What happens when the surgery is successful, but the patient dies anyway?
The Bible portrays sin — and "death through sin" (Romans 5:12) — as a fatal disease from which there is no recovery: "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, NASB). The marginal rendering of this verse in the New King James version describes the heart as "incurably sick," a terminal condition. Apart from God the present human predicament remains unresolved.
Humanity was created in the image and likeness of God: "Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’. . . And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them" (Genesis 1:26-27). Adam and Eve shared the nature and character attributes of God, being a grand representation of divine craftsmanship (Genesis 2:7). The spiritual nature of Adam and Eve gave them continual access to the abiding presence of God. Only the entrance of something sinister could ruin such an ideal environment.
Along with the sweeping entrance of sin came the ultimate consequence of death (Romans 5:12; 6:23) — not "death" in the sense of physical cessation but "death through sin" resulting in eternal banishment from the face of God: "But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:2).
In the case of Adam and Eve, "death through sin" was immediate. This came as no surprise because God had warned them in advance what would happen should they break His law: "From every tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:16-17).
From a physical standpoint, Adam and Eve did not experience death "in the day" of their transgression. The historical account records the lifespan of Adam to have been 930 years (Genesis 5:5). Therefore, the "death" Adam and Eve would face "in the day" of their transgression must have had reference to something other than biological cessation. Their eventual return to the "ground" from which they had been created would occur long after the "death through sin" had taken its toll (Genesis 3:19).
The "image" and "likeness of God" created within Adam and Eve was now tarnished as a result of their disobedience. Like a cancer, this "death through sin" was passed on to everyone who descended from Adam: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).
The natural offspring of Adam and Eve were no reflection of the "image" and "likeness of God," but instead arrived in the tarnished "likeness" of their father Adam: "This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Adam in the day when they were created. When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth" (Genesis 5:1-3).
God named humanity "Adam [man]" because he represented the head of the human family. Thus, everyone born into the human family would find his identity "in Adam" and in the "death through sin" that he brought into the world (1 Corinthians 15:22; Romans 5:12).
God is Spirit (John 4:24). Communion and Fellowship with God take place according to His nature — in the sphere or realm of that which is "spiritual." Therefore, spiritual death resulted in eternal separation from the face of God, and the human family was considered dead in His sight (Isaiah 59:2; Romans 6:23). "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1; see also Ephesians 2:5; Colossians 2:13).
The problem of "death through sin" was universal in its scope and effects: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The "glory of God" refers to the imparted "image" and "likeness of God," which Adam and Eve received at the point of their creation. From a human standpoint, no possibility of recovery existed. Only God could restore what had been lost "in Adam."
The doctor must treat not only the symptoms but the disease itself. "Death through sin" demanded eradication at its very core. The soiled "image" and "likeness of God" had to be restored in the same realm in which it had been lost.
God’s solution would be to interject Himself into the physical realm to defeat sin and "death through sin" in its own arena: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14). "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4). "So then as through one transgression there resulted in condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted in justification of life to all men. For through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many were made righteous" (Romans 5:18-19).
The empowering effects of the Cross of Jesus were the human restoration of what had been lost "in Adam": "But now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26). The chasm of separation existing between a Holy God and a fallen humanity was bridged through the payment of ransom (Matthew 20:28): "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time" (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Humanity lost "in Adam" was purchased and ransomed "in Christ."
What once seemed dead, hopeless and incurable "in Adam" was now alive and healthy "in Christ" (Ephesians 2:1). Resurrection "life" entered to replace the effects of "death through sin" (John 5:24; Romans 6:3-5). "For since by a man came death, by a man came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21-22). Once again the "image" and "likeness of God" — and full restoration to the presence of God — was made possible through the transforming power of the Cross: "And just as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly" (1 Corinthians 15:49).
The Surgery Completed
The story of redemption, begun so long ago amid the trees of the garden of Eden, was not completed until the second coming of Jesus Christ. The redemptive power of the Cross was carried through and validated when the Savior appeared the second time, having already defeated sin and death (Hebrews 2:14-18).
"But now once at the consummation of the ages, He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself . . . so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him" (Hebrews 9:26, 28). The implication is evident: no second coming, no completed salvation. No com
pleted salvation, no release from spiritual death. No release from spiritual death, no restoration to the "image" and "likeness of God." Each element of redemption depends on each other element for its effectiveness.
Physical death cannot be the penalty for sin because 2,000 years beyond the Cross, people still experience biological cessation. A physical, bodily resurrection cannot be the determining release from the penalty of death because people 2,000 years beyond the Cross have yet to experience such an event. Under such a "physical" belief system, salvation is on hold and is deferred until some future, yet-to-be-determined date. The benefits of the shed blood of Jesus Christ are postponed. In effect, the "surgery" God performed through Jesus on the Cross was successful, but the patient — fallen humanity — continues to die anyway.
God has brought salvation to its completion "in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (2 Timothy 2:10). Salvation and eternal life are available now, not deferred until some future "age" beyond this one (John 5:24; 1 John 5:11, 13). What Jesus promised and His apostles expected, believers now possess in reality. The "image" and "likeness of God" radiates from within those who are "in Christ," now seated in the "heavenly places" (Ephesians 2:6).
No Jesus, no life. Know Jesus, know life (John 17:3).