Here’s an interesting passage in one of the apocryphal books, 2 Baruch, stating that Adam’s sin brought “untimely death” upon all.
2 Baruch 54:15 For though Adam first sinned and brought untimely death upon all, yet of those who were born from him each one of them has prepared for his own soul torment to come, and again each one of them has chosen for himself glories to come. 16 [For assuredly he who believeth will receive reward. 17 But now, as for you, you wicked that now are, turn you to destruction, because you shall speedily be visited, in that formerly you rejected the understanding of the Most High. 18 For His works have not taught you, nor has the skill of His creation which is at all times persuaded you.] 19 Adam is therefore not the cause, save only of his own soul, but each of us has been the Adam of his own soul.
In what way was it “untimely” for Adam to die? Had it previously been planned that he would live longer—and that all his descendants would live longer? Let’s turn to Genesis to find out:
Genesis 3:22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
The Hebrew word here for “forever” is עוֹלָם (`owlam). Its meaning is not as clear as we might like, but we can gain some intriguing insight when we take a look at how the Septuagint translated it into Greek. There it reads εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, which literally means “to the age”. (Read more about that here.) I’m currently pondering the possibility that the “forever” here in Genesis 3:22 indicates that the Tree of Life would have enabled Adam (and who knows how many others) to live to the end of the age into which he was Created—that is, until 70AD. If this turns out to be true, it should significantly inform our understanding of Sheol/Hades and its purpose.
Anyway, while I’m still trying to sort it all out, consider this: What would be the effect upon the world if the wicked were allowed to live for 4,000 years or so? We know little about Adam’s later life, and whether he chose to continue defying God, or whether he changed his mind and became consistently obedient. Either way, he lived 930 years, nearly a quarter of the years of that age (provided that we start counting that age at the creation). Imagine some evil counterpart, determined to practice evil in multiple ways, living for 4,000 years. How many such people could exist without utterly ruining anybody’s chances of living a decent life on the Earth?
It appears from the accounts of Noah’s flood that at that time, wickedness abounded, and the state of the Earth was so bad that God decided to hit the reset button, as it were. Saving out only Noah and his family, he wiped out the rest of humanity, sending their spirits to Sheol to await the great day of judgment that was to come at the end of the age. It was there in Sheol, “in the midst of the Earth” that God was working another great plan:
Genesis 48:16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Abraham’s descendants, who were eventually supposed to be as numerous as as the stars in heaven (Genesis 15:5), were being collected in Sheol, and not on the surface of the Earth. Perhaps there was an original plan to amass them all alive on the face of the Earth, but with this “untimely death”, they would have to be gathered into Sheol—or as it was often put, “Gathered to his people”:
Genesis 25:8 Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.
Here is an account—whether it is true or not, I cannot say—of the archangel Michael explaining at the death of Adam forward that all the righteous would be raised from the dead on a great day in the future.
Apocalypse of Moses 13:1 And Seth went with Eve near paradise, and I they wept there, and prayed God to send his angel and give them the oil of mercy. And God 2 sent the archangel Michael and he spake to Seth: ‘Seth, man of God, weary not thyself with prayers and entreaties concerning the tree which floweth with oil to anoint thy father Adam. For it shall not be thine now, but in the end of the times. 3 Then shall all flesh be raised up from Adam till that great day,-all that shall be of the holy people. Then shall the delights of paradise be given to them and God shall be in their midst. And they shall no longer sin before his face, for the evil heart shall be taken from them and there shall be given them a heart understanding the good and to serve God only. But do thou go back to thy father. For the 6 term of his life hath been fulfilled and he will live three days from to-day and will die. But when his soul is departing, thou shalt behold the awful (scene of) his passing.’
Please pardon the abrupt end to this post, as it is a work in progress. I’ll post more as I discover it, and as time allows.