wrote the late Carl Sagan, “is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”*

No hint?

Sagan, an atheist, obviously didn’t pick up on all the “hints” that help has, indeed, come from somewhere else to save us.

First, the creation points to something beyond itself. Logic alone reveals that no things in the created existence—from the dirt under our feet to the 2 trillion (and counting) galaxies in the cosmos—made themselves, but had to come from some- thing beyond and transcendent to them (despite all the contemporary creation myths about the universe arising from nothing). And though the vastness, the beauty, and the complexity of the cre- ation do not, in and of themselves, point to anything specific that will save us, this vastness, beauty, and complexity together hint at something so much greater and more hopeful beyond our- selves. So much, in fact, Paul warns his readers that enough about the Lord has been revealed in the created world to cause the lost, in the end, to be “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20).

No hint?

From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 the Word of God documents so much of what the God who created this vastness, beauty, and complexity has done to save humanity. The Bible is all about help “from elsewhere” that will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

No hint?

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). The virgin conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary— if not help from elsewhere, what is?

No hint?

More than half the world’s population has heard about Jesus dying on the cross. Here was God Himself, the Creator, the Sustainer, facing in Himself the Father’s righteous wrath against evil so that we don’t have to. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). The cross is not just a “hint” about help from elsewhere; it was the cosmic event, which reveals to all creation what God has done to save us.

No hint?

“Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen” (Rev. 1:7). The second coming of Jesus, which was guaranteed to us by the first coming, is the climactic manifestation of that help from elsewhere.

All these “hints” and more (such as fulfilled Bible prophecy), Sagan, unfortunately, missed. He was, however, right about one thing: without help “from else- where,” we have nothing to save us from ourselves or from anything else. And without that help, we are lost amid our obscurity in the vast and cold silence.

*Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (New York: Ballantine Books, 1997), pp. 12, 13.

Clifford Goldstein is a longtime Adventist Review columnist and the editor of the Adult Bible Study Guides at the world headquarters of the Seventh-dayAdventist Church. He is also the author of numerous book and articles.

Though I don’t like to compare myself with the apostle Paul (other than that we were Jews who, having once hated Jesus, came to love Him instead), one powerful similarity exists between us. And it can be found in Augustine of Hippo, who wrote: “Before we can under- stand, we have to believe.”

Think about Saul of Tarsus. What did his intellectualism, his study, his presup- positions, culture, emotions, and training lead Saul to do? “Then Saul, still breath- ing threats and murder against the dis- ciples of the Lord, went to the high priest” (Acts 9:1).

Yes, it led him to kill Christians.

Then what happened? Paul is on the road to Damascus, and as he is thinking about logic, reason, nature, the Greek philosophers, and even Scripture, it sud- denly hits him after deep thought and study: Wait a minute: Jesus is the Messiah, after all.

Of course not. Instead, Jesus supernat- urally revealed Himself to Paul (verses 3-10), who, now believing in Jesus— became the world’s greatest expositor of Christian doctrine.

In short, Paul first believed, and then understood.

Almost 2,000 years later something similar happened to me. Though irreli- gious as a tuna, I had occasional doubts and was growing more open to spiritual realities. Then one night in 1979, in Gainesville, Florida, the Lord Jesus— maybe not as dramatically as Paul, but just as abruptly, and unmistakably— revealed Himself to me, and I became a believer, even though I knew nothing about Christian theology. (Had you told me that night I was a sinner, for example, I wouldn’t have known what you were talking about.)

This is the point. I did not study my way to faith; I began with it and could not have proceeded without it. I’m not saying that a person cannot study them- selves into a logical and rational decision for Christ, but only that it was faith that left me open to the workings of the Holy Spirit, who alone gave (and still gives) me an understanding of truth in a way that makes it more than just facts. Though I can’t prove a counter-factual, the Bible studies I had right after my new birth experience, studies that so impressed me and strengthened my faith in those first days, would have meant nothing had I not had faith to begin with.

Decades ago I had studied biblical Aramaic with one of the world’s greatest Old Testament scholars (now deceased). His knowledge of the texts and of the language was amazing, phenomenal even. And though not sure if he believed in God, I was sure that he didn’t believe the Bible was inspired, because he would, at times, mock it as such. Can you have so much knowledge of the Bible, of its history and of its languages—and yet still be steeped in darkness?


“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

Or, as Augustine said: “Before we can understand, we have to believe.” And believe me, I understand what he meant.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide. His latest book is Risen: Finding Hope in the Empty Tomb.

In 1 Corinthians 2, the apostle Paul, dealing with the troubled church at Corinth, wrote that he had come to them, not with fancy speech nor with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in the power of the Spirit “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:5).

Look out your window. Look at the trees, the grass, the flowers, the birds, the sky, the stars. None of these came about by human wisdom, but only by the power of God. Human wisdom can’t understand fully what these things are, much less create them. Human wisdom cannot create a blade of grass, not even a cell of a blade of grass, nor even a cell wall of a cell of a blade of grass. A cell wall of a single cell of a blade of grass presents mysteries that all the accumulated human wisdom through the ages cannot touch; mysteries so deep that human wisdom can’t even formulate the right questions to ask about them. Yet the power of God has created untold billions of them right out of the dirt.

We can barely grasp the creation, how much less the Creator?

We sit here for a spasm of time on a speck of cosmic dust, itself suffused with things that we barely understand, and much of what we do understand is surely wrong. Perched in our little corner of the creation, like mice in a hole, we peer into the infinite cosmos and make bold declarations about where it came from and how it arose that are no closer to the truth than was the Babylonian myth in which Marduk, battling Tiamat, split her body, half to make the heavens and half the earth. To study reality from within that same reality is like characters in a book making pronouncements about the book itself. Whether creating idols of stone and worshipping them or arguing that our universe arose out of nothing by pure chance alone, human wisdom doesn’t always necessarily progress as much as it morphs, exchanging one form of foolishness for another.

In contrast, there’s the power of God. Where does it begin? Where does it end? We can barely grasp the creation—how much less the Creator? God not only created all that exists, but sustains it all as well. “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3; see also Job 38:33-37; Col. 1:7; 1 Cor. 8:6). No human idea touches it; inspired ideas alone approach it, and then only in questions: “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?” (Isa 40:12).

Human wisdom in contrast to the power of God? Humanity, in its wisdom, crucified God, who, despite His power, let them.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His book Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity is available from Pacific Press.

I’d long been a fan of the late Christopher Hitchens. I loved his booming articulate Brit timbre. If a breeze flowing through finely coiffed steel and glass chimes could talk, it would sound like Christopher Hitchens. Over decades I consumed his oeuvre, even what I disagreed with (his Trotskyite phase seemed rather puerile, even for the time); his prose was often precise, pungent, logical, hilarious, and at times irreverent.

After September 11, however, apparently unable to differentiate between Islamic fanatics who flew planes into buildings and, say, Quakers who run homeless shelters, Hitchens—along with fellow “new atheists”—began an intellectual jihad against all theism, regardless of who the theos was (because, according to them, it never existed, anyway). His most famous tirade, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (2007), was so bad I couldn’t finish it. Not because I was threatened by the arguments, which were hardly threatening (things such as Catholic priests molested children; ergo, God does not exist), but because the book was, well, so poorly done.

Art is for the living, not the dying.

In another work, responding to the inevitable question about how one finds meaning in life apart from God, Hitchens wrote: “There are the beauties of science and the extraordinary marvels of nature. There is the consolation and irony of philosophy. There are the infinite splendors of literature and poetry. . . . There is the grand resource of art and music and architecture, again not excluding those elements that aspire to the sublime. In all of these pursuits, any one of them enough to absorb a lifetime, there may be found a sense of awe and magnificence that does not depend at all on any invocation of the supernatural.”

Of course, who’s going to argue about the “extraordinary marvels of nature”? (And though loving philosophy and appreciating its irony, I’ve not found much by way of consolation in any of it.) But please, Hitchens was so right about music, art, literature, poetry—100 lifetimes could only begin to extract all the “awe and magnificence” found in them.

Then in 2010, Christopher Hitchens was, unfortunately, diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He wrote about the experience, and his words were compiled posthumously (he died in 2011) in a work called, appropriately enough, Mortality, in which he talked about the pain, about how crummy the treatments made him feel, and about the needles in his arms. There was nothing, however, about drawing hope and comfort from the “awe and magnificence” of art, literature, poetry, or music. Nothing.

Of course not. Art is for the living, not the dying. The Eroica Symphony, The Faerie Queene, or The Scream might be great when you’re alive, but when dying, who needs Beethoven, Edmund Spenser, or Edvard Munch? You need Jesus and the promise of eternal life. Whether Hitchens ever understood that (there is some evidence that in private he was a bit softer on faith than he let on in public), I don’t know. The One who died for Him does, and He alone will make the call.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.

In the 1990s signs and bumper stickers appeared in Brooklyn and Israel that read Moshiach Now. Moshiach is Yiddish for Messiah. These Orthodox Jews thought the Messiah was about to appear.

This was not, of course, the second coming of Jesus but rather the first coming of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, or just the Rebbe, the spiritual leader of the Chabad-Lubavitcher dynasty of ultra-Orthodox Jews. For decades, from his iconic headquarters in Brooklyn, the Rebbe guided his movement, which under his spiritual and practical leadership expanded from Bangalore, to Richmond, and to parts in between (there’s a Chabad house in Kinshasa, Congo). One of the most influential Jewish religious leaders of the twentieth century, Schneerson was so revered that some Chabadniks claimed he was the long-awaited Messiah.

Yes, for many the Messiah had come. And he could be found at 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York. Though never claiming to be Moshiach, the Rebbe didn’t exactly deny it, either. In the early 1990s messianic fervor among some Lubavitch reached critical mass: Rebbe Schneerson was not only the Messiah but would very soon reveal himself as such to the world.

Then on 3 Tammuz 5754 (June 12, 1994, by the goyishe calendar), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson died, but not the messianic fervor around him. On the contrary, it only increased. Why? Because many claimed that according to the sacred Scriptures the Messiah had to die first, then after being resurrected he would reign as King Moshiach.

A Messiah who dies and is then resurrected?

In 2007 the Israeli newspaper Haaretz ran an article titled “The Lubavitcher Rebbe as a God.” The gist of the article, written by a skeptical reporter, was that some of the Rebbe’s most devoted followers believed the Rebbe was God. The author quoted one messianic Lubavitcher as saying about the Rebbe: “God chose to imbue this world with life through a body. So that’s how we know the Rebbe can’t have died, and that his actual physical body must be alive. The Rebbe is the conjunction of God and human. The Rebbe is God, but he is also physical.”

A divine Messiah who assumed a human body and dies in that body but who then comes back to life? Sounds like Jews for Jesus, not ultra-Orthodox Hasidim. Which explains why many other Jews, including other Orthodox, even other Chabadniks, were appalled. It was bad enough, the notion of Schneerson as the Messiah (especially when, having been afflicted with a stroke in 1992, he was unable to speak and was confined to a wheelchair), but then after his death to claim that Schneerson was going to be resurrected from the dead and reign as Moshiach? Talk about affirming what Christians have been saying for centuries!

Though controversy still exists regarding the messianic pretensions of the late Rebbe that echoed out of 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, not that far away, at 121-83 Springfield Boulevard, that is, at the Montefiore Cemetery, Queens, Rebbe Schneerson remains where they placed him almost 25 years ago.

What a contrast to Rebbe Jesus, whose tomb has been empty now for almost 2,000 years.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.

About 40 years ago I entered the world of Seventh-day Adventists. And I am so very thankful; so thankful for the Adventists who taught me truths that, well, no one else would have. Sure, the Lord is behind it all, but in His wisdom He raised up Seventh-day Adventists to proclaim a message that no one else is proclaiming.

Who, for example, but a Seventh-day Adventist would have given me a copy of The Great Controversy just as I was delving into the occult and spiritualism?

And sure, I could have learned about Jesus and righteousness by faith from other churches, but who other than Seventh-day Adventists would have taught me the “everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:7, KJV)in the context of the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14?

I remember asking one of the first Adventists I had met, “So what’s with all this eternal torment in hell stuff?”

And though knowing, of course, about the seventh-day Sabbath, I learned from Seventh-day Adventists the bigger picture, both of creation and redemption, contained in the Sabbath truth.

Also, with rare exceptions, who but Seventh-day Adventists would have taught me about the state of the dead, a biblical teaching that I so love and that remains a powerful protection against so many illusions and lies that have deceived billions, including most Christians?

Oh, yes—there’s the hell thing, too. Having been born again just two days earlier, and knowing nearly nothing about Christian theology (and the little that I did know, learned mostly from Hal Lindsey, was wrong)—I remember cynically asking one of the first Adventists I had met, “So what’s with all this eternal torment in hell stuff?” In about two minutes he gave me the gist of what is called (sometimes derisively) “annihilationism.” However much sense it instantly made to me then, over the decades I’ve come to so love this biblical truth, especially in contrast to the raving insanity of eternal torture in hell, which for some reason so many Christians refuse to let go of, kind of like a woman who refuses to leave a violently abusive spouse.

Today, too, with so much of the Christian world having been swept up in the myth of billions of years of suffering, disease, trauma, famine, and death as our Creator’s wonderful way of making life on earth, how thankful I am for people whose very name—Seventh-day Adventist—points to the truth of our origins as revealed in the first two chapters of Genesis.

Now 64 years old and no pup, I’m so thankful for the health message that I learned early on at Wildwood, from Seventh-day Adventists. Again and again, when I walk into restaurants and see people who, to quote Ellen White, are “digging their graves with their teeth,”* I thank God for Seventh-day Adventists and what they have taught me about health.

And speaking of Ellen White—what can I say? Only Seventh-day Adventists have kept alive the legacy of this amazing woman, whose life and ministry have impacted my life and faith in so many positive ways.

Any wonder that I thank God for Seventh-day Adventists?

* Ellen G. White, Counsels on Diet and Foods (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1938), p. 141.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.

When seashells were found in Spanish mountains where, according to the prevailing science, seashells should not be found, François-Marie Arouet (1694-1778) claimed that the shells were leftovers from mountain picnickers, or were dropped by pilgrims on their way to worship at a nearby shrine.

Voilà! With that answer Arouet explained away the recalcitrant data and saved the science.

Science, actually, overflows with insubordinate phenomena, such as seashells in the mountains, that—contradicting, challenging, and not fitting the tradition—must be explained away.

For instance, a species of monkey, platyrrhines, live in South America that, according to traditional science, evolved from African monkeys called catarrhines. However, platyrrhines have existed in South America (the theory goes) for 30 million years. But supposedly the African and South American continents had been split for 80 million years. So how did the platyrrhines end up across thousands of miles of ocean 50 million years after Africa and South America were separate continents?

Unfortunately, rather than acknowledging  “a sinful, unbelieving heart” (Heb. 3:12), the faithful found a way to preserve their Darwinian dogma: raft monkeys.

Google “raft monkeys” and you will find such headlines as “when monkeys surfed to south america.”

Raft monkeys?

Yes. The reason that platyrrhines live in South America when the inviolable tradition of common descent says they shouldn’t be there, is that they rafted thousands of miles across the Atlantic.

A book questioning the idea states: “They propose not that common descent might be wrong, but that monkeys must have rafted across the Atlantic Ocean, from Africa to South America. . . . The ‘rafting hypothesis’ argues that monkeys evolved from prosimians once and only once in Africa, and . . . made the waterlogged trip to South America.”

Google “raft monkeys,” and you will find such headlines as “When Monkeys Surfed to South America.”

Voilà! With that answer the recalcitrant data, platyrrhines in South America, is explained and the theory saved.

Of course, at least two monkeys, a male and female (or at least one pregnant female) had to drift (sail? navigate?) across the Atlantic and acquire enough food and fresh water along the way (maybe the monkeys knew how to fish, capture rainwater, and follow the stars) in order to make a voyage that would have taken months.

Though ludicrous, the raft monkey hypothesis “explains” the contradictory data. Evolutionists do this all the time, actually: make up stories about supposed events millions, even billions of years ago, in order to explain bothersome phenomena.

But don’t creationists do the same? Yes, but we’re supposedly ignorant Bible-thumping buffoons, not sophisticated empiricists following scientific evidence wherever it leads.

And though being farcical with his seashell-eating picnickers in the Spanish mountains, Arouet was mocking the extremes that some go to in order to preserve their sacred scientific dogma. And despite propaganda to the contrary, the evidence against evolution is vast and expansive, platyrrhines in South American being one example of that evidence, and monkeys on rafts another of how far some will go to defend it.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.

Conservation, not obsession

While editing the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, I needed some material about the environment. What did the Bible say about caring for the environment, creation care, and the like? I went online to find Christian websites about the topic. I was especially interested in what biblical texts they used.

I looked  and found Genesis 2:15: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” I focused on the two Hebrew words translated “work” and “care.” What does this mean? If we as a people care about the well-being of others, we have to care about the environment and the potential health hazards that come from the abuse of the environment.

All one has to do is look at the photos of places where, for decades, various big businesses, or big governments, or big businesses in cahoots with big governments, ruined the environment—the air, the water, the ground, everything. And even worse, people suffered devastating health issues, all because of the exploitation of the natural world and the resources that were greedily extracted from it. It’s hard to imagine how any Christian couldn’t be concerned.

Looking for Balance

At the same time we need to strike a balance, which isn’t always easy for humans to do. Some people get obsessed with the issue, even to the point of absurdity. Years ago, for example, an environmentalist pulled his car up to a seafood restaurant, ran in, snatched a lobster out of the tank, threw it into a tank in his car, and drove off, eventually returning the startled crustacean to its home in the water. Or after a truck carrying lobsters overturned and many of them died in the street, some environmentalists wanted to build a memorial to the dead animals.

Less silly is when concern for the environment and nature can get dangerous, with ecoterrorists destroying property and using violence in an attempt to achieve their ends.

Yes, we need to take care of the earth and the created world. But we shouldn’t make an idol, or a god, out of creation. We shouldn’t, as some do, all but worship nature. Though the context was different, the principle is similar to when Paul warned about those who “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen” (Rom. 1:25).

May we take heed.

Clifford Goldstein’s latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.

In 1979 I had experiences that, besides showing me how narrow and inadequate the atheist materialism of my youth was, opened me up to spiritual realities.  That is, if being open to “spiritual realities” meant talking a lot about God, or at least the idea of God.

During one of these conversations in Utrecht, Holland, I told a friend, Siger, that if I thought God existed, my life would radically change.

“Really?” he answered. “If God exists, I’ll meet Him in the end or whatever. But until then, who cares?”

“Who cares?” I said. “Are you kidding? If I thought God existed, nothing—nothing—could be the same again!”


Why? Because if God existed, then He (She, It, They, whatever) would be the foundation and the ground of all reality. This meant everything that ever had been, or is now, or would ever be would have originated in Him—including me and my life, which would make me obligated to Him. If God existed, then nothing mattered to me more than knowing who He was. What was He like? Why did He create the world? What was the purpose of life? Did He care about me?

If God existed, then nothing mattered more than knowing who He was.

I knew next to nothing about the Bible, and the little I thought I knew turned out wrong. But common sense told me that if a Creator existed, and that my life originated in Him, then I should seek to know who this God was and what He wanted from me. Because this attitude seemed so reasonable, I found Siger’s insouciance stunning.

Having imbibed from birth the premise that we are just “blobs of organized mud,” I found the thought of God’s existence fascinating, thrilling, hopeful, yet fearful. Fascinating and thrilling because it meant that reality was so much deeper, grander, and richer than what any textbook ever dared teach me. Hopeful because perhaps there was a meaning and purpose, after all, to the painful madness that suffused the human condition. Yet fearful, too, because, well, if God existed, then I would probably have to answer to Him, an idea that I intuited might not necessarily work in my favor.

Anyway, before long I came not only to know that God existed, but to know Him personally, all thanks to Jesus Christ, in whom “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Yes, God’s existence was fascinating and thrilling because it made the universe much deeper and richer than I had ever imagined. Even amid the painful madness of the human condition, yes, God’s existence offered meaning and purpose to our lives. And God’s existence meant that yes, I would have to answer to Him for my deeds, but thanks to the gospel it’s no longer such a fearful prospect.

Even in my ignorance in Utrecht, I was right about one thing: if I knew that God existed, nothing could ever be the same.

Nothing was.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, is available from Pacific Press.

No contemporary teaching is more antithetical to Scripture, or more overtly contrary to Christianity, than evolution—the assumption that about 4 billion years ago a simple life form started on earth and then, through the unguided and nondirected process of random mutation and natural selection, all life, from bacteria to Bostonians, arose.

The scientific establishment, however, says that evolution is true. And because so many Christians have bought into the great myth of our era, that scientific truth takes precedence over all rival claims (“scientism”), many Christians have accepted evolution, even though the teaching destroys every Christian doctrine.

Take the resurrection of the dead. In any evolutionary paradigm, even one in which God somehow is involved, how does one make sense of the promised resurrection of the saints at the end of time? One doesn’t, because the resurrection, as depicted in Scripture, becomes farcical if evolution is to be believed.

The Dead at Death

When Billy Graham died in early 2018, in pulpits worldwide preachers proclaimed that he had “received his final reward,” or that he had “gone to his glory.” Billy Graham and any Christian who dies, it is believed, ascends straightway to eternal heavenly bliss.

Many Christian scholars of varied theological persuasions, however, understand things differently. Talking about the end-time resurrection of the dead as the great Christian hope, N. T. Wright wrote: “This is actually the official view of all mainstream orthodox theologians, Catholic and Protestant, except for those who think that after death we pass at once into an eternity . . . a quite popular view but one which contains many serious difficulties.”

Meanwhile, theologians expound numerous postulations regarding the states of the dead before the resurrection. Some believe that the saints are in heaven, at least temporarily; others that they’re in a shadowy existence somewhere; some believe that the dead sleep unconscious until the resurrection; others grant that they don’t know what happens immediately after death.

Whatever the diversity of thought, the idea of a disembodied soul ascending into heaven at death as their final reward is closer to ancient Greek philosophy than to sound Christian theology. And Christian thinkers know it. The great hope of the Christian isn’t found, they know, in what happens immediately after death, but instead in the promised resurrection of the dead at the end time.

Adam and Jesus

No serious attempt to understand New Testament theology, including the resurrection, can deny how central a sinless Adam, who brought death to the world, was to Paul’s theology. In other words, Paul interpreted Genesis 1-3 as a “fundamentalist” would today.

A half a dozen times in Romans 5 Paul makes a one-to-one correspondence from Adam to Jesus. In Romans 5:17-19 alone he makes a direct link between the two men three times: “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteousness act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Adam brought death; Jesus brought life. Period.

One slight problem, however. In any evolutionary model there’s no way that one man, Adam, could have brought death into the world. The opposite is true: in the theory of evolution death, billions of years of it, brought Adam into the world instead. The idea of a holy, sinless human being who, through his own action, caused death makes any evolutionary model of human origins impossible.

Theistic evolutionist Denis Lamoureux wrote: “First, Adam never existed. . . . Second, Adam never actually sinned, because he never existed. Consequently, sin did not enter the world on account of Adam. Third, Adam was never judged by God to suffer and die.”
2 Though not all theistic evolutionists are so dogmatic, by taking this stance Lamoureux spares himself the pain and embarrassment of trying to make billions of years of evolution fit with a sinless Adam who, according to the New Testament, brought death to the world.

Adam, Jesus, and the Resurrection

The problem multiplies because Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, makes a clear link between Adam’s fall and Christ’s death and resurrection, as well as our death (because of Adam’s fall) and our resurrection (because of Christ’s resurrection).

“But now,” Paul wrote, “Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:20-22, NKJV).3

Adam brought death (“for in Adam all die”), but Christ will bring life (“in Christ all shall be made alive”), and this happens at the resurrection of the dead. However, once an Adam who caused death is rejected, the sequence falls apart even before it starts. In the standard evolutionary model no Adam brought death into existence. How could he, when it was death itself that brought Adam into existence instead?

Thus evolution as the source of our origins destroys any hope of the resurrection, at least if Paul is to be taken seriously.

The Twinkling of an Eye

Also, how quickly, and by what process, does this promised resurrection of the dead at the end of time occur? Here, too, Paul is unambiguous: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16, NKJV). And: “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:51-53, NKJV).

The dead rise, incorruptible, immortal. This transformation from death to life, eternal life, happens in a moment, in “the twinkling of an eye.” People who have been dead millennia—their bodies long disintegrated into atoms and scattered over the globe— are instantly brought back to life. We are talking about a manifestation of supernatural power not seen since, perhaps, the creation of the world itself, at least the creation depicted in Scripture.

This re-creation of humanity is a radically different process from what theistic evolution proposes. God took billions of years of predation, violence, death, extinction, catastrophe, the survival of the fittest, and so forth, until finally getting something in the “image of God.” Certainly no Christian would actually think that God would use that same process, again, only now to re-create us. On the other hand, if the six days of Genesis 1 can be allegorized away to mean billions of years, then perhaps the “twinkling of an eye” can be, too—though that doesn’t seem to be a move theistic evolutionists are making (at least not yet).

The question is: Why would the Lord use billions of years of natural processes, such as random mutation and natural selection, to create humanity in the first place, when, in a second, He does it quickly and supernaturally? If this quick and supernatural creation is good enough for the second time, why not the first—just as depicted in Genesis?

Creation and Resurrection

Creation, how we first got here; and resurrection, how we ultimately end up—are inseparably connected in Scripture. The six-day Genesis account, in which a sinless Adam is formed in a world without death, is connected directly to Jesus. In fact, Jesus is sometimes called “the Second Adam” because, according to Paul, this Second Adam undid the death that this first Adam, through disobedience, brought to the world. This undoing occurs, ultimately, at the end-time resurrection of the dead (see 1 Cor. 15:26).

Adam, Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the connection between them in the biblical account of creation, fits seamlessly. In the account of origins that science now promotes, and that is dogmatically accepted by so many Christians, this connection degenerates into broken strands that make the New Testament justification for the resurrection, at least in any serious reading of the apostle Paul, unintelligible, even farcical.

  1. ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/rethinking-the-tradition/
  2. Quoted in J. P. Moreland, Christopher Shaw, Ann Gauger, and Wayne Grudem, eds., Theistic Evolution (Crossway; Wheaton, Ill., 2017), p. 687.
  3. Bible texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland.