Life's Greatest Certainty: Death

Genesis 2:15-17; Genesis 3:1-19



When as a child I laughed and wept—Time crept.

When as a youth I dreamt and talked—Time walked.

When I became a full-grown man—Time ran.

When older still I daily grew—Time flew.

Soon shall I find in traveling on—Time gone.

And face eternity begun,—Time done.


Time was—is past: thou canst not it recall:

Time is—thou hast: employ the portions small.

Time future is not and may never be:

Time present is the only time for thee.


“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 



1 Samuel 20:3 “There is but a step between me and death.”

“For we must all needs die and are as water spilt upon the ground which cannot be gathered up again.”

Jeremiah 27:13 “Turn ye, oh turn ye, for why will you die.”

Psalm 116:15 “Precious in His sight is the death of His saints.”

“The Lord has no pleasure in the death of the unbeliever.”


Life’s Greatest Certainty: Death

It is appointed unto man once to die (see Hebrews 9:27). Death to some is a great mystery, to others a great tragedy, and to many more, a door into eternal bliss. Voltaire on his deathbed said, “Now, for a leap in the dark.” Alexander the Great asked that when he died, his hands be placed across his chest with his palms in an outward manner to show all that looked at him in death that he left this world empty handed.

Sir James Simpson had a butterfly engraved on his child’s tombstone to suggest that death was only a transition, like that from a chrysalis to the butterfly. Henry Reed, a dear saint of God, said when he was dying, “I find no shadow of death in the valley. It is to me full of light, green pastures, and living water.” Balaam the wicked prophet said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (see Numbers 23:10).

What really is death? What is the Scriptural definition of death?

Death in its physical form is the result of the fall which came from Adam’s sin.

“The soul that sinneth shall die.”

Death is the penalty for sin. Romans 6:23 says, “The wages of sin is death.”

Death in the Scripture is recognized in two spheres: the physical and the spiritual.



Physical Death

Let us consider the “physical” aspect first. Romans 5:12 says, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” The seeds of death, implanted in man’s constitution, began to develop after Adam’s sin; its progress could not be allayed, because access to the tree of life was denied them. Physical death, and decay, and ultimate dissolution were then inescapable. Man, then, from the moment of disobedience consequently became a dying creature.

God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” In a true sense death began at once. Although Adam lived for 930 years, Genesis 5:5 says, “And he died.” That is to say his soul and spirit was separated from his body. He did not exist anymore on earth. Physical mortality is the result of Adam’s sin. When a person dies, his body dies and returns to dust (see Genesis 3:19). The spirit of the believer returns to God who gave it (see Ecclesiastes 12:7). The soul and spirit is separated from the body, temporarily, in the case of the believer. In the case of the unbeliever, it is separated from God eternally.


Spiritual Death

This death, which was the result of Adam’s sin, was physical, but in a greater sense, it was spiritual. Spiritual death in the ultimate and absolute sense is separation of the soul from God for eternity. Let me express a truth little realized today - “unbelievers are dead while they live.” Paul’s writings force us to this conclusion, “Ye are dead in trespasses and sins” (see Ephesians 2).

In life, this would represent the building of the intellect, the corruption of the affections, and the enslavement of the will towards God. Man, without Jesus Christ, is totally under the control of the god of this world. Living in this condition and dying in this condition carries with it the ultimate in wages. Eternal death, which is separation from God, involves eternal punishment in everlasting fire. Matthew 25:41 says, “Depart from Me…” Physical death affects all of us, “For we must needs all die and are as water spilled upon the ground.” Spiritual death is the portion of the unbeliever who dies without Christ.

The Lord, on one occasion only, drew back the curtain of eternity and permitted us to look at life beyond death. This takes place in Luke 16, when Lazarus is in “Abraham’s bosom,” also known as paradise and would equate with our heaven. The rich man was in hell, in torment. This was not a parable, but in all probability, an actual incident. One man is in the state of bliss, the other is in a state of torment. Between the two, there was a “great gulf fixed.”

This is a picture of the conditions that existed prior to our Lord’s resurrection and ascension. We believe that conditions have changed. The victorious Christ liberated those believing souls of the Old Testament who died in faith and led them forth and took them with Him into heaven, i.e. the presence of God. So then when a believer dies, he goes directly into the presence of God. His is “absent from the body, at home with the Lord.”

Conversely, when an unbeliever dies, he goes to Hades, a place of punishment. In a day future he will be resurrected (see Revelation 20:12). This is called the “resurrection of judgment” (see John 5:29). This is the Judgment of the Great White Throne. From there, unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire (Gehenna). This is what Paul calls the “wages of sin,” but praise God the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.