Think of it this way. A young couple comes comes home from their honeymoon, settles into an apartment, and begins life together. He works; she works; they spend their earnings and all seems well. Three years later, mortgage rates drop and they have a golden opportunity to buy a house. Unfortunately, they have no money for a down payment. In fact, they have accumulated a few thousand dollars in credit card debt. To get their finances in order, they consult a financial expert, who helps them establish a budget. He places their income on one side of the ledger and they list their monthly expenses on the other. Lo and behold, they have been slowly digging a financial hole for many months and they must adjust their habits.
What changed as a result of seeing the ledger? Certainly not their financial situation. Only their awareness of it. The ledger sheet brought the truth of their fiscal irresponsibility to light, which gave them an opportunity to do something about it.
The Law is a moral ledger sheet that brings to our attention the truth about our moral debt. With or without the ledger, we remain indebted. Consequently, before the ledger of the Law was given to humanity, “death reigned from Adam until Moses.” Even those who did not sin against an explicit command as Adam did are nevertheless guilty of sin and deserving of death.