1. What is Death?
Death Did Not Exist Until Life
Before something can die, it first had to be Born (or created)
(Genesis 2:7) – “And the Lord God formed man (created man) of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
So when does life actually begin? This is important because there is a starting point in man’s life when he becomes accountable for his sins. Both of these issues (when life begins and when our accountability of sin begins) require a correct understanding of life. Correct understanding stems from sound doctrine (sound doctrine is both harmonious and biblical). Is a man (human) considered living if he has not yet been birthed? We could argue that the start of life begins with the human fetus, during its development within the womb of a woman, which is what many modern-day groups advocate. And yes this position does have great merit, but does holding that position apply if we are following the Bible’s presentation as to when a man is considered to be a “living soul“? Specifically, does having “life” as a “living soul” begin with the “unborn” (the developing form of life – the embryo) or when the newborn infant has been “birthed” into the world?
Putting aside modern-day medical arguments as to when life actually begins (i.e., the egg, the sperm, independently, jointly combined in the womb, out of the womb, or is it after “birth”), the biblical definition as to when God considered man to be “a living soul” was after man took his first breath of life. In addition, the words “birth“, “born” or “begotten” all indicate the “beginning” of life. Since the bible is my guided source of reference on this subject matter, Genesis 2:7 will be the foundation of life within this website.
What Is Death?
First Death: Ecclesiastes 12:7; James 2:26
Second Death: Rev 2:11, 20:14-15, 21:8
Ps 104:35; Ps145:20; Mat 10:28; Rev 20:11, 21:1-7
Physical death is Predestined, Spiritual death is a result of Sin
There are two types of death reflected in the Bible; a physical death (where the flesh and all of its bodily components ceases to function) and a spiritual death (or a separation from God). Satan, his angels, many sinners, and non-believers experience this type of dead relationship.
(1 Corinthians 15:21) is usually argued in conjunction with (Romans 6:23) which states the wage of sin is death and until sin entered the world through Adam, death was not part of the human equation. This, however, is contrary to the reading of (Genesis 3:22) and (Hebrews 9:27).
From the start, death was always a built-in part of man’s makeup (Heb 9:27). Two other verses make this fact evident;
1) the fact that God made special provisions for man; the various trees (which were there for “food”) God planted in “the garden” for man to eat thereof, Genesis 2:9 – (indicates that sustenance, or food, was needed in order for man to live); and
2) there was also a special tree that provided Adam with the opportunity to live forever, a tree called “the Tree of life” (Genesis 3:22).
Adam and Eve had an opportunity to escape physical death (and take also of the tree of life, eat from it, and live forever: (Genesis 3:22) it is however very clear that outside of man, eating from this one particular tree, God had purposed man to be capable of dying “physically,” regardless if Adam committed sin or not, otherwise there would be no need for such a tree, a tree that provided this feature (life forever) if their bodies had this quality or attribute (eternal life) already built into their physical make-up or essence.
Example: If Adam had chosen not to eat the forbidden fruit
In other words, even if Adam chose not to eat the forbidden fruit (thus committing no “sin”) and if Adam also never ate from the “Tree of life” the Bible does not indicate that Adam would not face physical death. This is further supported in Hebrews; man has an appointment with death, a scheduled time factor or “limited time” before he physically dies. (Hebrews 9:27) “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:”
Had Adam chose not to eat the forbidden fruit we would then have the situation where no sin would have been committed but yet death could still occur. This will be important later because the promise was in that day he ate he would surely die (Genesis 2:17); that certainly did not happen within the confines of a day (our 24-hour time frame cycle from when the sun rises until when the sun sets) and according to scriptures, it took many days (many sunrises and sunsets) before physical death befell Adam because Adam lived to be 936 years old (Genesis 5:5).
What is significant however and what is usually not brought to light are three facts:
1. Adam was scheduled (or created) to be able to die at some point in his life (Hebrews 9:27), in that Adam was not born with (or created with) eternal life; had that been the case Adam would be alive today (even if he had eaten of the forbidden tree) and he would not have died in the first place. (Note: eternal life means to live forever and the opposite of death or dying)
2. Since Adam had eaten of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” he for sure was going to die, and did. There are actually two life-altering conditions that took place and both must be noted here.
a. From this point forward physical death became genetically “locked in”. Because Adam and Eve both ate of the forbidden fruit, the nature of physical death was passed thus passed down to all mankind.
b. A “spiritual death” also took place. (Although this terminology is not found as such in the Bible, this phrase as we use it here is used to indicate God’s rejection of Adam and Eve (his separation from them) for their disobedience, or their unacceptable conduct (Isaiah 59:2; Dt 31:17; Psalms 104:29; Eze 39:23-24; Mic 3:4) – a separation began and the relationship they both had with God ceased.)
3. But what if Adam would have eaten of the Tree of Life first and later from the forbidden tree, thus obtaining both “life” and the additional knowledge of good and evil? Conceivably both could have lived forever physically. Yet for God’s word to be true, both should face death, in some manner (Again the “spiritual death” experience still exist). However, I personally do not believe that this scenario would have been allowed to get to this stage. From all indications it appears that God would just as easily prevent the other tree from being accessible as he did when Adam disobeyed God the first time; God removed the remaining Tree of Life option after Adam made the choice to eat of the forbidden fruit tree.
Distinguishing the Punishment from the Consequence
The Punishment: For man’s disobedience to God
It is not disputed that God punished Adam for his disobedience (disobeying God’s commandment). Adam’s punishment also affected mankind. The argument however usually lies in determining what the punishment was. Adam and Eve’s punishment is actually listed in detail in Genesis 3:16-19 primarily labor in birth and hard work. No one disputes that it still fits that description today.
(Genesis 3:17) “And unto Adam, he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou…..”
The Consequence: For eating of the tree
This is possibly the BIGGEST misconception made about interpreting the Bible. Either God allowed Adam to die for being disobedient, just as God said would occur OR Adam died as a direct result of what was eaten. For a moment let’s just review what we know for sure.
The information God provided Adam was a warning that he would die the same day he ate of the forbidden tree. It’s like me telling you if you eat this White Baneberry (a poisonous berry) you will die as a RESULT most of us would avoid eating of this plant. But God did not indicate that this tree was somehow poisonous and could not be eaten as food. Clearly, they could eat this plant (tree). So was the tree something that was bad for food? That is not indicated. God WARNED Adam that if you eat of this one specific tree it will cause his death. The tree did exactly what it was there to do and the results also took place as God said would occur.
(Genesis 2:17) “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
This is important because neither the tree nor its fruit killed Adam. We can’t blame the tree for doing what it was created to do, “to know of Good and Evil.” We have just proven that Adam did not die physically the same day he ate of this tree, so what actually happened?
Note: Again, it’s important to remember that Adam and Eve did not possess “Eternal Life” traits prior to eating of the forbidden tree, thus they were “ephemeral” created beings in nature. They were, at some point, going to die unless they obtained this eternal life “opportunity” eating from the Tree God put there for that purpose.
Note: Both Trees provided them with opportunities to obtain abilities they originally lacked!!
Adam’s descendants (mankind) inherited Adam’s genetic makeup
The tree, in essence, can be said to have altered man’s genetic makeup providing him with this new ability. Man, being a descendant of Adam has inherited the same ability “to know of Good and Evil“ as did Adam and this is a common trait in man. This is supported by the fact that the bible does not indicate that this ability (to know of Good and Evil) was something Adam had prior to eating of this tree.
It is evident that both Adam and Eve were able to converse with God (a Spirit being) Genesis 2:9, 13. God has given all men this ability but only as determined by God. Some God chooses to converse with and some God chooses not to converse with. You may have to continue reading the Word of God, seeking his presence. God converses with those he chooses, directly or indirectly, through angels, dreams, visions, etc. The Bible is full of prophets, Holy Men and others reflecting these occurrences taking place.
Likewise, Jesus was also born with this same genetic make-up (or human ability), as you and I, “to know of Good and Evil”, however, Jesus was not born disconnected from God (as most men) Jesus was born with the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:20, Acts 10:38).
What Is Spiritual Death?
How does someone die Spiritually?
The next point to determine is how does man die spiritually? In reference to Adam and Eve, the Bible indicates that this is done when God leaves us on our own. This is strongly supported by the fact that in the day Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree; God broke off personal communication with them (there were no more walks/talks with God in the cool of the evening). God had no further communication with either. Although both remained alive physically, they also died in that same day. They died in that they were spiritually disconnected (separated) from God. (Isa 59:1-2)
This is important because Paul, and various other New Testament writers, talk about death in reference to Adam and Jesus in this same metaphoric sense. When one is spiritually dead (separated from God) a spiritual rebirth is needed. This rebirth can be viewed as a redeemed position that allows each individual to be forgiven of any sins committed and reunited to having an “actively living” or “functioning” relationship with God our Father (a rebirth) one where we can often feel his presence directly.
The wages of sin is death: Spiritual death, not Physical death.
(Romans 6:23) “The wages of sin is death (separation), but the gift of God is eternal life (union)…”
Note 1: Regardless of what sins you may have committed, every human is capable of dying physically (as was Christ). Death in this passage is in reference to a spiritual separation (a dead or detached relationship) between God and Man.
Also, consider those individuals who lived and actually committed no sin at all. For example, take the lives of every newborn infant (or if you consider the embryo as the beginning of a new life apply the same scenario) who faced early deaths (a fatal accident, disease, cancer, etc…) but had not committed any sin as yet. These infants did not die (physically) because they had sin in their life (See why: Should Babies Be Baptized? & Jesus The Human Infant). They are certainly not going to Hell, nor are they going to burn forever in the Lake of Fire.
Of course, God had all special circumstances covered from the beginning; it’s called Judgment Day (Romans 14:12).
Normally, however, you can not receive this “gift” of Eternal Life unless you first establish a spiritual relationship with God, which is through Christ.
Note 2: This passage of Romans is similar in nature to the promise God made above in (Genesis 2:17); in the day Adam ate he would surely die. His death was spiritual; a separation (between God [a spirit being] and Adam) took place. God still had relationships with other Biblical figures (Moses, Abraham, Job, Jesus, etc..).
If “death” in Romans 6:23 meant physical death, “The wages of sin is death” then being justified by faith (believing in Jesus) would mean that we would not die physically as stated in John;
(John 11:26) “And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
This passage of scripture is clearly another metaphor, as all men die (Hebrews 9:27). Every time Paul mentions “death” in Romans, he is referring to spiritual death. This is further supported by numerous other scriptures.
(Ephesians 2:1) And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;
(Ephesians 2:5) Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
(Colossians 2:13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
Note: The quickening aspect is indicated as being obtained now not after we are physically dead. We (the Saints) have been forgiven before we die thus we are ready for death (physically) as we have been quickened and await to be changed, “In a moment in the twinkling of an eye” to meet Christ in the air when he comes (1 Corinthians 15:52).
This is vitally important to understand because in order for this “quicken” aspect to take place you must have His Spirit (the Spirit of God, which is called the Holy Ghost) residing in you. Paul puts it like this:
“But if the Spirit of him (God) that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he (God) that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken(G2227) your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:11
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