Death is separation. Death is not annihilation or non-existence. It is not destruction in an absolute sense. At its core, physical death is separation, separation of the spirit and soul from the body. And spiritual death is separation of the human spirit from God’s Spirit.
This is a key concept that explains how death is used throughout the Bible. For example, what did Jesus mean when He said, “Let the dead bury their dead” (Luke 9:60)? We can be sure that He didn’t mean let the physically dead bury the physically dead. But letting the spiritually dead bury the physically dead makes perfect sense.
Consider this verse:
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1, emphasis added).
Someone was dead, but then made alive (quickened). They were spiritually dead (separated from God) and then made alive (united with God in spirit).
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24, emphasis added).
By believing on Jesus Christ, I have passed from death unto life. I was spiritually dead (separated from God) but now I have spiritual life (I am no longer separated from Him).
It is a common temptation to see all of these things about death as metaphorical or “figures of speech.” But the Bible is very precise and that is for our understanding and benefit. Death is certain for all of us and God has graciously given us keys to understand what it is.
“For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Romans 7:9, emphasis added).
Paul was alive but, because of sin, he died. At one point in his life, he was spiritually alive (united with God’s Spirit), but when he willfully disobeyed God’s commandments, he died spiritually. Like Adam, he became separated from God, physically alive but spiritually dead.
Here is another example that shows the word “separated” in the context of sin and a related verse that associates sin with death.
“But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2, emphasis added).
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, emphasis added).
We could give dozens of other examples, but it is not necessary to belabor the point. But please notice one thing about this topic: we have not mentioned any religions or denominations or spiritual organizations or philosophies. You could walk into any church in this world and encounter a group of living, breathing people. But some would be spiritually dead and some spiritually alive.
In the next post, we we will turn our attention from the certainty of death to the certainty of eternal life.
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