Throughout Scripture, death means separation, and at times it means inability to produce. It does not mean cessation or annihilation of life. Death is first mentioned in Genesis where God promised Adam he would die if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:16-17). When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, he immediately died spiritually in that his relationship with God was severed (3:1-7), and he later died physically (Gen. 5:5). If Adam had continued in his state of spiritual death, he would have been in danger of being separated from God forever in the Lake of Fire, which is the Second Death (Rev. 20:11-15). Adam was made spiritually alive again when he accepted God’s provision for him (Gen. 3:21). It was Adam’s single act of sin in the garden that brought both spiritual and physical death upon the entire human race (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22). The term death is also used to refer to Sarah’s inability to procreate (Rom. 4:19-21), the inability to produce divine good (Jam. 2:26), the unbeliever’s positional death in Adam (1 Cor. 15:21-22), the believer’s positional death in Christ (1 Cor. 15:21-22), and the believer who is living a carnal life and is out of fellowship with God (Jam. 1:14-15). The following list should prove helpful:
- Spiritual Death (separation from God in time Gen. 2:16-17; Eph. 2:1).
- The Second Death (the perpetuation of spiritual death into eternity; Rev. 20:12-15).
- Physical Death (the separation of the soul from the body; Eccl. 12:7; 2 Cor. 5:8).
- Sexual Death (the inability to procreate; Rom. 4:19-21).
- Operational Death (the inability to produce divine good; James 2:26).
- Positional Death: in Adam (Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22), and in Christ (Rom. 6:8; 1 Cor. 15:22; Col. 3:3).
- Carnal Death (this is the believer out of fellowship with God, operating according to his Sinful Nature; Rom. 8:6, 13; James 1:14-15; Rev. 3:1; Luke 15:24, 32).
Dr. Steven R. Cook