Redefining Hell - Part 4
From Natural to Carnal
In Part 3 of this series, we began our quest to understand why death exists in this realm. This led to the discovery that it is here due to the divine and universal principle of sowing and reaping, for unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24). So, essential to the death of a seed is its falling into the ground. Is this important in our consideration? It is! Please consider.
1 Corinthians 15:47-49 (ESV)
47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
According to Paul, the “first” or “natural” man is “from the earth, a man of dust.” In keeping with this, Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sower that the “ground” refers to the human heart or spirit (Matt. 13:19), thereby establishing that all of which we are considering happens within (Matt. 13:19; Luke 17:21).
Paul is clear. All of us bear “the image of the man of dust,” this word “image” meaning “a likeness” or “representation” (Strong’s), agreeing with what we have already considered, that Adam represents all humankind in its natural state, typified by the fact that we were formed from the “earth” or “dust.” Now, consider the following.
Isaiah 65:25 (NKJV)
25 … And dust shall be the serpent's food…
No doubt, this statement is symbolic. What is meant by this? I believe the following tells us.
Matthew 16:23 (NKJV)
23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
According to Revelation 12:9, the “serpent” is clearly “Satan,” who is mindful of “the things of men” rather than “the things of God.” So might “the things of men” be what “dust” represents, that which is the “serpent’s food”? And wouldn’t this connect to the appearance of the serpent in Genesis 3:1, as well as to John’s assessment in 1st John 2:15-17 about “all that is in the world”? (NKJV) Did not the Lord tell the serpent, “On your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life”? (Gen. 3:14; ESV) But there is more to be considered.
I believe it’s appropriate to say that the “image of the man of dust” points to the essence of the “natural man” which eventually leads to the mindset focused on “the things of men.” I say “eventually” because there are certain conditions which must first be met. Let’s consider this.
Genesis 2:7 illustrates that humankind begins as a “living soul” (KJV), while Ezekiel 18:4 tells us that “the soul who sins shall die.” So as the Genesis story goes, Adam and Eve sinned and both died. So to understand, we must define what sin is. According to the apostle John, it is “the transgression of the law” (1st John 3:4; KJV).
Now, what did the Lord tell Adam? “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” (Gen. 2:17; ESV). As the story goes, Adam and Eve did eat of this tree thereby bringing death into their being, so if this is true, then the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must symbolize the law, otherwise, Adam and Eve’s actions would not be described as sin (Rom. 5:12; 1st Tim. 2:14). Paul clarifies this, stating, “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20; KJV), or in other words, knowledge of good and evil, and again, “I would not have known sin except through the law” (Rom. 7:7; NKJV). Now, consider what Paul told Timothy.
1 Timothy 2:13-14 (KJV)
13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
“Adam was not deceived.” If this is true, doesn’t this suggest that Adam willfully disobeyed God’s commandment not to eat from the tree of knowledge? Why would he do this? Our answer is twofold. First of all, remember that the “natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him” (1st Cor. 2:14; NKJV). Secondly, consider the following.
Romans 8:6-8 (NKJV)
6 For to be carnally minded is DEATH, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Here Paul defines death as being “carnally minded,” no, not natural minded, but “carnally minded.” The English Standard Version renders “to be carnally minded” as “to set the mind on the flesh,” again agreeing with John’s assessment in 1st John 2 and what Jesus said in Matthew 16:23. The idea of “natural,” then “carnal,” suggests that a transition takes place, a move from living to dying, illustrated by Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge.
This transition from natural to carnal is typified by the seed “falling” into the ground to die, for a seed doesn’t die the moment it enters the ground; it takes time. The same is true for you and me. Our shift from natural to carnal, from living to dying, is gradual. And since Adam was not deceived, we must ask ourselves what it was that prompted his disobedience that led to his dying. The answer is found in the following.
Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)
18 PRIDE goes before destruction, and A HAUGHTY SPIRIT before a FALL.
What moved Adam from natural to carnal? A “haughty spirit,” i.e. PRIDE, which in Proverbs 16 is defined as “arrogance.” Oxford Languages defines “arrogant” as, “Having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.” In agreement with Proverbs, reconsider 1st John 2:16.
1 John 2:16 (ESV)
16 For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and PRIDE in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
When pride begins to form, we begin our descent into carnality, for when we are natural, we simply consider the things of the Spirit of God as foolish, however, when we become carnal, we exhibit “enmity” or hostility “against God,” thereby resisting His law, our lack of humility preventing us from pleasing Him (Psalm 10:4; Prov. 8:13). This state of being is reflected in our treatment of one another, for John wrote, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1st John 2:9; 4:20; NKJV)
The natural person is motivated by the desires of the flesh and eyes but the carnal person is motivated by self-importance, therefore corrupting these desires. So it is that the first part of the principle of sowing and reaping applies to sowing to our flesh or carnal-mindedness. Amazingly, the pride that arises so quickly in our young lives actually becomes the necessary element needed to humble us, for the suffering it brings is what prompts us to turn from our self-importance to loving others (Matt. 22:39; 1st John 4:8, 16).