What if I would have tried out for the golf team instead of track? What if I had apologized twenty years earlier? What if I hadn’t even had that first drink?
We all have those “what if?” moments in our lives—those times when we wonder what would have happened if we had made different choices. Some of our “what ifs?” are simple curiosities. Others are deep regrets—bad choices on a rational or moral level. Even for the most optimistic of us, these “what ifs?” are predominantly negative. But by the time we ask, “What if?” it’s usually too late.
The biggest “what if?” in the history of the world has to be the first one. What if I hadn’t eaten that fruit? What if I had just told the serpent to slither off? It is from this “what if?” that all the rest of our “what ifs?” were born.
Some of our “what ifs?” are trivial and speculative. This one is neither. We do know the answer, and it does actually matter. If Adam and Eve had never eaten of the forbidden tree, death would have never entered the world. As St. Paul says, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). There it is. Death came into the world because of that first act of rebellion. And do you remember why God expelled them from the Garden of Eden? “… Lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Gen. 3:22). God’s intention and design was eternal life from the very beginning.
If Adam and Eve had not rebelled against God by eating that fruit, death would not have entered the world. Instead, they would have simply obeyed God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28). Then there would just be a bunch of perfect humans with perfect health and perfect righteousness running around the earth having a perfectly blessed time.
Now, who’s to say some other person wouldn’t have eaten the fruit and caused the fall into sin? We don’t know. But assuming man had actually obeyed God, perfection would have continued eternally. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Yes, but what’s the point? We can’t go back and undo it. We can’t squeeze the toothpaste back into the tube. We can’t fix it.
But someone can.
God’s will for man was to live forever in “everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness” (Small Catechism), and God’s will would not be thwarted. Even before the fall into sin, God had a plan for how he was going to fix this. And this is what the whole Bible is about.
If one man’s act of rebellion could plunge God’s creation into chaos, then one man’s act of obedience could bring it back out. I’m talking about Jesus—his crucifixion and resurrection. St. Paul continues,
“As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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.” (Rom. 5:18-19)
So it is not merely Adam and Eve’s “what if?” that finds its correction in Jesus Christ. It is our “what ifs?” too. All of our regrets, mistakes, and sins ultimately find their correction in Jesus Christ. The momentum of our sins may continue in this age, but it will not continue in the age to come.
God’s action to restore his creation is the whole theme of the Bible. So it ends much like it began:
“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 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. 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. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 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.” (Rev. 22:1-5)
The peace of Christ be with you all,