What was the first death recorded in the Bible? If you know your Bible well, you would probably say, “When Cain murdered his brother, Abel.” You’d be right that this is the first human death recorded, but this is not the first death. The first death is actually an animal.
While we mustn’t downplay the result of the Fall of Man bringing death into the world especially against God’s human creatures, it is important to recognise that the first actual recorded death in the Bible is not a human person but an animal. God warned Adam that if he ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. Even though Satan convinced Adam and Eve that God was lying, God in fact did not lie; for as we know from Genesis 4, the first human death was a brother murdering his own brother out of jealousy and, of course, Adam and Eve and all their children do not live forever. This is, of course, God’s Law.
Yet before we’re even hit with the Law, we get a small glimpse of the Gospel. For before men begin to die—indeed, instead of killing Adam and Eve outright—God instead kills an animal and clothes Adam and Eve and covers their shame. By all rights, Adam and Eve (and we after them) deserve to die. God warned they would die, and it is even His right as their Creator to kill them right then and there. Instead, He slaughters an animal and covers their shame.
This foreshadows not only the Old Testament sacrificial system where animals—especially lambs—are slain to cover the shame of Israel. Even more, this foreshadows the Lamb of God who will be slain to cover the shame of all who believe in Him. In Christ, your sins and your shame are covered by His blood.
This is critically important because oftentimes, when we are forgiven, the feeling of shame does not immediately go away. Yet just because you still feel the lingering shame does not mean the shame of your sin is still there in the eyes of God. When you repent, when you’re baptised, when you receive the Eucharist, you might still see your shame, but God only sees the blood of His spotless Lamb that covers you and has made you blameless. God, therefore, sees Christ in you, and He sees a spotless little lamb.
I can’t imagine the lingering shame and guilt Adam and Eve must’ve felt. After all, they literally ruined everything. They had one job to do and they screwed it up big time. They would go down in history as the people who believed the words of a serpent over the Word of God. I don’t think their shame of their sin and being naked immediately went away after God’s gracious forgiveness and clothing them. (After all, don’t we all get embarrassed when we’re naked in front of others to this day, even if it’s just us and the mirror?)
Still, though, God’s grace and His forgiveness were real for them just as His grace and forgiveness are real for you today. If God can forgive and cover the shame of the two humans who screwed up His perfect creation, then your sin is no big deal for God to forgive. Jesus died and rose again to undo what Adam did; He therefore undoes every sin ever committed for all of time.