What exactly is the “Fall” of man?


by Shawn Brasseaux

When we Christians speak of Adam’s “Fall” or man’s “Fall,” it is not to say we believe Adam/mankind literally fell.

For example, the Muslim prophet Muhammad misunderstood us—perhaps because Christians did not adequately express their beliefs to him. Whatever the case, he wrote in the Qur’an in Surah (chapter) 2: “34 When We told the angels, ‘Bow down before Adam,’ they all bowed. But not Iblis, who refused and was arrogant: he was one of the disobedient. 35 We said, ‘Adam, live with your wife in this garden. Both of you eat freely there as you will, but do not go near this tree, or you will both become wrongdoers.’ 36 But Satan made them slip, and removed them from the state they were in. We said, ‘Get out, all of you! You are each other’s enemy. On earth you will have a place to stay and livelihood for a time.’ 37 Then Adam received some words from his Lord and He accepted his repentance: He is the Ever Relenting, the Most Merciful.” (The Qur’an, M. A. S. Abdel Haleem translation, 2004-2005, page 7).

According to the Muslim holy book, Satan (Iblis) sinned in that he did not bow before Adam as Allah commanded. Furthermore, since Adam and his wife sinned, Allah punished them by throwing them out of Heaven and sending them to Earth. That is, Adam and Eve allegedly lived in Heaven before being banished to Earth. In other words, the Qur’an teaches they “fell” to Earth. Is this what the Bible teaches? Of course not! Adam and Eve lived on planet Earth from the very beginning of their existence, as we will see in Genesis. They resided in the Garden of Eden in the Middle East, in the vicinity of modern Iraq (Genesis 2:4-17, especially verses 10-15). Now, falling from Heaven down to Earth is true of Lucifer/Satan (Luke 10:18), but not of man/Adam. When we Christians speak of the “Fall” of man, we are using the word in a figurative or non-literal way. Nevertheless, we are conveying a literal truth.

Immediately after his creation, Adam was the glory of God. He was the full expression of all that God was and is. Thus, he was able to commune with Him, represent Him, and worship Him without any hindrances or barriers to interfere. Remember, Genesis 1:26-28 in the King James Bible: “[26] And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Now, go to Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;….” Something changed in man between Genesis chapter 1 and Romans chapter 3. Mankind is no longer an adequate representative of God. All that God was and is, man cannot reflect it. Man cannot worship his Creator because man has a sin problem. The Greek word rendered “come short” is “hystereo,” translated various other ways in Scripture. Briefly examining these passages will help us understand the drastic change that occurred in man to negatively affect him:

  • The word is “lack” in Matthew 19:20, “The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack [hystereo] I yet?” Also, Luke 22:35, “And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye [hystereo] any thing? And they said, Nothing.”
  • Another way the word is used is “come behind:” “So that ye come behind [hystereo] in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:….” (1 Corinthians 1:7).
  • In Philippians 4:12, it is “suffer need:” “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need [hystereo].”
  • The word is translated “destitute” in Hebrews 11:37: “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute [hystereo], afflicted, tormented;….”
  • Finally, Hebrews 12:15: “Looking diligently lest any man fail [hystereo] of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;….”

The idea, then, is deficiency, something absent, a need, or inferiority. Man has fallen, no longer bearing God’s image. Adam passed on this corrupt identity to all of us: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:…” (Romans 5:12). God’s righteousness—His standard of rightness—is therefore high above us. No matter how hard we try in religion, we cannot “measure up.” In this sense we are come short of the glory of God. We are devoid of all that He is, or of all that He originally made Adam (the first man).

Our only remedy is the Gospel of the Grace of God: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Romans 3:23-28: “[23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [24] Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Romans 4:1-5: “[1] What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? [2] For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. [3] For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. [4] Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. [5] But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”

“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:30-31).

Also see:
» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?
» Are we created in “the image of God?”
» Does God see us Christians as sinners?
» Is grace a “license to sin?”

» Why did God place a curse on creation?
» Can you explain “knowing” good and evil with respect to the Garden of Eden?
» Was an apple the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?