Yes, the dead do speak.
The author of the epistle to the Hebrews says inHebrews 11:4 concerning Abel, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead yet speaketh;” Although he took his last breath of life about six thousand years ago, Abel speaks to us today on the pages of Holy Writ.
What we refer to at the moment, however, is the speech of those who are spiritually dead. These, though they may still be alive physically, and are, therefore, able to speak words which we can hear and understand, cannot perform anything that is spiritually good, nor in their speech manifest any spiritual virtue. The carnal mind, Paul declares inRomans 8:7, 8, is enmity against God, is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be: so that they that are in the flesh cannot please God no matter what they say or do. All, as David confesses in Psalm 51:5 are conceived and born in sin, because all are the offspring of a set of original parents who died spiritually the very day that they ate of the forbidden fruit.
Now we do not know the exact moment when Adam and Eve were born again and were thereby restored to spiritual life. Was it at once? And was their consciousness that they were naked and guilty before God due to this? Was it just before God came to them in the cool of the day with the question, “Where art thou?” Or did this have to wait until symbolically God clothed Adam and Eve with the righteousness of Christ, when He slew an animal and used the skin to cover their nakedness? Did the rebirth, and the work of sanctification have to wait until the legal basis was symbolically laid in the death of that animal?
We do know that the day that they ate of the forbidden fruit they ate death, and died spiritually, not simply sometime during that day but that very moment of their sin. And their speech to God reveals this to be the case. If already the seed of that new life had been implanted in them, they were not acting according to it when they answered God’s questions. Their answers were speech that proceeded from that carnal mind that is enmity against God. This does not mean to say that they could not already have been born again. But it does mean to say that they revealed their spiritually dead nature in their speech. Peter was a born again child of God who by that new life confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Yet, shortly thereafter Peter showed his carnal nature which was spiritually dead when, not once, nor twice, but three times he denied Christ, and finally did so with a curse! Now the life of regeneration never produces such actions as Peter’s, nor as Adam’s and Eve’s answers to God. That life prostrates one on the ground in humble confession of sin. There is no trace, no evidence of this at all in Adam’s and Eve’s answers, but instead proud defense of the sin committed, and that before the very face of the Holy One!
Consider the awful boldness of the fallen human nature! The Holy God’s clear and pointed question, “Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?”, called for a simple and humble answer, “Yes, I did.” Or, indeed, penitent Peter’s “Lord Thou knowest all things” would suffice. But what have we here? Certainly there is not a trace of confession of sin, not a suggestion of sorrow, but only the explanation, “The woman whom Thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Unexpressed, yet definitely there, is also the accusation, “If you had not given me this woman, I would not have done this.” Notice that it is not simply a statement that the woman gave him that fruit, and that then he ate, Adam is bold to state that the woman that God gave himto be with him did this. The accused sinner dares to charge the holy Accuser with evil! The prediction of God to Adam that they would die the day they ate is clearly proven to be truth. For Eve’s answer is an equally proud one devoid of all evidence of sorrow for sin. She, too, denies fault and tries to place the blame on the serpent.
Yes, both admit that they ate, but neither one confesses sorrow for sin. Fear of the punishment of their sin they clearly reveal. A broken and a contrite heart they do not show. Adam’s “. . . and I did eat” is no more a confession of sin than Judas’ “I have betrayed innocent blood.” Evidence of spiritual life there is not in the speech of either Adam or of Eve.
The serpent is not questioned by God, and he speaks no accusation against either God or the devil who used him. The serpent had not died spiritually for the simple reason that the serpent never had any spiritual life. Physical life it had, and this physical life serpents are losing every day. But as irrational creatures, even in their glorious form of being the most subtle beasts of the field, they did not have and cannot have spiritual life, or therefore die spiritually.
The devil, however, had spiritual life as a former righteous and glorious angel before God’s face in heaven. And he died spiritually before he came to tempt man away from his righteousness, and before he murdered man spiritually. (Jesus says of the devil in John 8:44 that he was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth.) His speech clearly indicated his spiritual death when he approached Eve through the serpent. The words he spoke through the serpent were words of spiritual death. He slandered the living God. He called Him a liar. He presented Him as a cruel tyrant who was only trying to defend himself from what man might and could have. And Satan was doing this in an act of hatred in the form of lying about the fruit of that tree of knowledge of good and evil. When we speak then of the dead speaking, as our theme expresses it, let us by all means not overlook or forget that here from Satan’s mouth also we have speech of the dead!
Let it also be noted that there is no question of God to the devil as to whether he had deceived Eve. There is no approach of grace to bring him to repentance, to teach him his misery and to promise him a Saviour Who will restore to spiritual life. There is no salvation for any fallen angel. Christ took not upon Himself “the nature of angels, but He took on Him the seed of Abraham,” according to Hebrews 2:16. This is also implied in Romans 5:18 and I Corinthians 15:22. Because the whole human race was created in Adam, all could fall in Him, and all could be made alive in Christ, that is, all who are in Him by sovereign election could be made alive. Here in Romans 5:18 the translation is literal, and we do find the word men. By the offence of Adam, judgment to condemnation came upon all men because Adam was the head of the whole human race. By the righteousness of One, namely Christ, justification of life came upon all men, and not upon a single angel, for Christ took upon Himself a human nature as the last Adam, He is Head only of the elect. Look at the text in I Corinthians 15:22 again, “. . . in Christ shall all be made alive.” Now all men shall not be made alive with everlasting life. Many are already in hell. The idea is that all whom Adam represented died in him; and all whom Christ represents are made alive in Him. Adam’s sin brought judgment to condemnation upon all whom he represented, the whole human race. Christ’s righteousness realized righteousness unto life for all whom He represented, the elect Church. And Satan and the fallen angels as well as many men, are out of that sphere.
Once again, Christ would have to die thousands of times to save the angels. They did not fall by the sin of one, but each fell individually, not being created in Satan but being created individually. And salvation for each angel, that is fallen angel, would have to be done for each angel on an individual basis. I John 2:2 does not mean that Christ is the propitiation for the world of angels, but of the world of men.
But let the living listen to what the dead speak, and then let them learn the lesson of God’s grace. The world cannot hear this lesson or this speech of the dead. Even as a physically dead man cannot hear the speech of the physically living, the spiritually dead world cannot hear the speech of God, or the lesson in the speech of the spiritually dead Adam, Eve and Satan. Yea, the flesh of the believer cannot hear this. And so often in the church this speech is not heard. So often we stop our ears and refuse to listen. Those who try to do away with this speech of the spiritually dead by labeling the first eleven chapters of Genesis as fiction, we will leave to God as far as the judgment as to whether or not they have been born again to spiritual life is concerned. But that action of theirs is no more the work of that new life in Christ than was Adam’s and Eve’s speech in paradise when they were approached by the God against Whom they had sinned. We will do the same with those who deny that man actually died spiritually that day, and with their Pelagianism insist that man still has a free will, is desperately sick, weak, and to a very great degree spiritually paralyzed, but retains the ability to choose salvation when it is properly presented to him. They, likewise, if indeed born again, are not speaking for the principle of that new life, for that life never contradicts God, Who in Ephesians 2:1 declares that we are dead in trespasses and sins, and in Psalm 51:5 that we are conceived and born in sin.
But let us be sure that we hear the message that God gives us here when He records this speech of the spiritually dead. It is this: Salvation by grace! The truth comes through loud and clear: Adam and Eve deserved to be struck down and cast at once into hell for their brass, their proud self-justification, their refusal to confess their sin. Their act of eating of the forbidden fruit was enough to call for their physical death the day they ate, and for an entrance into the eternal death of the lake of fire at once! But this speech before the holy God of heaven and earth compounds their evil and guilt. Only grace explains that God will stay there before them, listen to such proud speech of spiritually dead creatures, and then give such a wonderful promise of better things than those from which in a moment they would be driven. Only because He saw them in Christ, as the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, did He approach them with His questions and take this dirt from them and provide a way of salvation.
And note Genesis 3 carefully from beginning to end. You read not a word of an offer of salvation to Adam and Eve, as though they retained some spiritual power of life to be able to accept. There is no “gospel invitation.” All the salvation action recorded is of God. He brings to the conviction of sin. He speaks of the salvation He will work. He slays an animal and clothes Adam and Eve. He, the living God, gives life to these who manifest spiritual death by their speech. Truly with Jonah we must say, and we want to say, “Salvation is of the Lord.” And we want to sing, “Saved by Grace.” When by that grace we are born again to spiritual life we can and will do that. The dead speak nonsense and words that deny God His glory. The spiritually alive speak words of wisdom and praise of God. Do you listen to the words which your soul and mouth speak? Do you confess your sins and praise God for His forgiving grace?