Someone has observed that one cannot even pronounce the word sin without hearing the heinous hiss of the serpent. Had the serpent not wielded his influence upon mankind, this discussion of how God treats sinners would not be taking place. The hiss of the serpent made the word sin necessary. One thing is certain: If all our information were limited to the first two chapters of Genesis, the time when man lived virtually in God’s presence, we would never know nor need to know how God treats sinners – there would be no such thing! Be that as it may, that condition did not last, and sin was at the root of the end of that very, very different era.
Sin is a reality in the life of every accountable person. When we begin to think about how God treats sinners, we must examine this question on more than one level. “Why?” you ask. Think sensibly and you will soon see this is the case. Since all men are sinners, unless this is more than a single-faceted issue, God would of necessity have to treat all accountable persons alike. Yet, I know from the scriptures that not all accountable persons are treated alike; I know that “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints,” (Psalm 116.15), but that God finds “…no pleasure in the death of the wicked [sinner]” (Ezekiel 33.11). This could be proven literally by thousands of scriptures; it is evident that God treats some men differently than He treats others, and this in spite of the fact that all men are sinners.
The only logical explanation is what we concluded earlier: This question must be addressed on more than one level. The first hint as to this fact is found in Genesis 2 when God warned man, “…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.” (Genesis 2.17). Not only did God say man would die should He disobey in this manner, He said, “…in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” Yet as we continue to read, Eve first and then Adam ate of the forbidden fruit (see Genesis 3.1-8) but, they didn’t die the same day – or did they? Satan told them they wouldn’t die (Genesis 3.4), but how could we believe him “… for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8.44).
The plain truth is this: Either Adam and Eve died on the day they ate of the forbidden fruit, or God lied and Satan was truthful! This thought must be totally rejected by every Bible believer! If Adam and Eve died as the Lord said they would, they died in a manner that was not visible to human eyes; they died in some way other than physically! Implied in these observations are the multi-levels which we must examine if we are to begin to understand how God treats sinners. There is the physical side to consider; then there is the non-physical (spiritual) side to consider. Man is made up of both the physical and the spiritual and God deals with man on both levels (or in each of these spheres).
This is not nearly all there is to this matter; not only is man a dual being, also we note that there are multiple “classes” of sinners addressed in the Bible. Some “classes” of sinners are condemned in God’s sight while other sinners (men who sin) are ushered into heaven’s glory. Our study must address these variables to unravel the mystery of how God treats sinners.
1. When did God tell Adam he would die in relation to his disobedience regarding the forbidden fruit?
2. What did the serpent tell Eve regarding death and the fruit?
3. Who was right, God or the serpent? If God was right, was the death of which He warned physical death?
4. How/why would God find the death of a saint precious?
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