Verses 12-14 read,
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned--13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
There has been sin in the world since Adam first sinned. Because of that sin and because God is Just and Righteous, death entered the world and held its power of the world. There was no Mosaic or Levitical Law yet. God gave that to Moses on Sinai. But there was still sin.
How is that? I mean, God said through Paul that there is no transgression where there is no law. But, I will show you that there was law even before God gave the law to Moses. Adam defied a direct command of God. God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but 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 2:16-17). Adam and Eve then ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In prideful prospect and desire, they wanted to be like God, not in His image, they already were in His image (Genesis 1:27), but to have His power and authority. He and every person after him had the knowledge of what was right and wrong (Genesis 3:22). Knowing what is right and wrong and choosing wrong is sin (John 12:47, James 4:17). Who can say, they don’t know it’s wrong to lie, murder, steal, or otherwise hurt another?
Before people had the Law, they were still aware of good and evil, they chose evil, to put themselves first and consider themselves to be a god. The knowledge of good and evil is the law we call morality. This is I-theism, rejecting who God is and who He has made them to be in favor of being their own gods. They put themselves on the throne and see the world through the eyes of the enemy, with themselves and their desires in the driver’s seat. Their path is in opposition to the path of followers of Christ. Paul said it this way in Philippians 3:18-21,
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
After God gave Moses the law, in addition to the prideful rejection of God and His commandments, people chose to worship the law and themselves over God, resulting in the same thing, sin and death. But there is hope! You see Jesus came to give us life rather than the death that every person is living under. In John 10:9-11 Jesus said,
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
The sin after Moses, is rejecting Christ, it is refusing to believe God. Even before Christ, many put the law above God, would not believe Him and so let death be their prince rather than Jesus be their King. Jesus said it like this,
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
When Adam sinned, through that one sin both physical and spiritual death entered the world. In the Garden, Adam and Eve and their offspring could have at any time, eaten from the Tree of Life and so lived forever. God could not allow man to live forever physically, so He banned all people from the Garden to ensure they would not eat of the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24). Adam’s act brought sin to the world, but Jesus act brought life to the world. It is, as we have read in the previous chapters of Romans, a gift, freely given by God to those who believe Him. Romans 5:15-17 reads,
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
That awesome generous gift, the result of Jesus Crucifixion and Resurrection brings with it a life sentence rather than a death sentence. It is not a verdict to life in prison, but a life of freedom, abundance, and peace with God eternally. It is we who eat from the Tree of Life, Jesus spiritually now in the Kingdom of God on earth and physically in New Jerusalem. Read Revelation 22:1-5 and praise God that this is your hope, your future, and your eternity.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Believer, Cherished, you are alive! Are you living? Are you relishing and appreciating your eternal life? Are you in an ever-deepening relationship with God now, in the presence of Your Lord now, seeking His face and bearing His identity on your forehead? That my brothers and sisters is eternal life and it is for now and forever.
Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead to give you that. He overcame the death Adam brought into the world when he believed the serpent rather than believing God to lavishly give you liberation and life. You are freed from the condemnation of sin, free from the death that once reigned over you. Dance in it, relish it, and live in it! Verses 18-21 read,
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Believer, you are alive, so live that others may see you and live. Live in the way the passage from Revelation 22 describes. Live the abundant life of unity with God, bearing His identity, authority, and grace.