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
DEATH IS THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE
As mentioned before, in dozens of Scripture passages, “death” is juxtaposed with “life”, and thus has to have a meaning opposite of life. In a quick keyword search I found over 40 scriptures where “death” is directly presented as a word meaning the opposite of “life”. There are more if you take into consideration different lexical forms of these words. Here are a few of the pairings of these antonyms, to give you a flavor:
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
2 Kings 18:32
[…] choose life and not death […]
Truly the righteous attain life, but whoever pursues evil finds death.
I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death.
So we clearly see that death is the opposite of life in dozens of scripture passages. If “death” was equivalent to “separation”, it should have been opposite of “union”, and not of life, as it is in all these passages.
DEATH IS LOSS / LACK OF LIFE
So, if we were to define death now, we would have to say that death is simply loss of life, or lack of life. (you may use words like “discontinuation”, “cessation”, “absence”, “expiration”, etc., instead of the words “loss” or “lack”, but the simpler is it, the better). And isn’t that simple? Isn’t that how everyone understands it anyway?
The definition of death is very simple, everyone knows what it is, and if it weren’t for all the theological baggage that we had to disambiguate ourselves from, the above paragraph could be the only one present in this write-up.
To go back to Gen 2:17 again – “in dying shall you die” – death has two aspects: process and finality. Death doesn’t happen instantly. The natural process of dying in a living being is often times accompanied by various ailments, frailties, sicknesses, weaknesses, so all of those are manifestations of death as a process. Then at some point the entire body dies, and that’s a manifestation of death as a physical finality. (There’s also the issue of second death which we are not presently considering). The great thing about Jesus that the law of the spirit of life in Him sets us free from the law of sin and death in either aspect – process or finality, both physically and metaphysically.
If you understand the “gradual process” aspect of death, a lot of passages in the New Testament, especially Pauline writings, will naturally present themselves as directly pertaining to healing of (or imparting zoe-life to) physical bodies. If you read Romans 8 with this understanding, you might be amazed!
DEATH ENTAILS CESSATION OF EXISTENCE
As far as implications of death go, I should also note that physical death in its final aspect has an obvious implication of “cessation of existence [in the physical world]”. I think the way I worded this particular implication reflects the reality much more accurately than the already familiar “separation from [the physical world]”. Both imply the inability to interface and interact with the physical world. However – and that’s an important point – the former correctly reflects the loss of life implied by death, whereas the latter does not.
But again – I am discussing an implication, not the equivalence. Nevertheless, this semantic takes a prominent place in a number of Scriptural passages, notably in those referring to our joint death with Christ. This may be observed in several Scripture passages. Here is one:
[…] How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Sometimes this semantic is used to play off of words that convey life and death’s primary semantic. Here are a couple of examples:
15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
Here it’s a bit of a play of words, contrasting Jesus’ physical death, and saying that the enmity, that is the law of commandments in ordinances, is put out of commission / existence. It doesn’t mean that the law lacks life, or that it is separated from anything.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Again, this is a play on words – first verb “live” conveys “conduct the course of your physical existence”, first verb “die” conveys “to lose life” (more of a process rather than instant loss); then “put to death” conveys “put to non-existence” – since you can’t literally drain life out of deeds of the body, then the second “live” conveys “have zoe-life operational”.
CONCLUSION. WHY DOES THE CORRECT UNDERSTANDING OF THE SUBJECT OF DEATH MATTER FOR US?
A proper understanding of life and death is crucial to a correct understanding of the entire Bible, from Genesis 2 to Revelations. It’s one of the most important and major themes in the entire Bible.
Death is what Jesus defeated, and gave us life instead, so proper understanding of what it is is pretty important, I would say. If it was important enough for Jesus to go through such a violent ordeal to defeat death, it must have been a big enough deal. If we don’t understand correctly what the problem is, we will also probably misapply the remedy (zoe-life). For instance, if you read the epistle of Romans armed with this understanding, chapters 5-8 in particular will read a lot more as a bio-engineering (or zoe-engineering) narrative full of practical truths (a lot of them pertaining to divine health, in particular) rather than an obscure philosophical treatise.
What must have happened historically is that at some point in the post-apostolic church, as the universal thought process of Christendom in general became polluted with unscriptural Hellenistic philosophy ideas, general theology became corrupt to the point where the Scriptural definition of death would no longer coherently fit with other theological pieces, and so it underwent redefinition to preserve some degree of overall systemic coherence at the expense of accurately reflecting truth.