Author: Ron Graham
When we think or speak of “death”, it is usually physical death that we have in mind. The Bible also speaks of three other deaths.
Physical death is one of the portals of the soul. We suffer this death, because we are made of dust, just like our progenitor Adam who "was of the earth, made of dust" (1Corinthians 15:47). God said to Adam, "You will return to the ground, because from it you were taken, for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19). Being procreated from Adam, we share his earthy nature, and follow him back to the dust. This will continue until the return of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. He will abolish physical death (1Corinthians 15:26).
The other three deaths in the Bible are states of the soul, not of the body. In this lesson, we focus on these three spiritual deaths.
Paul says, "I was once alive... then sin sprang to life, and I died" (Romans 7:9). When Paul says, "I died" he was obviously not in the grave. His physical body had not died. Yet he had died a death of some kind because he said, "I died." He explains: "Through Adam sin entered the world, and through sin death passed to all men because all sinned" (Romans 5:12).
It is a timeless principle that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). God says to all, just as he said to Adam, "In the day you sin, you shall die" (Genesis 2:17). You will be "dead in your trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). These verses do not tell people, "Because you sin, you will die someday." Adam was not told, "If you sin, you will die someday" but rather "In the day that you sin you will surely die." The first day that one sins is the day that one dies. This is not referring to physical death, but to something far worse —being "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18). Unless the sinner is "born again of water and the Spirit" (John 3:3,5, Romans 6:3-5), and brought back to spiritual life, there will follow another spiritual death...
In a vision, John saw portrayed the judgment day of mankind before the saints enter the new eternal world. Both wicked and righteous were resurrected and judged. Anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into a lake of fire. "This is the second death" (Revelation 20:12-15). Jesus had earlier said that those who overcome the tribulations of the Christian way, "will not be hurt at all by the second death" (Revelation 2:11). This vision teaches us that in the great eternal scheme of things, physical death is of little account because this physical "death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:14).
Physical death is merely a portal through which the soul passes into Hades. Hades is a temporary state, because there is going to be a resurrection of all the dead (John 5:28-29). So the death that we can avoid, and must avoid, is not physical death and the wait in Hades, but rather eternal death represented in the vision as a lake of fire. This death (we usually call it hell) is most to be feared, for it is the very opposite of eternal life (Matthew 25:41,46).
The third spiritual death that we now consider, is the good death that solves the other two spiritual deaths. Paul tells Christians, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God" (Romans 6:11). This is the reversal of being dead in sin and alienated from the life of God. Death to sin is death of the sinful self. "We have been buried with Christ through baptism into death" (Romans 6:4). Baptism, obviously, does not bring us into physical death, eternal death, or death in sin. So the death we are "baptized into" is something else. Paul explains that when we go "through baptism into death... our old self is crucified with Christ" (Romans 6:6). We are baptized therefore into the death of Jesus Christ crucified, in order that we might be completely dead to sin and born again to new life.
This death to sin brings us back into the life of God --from which we were cut off when we died in sin. "I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live... by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Have you died this good death? Are you now "dead to sin and alive to God" (Romans 6:11)?