DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Intro and purpose. What death is not equal to.
- Death is not separation from God
Death is not separation from the life of God
- There’s no such thing as “spiritual death”
- Death is not separation of soul from the body
- Death is not separation – summary
- Physical death is not annihilation
- Divine bio-engineering. How Jesus Christ solves the problem of death of fleshly bodies
- Death according to the Bible: lack of life, loss of life
SEPARATION IS THE OPPOSITE OF UNION
To arrive at the meaning vested by the author into a word, we could examine the antonym pairing that a given word participates in, to be able to more precisely see what exact semantics makes the antonym pairs stand opposite of each other.
In dozens of Scripture passages, “death” is juxtaposed with “life”, and thus has to have a meaning opposite of life. In a quick search I brought up over 40 scriptures where “death” is directly presented as a word meaning the opposite of “life”, and that’s not counting word derivatives.
Now, if death was equivalent to “separation”, then it would be juxtaposed with the verb “join” or “unite” in all these passages, but it isn’t. If it were, then “life” would have to mean “union”, and we would be in an even bigger mess linguistically, since by now we would have redefined 2 important words to mean something that they weren’t intended to. Then every time we would discuss scripture bring up the subject of life, we would have to preface it (as we often times do with death): “In the Bible, “life” really means “union””. Well, union requires an indirect object denoting what the subject is being united with, whereas “life” doesn’t … And we are now in the same predicament as we were when we redefined the word “death”.
If “death” meant “separation”, why not use the word “separation” then? In Greek there is a perfectly good word that means just that – χωρίζω (chorizo – Strong’s G5563). Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9, quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures, both use that word in stating that “what God has joined together let no man separate”. To convey the notion of separation, the verb “to separate” is used.
Please note that in this passage, “separation” (not death) is presented as an antonym to “joining”.
If we talking about separation from anything having to do with God, a passage that talks specifically about being separated from the love of God which is in Christ is again explicitly using the verb “separate” (Greek – “chorizo”), and not “to die”, to denote “separation”:
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,
39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And to punctuate that “death” is not equivalent to “separation from God”, per vv. 38-39 “death … shall not separate us from the love of God”. Otherwise it would have meant “separation from God … shall not separate us from the love of God”, which would render the whole passage non-sensical. If you understand that death is not equivalent to separation, but simply has an implication of separation from everything living, then this passage addresses that very semantic by stating that the normal implication of separation from everything living won’t happen if you are in Christ. Now the passage makes perfect sense!
There are other words that have a primary semantic of “separation” in Greek, such as:
– ἀφορίζω (aphorizo – Strong’s G873) – lit. “from-boundary” – place apart, separate by boundaries. That’s the word used in describing:angels separating the righteous from the wicked, separation sheep from goats, separating Barnabas for the service, Paul as being separated unto the Gospel, etc.
– διασκορπίζω (diaskorpizó – Strong’s G1287) – separate by scattering / dispersing – used in describing: scattering followers of Jesus, scattering of sheep, scattering of the proud, etc.
– διχάζω (dichazo – Strong’s G1369) – lit – “twice-ize” – separate into two – “I have come to set a man at variance with his father”.
This is not an exhaustive list, there are other words that carry the primary semantic of separation. The point I am making here is that if Scripture authors wanted to specifically convey the notion of separation, they would have used a word specifically denoting separation – as they do in the passages quoted and pointed at above. So, the word that meant “separation” would have been used to denote “separation”. Isn’t that how words are supposed to be used?
DEATH AS SEPARATION [FROM XYZ] – SUMMARY
If we still stick to “death = separation [from XYZ]” equivalence, the only way out of this linguistic predicament is to determine on a case by case basis whether death means death (loss of life), or separation from God, or separation from the life of God, or separation of spirit from the body, or anything else. That arbitrary selection of the precise meaning from a set of candidate meanings is what I have observed that that to be the most commonly occurring scenario with this. If that’s how we approach Scripture study – we become the arbiters of the real meaning depending on our theological biases. Every time we do that, we create our own meaning, and in the areas of our belief system where we do so, what we believe no longer corresponds to the truth.