I often hear people ask, “How could God have called his creation ‘very good’ if there were millions of years of animal death before the fall?” I, on the other hand, ask the question, “How could God have called his creation ‘very good’ unless there were animal death?”
Just think about what the world would be like without animal death. How long could it have taken before 100% of the planet’s land area was covered with rabbits? (With typical rabbit reproductive rates and zero mortality rate, it would take about 10 years.) I don’t think this would be very good. If flying insects could multiply without limit and never die off, then the air would always be thick with swarms of insects.
Why do lions eat other animals if God has not created them with this instinct? And why do vultures eat nothing but dead animals unless this is the purpose for which they were created? The natural order is totally dependent on animal death. Is it possible that God created the world to support stable populations only if Adam sinned?
If you want to claim that the way the world works is a consequence of the fall, please give me some evidence or explanation. How would this be related to the fall? Our sinful natures are a consequence of the fall, but I’m not sure what that has to do with lions eating zebras.
Does the Bible say that there was no death before the fall? Genesis certainly says that Adam’s death was a result of his sin, but it says nothing about animals dying or not dying. Romans 5 says that just as death came through Adam, life came through Christ. If the reference to death in this passage includes animal death, then it follows that the redemptive work of Christ extends to animals as well. There is no support for this idea elsewhere in scripture, so I have a hard time believing that Romans 5 is talking about animals.
Humans were created in the image of God. Animals were not. I think this alone implies that there is a big difference between the death of a human and the death of an animal.
In short, the Bible never says that there was no animal death before the fall. And a world with no animal death would not remain good for very long. Perhaps the common perception of all death being bad is an artifact of our depraved moral sense—and that is a result of the fall.