The Apostle Paul wrote: “. . . just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned – for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses. . .”1
Paul is telling us that the sin of the original man had spread all through humanity. There are many symptoms that demonstrate the presence of the disease – fear, selfishness, shame, hatred, blaming, lying – but the telltale symptom of sin is death, and death spread to everyone on the earth. Paul says that the later method for diagnosing sin – the law – had not yet been developed, but the evidence of sin’s presence was nonetheless irrefutable: everyone died.
God made man in such a way that, if he sinned, he would die. We think of that as a punishment, but don’t miss the fact that it was also a safety protocol. Because sin, by its nature, multiplies – sort of like compound interest – God in his mercy imposed death on his creatures. Without death, evil would accrue indefinitely, it would multiply geometrically; life would be unbearable and the earth would become uninhabitable.
The question for the reader of the early chapters of the Bible is: Will God now quarantine earth and let the disease run its course? Or will he rescue humanity from itself and the consequences of its terrible choice? In Genesis 12 we learn his decision. He will rescue humanity, and he will begin that costly work with a childless couple named Abram and Sarai.