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Death is separation, whether it is physical as in the separation of the person from his body, or spiritual separation of the person from a relationship with God.

Death is the opposite of life, but it never denotes non–existence, annihilation, extinction of being, or even being inactive.

As spiritual life is “conscious existence in communion with God,” so spiritual death is “conscious existence in separation from God" (Vine). Figuratively, death is the loss of spiritual life (Romans 8:6), and the final state of the spiritual unregenerate is called "second death" (Revelation 20:14).

Death in the Bible is the separation of the soul or spiritual element of a person from his material body resulting in it ceasing to function and turning to dust (John 11:13; Hebrews 2:15; 5:7; 7:23).

It also signifies a man's separation from God and His life because it is devoted to trespasses and sins. In a spiritual sense Adam died on the day he was disobedient to God (Genesis 2:17). Because of Adam's disobedience every person born since Adam, with the exception of Jesus Christ, is in this same spiritual condition (Romans 5:12, 14, 17, 21; 1 Corinthians 15:22).

To be "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) is to live a life in a state of separation from God because it is not energized and supported by the Holy Spirit. The spiritually dead person is active, but his energy comes from a totally depraved nature. The Spirit of God is absent in the unregenerate person's life. The spiritually dead person totally misses the goal of bringing glory to God. Sinful man has “come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Depraved man wanders away from the path of God. "All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him" (Isaiah 53:6). 

Consequences of sin

Moreover, death is the penal consequences of sin. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned" (Romans 5:12). 

"The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23a). The salary that Satan pays is death—spiritual, moral, physical, and eternal separation from God. Sin results in death (Rom. 6:16, 21, 23).

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). What a contrast: death and eternal life. Sin pays wages—death. God gives His free gift—eternal life. Eternal life is God's free gift (John 3:16, 36). Eternal death is in contrast with God's kind of life. This death is eternal separation from God in an eternal hell (Luke 16:24-25). Eternal life is a gift that cannot be earned (Ephesians 2:8-8; Titus 3:5).

Ephesians 2:1, 5, tells us the spiritually unregenerate person is already "dead in trespasses and sins" (cf. Col. 2:13).  Of course, Paul is speaking here of spiritual death, not physical because unsaved persons are very much animated physically. The person who is dead spiritually has no communication with God.

Ezekiel 18:4 and Romans 6:23 both teach us that death is universal because sin is universal (cf. Rom. 1:32; 7:5; James 1:15; Rev. 20:14). "Sin reigns unto death, grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life. Just as Adam brought sin on all men, he brought death on all. Death is passed on to all men."

Genesis 2:17 places a close connection between man's death and his transgression of God's command. Behind death lies the deep consciousness that it is unnatural and contrary to our innermost being.

With sin came decay, degeneration, death, not of the spirit, but the body into which the soul was breathed by God. The body is imperishable; it undergoes change, not extinction. The body is redeemed and we have the promise of a resurrection body as a result of the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

"Second death" is an expression found in Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8 denoting the final penalty for the unrighteous. God's penalty for sin was both spiritual and physical death (Rom. 6:23; 7:13). The reason death spread to all was because "all sinned." The entire human race is viewed as having sinned in the one act of Adam's sin (Rom. 5:12; 3:23).

Jesus tasted death for us.

Jesus Christ by the grace of God, tasted death for us (Heb. 2:9), and therefore delivered us who were subjects of death, and offers us eternal life with Him in heaven. He was made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8).

Believers in Jesus Christ have been set free from sin because they are alive to God (Rom. 6:11), and have eternal life (Rom. 6:23).

Christians need to understand "there is a sin unto death" (1 John 5:17). "For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep" (1 Corinthians 11:30). Spiritual discipline for the obstinate Christian could result in physical death (Heb. 12:5-11; 1 John 5:16). "How much more we should submit to our spiritual Father and live!" This does not suggest the true believer will lose his salvation (John 10:27-30; Romans 8:28-30; Philippians 1:6).

Because we are alive to God (Rom. 6:11), and already have eternal life (Rom. 6:23), we should present ourselves to Him (Rom. 6:13, 19) and live lives that are pleasing to Him (Rom. 6:6, 11-14, 22).

Every individual who puts his faith in Jesus Christ is delivered from this spiritual death (John 5:24; 1 John 3:14).

Key Scriptures

Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 5:12; 6:23; 5:6, 8; 1 John 5:17; John 11:25; 14:6; 1 Corinthians 15:42-58; Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:4, 8; Ephesians 2:1, 5

Abiding Principles and Practical Applications

1. If we sin, God will punish (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 3:23; 6:23).

2. When you live a life in a state of separation from God, you are dead spiritually.

3. When a person lives his life in the pursuit of the works of the flesh, he is dead while he lives.

4. When you repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you receive God's free gift of eternal life which is like being raised from the dead.

5. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). Death for the Christian is not a helpless and hopeless separation of the body and soul; it is an entrance into the fullness of eternal life (Romans 5:17, 21).

6. Revelation 21-22 gives us the assurance that the curse of sin and death will be forever broken.

For Further Study

Hosea 13:14 Ransomed from the Power of Death 
Galatians 2:20 Our Vital Union in Christ's Death
Eternal Consequences of Critical Choices 
Why did Jesus Die? 
Isaiah 25:8; 26:19 When God wipes Away the Tears 
Wages of Sin and the Gift of God 
The Last Adam Gen 2-3 1 Cor. 15:20 
Christ Died for Me 
1 Peter 3:18 Our Divine Suffering Substitute
Either We Die or He Dies
Lord over Death 
1 Thessalonians 4:8-13 What Happens After You Die?





Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

Unless otherwise noted "Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE" © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.

Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries from 1972-2005. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Ecuador.


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