This week the staff at Answers in Genesis–US is mourning the loss of our friend and faithful volunteer Al Barbieux, who passed away last Friday of a stroke. Al and his close friends Dick Sauer and Art Hunsicker—affectionately known around AiG-US as the “Three Amigos”—have served faithfully at AiG’s Kentucky offices on a weekly basis for over five years.
We’ve lost more than a co-laborer in the Lord—we’ve lost a dear friend, and the church has lost a passionate upholder of the authority of Scripture from the very first verse. In addition to his help at AiG, Al was engaged in a number of Bible-proclaiming outreaches at his church (he even did some of the landscaping of the church grounds). He leaves behind his wife Mary.
Speaking at Al’s memorial services tomorrow will be his pastor, Kevin Landis, a long-time supporter of AiG, who will also sorely miss Al’s warm spirit and volunteer heart. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. (Eastern time) on Wednesday at Bible Chapel of Delhi Hills, 705 Pontius Rd, Cincinnati, Ohio. Visitation will begin at 9:30 a.m.
The entire staff at Answers in Genesis prays that the Lord will comfort Al Barbieux’s many friends and especially his beloved wife, Mary. We praise the Lord for Al’s life, and we trust that the Lord will be honored at the services tomorrow! Please pray that as the Gospel is presented, hearts will be turned to the Lord.
Why does God allow the suffering and death of His godly servants?
Such suffering and loss, especially during the Christmas season, is a hard blow for any family. Already sobered by the horrific events of September 11, people are not in the mood to be very merry this Christmas.
Yet Christmas is still a wonderful reminder of hope and comfort! Al Barbieux would not have seen his funeral as a cause for weeping, but as another opportunity to proclaim the hope of the Gospel. Our suffering and loss reminds us about the essence of Christmas: our heavenly Father had compassion on this sin-cursed world of death and suffering, and He sent His Son so that He could die for us, opening the gates of Heaven to anyone who trusts in Him.
Al passionately believed that the Genesis account of Adam’s sin and the Curse is the basis for the one answer that we can give to a hurting world. When we understand the cause of suffering—the sin of the first man Adam—only then can we appreciate the cure: the suffering and death of the “last Adam” Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45).
When AiG recently produced the pamphlet Why is there Death and Suffering? we had no idea what personal losses were in store. George Hillestad, a leading figure in international creation evangelism and a dear friend of AiG-US President Ken Ham, died on 3 November 2001 in San Diego, California. A US staff member unexpectedly lost her brother later that month, and then our long-time friend Al Barbieux died on 14 December.
While we grieve this Christmas, the staff at AIG finds comfort in the promises of God’s Word, summarized in Why is there Death and Suffering? (excerpts below):
The Bible explains the history of suffering
Fortunately, God has given us the true account of the history of death, recorded in His Word—the Bible. This historical document connects to real issues of life, and it fully explains why horrible things happen. In fact, God’s Word has much to say on the subject of death and violence.
“Sin and death.”
This phrase sums up the true history of death, as recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. God originally created a perfect world, described by God as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). People and animals ate plants, not other animals (Genesis 1:29–30). There was no violence or pain in this “very good” world.
But this sinless world was marred by the rebellion of the first man, Adam. His sin brought an intruder into the world—death. God had to judge sin with death, as He warned Adam He would (Genesis 2:17, cf. 3:19). Indeed, God apparently caused the first death in the world—an animal was slain to make clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). As a result of God’s judgment on the world, God has given us a taste of life without Him—a world that is running down—a world full of death and suffering. As Romans 8:22 says, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs”—because God Himself subjected the creation to futility (v. 20).
Implications about suffering, if you accept this view of history.
How can we find a God of love amidst the groaning of this world? By understanding the Genesis account of the Fall, we know that we are looking at a fallen, cursed world.
From the Bible’s perspective of history, death is an enemy, not an ally. In 1 Corinthians 15:26, the Apostle Paul describes death as the “last enemy.” Death was not a part of God’s original creation, which truly was “very good.”
In contrast to the view that death and suffering have continued for millions of years, this Biblical view of history has a wonderful implication for the future. The world will one day be restored (Acts 3:21) to a state in which, once again, there will be no violence and death. According to Isaiah 11:6–9, wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, lions and calves, and snakes and children, will dwell together peacefully. Clearly, this future state reflects the paradise that was once lost, not some imaginary land that never existed.
Is God doing anything about death and suffering?
People who accuse God of sitting back and doing nothing are missing a vital truth. In reality, God has already done everything you would want a loving God to do—and infinitely more!
The Son of God became a man and endured both suffering and a horrible death on man’s behalf.
Adam’s sin left mankind in a terrible predicament. Even though our bodies die, we are made in the image of God, and thus we have souls that are immortal. Our conscious being is going to live forever. Unless God intervened, Adam’s sin meant that we would spend an eternity of suffering and separation from Him.
The only way for us to restore our life with God is if we are able to come to Him with the penalty paid for our sin. Leviticus 17:11 helps us to understand how this can be done. It says, “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” Blood represents life. The New Testament explains that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins]” (Hebrews 9:22). God makes it clear that, because we are creatures of flesh and blood, the only way to pay the penalty for our sin is if blood is shed to take away our sin.
In the Garden of Eden, God killed an animal and clothed Adam and Eve as a picture of a covering for our sin. A blood sacrifice was needed because of our sin. The Israelites sacrificed animals over and over again; however, because Adam’s blood does not flow in animals,1 animal blood, though it could temporarily cover our sin, could never take it away. (The Hebrew word translated “atonement” is kaphar, which means “cover.”)
The solution was God’s plan to send His Son, the Second Person of the triune Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ, to become a man—a perfect man—to be a sacrifice for sin. In the person of Jesus Christ, our Creator God stepped into history (John 1:1–14) to become a physical descendant of Adam, called “the last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:45), born of a virgin. Because the Holy Spirit overshadowed His mother (Luke 1:35), He was a perfect man, one without sin—despite having been tempted in every way that we are (Hebrews 4:15)—who thus could shed His blood on a cross for our sin.
Because mankind’s first representative head—Adam—was responsible for bringing sin and death into the world, the human race can now have a new representative—the “last Adam”—who paid the penalty for sin. No sinner could pay for the sins of others, but this last Adam—Jesus Christ—was a perfect man. God in human flesh was able to bear the sins and sorrows of the world.
The Son of God rose from the grave so that He could provide eternal life for all who believe (John 3:16).
After Christ’s suffering and death, He rose from the dead, showing he had ultimate power—power over death. He can now give eternal life to anyone who receives it by faith (John 1:12, Ephesians 2:8–9). The Bible teaches us that those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe that God has raised Him from the dead, and receive Him as Lord and Savior, will spend eternity with God (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).